AC Grayling notes that the hijackers of Brexit and the Trump win may be using the research of Daniel Kahneman and others to grab public opinion.
What Kahneman and other researchers have empirically confirmed in their work is that the majority of people are ‘System One’ or ‘quick’ thinkers in that they make decisions on impulse, feeling, emotion, and first impressions, rather than ‘System Two’ or ‘slow’ thinkers who seek information, analyse it, and weigh arguments in order to come to decisions. System One thinkers can be captured by slogans, statements dramatised to the point of falsehood, and even downright lies, because they will not check the validity of what is said, but instead will mistrust System Two thinkers whose lengthier arguments and appeals to data are often regarded as efforts to bamboozle and mislead.
That certainly fits Trump himself. He clearly wouldn’t know System Two thinking if it bit him on the ass. He thinks System One is all there is.
I hesitate to use the term, but ‘coup’ comes to mind in relation to what has happened with the Brexit referendum. UKIP and the minority of the Tory party in Parliament knew they would never get a Brexit by Parliamentary means or at a general election; but at long last, having made life hell for every Tory Prime Minister since Edward Heath, they succeeded in getting one of their leaders to promise a referendum. And they then went to town with those manipulating lies and distortions – such as the £350million promise for the NHS, and massive misinformation about immigration – helped by their non-resident billionaire newspaper-owner allies. Having achieved a very small majority of votes cast on the day, actually constituting only 37% of the total electorate (26% of the British population), they have run with it as vigorously as they can, claiming it as an ‘overwhelming’ demand by ‘the people’ that both mandates and binds the Government to take the UK out of the EU.
And Trump and his gang are doing the same thing.
In effect, Farage, Gove, Johnson, Fox and Davis, with their 60 or so supporters in the Tory party, are trying to stampede the UK out of the EU on the basis not just of the falsehoods and distortions of the Leave campaign and the 40 years of tabloid venom against the EU, but by continuing to lie about what the referendum really means, deliberately ignoring challenges over its advisory nature and the lack of effective mandate it offers, among other things ignoring the Remain vote entirely and the fact that nearly three-quarters of the British population did not vote to leave the EU.
One of many examples was provided by Leaver Tory MP Owen Patterson on the BBC Today programme recently. Describing the Leave vote in the referendum as ‘huge’ – which is dishonest use of language by any standard – he made a veiled threat that there would be trouble on the streets if the Leavers did not get their way.
Again, exactly like Trump and Co! Veiled threats and unveiled threats.
Patterson put this point obliquely by saying that disgruntled Leave voters would feel ‘betrayed by the Establishment’ if Brexit does not happen – thus aligning himself with one aspect of Leave rhetoric which is as risible as it is dangerous: figures of the Establishment and the elite such as himself and his Oxford-educated leader, the Prime Minister, who is married to a wealthy hedge-fund manager but who has claimed that she is championing the cause of the System One demographic against ‘the elite,’ aka the Establishment, of which she and Mr Patterson are shining examples.
Again. Trump the “populist” with his Solid Gold Living Room.
Pardon me while I lapse into despair again.