Brexit

The Unbearable Triteness of Brexit Commentary

Does everything always have to be about America? Yes, pretty much, if you're an American.

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Todd Krainin, Reason TV

It says something deeply disturbing about contemporary political discourse that Paul Krugman—who regularly ignores those he disagrees with as "knaves and fools" unworthy of his time and attention—was a voice of calm reason over Brexit. "I'm finding myself less horrified by Brexit than one might have expected," he wrote about the United Kingdom's decision to leave the European Union. "The economic consequences will be bad, but not, I'd argue, as bad as many are claiming."

Such shoulder-shrugging was in short supply, especially from those less well-versed in economics than the Nobel laureate. Indeed, the irredeemably smug insta-responses on both sides of the Brexit issue underscore that Americans are as quick to virtue-signal as they are to proclaim that the apocalypse is (yet again!) upon us. Throw in a solipsistic inability to see the world as in any way independent of domestic U.S. politics and you've got the making of a media shitstorm that left everybody hip-deep in manure but no clearer about what Brexit really means.

Krugman's even-more-insufferable colleague at The New York Times, Roger Cohen, made Brexit all about himself. "It's not just the stupidity of the decision," he fumed. "It's not even the betrayal of British youth. It's far more: a personal loss. Europa, however flawed, was the dream of my generation." In perhaps the most-ridiculous commentary on the surprisingly lopsided "Leave" win, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow delivered a 15-minute history lecture that argued Great Britain's action would soon give rise to World War III because the only thing standing between a European war of all against all was a political union that dates all the way back to 1993 and a common currency that most members have used only since 2002. Given that the clock has not even yet started ticking on Britain's official exit and that NATO, which binds together a couple dozen European countries plus the United States and Canada, is still going strong, fears of a sixth Battle of Ypres seem, well, a tad exaggerated.

And let's not pretend that the E.U. is some vague, toothless entity against which there are no legitimate reasons for resentment. Recently, for instance, the E.U.'s "commissioner for justice, consumers, and gender equality" (a real thing) issued strict rules for banning "hate speech" on the internet, and has secured the participation of Microsoft, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter in enforcing disturbingly vague and illiberal rules. Even E.U. defenders, such as the Times' Cohen, grants that it needs serious changes. To categorically assert that 17.5 million Leave voters (against 16 million Remain voters) are simply racist and anti-immigrant is to ignore pro-Leave voices who are libertarian, cosmopolitan Brits such as science writer and House of Lords member Matt Ridley and member of the European Parliament Dan Hannan, both of whom support opening borders to more goods and people. The E.U., notes Ridley, "still has no trade deals with America, China, Japan, Brazil, India, Canada, Australia and Indonesia."

Comedians ranging from Full Frontal's Samantha Bee to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump showcased another unseemly, widespread element of Brexit "analysis": It's really all about domestic U.S. politics, don't you know? Bee, a former Daily Show reporter who now heads up her own TBS show, attributed the Leave win to "xenophobia" and anger and argued that "Even a brain-damaged baboon couldn't miss the parallels between the U.S. and Britain." To be sure, Trump himself was tweeting up a storm drawing such connections. "Just arrived in Scotland," he tweeted immediately after the vote. "Place is going wild over the vote. They took their country back, just like we will take America back. No games!" (The Donald was also taken to task by commenters who noted that not only did Scotland vote against independence in 2014, a majority last week voted to remain in the E.U.) Soon enough, he retweeted comments such as this one: "What has happened in the UK in the last 12 hours is exactly what will happen in November…vote TRUMP 2016."

Well, maybe.

Whatever legitimate similarities obtain, the differences between the United Kingdom and the United States on issues such as immigration, free trade, and however you want to define xenophobia are greater still. While 77 percent of Brits want to see immigration reduced, for instance, about three-quarters of Americans—and 56 percent of Republicans—think even illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the country if they meet certain requirements. To the extent that there is anger in the United States at "the establishment," it's a trans-partisan sensibility that motivates liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, and everyone else in the country. How else to explain Bernie Sanders' unexpectedly strong showing against the fully-anointed-by-party-elders Hillary Clinton? And what does it say that Americans disapprove of both Clinton and Trump in record numbers (but we hate the anti-establishment Trump more)? Or that Clinton and Trump currently hold the same positions on the NAFTA and TPP trade deals (they're against them)? And that party identification levels are at or near historic lows? This all may signal voter anger, frustration, and even desperation, but it's not simply coming from a single group of voters in the States.

But people such as Bee and Trump are less interested in getting to the truth of the matter and more about signaling to their respective tribes. One of the biggest misperceptions that Americans have long held is that everything in the wider world is a direct result of American action (or inaction). We wholeheartedly believe that when the United States sneezes, the world catches a cold. This sort of deeply rooted, reflexive solipsism is the main driver of a foreign policy that insists that America is "the indispensable nation" that must be involved everywhere and always. It undergirds an outsize sensibility of U.S. responsibility for every good, bad, and indifferent economic and cultural outcome on the globe. Such thoughts actually pander to the one fear we're afraid to countenance: That America just might no longer be the beating heart of a global order that is nonetheless getting richer and more free as power decentralizes all over the planet. The only thing worse than being responsible for everything is to not matter as much as we think we should.

NEXT: Trump Hits Hillary on Free Trade, Attack on Istanbul Airport Kills Ten: P.M. Links

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  1. especially from those less versed in economics than the Nobel laureate.

    So… *thinks* people who know less than nothing about economics?

    1. Well, ya’ know there is Bernie Sanders and Shreek, so at least two people.

    2. The trouble with our Liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.

      — Ronald Reagan

    3. Of course everything is about America.

      Just like during Britain’s prideful forfeiture of power as the economic bastion of wealth, the US is currently basking in their former glory as a last ditch attempt at making themselves relevant.

      The wounded animal in the corner always seems to be the most fierce.

  2. “It’s far more: a personal loss. Europa, however flawed, was the dream of my generation.”

    When Krugman sounds like Richard Spencer.

    1. Excuse me, Cohen. Might be even funnier.

    2. I thought “your generation” were decrepit old fossils unworthy of the vote because they will die in the next twelve minutes and so not suffer the devastating consequences, Mr Krugman?

      1. That quote was Cohen. Krugman was positively staid in his reaction.

        1. I apologize, but looking at Cohen’s picture, he also looks like Old Person and thus unworthy of being listened to.

    3. I’m stunned: the NYT has someone who is even more insufferable than Krugman?

      1. Brits are way ahead of the US there.

        1. Or Collins, or Kristof, or Brooks, or… the list goes on and on.

          I disagree with Krugman, but the NYT op-ed page is full of people who are even more annoying.

    4. I’d be pretty pleased if there was prosperity on Europa.

      (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Europa_(moon))

    5. I imagine a united Europe being the”dream” of a whole generation is a bit of a Stretch, but if true it’s really, really lame.

  3. “commissioner for justice, consumers, and gender equality”

    Is this really a thing or did you tongue-in-cheek that, Nick? I’m not sure I want to click on the link.

    1. *clicks link, reads first sentence and stops, aghast that, yes, that’s someone’s real title*

      The internet is a place for free speech, not hate speech.’ So said Vera Jourov?, the EU commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality, as she unveiled a new EU code to tackle illegal ‘hate speech’ on the internet. [emphasis added]

      I guess the EU is just like a college administration, with just as many SJW administrators to make sure the “children” are all proper goodthinkers. No wonder the Brits voted to get out. Good riddance, hopefully the whole fucking thing collapses.

      1. Brexit gives me hope that there’s enough people to stop the government from encroaching much further on our freedoms. We need some pissed off masses

  4. Don’t want your country flooded with millions of poor, uneducated Muslims who want to make your country more like the failed shitholes they’re escaping from? Well, then you must be a “xenophobe”!

  5. How else to explain Bernie Sanders’ unexpectedly strong showing

    WHO?!!

  6. Am I the only one that can’t bring myself to care an iota for Brexit? I try- I read the articles, I logically process the economic arguments….and there’s been absolutely nothing to make me think that this will have any more than a slight blip of an impact economically, and culturally, since I don’t live in Europe or Great Britain, I just really don’t give a fig.

    1. There may be an impact here in the Good Old US of A. We trade a lot with Britain, and a falling pound could cause some trouble with exports. Economies are complicated puzzles with lots of moving parts, and the impact will be hard to estimate. It only causes us problems if every other aspect of the world economy remains constant and this is the only variable.

      1. I already know the impact. Anything bad that happens in the next few years is Brexit’s fault.

    2. I care because I don’t want the relatively free world to fall under a One World Government Progressive Theocracy. The Berlin Wall fell, but it’s still unclear whether freedom or authoritarianism is going to win.

  7. America is revolting!

    1. You said it, it stinks on ice!

  8. “It’s not even the betrayal of British youth. It’s far more: a personal loss. Europa, however flawed, was the dream of my generation.”

    In case you’re wondering, yes Cohen is a Baby Boomer.

    1. Outside of Everybody Knows, I’m not really familiar with him.

      1. Europa was a Boomer dream? Even worse. Burn it to the ground.

  9. It undergirds an outsize sensibility of U.S. responsibility for every good, bad, and indifferent economic and cultural outcome on the globe.

    When one reads Chomsky, one gets that impression.

    1. Ahahaha, like Chomsky would ever admit US was responsible for anything good in the world.

      1. If not for America’s damn right-wing media, right-thinking socialists like Noam might have really done some good in the world!

  10. Unbearable Triteness

    Gillespie 0
    Irony 1

  11. Even EU defenders, such as the Times’ Cohen, grants that it needs serious changes. To categorically assert that 17.5 million Leave voters (against 16 million Remain voters) are simply racist and anti-immigrant is to ignore pro-Leave voices such as libertarian, cosmopolitan Brits such as science writer and House of Lords member Matt Ridley and member of the European Parliament Dan Hannan, both of whom support opening borders to more goods and people.

    And for context no one mentions, David Cameron didn’t blunder into referendum then lost. Part of his electoral platform was referendum on renegotiated rules for UK membership in EU. He wanted to start the reform of the sclerotic (after only 24 years), idiotic system. Instead of giving him a fig leaf of something they could then delay for decades, Merkel gave him a scrap (OK, you don’t have to give child welfare to foreigners who left their children at home if they don’t work at least three years in UK) and vote turned out to be about EU as it currently is.
    So dear “we love EU but it could use reform” people, fuck you. EU was given a chance at token reform and refused it.

    1. I’m not sure why a group of horribly bureaucratic European Nations thought that a larger more bureaucratic union would be better.

      Allowing people freedom of movement between nations is easy. A unified currency, while not necessarily easy is certainly doable. But the idea that all these disparate nations would be efficiently ruled from Brussels without eviscerating any sense of local control was nuts. The whole thing is administratively corrupt and has merely become a vessel for providing wealth-transfer payments to profligate countries.

      1. A unified currency was doable until someone decided to let the Greeks and the Italians in.

        1. To be honest, those are the exact countries that needed to be in unified currency.

          When you don’t control the printing press you can’t default through inflation. That’s a huge deal for the poor fuckers who live in the country involved (I have some experience with the phenomenon).

          Where it broke down is when it turned out that idiots still lent them money, and then oh-so-conservative Germans started squeeing because, whoops, a lot of those idiots turn out to be theirs.

          1. Well yeah, it was supposed to keep them from going broke. Instead, it just caused them to drive everyone broke.

      2. Well, we blamed 9/11 on a large bureaucratic government problem, and responded by creating 2 new bureaucratic institutions to oversee the intelligence community and jacked up the budgets of the offending agencies.

        1. Winning through failure.

  12. Liked the slant of the article, but Jesus Mary Christ there were at least 10 glaring grammatical errors in that thing!

    What kind of time pressure are the Big Monocles putting on you and your chums, Nick?

    1. . Indeed, the irredeemably smug insta-responses on both sides of the Brexit issue underscore is that Americans are as quick to virtue-signal as they are to proclaim that they apocalypse is (yet again!) upon us.

      Two in that one sentence alone.

      1. He’s doing it in blackcent.

        1. Ha!

    2. Hmm, is this KMW’s fault?

      1. It’s whoever fired Lucy’s fault.

        1. Hah!

  13. Alt- text fail

  14. The unbearable triteness of being.

  15. “Place is going wild over the vote. They took their country back, just like we will take America back. No games!” (The Donald was also taken to task by commenters who noted that not only did Scotland vote against independence in 2014, a majority last week voted to remain in the EU.)”

    What task was he taken to exactly? It’s not like Scotland is really a separate country anymore, they’re even scared of the prospect of being one.

    1. Plus, I wonder if the crowd where he was, WAS going wild over the vote.

      1. “Plus, I wonder if the crowd where he was, WAS going wild over the vote.”

        Right, going wild doesn’t imply “in favor of” could just be reactions. But even if he did mean that, that was still 40% of the population, I’m sure they could fill a “place”.

        I’d like to say Trump did this to himself but it’s getting quite silly.

  16. Prexit — What we Minnesodans call the death of Prince .

    1. I prefer Largesodas myself. Bloomberg can kiss my ass.

  17. It says something deeply disturbing about contemporary political discourse that Paul Krugman?who regularly ignores those he disagrees with as “knaves and fools” unworthy of his time and attention?was the voice of calm reason over Brexit. “I’m finding myself less horrified by Brexit than one might have expected,” he wrote about the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union. “The economic consequences will be bad, but not, I’d argue, as bad as many are claiming.”

    If by “calm reason” you mean “completely wrong as usual, but at least not losing his shit like Maddow and her ‘it’ll start WWIII’ comments”, then sure.

    1. He just got his article in late. See, pre-Brexit vote, Obama was predicting apocalypse if Leave won. Within a day of the vote, he pivoted to “life goes on”. Krugman, playing the role of Mouth of Sauron, merely parrots what he is told. I have no doubt that if Obama changed his mind again by Friday, Monday would have an article proclaiming that upon further reassessment of the situation England will sink into the sea.

  18. It says something deeply disturbing about contemporary political discourse that Paul Krugman?who regularly ignores those he disagrees with as “knaves and fools” unworthy of his time and attention?was the voice of calm reason over Brexit.

    No, Mr. Gillespie, Krugman was the voice of reason about Brexit on the left. By and large the reaction to Brexit on the right has generally been either goodwill to the Brits or amusement at the rantings and ravings on the left.

    Indeed, the irredeemably smug insta-responses on both sides of the Brexit issue underscore that Americans are as quick to virtue-signal as they are to proclaim that they apocalypse is (yet again!) upon us.

    And to support that you cite one deranged politician who’s known to be one of the world’s premiere attention whores? By and large the commentary I’ve seen on the right largely mirrors what I’ve been reading on this very website.

  19. Sorry Nick, but sheesh. Go write for the NY Times. Being PC isn’t about being right. Being contrary to PC doesn’t make a misconception.

  20. Sorry Nick, but sheesh. Go write for the NY Times. Being PC isn’t about being right. Being contrary to PC doesn’t make a misconception.

  21. To categorically assert that 17.5 million Leave voters (against 16 million Remain voters) are simply racist and anti-immigrant is to do …

    Is to do what the Left has done for decades – vilify their enemies with charges of racism. The encouraging thing is that, *this time*, it didn’t work! Just as the chants of “Hitler! Racist! Nazi!” didn’t work to keep Trump from the GOP nomination.

    As long as “racist!” was a never failing trump card the Left could play at any time, there was really no hope. The Leviathan would grow and grow and grow, because any opposition would be instantly squashed by “racist!”.

    But now there is hope. This may be the turning of the tide, where the power of the “racist!” shriek no longer makes our totalitarian neighbors invincible.

  22. It’s really all about domestic U.S. politics, don’t you know?

    It’s not that everybody is about us, it’s that we are about some of the same things other people are about.

  23. People tend to look after, and be concerned by, local interest. In other news, water discovered to be wet.

  24. It’s so cool that Nick writes an article about how trite Americans are by making Brexit all about themselves that’s all about Americans and how Brexit affects them. It’s like his senile dementia has become circular!

    Go Jacket!!

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