Truth - From artificial Astroturf to genuine Grassroots: Jumpstarting the Movement
The attempt of the “Leave” organisations and in particular of the Arron Banks-funded Leave.EU and Grassroots Out to effectively subvert the democratic process of the BREXIT Referendum and to use its procedural structures against its substantive aims is particularly insidious and dangerous. By recasting themselves as the “apolitical voices of regular British citizens” rising up spontaneously against the London élites and the government in power today, they falsely take on the democratic mantle of anti-establishment protest, when they in actual fact intend to do the exact opposite.
We must unmask the deceitful tactic of a few millionaires who fund the marketing and product placement of an aggressively expanding pyramid scheme that is misselling the idea of democracy to the British public when they know full well that the only ones who will benefit from the UK’s departure from the EU and the reconcentration of all political, economic, military, and cultural powers in London are the élites at the very top who are funding and organising these “Astroturf” movements in the first place. We must now allow them to get away with this cynical and deceitful exercise in electoral manipulation and fraud, by unmasking their tactics and replacing them with ours:
- from Regression to Transformation: Both the “Leave” and Cameron-led “Stay In” movements want to drag us back kicking and screaming to the Sovereignty era of the past, enabling them to remain in sole charge of the British political and economic systems, with all the perks, benefits, and career advantages this entails for them and their families. We must stop this regressive, anti-democratic, centralising drive and fight for the transformation of our system in a Connective society, where citizens are directly involved in debating issues, resolving challenges, and implementing solutions that affect them most at the most appropriate decision-making levels – community, local, regional, national, state, European, and Euro-American.
- from Superficial to Authentic: this transition must be both procedurally and substantively authentic, not just superficially so as are attempting to do both the “Leave” campaigns and the Cameron-led government’s ”Stay In” group. In other words, the grassroots movement in favour of Britain staying in the EU must start in communities, towns, cities, schools, universities, libraries, community centers and parishes across the country and grow into a UK – wide movement capable of self-financing and of discussing and deciding upon its own positions on key issues – as opposed to the Arron Banks bankrolled EU Astroturf group set up by him, Nigel Farage and a few others from scratch then provided with the funds necessary to bombard voters with phone-calls, emails and letters designed to recruit them to a cause already set in stone by its founders / leaders/ funders.
- from English to British: one of the most disturbing elements of the BREXIT campaign is that the “Stay in” / “Leave” divide closely dovetails the UK’s most persistent and important divide: between English voters and those on the so-called “Celtic fringe” in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. We are facing the real possibility that the “Stay In” vote will have majorities in each of the three Celtic nations, but lose the actual referendum to a “Leave” vote dominant in England. Such a development would be extremely damaging to Britain’s unity and might realistically lead sooner rather than later to its breakup in its constituent parts. Imagine for a second – and this is not such a far-fetched scenario! – that in a post “Leave” win United Kingdom, Scotland and then Northern Ireland hold votes to secede from the UK, and then re-join the EU as independent states. The UK would be reduced to England and Wales, as in the time of Edward I, more than seven centuries ago… It is essential that our campaign focuses on Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales from the very beginning, not only to build there its own popular, grassroots momentum, but to clearly show that these nations will come out to vote in unprecedented numbers for the “Stay In” option and signal to those who might vote to “Leave” out of reflex, without careful thought, especially in England, “tae think again…”
- from Marketing campaign to Civil society movement: finally, and this is a point already touched on before, one of the reasons so many people are switching off our political processes is that instead of being truly participatory, deliberative, democratic processes focusing on citizens’ needs and wants and the challenges they face in their daily lives, they have become marketing exercises where “political products” are tested, placed, marketed, and aggressively promoted via old and new media, whilst using as feedback and measuring tools interviews, opinion polls, survey groups and so on. This entire side of politics has become a vast and extremely lucrative industry on its own, capable of making and breaking careers and attracting huge fees for its “top talent”. In a way, it has become a massive operation of voter manipulation, as we have seen being deployed most effectively during the last national elections, where opinion polls showing an unprecedented SNP sweep in Scotland was used to great effect by David Cameron and his advertising team to appeal to the fears of English voters of being ruled by a Labour / SNP coalition. This “data-driven” application of the FUD strategy succeeded beyond the Prime Minister’s wildest expectations as he gained an entirely unexpected absolute majority in the House of Commons whilst his former coalition partner, the LDP, was almost wiped off the electoral map and Labour, only days before looking forward to forming the new government, imploding in an internal crisis that led to the improbable emergence of Jeremy Corbin as its new leader. Both the “Leave” campaign and the Cameron-led “Stay In” campaign are engaging in similar “data-driven” marketing exercises deploying FUD and Astroturf techniques to win over votes. We must both stay away from such techniques and strategies and unmask them for what they are –cynical voter manipulation tools that bend the rules outside their ethical ambit without quite breaking their legal boundaries.