Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Nice and nasty

Daniel Hannan asks why EUphiles are thought to be nice and reasonable people, but the EUsceptics to be just beyond the pale?
Not for the first time, I was struck by how unpleasant some Euro-enthusiasts can be. They heckle and interrupt. They attack the speaker rather than the speech. They have become so accustomed to littering their interventions with references to “xenophobes”, “extremists” and “anti-Europeans” that they no longer realise that they’re being rude.

My impecunious Peloponnesian friend notes that he has encountered a similar theme.
Anyone who's ever been to a debate on the EU such as Dan describes (and believe me, I've been to more than my share) will immediately recognise the truth of this observation.

Indeed, I was at one such debate last week, which Vindico reported on.
Vernon Bogdanor, prize twat, attempted several times to link Euroscepticism to the war and tar us all with the same brush of xenophobia and of having a deep seated conspiratorial fear of a foreign takeover. Aaronovich also tried to do likewise, accusing Eurosceptics of being illogically emotive and paranoid of some kind of foreign conspiracy to create a superpower. The third panelist in opposition to a referendum was Blair's former EU advisor, Sir Stephen Wall, who tried to shift the focus on to the 'in or out' question. He suggested that that is the debate we Eurosceptics really want and so we should campaign for that and not one on the treaty.

I found Vernon Bogdanor—who is a classic avatar for the phrase, "those who cannot do, teach", being a professor in Government at Oxford University—particularly offensive. Not only did he describe EUsceptics as xenophobes, he tried to imply that we were all yearning for the days of Empire.

For the 65 year old Bogdanor to attempt to sit such an accusation on me, someone less than half his age, was not only facile, puerile and deeply fucking unlikely: it was quite transparent wish-projection. For fuck's sake, I was only seven when the last colony, Zimbabwe, gained full independence. Further, I am not xenophobic in the least and nor are the vast majority of EUsceptics that I know; we simply want to be ruled by the Parliament that we have elected, not one that we have not.

Aaronovitch attempted to make the argument that, since all politicians are liars (and their lack of their manifesto committment proved it), we shouldn't want to be ruled by them; this was mere sophistry. The point about being ruled from Westminster is that at least we have the chance to vote them out every five years or so. But then, he was a shouty, offensive little man who has quite evidently inherited the disgusting politics of his evil, Communist father*.

I should point out, at this point, that I am aware of the irony of complaining about the unpleasantness of EUphiles whilst calling all of them utter cunts, but as Master Hannan observes,
Of course, Euro-philes don’t have a monopoly on rudeness. There are some extremely disagreeable sceptics, too.

I shall stick to being disagreeable, because I fucking loathe those who would subvert our freedoms to an unaccountable bureaucracy; as such, I make no apologies for my insults.

But, unlike many EUphiles, I am very happy to debate the EU on the facts—economic, cultural and political. I do not base my arguments on them being "cowards" or accuse them of "surrendering".

I certainly may accuse them of pandering to totalitarianism but, then again, this is a fact: they are. After all, what else can you call a system in which an unelected bureaucracy is the only organisation which can initiate legislation? It's pretty much a text-book definition of totalitarianism.
But, for some reason, it is always the sceptics who are accused of being monomaniacs, ranters, head-bangers and so on.

It is because, Dan, of one simple thing: since the EUphiles have lost the economic debate, and the political debate, and the cultural debate and the moral debate, they have nothing left in their armoury except pathetic little insults. And the only insults that they can think of are those related to "the nasty foreigners", so they call us "xenophobes", "Little Englanders" and "racists". It is why the debate with EUphiles is always so fucking pointless: because they cannot win their arguments on the basis of the evidence.

And so the "xenophobe" epithets fly but, as with Vernon "I'm An Offensive Cunt And I'm Teaching Your Children" Bogdanor, one can only suspect that all of these insults are, in fact, projections of the EUphiles' own insecurities.

* Communism is evil; Aaronovitch senior was a Communist; therefore he was evil. Quod erat demonstrandum.


Simon Fawthrop said...

They are all pious bastards who seem to think that the EU is the only think that can keep the peace in Europe and bring us socialism. They are so blinkered they can't even see how the whole edifice is taking control of all our lives in Salami slices.

There is only one thing worse than "my country, right or wrong", it is "my EU, right or wrong.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Give 'em enough rope.

Prodicus said...

Spink resigns Tory whip.

Anonymous said...

DK, but isn't this typical of the left wing whose argument in tenuous at best? It is likewise with the globalwarmongers

Anonymous said...

So how does it feel to be shown the door by UKIP?

chris said...

It is the pro-EU who are the true xenophobes. Free traders want to make deals with everybody right across the globe, the EU and those that support it on the other and happily erect barriers to try and stop trade with those beyond its borders.

Anonymous said...

It is because it is seen as a liberal/conservative divide, and as is usual in such cases the 'conservative' side considers the 'liberal' side wrong, stupid, and probably dishonest, while the 'liberal' side considers the 'conservative' side evil.

Anonymous said...

Quite independent of his view on Europe, I have to say Prof. Bogdanor has written some fantastic books on the British constitution (there's a 1999 book in particular on devolution that I would thoroughly recommend to most readers).

You may feel that his support for the EU displays disregard for the constitution, which I can fully understand as it's a position I am very sympathetic to myself.

I would also agree that any attempt to bring the Empire/xenophobia into the discussion as a slur is only one shade short of invoking Godwin's law.

However as an academic (the difference between academics and teachers: lecturers get Firsts, teachers don't) he's bloody good. I'd gladly hotfoot it over to Oxford to be taught by him. His work is of the highest calibre. I can't help but feel that trying to conflate his potentitally dodgy character with his academic achievements is little better than trying to pull the Xenophobia card.

Whether he's a twat or not (and I suspect he probably is on that evidence) is somewhat irrelevant to his academic credentials IMHO.

A disclaimer: I inhabit the world of academia and am therefore utterly biased.

The Sage of Muswell Hill said...


A difficult one that.

If Bogdanor is as distinguished and as competent an academe as you say - and I have no reason to disbelieve you - then his views (or rather the way he chooses to put forward his views) on the EU are even more profoundly disturbing.

Were his area of expertise mathematics or chemistry, his views on the EU would be interesting only insofar as one tends to listen to and give more credence to persons of intelligence rather than, say, somebody like Terry Kelly. However, his expertise is in the very field that should enable him to give a more informed and rounded view of the subject as well as to engage in a civilised manner with those of an opposing view. The very fact that his "arguments" on this subject tend towards the ad hominem and sheer abuse end of the spectrum and a more or less blank refusal to engage must bring into question the excellence of his academic achievement which you are seeking to defend.

Anonymous said...

holly said:
'as an academic ... he's bloody good.'

That's your opinion - it doesn't make it true.

Anyone who teaches that the EU is wonderful has to contend with the established facts (costs, corruption, democratic deficit etc). Teaching rubbish is not 'good'.

If you can pin a europhile down one of the few defences of the EU that he produces is that '3 million UK jobs depend on our membership'. When asked how? he is non-plussed. His statement is dependent on the unspoken assumption that the foreigners would be so nasty as to stop buying from us. So it is the europhiles who fear foreigners as evinced by their own argument.

Anonymous said...

'The very fact that his "arguments" on this subject tend towards the ad hominem and sheer abuse end of the spectrum and a more or less blank refusal to engage must bring into question the excellence of his academic achievement which you are seeking to defend'.

Umbongo - I certainly agree with that - I take enormous issue with ad hominem attacks from academics and I did try to make clear that I in no way condone any of the things he is reported to have said on this occasion. it worries me enormously that someone who's published work is so impressive would fail so utterly to engage with reasoned disagreement in the flesh. However, what I was attempting to do is to seperate his personal twattery from his published work, as I'm not sure it's fair to tarnish both with the same brush, as it were (gosh that's a horribly mangled metaphor, but hopefully some sense comes through). If anything, my core fear is that many of the criticisms of Prof. Bogdanor have descended to the level of personal attack which he is reported to inhabit.

And Budgie - point taken, but Bogdanor doesn't teach on the EU. He teaches on the UK. Whilst I'm not debating their interconnectedness, his academic work doesn't cover the EU at all, which is why I did seek to separate his extremely rudely-expressed opinions on the EU from his publications.

Anonymous said...


You are right that the source of the nastiness is the lack of an argument. I have never come across an argument in favour of the EU that stands up to scrutiny.

As Budgie says, the major arguments seem to rely on a much worse view of Johnny Foreigner than even the truly swivel eyed among Eurosceptics (unfortunately our side has complete wankers too)can manage.

The idea that only a regime that starves Africans for the sake of gravy at home, can stop the Germans invading Poland again, is to put it mildly bizarre.

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