Sunday, April 29, 2018

Simples

This week I have seen or been sent stuff that takes the obvious and turns it into something incredibly complicated to try and make it mean something different. The Syrian civil war was caused by US intervention - ignoring the fact that US policy has been based on non-intervention and denying the agency of Syrians in their own revolution. The Earl of Oxford wrote Shakespeare - despite dying before a dozen of the plays were written. Robert Fisk was right about there being no chemical attack on Douma - regardless of, well, Robert Fisk. As Channel 4 fact check pointed out:
But to deny that a chemical weapons attack occurred at all, we would need to believe that scores of people have been involved in a vast and elaborate hoax, executed without any flaws. They would have needed to coordinate without any problems through a war-torn area, to ensure civilians, doctors, aircraft-spotters, and people on social media all came out with the right story at the right time. Plus, they needed to plant a gas canister at the right spot, and produce fake videos to such a high quality they not only fool millions across the world, but also medical experts assessing the symptoms. 
The truth is plain. These theories are mad - or malicious.

But we shouldn't deny complexity either. To say that complex things are simple is as much a distortion. Brexit is complicated and virtually impossible without doing great harm. Yet it was sold on the basis of being easy and that it would make us all better off. When the complexities are raised, Brexiters constantly repeat simplistic fantasies rather than deal with detail.

Reality changes everything. Take this excellent post from Simon Wren-Lewis. He uses the Global Future opinion survey on the details of the four main Brexit options - joining the EEA, operating under a free trade agreement with the EU, a hard Brexit under World Trade Organisation rules, and May's impossible fantasy bespoke deal. When presented with the details, leave voters, yes leave voters, overwhelmingly rejected every one of them. The majorities against ranged from 72%-83%. It becomes clear that very few people voted for the reality of Brexit, they voted for a version that didn't exist. They were sold simplicity and benefit, when the reality was complexity and cost.

Chris Grey points out that:
This is the inevitable consequence of taking a set of simplistic political assertions and trying to translate them into complex policy realities. It is no good dismissing this as elitism. In any part of our daily lives, we can’t buck the realities of complexity — say, when buying a house or fixing a car — by just trusting our instincts that such things can be achieved without regard for those realities, be they legal or mechanical. Which is why it is absurd for Brexiters to complain that all would be well if only everyone ‘got behind’ Brexit. If their simplicities were right, it would need no such enthusiasm for them to be proved so. 
 And as he concludes,
We can’t will the world to be different to how it is, even if we wrap it in a sacred flag and call it the ‘will of the people’. Responsible and competent political leadership consists not of concealing complex realities but of explaining them. That isn’t elitism. Elitism is pretending to the public that the simplicities are true whilst, behind the scenes, knowing and acting differently.
And the same applies to people who take something obvious and wrap it in complexities to deny truth, absolve the guilty, and mislead those who are drawn to be daringly against 'the mainstream narrative.' Often the mainstream is mainstream precisely because it's true. We all like to deny inconvenient truths, but there is a special place in hell for those who deliberately and knowingly conceal truth with lies, complex or simple, for their own purposes. The problem is not falling for them.

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