a-fisking we shall go: Graham and Robert in Brexit Central

So two academics have taken to the unbiased and calm waters of Brexit Central to opine. They tie themselves in rhetorical knots Gordius would be proud of in trying to argue for their position while decrying academics who argue other. Its funny. And fisked. 

Since the Brexit referendum vote, we, like many people, have been shocked and disturbed by two things.

Just two?

First, the undisguised contempt expressed by a minority of influential and very vocal people in Britain – not to mention in other countries – for the majority of our fellow citizens,

Hmm. There was a 72% turnout on the referendum. 52% vote for Brexit translates to 37.4% of the electorate. But of course, the electorate is not the body of the UK citizens, which stands at just over the leave vote. So what we have in fact is as below. If you are going to set yourself up as a factual expert, then facts matter.  A majority of those who turned up to vote voted to leave. That’s how democracy works. But that is not the same as the majority of their fellow citizens

Remain    25% ;Leave        27% ;Did not vote     20%; Not on the electoral register   28%


 who have been accused of a variety of sins from ignorance to racism, and non infrequently crudely insulted.

You mean like this ? Yeah, shocking.



Second, by the wave of exaggerated and often simply dishonest propaganda

Examples being…? No? the plural of anectdote is not data

 that has been deployed to try to undermine both the Brexit vote

or, as democrats say when they give alternative views, overturn or change. Neither of these are synonyms with undermine.

 and the attempts of the British government to negotiate our withdrawal.

Many might say the UK government is doing a smashing job of its own doing so.

Some of us who hold academic positions have been particularly alarmed by this, because a number of academic colleagues and students have joined in the chorus.

Students with political ideas? Academics holding views and articulating them. Professing them perhaps! What next – Socratic dialogue? (look how he came to a sticky end)

 Academics, especially in subjects that have a direct impact on political opinions and government policies, have a duty – which they often claim with gusto – to analyse and inform.

But..you just said that their doing so was alarming. So, what a silent chorus? Or perhaps …one you prefer?

But for this duty to be exercised honestly and fruitfully, group prejudices and personal interests must be put to one side.

Err. Maybe. Not all prejudgements are bad.  Also, not to play the man here but Graham has a long history of political support for unionism and is a leading member of a right-wing think tank. There is absolutely nothing whatsoever wrong with that and good luck to him. But it does raise the issue of whether sauces, geese and ganders are in action here.

Dispassionate analysis can enrich democratic debate. But too many academics – led by the official institutions that employ them –

Ah, the Traison Des Clercs argument. Havent had that for a while. Also, do we have any evidence whatsoever that these people have been led by their Vice Chancellors or might it be that they have all moved along a similar path in their analysis?

 appear to have been swayed by their own individual and corporate advantage.

That’s pretty rancid stuff there. Its basically saying they are not just wrong but hypocrites and self-serving careerists. Its groundless and baseless and illbecoming of people setting themselves up as neutral analysts

Others seem content to represent an ivory-tower elite,

“people in this country have had enough of experts” eh Graham. Lets paraphrase Keynes

“Practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some sadly not quite yet defunct cabinet minister”

insensitive to the wider national interest – including the interest of people less privileged than themselves.

So academics, when not being hypocrites are self interested and elitist. Well, maybe. Both authors are academics. As am I.

It is an intellectual failure for the academic community to have been so overwhelmingly harnessed to a single point of view.

Is it a failure to believe in say Maxwell’s equations, or the laws of thermodynamics? What makes this different is that we generally don’t have a good unified theory of political economy and so people can agree and disagree. The authors disagree with the vast preponderance of their colleagues. That’s all. Also, it betrays a lack of knowledge of how intellectual ideas evolve. If one takes any sort of Kuhnian perspective, failure is a necessary element in the formation of a new approach.

For this reason, it has made a negligible contribution to a national debate of huge importance.

So negligible that the lads have felt compelled to write about it in a partisan blog and set up an institute.

Academics should scrutinise and question, not echo. No less disturbing is the fact that a considerable number of scholars, especially in fairly junior positions, feel that if they are intellectually honest and express views favouring Brexit, their careers will suffer. We are sorry to say that we think they are right to be worried.

Hearsay your honor. Move that it be struck from the record.

A small group of us decided that we had to speak out, hence the establishment of Briefings for Brexit.

So it is intellectually DIShonest to hew to the idea that Brexit is a supperating foolishness but honest to set up a ginger group which sees it A Good Thing? Im confused here…  

As ‘experts’ in a variety of subjects, we were angered

You just argued above for the primacy of dispassionate analysis. Now you are saying that your own analytical genius is founded in anger? But that’s ok, ammirite?

by the distortions that were being used to browbeat the electorate.

Yes, quite.

Some of us had voted Leave, and some Remain, but we agreed that the issue had been legally and democratically decided,


and to try to reverse the decision was sterile, divisive and frankly dangerous.

Because one vote is enough on any issue. Hmm. Not sure that most democrats would agree with that. Didn’t the UK vote to stay IN in 1975?

We quickly found, by spontaneous word of mouth, that there were others who felt the same.

The masses were yearning silently for a leader. then, like a brexit bus, along came two.

 We have not attempted to recruit a large group (though we are happy to welcome allies inside and outside academia), and we certainly remain a minority within universities.

I bet.

 But our primary aim is not to count academic heads.

Coz, its not about any sort of plebiscite.. oh, hang on, it was earlier.

 Rather, we intend to put forward reasoned and solidly based analyses to scrutinise and expose unexamined assumptions

That a single vote is enough forever and ever and ever…

, myths,

Such as academics being led by personal gain and craven careerism to decry Brexit?

 and downright falsehoods.

Such as a majority of citizens as discussed above?

We are happy for other colleagues to take a different view, and to disagree and debate: that is our job. But we must stop sterile refighting of the referendum.

Sure. But that’s not what those of us outside the UK see. We see people arguing for how to implement (Soft, hard, half-baked, hokey-cokey etc Brexit) and how to mitigate.

Let the country hear the real arguments. It is our job as academics to help our fellow citizens to understand what is happening and where the country now needs to go.

Nope. That’s contradicting what your thrust was earlier. You cant say academics can tell from the analysis where the country should go and simultaneously decry those that do so when it is in a different direction. Well, you can, clearly but it’s a bit contradictory isn’t it?



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