If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the recent EU referendum in the United Kingdom it is that modern politics have nothing whatever to do with lofty principles, such as truth, integrity or freedom, and everything to do with fear-mongering of the most pernicious kind. One hardly knows where to begin when offering examples of the sort of low-brow, knee-jerk scaring of the electorate which characterized the referendum campaign. One example will have to suffice, which, though typical, is by no means the most egregious. In this case, the headlines says it all: “Central bank titans warn of Brexit tremors as global recession fears surface.” Below the headline is a lurid photograph of the City of London with an ominous and threatening tornado cloud forming over it. The caption to the photograph tells us that “experts have warned that a Brexit vote could suppress global growth.” Significantly, the essay appeared just two days before the vote, designed, no doubt, to frighten voters into toeing the EU line. Tremors and tornadoes. Fear and trembling. Doomsday! The message is clear: Remain shackled to the tyranny of the European Union or risk losing your job and your home if you vote recklessly to leave its protective grip.*
In our attention deficit disordered society, it is really only the headline, the photograph and the caption that matter. Nobody actually reads the essay. Most people will have got the visual message as they scan down to the sports report. “If I don’t vote to remain in the European Union, even though I loathe it, the world is going to come to an end.”
Unlike most of my countrymen, I decided to take the road less travelled and actually read the essay. It was a great anti-climax, which didn’t really live up to the billing that the headline and doomsday photograph promised. The two “central bank titans,” Janet Yellen, chairman of the US Federal Reserve, and Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, didn’t really say anything to justify the hysteria of the headline or the apocalyptic nature of the photograph. Mrs. Yellen conceded, when asked, that Britain’s leaving of the European Union “could have significant economic repercussions” and that it “could usher in a period of uncertainty,” which was merely stating the obvious, insofar as it was stating anything very much at all. Having said so little of note, she added that the fallout after a Brexit vote was “by no means certain,” admitting that “it is very hard to predict” the economic impact. She did state, however, that a US recession sparked by Brexit is “not the most likely case”. Okay. Let’s take a deep breath and revisit what Mrs. Yellen actually said. Britain’s leaving the European Union “could have significant economic repercussions” but this was “by no means certain”. It “could usher in a period of uncertainty” but “it is very hard to predict” and, in any event, its negative impact on the wider economy, particularly in the United States, is not a likely scenario. Clearly this particular “expert,” this titan (or titaness), did not think that the world would end and that the global economy would be plunged into recession if Britons voted to free themselves from the EU yoke.
But what did the other “titan” have to say? Mr. Draghi, echoing Mrs. Yellen, said that it was “very difficult to foresee the impact and various dimensions of how the vote in the UK will impact markets and the economies of the eurozone.” In other words, like Mrs. Yellen, this “expert,” this “titan,” had no idea what would happen. He was as clueless as the rest of us. Pressed further, the Italian economist refused to be drawn into reckless speculation: “It would be difficult to speculate about one outcome,” he said, adding that “we’re trying to be ready to cope with all possible contingencies.” He insisted that the European Central Bank had “done all the preparation that is necessary,” and had made all the appropriate plans to stabilize jittery markets, if the need arose.
So, did Mr. Draghi predict the meltdown of the European economy if Britain left the EU? Not quite. He didn’t know what the outcome would be but it would be nothing that the European Central Bank couldn’t handle. There was, in short, nothing particularly to worry about.
In order to justify the sensationalist headline, and no doubt frustrated by the failure of the titans to live up to their billing as prophets of doom, the journalist was forced to scrape the economic barrel for some nameless “experts” (with Morgan Stanley Bank) who were warning that Britain’s leaving of the EU could push the world “into the danger zone for a global recession.” So there we have it. The titans have no clue what’s going to happen but don’t seem particularly concerned, confident that Britain’s exit from the EU will have no major or lasting impact on the economy of the United States or Europe, let alone the whole world, whereas some anonymous midgets think it could be dangerous. Such a scenario would hardly have put the fear of God into British voters. The trouble, of course, is that the voters had only seen the headline and the photograph. Like Chicken Little, they will have seen the big lie emblazoned in the words of the headline and emboldened by the lurid doomsday photograph, and will be certain that, if they fail to vote to keep their chains in place as dutiful slaves of the EU tyranny, the world will fall on their heads.
This, at least, was the game plan. How shocking for all concerned when the British voters ignored the threats and the doomsday predictions, which had been dropped like journalistic bombs on a regular basis throughout the whole referendum campaign. How shocking that, in this meretricious age, a people can vote for their political freedom in spite of the threats of penury if they did so. For my part, I was as shocked as the globalist elites by this unexpected and defiant altruism on the part of the British populace. I had fully expected shameful capitulation in the face of the bullying. I had fully expected the British people to whimper their way into compliance with the will of their tyrannical masters, going to the polls with their tails between their legs. I have never been so pleased to be proved wrong!
Books by Joseph Pearce may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.
*See essay here.