Today we discovered that 52% of the Great British public yesterday elected to exit the European Union, leaving the almost-balancing 48% questioning whether they wanted to remain in their own homeland or not, and the majority of non-British Europeans, having made a forever-life for themselves here, questioning whether they were allowed to remain in Britain at all. In or Out, the majority of us – I could hazard an unqualified guess of over 85% – even now have very little contextual understanding of what our vote actually meant politically, economically or socially, and based our decision almost entirely on emotional or cultural ideals. In fact, there was so little unbiased educational information in the lead-up to the referendum, and so much emotional ambush, scaremongering and key-wording from the media from both camps (even ‘camps’, a combative term, heightened the heartbeat and celebrated impassioned, unmeasured ‘quick-fire’ decision-making), that it was virtually impossible not to vote with Heart over Head.
The simmering argument is that the majority of British journalism does not, as advertised, reflect public viewpoint at all, but is instead fundamental in influencing public opinion. Whilst most winged newspapers are already politically vocal, even the neutrals are now increasingly celebrating personal comment. The topical article is one with a strong voice – we should sensibly read this as bias – with satire, mock-journalism and hypercriticism taking the fore. In light of this, it was unsurprising that pro-leave and pro-stay; both using the ease of already mass-circulated, low-depth, low-cost or free-of-charge newspapers, were able to advertise emotive and non-contextual opinion to a mal-informed and increasingly confused consumer. Dangerously, both camps used the threat that the other decision was a decision against civil freedom, ie. pro-leave threatened that if we voted to remain, we would be dictated to by an unfeeling, short-sighted superstate (Europe), meanwhile pro-stay threatened that if we voted Out, we would be dictated to by an unfeeling, short-sighted nationalist (I think you can guess).
So aside from the bleak outlook of mass political and social uprising, grief and disbelief, coupled with dangerous new platforms for the voices of dormant racists misled by confused nationalists, what comes next for personal economy and national identity? The obvious fall-out from both sides of the media unhelpfully concentrating solely on how the impending decision was ‘affecting the lives’ of the politicians involved (we should sensibly read this as distractive and tactical), and not, more appropriately, how it would impact the lives of those being asked to make that decision, is that Britain is now almost entirely unprepared for what happens next. Forecasting the economical future is undeniably tricky, not least because, as today demonstrates, democratic public opinion is markedly unpredictable, and is pretty instrumental in cash-crash chaos; ie. the fearful consumer stops consuming. If we do decide to vito an embarrassing Best Of Three referendum, and make this decision legal and binding over the coming months, we can be certain of these things;
1. Certain uncertainty across housing, currency and stock markets, as the GBP is falling rapidly and might well be valued the lowest it has been for decades. On the flipside there were too many notes in circulation (who knew?), so this is predicted to balance that out, meaning the price of milk will apparently go down. Also tourists love a bargain.
2. I learnt a new term called ‘Sentiment Change’, which is in part like the fearful consumer stopping consuming, but worryingly is also akin to a self-fulfilling prophecy, where the public can simply believe itself into another recession. Oh dear.
3. Weighty governmental changes involving a new Conservative PM candidate or two (and probably a new while-u-wait Labour one as well), cabinet shuffles and reshuffles, and eventually some kind of benefit and pensions policy reforms later down the line.
4. Massive trade changes – good side; we create the market value for our own manufacturing again, meaning we can undercut or oversell or price competitively, as we like. Not so good side; the rest of Europe may punish us for splitting up with them by ceasing/ complicating/ raising fees on import/ export with us. But we may already have reopened enough of our own previous trade avenues (namely China) to be sufficient without them. More importantly, and more time-consuming, will be having to unpick existing EU laws and regulations to reform and restructure our own.
5. Free-movement changes. Possibly stricter border controls, implementation of working visas, passports enforcement for Europeans travelling to Britain (at the moment most Europeans travel without a passport throughout the European Union).
So how to move forward? Whilst the premise of the referendum, like Pig-Gate, seemed to arise from an old Tory bet, and the final decision decidedly swayed by heavy media influence, the fact remains that we live and believe in a democracy, so will have to accept the decision of the mass and simply move forward. But it's not all Lay Back And Think Of England; if Sentiment Change turns out to hold gravitas, then akin to the foundations of cognitive behavioural therapy, one could argue overthinking could be used in a positive way as well as a negative one. But for that we'll need both sides of the media battleground to unite in responsible, tangible affirmation of our collective future. Which isn't that far-fetched, because ironically, in the lead up to the referendum, media bias on both sides played fundamental roles in advising the general public to vote in favour of exactly the same directives; equality and progression. Remain promoted unity through 'togetherness’, ‘compassion’ and the 'threat of those in power making decisions on our behalf', and the Leave camp promoted unity through ‘pride’, ‘duty’ and the 'threat of those in power making decisions on our behalf'.
Although, ironically, the decision on which powerhouse we wanted to be governed by had already been influenced by those behind the powerhouses themselves; a palpable surge in faceless journalists peddling more riling, emotive and unhelpful articles, and the supposedly-informed bleating on about whether party representatives were vocalising their own decisions or not (again, neither offering deeply needed possible outcome scenarios), the fact remains that a) an incredible number of people were impassioned enough to vote, b) we held a referendum and the people spoke, and c) the media was incredibly influential in mass Sentiment Change, and could be again, although this time toward fact and balanced opinion. Yes They Could.
Perhaps most significantly, we are as a populace taking increasing areas of power back for ourselves, so at the moment it seems the media could once again become a reflection of public viewpoint, rather than a tactical distraction or swayer of opinion. Either way, knowledge really is the highest power, so if we move together in remaining as politically engaged as we are now, we won't have to rely on simply our hearts to make decisions that also require the balance and critique of our level heads.