Brexit and the academic imperative

As I may have mentioned before, I do not subscribe to the view that universities as institutions should campaign for or against the UK’s continuing membership of the European Union. That is ultimately a matter for the voters, and of course they will make their choice with reference to many different things, not many of which will have much to do with higher education. It is of course perfectly proper for universities to point out how they may benefit from European Union membership, but they should then leave it to the electorate to judge how important that is in the overall scheme of things.

But there is an element of this referendum campaign which is a proper subject-matter for the academy: the truth or otherwise of the arguments being presented by those advocating a leave or remain vote. And the picture is not a pretty one. As the campaign has progressed the arguments have become increasingly bizarre, with a Third World War vying for attention with the prospect of every single Turk turning up at Heathrow or Dover. The printed news media, or parts of it, has done what it seems to do best, which is to take this kind of stuff and put it in large print on the front pages.

The main result of this is that the electorate appears to be heading for the polling booths in a state of extraordinary ignorance. A poll conducted by Ipsos MORI has revealed that on most of the issues that the protagonists have placed at the top of the agenda (immigration, trade etc) the public believe ‘facts’ that are simply wrong. Correcting all this misinformation (or indeed disinformation) is an important task that academics should tackle. Whatever way we would like this vote to go, it should be undertaken with more than the usual understanding of the key issues. There is not much time left.

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3 Comments on “Brexit and the academic imperative”

  1. Anna Notaro Says:

    This goes well beyond ‘correcting the misinformation’ with facts, listing facts won’t make any difference! Kant is reported to have stated that ‘facts without theory are blind’ what is missing is a political framework for facts to make sense, to appeal not only to people’s reason but to their hearts as well. “Sometimes the truth isn’t good enough, sometimes people deserve more. Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded.” Batman (The Dark Knight)

  2. jeffollerton Says:

    “Correcting all this misinformation (or indeed disinformation) is an important task that academics should tackle.”

    Agreed, which is why I posted this yesterday:

    https://jeffollerton.wordpress.com/2016/06/13/the-environmental-argument-for-the-uk-remaining-in-the-european-union/

  3. Vincent Says:

    I’m sorry but the issue was never the Eu/EEC but how both the UK and the republic of Ireland treated their membership.
    If you take Lincolnshire. The population lifted 15% between 2001 and 2011 but the service’s didn’t match the rise. So then the native population began to blame the Poles and whomever when they couldn’t get kids into schools and waiting lists in hospitals began to lengthen. When suddenly they couldn’t get through towns the foreign car was an easy target and when on Question Time a Cambridge Classicist putting the blame where it belonged she was targeted by every trolling scum for miles.
    It was similar after the crash here in Ireland. We had German business people arriving over bemused at the fragility of the economy. Thy had no clue that ‘official’ Ireland was running a gigantic con job that had bookies on a race course ran similar they would’ve been ejected on their ear. Thence to the lunatic situation where people can be found guilty of crimes when the policeman had given the nod. And others can be bankrupt for doing the same.
    Are these issues for the EU. Was ECB wrong to hold the Irish government to their word. Of course not.
    But what it does mean is the UK and Ireland are utterly unsuited to membership. And anyone that believes that the EU is bound to collapse once the UK leaves misses the entire point of the EU from a mainland European perspective.
    Ask why does everyone in Northern europe have a pension while only civil and public servant have such on these islands where they are a current cost.
    So real information or active misinformation, neither will make one whit of difference.


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