A powerful nostalgia for the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony
August 13, 2019 1:04 PM   Subscribe

This is the crux of the leftwing critique of remainism: the charge that remainists are fixated with Brexit at the expense of everything else – and that rather than seeking to transform the country for the better, they just want to turn back the clock to the time before the referendum when they didn’t have to think about politics because it didn’t impinge upon their privileged bubble.
‘Loud, obsessive, tribal’: the radicalisation of remain, by Daniel Cohen for The Guardian's Long read.
posted by MartinWisse (24 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Three years of the lapse into fascism has left me tired, dispirited, just waiting for the end. And here the Guardian, so as not to appear biased, sends a wanker to sneer at us at great length. Hurrah. Best of the web.
posted by Grangousier at 1:35 PM on August 13, 2019 [41 favorites]

That is one weird article, even by the ever falling standards of the Grauniad

The most depressing thing about it is that it inadvertently captures the hermetic bubble which surrounds the UK media. The notion that anyone has any agency outside of the media circus is simply inconceivable to them. That includes the notion that other countries can read and understand English...
posted by fallingbadgers at 1:38 PM on August 13, 2019 [5 favorites]

The pull quote for this FPP is really weird, because none of this article is about the left wing. In fact, the whole article seems to chuckle at people who've become involved in politics because something bad is threatening a part of their world.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 1:49 PM on August 13, 2019 [7 favorites]

Honestly, I thought this article was some kind of parody for most of it... like it was trying to make a point about how people talk/think about leavers by talking about remainists in a clearly absurd, pseudoanthropological way. But, no, it really is earnest.

I couldn't make it through all of it--does the article actually acknowledge in any way the terrifying, historical magnitude of the danger to the UK's economy, democracy, and social fabric posed by Brexit and Brexiteers?
posted by overglow at 2:45 PM on August 13, 2019 [4 favorites]

I assume the editor removed all occurrences of the phrases "Volvo-driving" and "quinoa-eating". Good job.

On the People’s Vote protest in March, remainists wielded signs that mocked leavers while trumpeting their own superiority: “52% Pride and Prejudice 48% Sense and Sensibility,” read one.
That's simultaneously very clever and totally fucking obnoxious.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 2:46 PM on August 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

I think that roughly 100% of the Brits I know voted remain ... but but roughly 0% espouse anything like this kind of Europhilia. If anything, they are Remainers more in sorrow than joy: fully on board with the Brexit agenda of sentimental English exceptionalism, but regretfully persuaded that the math doesn't tally for their business interests.
posted by MattD at 5:01 PM on August 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

Great. Opposition to madness is now itself characterized as the radicalization of so-called Remainists. One way to discredit an opinion is to profile its most extreme members. In any case, Owen Jones, the Labour mouthpiece says its a "very good piece"

Here's the last line of the article in case there is any doubt how the author views anybody who is anti-Brexit:

"Afterwards, a protester told me that when she had drawn tarot cards, they showed that Britain would stay in the EU. But it wasn’t certain. “I did that six months ago,” she said. “Energies can change.”"
posted by vacapinta at 9:37 PM on August 13, 2019 [4 favorites]

I think the whole article is a lot more sympathetic to the people it’s writing about then the framing above. They are formerly a political people who are realizing that the machine of governance won’t always cater to them implicitly, and are actually mobilizing in the face of it.

I wondered what would happen to these people after Brexit. How might it feel to give so much of yourself to something and still come out on the losing side? Duncan Hodgkins, an army veteran and antiques dealer who now protests with Sodem full time, wasn’t optimistic: he told me he expected Brexit to go ahead. But he didn’t seem disillusioned. He glowed as he described how campaigning against it, his first taste of politics, had enriched him. “I’m so much more than the person I was before I started this,” he said. “I’ve found abilities within me that I didn’t realise I had: being able to communicate with different people, to have an actual opinion and not be scared to give it out.”
posted by Space Coyote at 9:49 PM on August 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Guardian should investigate other weird cults too, like spherical-earthers, or people who think astronauts landed on the moon, or pro-vaxers, even those crazies who insist Pi isn't 3.
posted by BinaryApe at 10:52 PM on August 13, 2019 [15 favorites]

The piece notably doesn't attempt to address the truth of any arguments from beginning to end. I would suggest that truth is at the very heart of the issues here, given that a core remainer argument is that people are being falsely told that no economic damage will occur.
posted by jaduncan at 12:02 AM on August 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

It also strikes me that you could write the same piece about the environmentalist movement becoming more radical as the time ticks down - it is rational to react more as a crisis becomes more serious.

I cannot be the only one feeling a lot of empathy for Cassandra.
posted by jaduncan at 12:25 AM on August 14, 2019 [13 favorites]

...as they have become convinced that Britain is in the midst of a rightwing coup – they have grown increasingly despairing.

Just a reminder folks, the UK being removed from the largest trading and regulatory bloc in the world, a move that will seemingly benefit no one except rich financiers, based on a small margin in a non-binding referendum, that the winning side won probably by breaking a few electoral laws and peddling blatant lies and disinformation, being carried out by a government with a single seat majority and a Prime Minister who won his position in an election less than 1% of the UK populace took part in, is not in fact a right wing coup.
posted by PenDevil at 12:59 AM on August 14, 2019 [21 favorites]

Much of this article is reasonably straight reportage of the general landscape of Remain activism (particularly the Twitter side), but the tone is skewed by Cohen's use of the term "remainist" to make it seem as if hardcore remainers are some sort of extreme fringe. The label "remainer" is perfectly adequate: it means more than just "somebody who voted remain", because at least some remain voters are now leavers, just as some leave voters are now remainers. It's also flexible enough to include those who are generally supportive of remaining, through to those who are passionate enough to go on a march, tweet or post to Mefi Brexit threads, through to those who have given up their day jobs to devote themselves to the cause. It's a broad church, and it isn't defined by #FBPE.

Nor are remainers predominately people who never cared about politics before, as he implies. We live in a country where voting is non-compulsory, so if you voted remain, you demonstrated that you care about politics - as did leave voters. Even if you didn't vote, that doesn't mean you don't care about politics, because many people were denied the opportunity to vote in the referendum. Or maybe you thought that the EU was a distraction from austerity and defeating the Tories, the "leftwing critique" that Cohen mentions, and didn't care what happened in the referendum. Whether or not you cared about Britain's membership of the EU before doesn't tell us much about whether you cared about politics before.

"Remainists hated Theresa May by the end" - do we get a prize if we hated her from the beginning? Plenty of us knew what she was like as Home Secretary in the six years before becoming PM, and objected to what she was doing in the role - because we cared about politics.

And there's some sleight-of-hand in this:

The Lib Dems’ refusal to countenance joining any kind of caretaker government with Corbyn at the helm – even if that could rule out a no-deal Brexit – confirms that remainists are continuing to do politics under the guise of putting politics aside to serve the national interest.

Whatever stance Lib Dem MPs decide to take for their own political advantage says little about remainers as a whole, or even the more activist remainers most of the article is discussing. Remainers on Twitter have been extremely divided on the question of a caretaker government and how it might be formed. Personally, I don't think we're going to get one, so it could be helmed by John Smith's ghost for all the difference it would make.

And is anyone talking about "putting politics aside to serve the national interest"? I'm sure that any of the people mentioned in this article would acknowledge that their support of Remain is a political position. Defining politics as "unquestioning support for a specific political party" helped get us into this mess in the first place.
posted by rory at 2:32 AM on August 14, 2019 [9 favorites]

EU Super Girl is a Brexiteer PsyOp to make Remainers look ludicrous. It's the only explanation I can accept.
posted by knapah at 3:31 AM on August 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

The article seems to concentrate on England almost exclusively: justifiable in that Brexit is a beast that seems to have been spawned by English nationalism - but one which overlooks Northern Ireland and Scotland: places which started "remaininst" in 2016 and which have hardened their position since then. A challenge routed through Scottish courts provided the clarification that Article 50 could be revoked - and another is in progress to seek Johnson from proroguing parliament.

The article mentions the issue of Scottish independence only to cite is as an example of a diminishing force since 2014. This notion is somewhat discredited by the recent Ashcroft poll which shows that proponents of the idea have grown from 45% to 52% in this time span. Against the alternative of an unfolding no-deal Brexit - independence looks like a lifeboat into which Scots will wish to jump. The point at which you jump into a lifeboat - with all the risks that that entails - is when you believe it will give you a better outcome that staying with the mother ship. It is England - or to be specific the Westminster government - which is plotting a course that will have opponents fighting for survival: by escape if necessary.

Effective survivors - wherever they come from in the UK - are the opposite of head-in-the-cloud radicals: they are pragmatists.
posted by rongorongo at 3:51 AM on August 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

It's just a really weird article. I am trying to get through it, but it is so disingenuous. I wonder who the author is? Someone who does not understand that this is probably objectively the worst thing to happen to the UK since WW2, and treats it like any old social movement? (Yes, there is the whole right-wing press, but they are just doing as told and hoping their evil overlords will reward them). I googled and couldn't find anything.
I know this is godwinning territory, but the article is like someone describing the European resistance during WW2 as "radical" and "obsessive". How can you not describe what is going on right now as a coup? It can still be stopped, so it may end up as an unsuccessful coup. But crashing out on the 31st of October against the majority of Parliament is as coup-ish as can be.
posted by mumimor at 5:08 AM on August 14, 2019 [7 favorites]

I did look up the author to see what else he wrote, and it's not very much - sporadic, various pieces for the Guardian. Googling doesn't help. I wonder whether it's someone from Spiked - it's very much their POV and, indeed, MO.
posted by Grangousier at 5:43 AM on August 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

So lexiteers funded by Kochs?
posted by mumimor at 5:47 AM on August 14, 2019

Here's his twitter, fwiw. (He looks suuper young, though looks can be deceiving. Saying that he "profiled his dad" for this article doesn't really help the Doogy Howser vibe, however.)
posted by taz at 6:09 AM on August 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

“Only ignorance! only ignorance! how can you talk about only ignorance? Don't you know that it is the worst thing in the world, next to wickedness? -- and which does the most mischief heaven only knows. If people can say, `Oh! I did not know, I did not mean any harm,' they think it is all right.”
― Anna Sewell, Black Beauty
posted by mumimor at 6:27 AM on August 14, 2019 [5 favorites]

To give a contrary opinion : I enjoyed reading the article, and found it interesting. I generally like analysis of the factors that go into a particular viewpoint - ethical, historical, etc. - and it's a valuable discussion of how a new radicalised movement has come into being.

Re rory's comments above : I completely agree with you that counting the LibDem parliamentary party's manoeuverings as part of the remainer movement is mixing two distinct things, and detracts from the rest of the article. However, I disagree that the term 'remainist' is unhelpful : I like it as a way of distinguishing between the ~48% of the electorate who broadly support remain, as against the much smaller fast-evolving group of politically active and politically committed campaigners.
posted by vincebowdren at 9:40 AM on August 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

Politically committed campaigners who, eg Madeleina Kay, the deeply short sighted achingly well-off class protest signs, the rabid, evolving naive-beyond-belief in whichever (Soubz, Swinson, Lucas) politician is going to save us next are *deeply, deeply* damaging to any constructive effort to halt or stop Brexit and actively hostile to anyone who argues with them.
posted by threetwentytwo at 10:44 AM on August 14, 2019

I disagree that the term 'remainist' is unhelpful : I like it as a way of distinguishing between the ~48% of the electorate who broadly support remain, as against the much smaller fast-evolving group of politically active and politically committed campaigners.

I just figure that we've had no trouble distinguishing between them to date - people have talked about Remain voters versus Remainers, or about "hardcore remainers" as the Guardian puts it in the lede of Cohen's article.

I liked Alex Andreou's take on it.
posted by rory at 2:08 PM on August 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

I'm not wanting to make this into a general Brexit thread, but the below comment from this article is a fair description of the remain position.
I’ve tried. Really. I think I’ve given Brexiters more than a fair hearing.

I’ve listened to the Cornish farmers, unable to say with any confidence what might replace the EU subsidises that keeps their industry alive.

I’ve heard the concerns of Airbus employees in Wales, who would happily vote to Leave again, in the full knowledge that their jobs might well disappear, for a generation.

I’ve been concerned for the Sunderland leave voters, the first to proudly declare a clear majority on the night of the referendum, wondering what might happen when Nissan looks abroad and begins to hint that they might not be able to sustain a UK business model.

I’ve struggled with the logic of the anti-immigration agenda, when every possible study shows that there’s a net benefit to the economy. And wrestled with the concept of taking back control, when immigration from outside the EU where we currently have control remains the same year on year.

In the past 3 years, I’ve tried to listen for a cogent, intelligent and sensible argument for Brexit. I’m getting nothing. I’ve heard lots of illogical emotional abuse, seen an exercise in self harm, a government unsurprisingly struggle to deliver the undeliverable, and an increasingly desperate cry to “just get on wiv it”. Even when what’s got to be got on with is murky and unclear, let’s just do it quickly anyway, before anyone notices it’s a crock of shit. But if you’ve got some sound reasoning, I’m listening.

As we watch our nation slide disgracefully towards disaster, there’s a small irony in there of course - that in the effort to take back control, that seems to be the one thing we’ve lost.
posted by mumimor at 1:13 PM on August 15, 2019 [9 favorites]

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