I published this on Medium and thought I’d share it here too.
I’ve had a go at tracking some similarities and connections (and a few differences) between the UK situation, facing Brexit, and the US situation, dealing with Trump. My main sources are this majestic piece by Nafeez Ahmed and exposes like this by George Monbiot about corporate influencing of politics. The rest is all filtered from being absorbed in this topic over the past 8 months, and you can find more references on my other articles.
Key differences between the two
Non-essential and corrupt…UK: The EU Referendum was a national advisory opinion poll on the broad question of being in or out of the European Union. It was deliberately set up by David Cameron so that the Tories would win UKIP/Eurosceptic votes and get re-elected.
Essential but corrupted…USA: A presidential election after Obama had held office for 8 years. The election itself was entirely due, but the process was flawed partly because America’s electoral system has inherent problems and mostly because it was compromised by corporate interests.
Key themes of the two campaigns
Racism….UK: Protecting/controlling borders against immigrants. USA: Building a wall on Mexican border, and stopping Muslims coming in.
Nationalism…UK: Taking back our sovereignty. USA: Make America great again.
Democratic deficit…UK: The EU is anti-democratic, that it is run by ‘unelected bureaucrats’ only benefiting the ‘metropolitan elites’. USA: Democrats don’t care about the American people, have propped up globalisation which benefits China etc.
Big government…UK: Reducing the intervention of Governments in industry & trade. USA: Slashing government intervention in industry & environment to boost construction & extraction for jobs.
Health services…UK: Money saved to be spent on National Health Service. (Cummings, a director of Leave campaign, admitted if they hadn’t lied about this they would have lost referendum. It was an appeal to the Left/working classes.) USA: Save money by repealing Obamacare, or the Affordable Health Act. (This is an opposite policy from saving the NHS but is still populist, as there is a anti-taxation and self-reliance ethic in USA, stirred up by the Tea Party.)
Murdoch-owned media messages
EU is uber government…UK: Murdoch is long-time Eurosceptic, as the EU interferes with his ability to control his businesses. He thinks that ‘political correctness’ threatens press freedom. Entangled cronies…USA: Murdoch business interests are entangled with Trump and his supporters’ own interests, including the fossil fuel lobby (e.g. Murdoch has stakes in oil companies; Ivanka Trump has managed Murdoch family funds).
Free advertorial…UK: Government passed a law that gagged NGOs/campaign groups in run up to elections, including the EU Referendum. But it didn’t gag the press. Leave campaign was able to use Murdoch press (Sun, Times & Sky channels in UK) for £millions of free advertorial. Personal backing…SA: Murdoch made clear that he fully backed Trump, after several private meetings, after a period of hostility. Murdoch was present when Michael Gove (Tory Brexiter) interviewed Trump after his election win.
Hate sells papers…UK: The Sun is UK’s most read paper, strongly pro-Leave, and it overtly used ‘hate’ messages to stir anti-migrant sentiment. In turn, this populist and sensational messaging sold papers. Trump vs any critical media…USA: Fox News is highly sympathetic to Trump post-election. Others, such as CNN, are carrying out their duty to investigate, much to Trump’s ire. After Trump’s meeting with Japan’s PM, Trump called only Murdoch-owned media to the press conference. A key rationale to backing Trump is that being an ‘entertaining’ high-profile character means good business for Murdoch.
Indications of Russian involvement
Covert support…UK: Russia has been overtly careful to avoid making pro-Brexit announcements, which, going by their tendencies, indicates covert support. Interference…USA: The US intelligence community believes that Russia intervened in the elections through hacking and other tactics, intending to discredit Clinton and see Trump elected. Trump admitted Russia probably was involved. Flynn has resigned after admitting he talked to the Kremlin about sanctions.
Awareness of general threat…UK: Younger, the head of MI6 made an unusual public speech warning of fundamental threat to democracies in Europe from cyber warfare from hostile states, implying Russia. An inside agent…USA: News about the accessed data on Podesta’s emails was deliberately publicised at a key point just before the election by FBI director Comey, who also chose to repress news of information found about Trump and Russian links (Steele dossier).
Aim to weaken or break the EU…UK/Europe: Russia has funded Eurosceptic parties and groups across Europe (the Alliance of European National Movements. Marine Le Pen received a $10m loan), with the aim of forming a Eurasian Union with Moscow as dominant centre. Putin has made no secret that he is keen to weaken NATO and break up the EU. The only reason it’s hard to tell if UKIP was given open-ended loans by Russia is that it’s the only party with MEPs that refuses to allow its accounts to be independently audited. UKIP jumped from bankrupt to solvent in July 2015. Dodgy dealings…USA: The Steele dossier listed a number of connections mainly related to business freedoms and deals e.g. Putin promised Trump a 19% stake in Rosneft if he was elected (and in December 19.5% of Rosneft sold off via shell companies), and Erovinkin, an ex-KGB chief who helped Steele with his enquiries was found dead. The dossier also alleges that Russia has ‘kompromat’ on Trump, which bribes him to promote Russia’s cause. US investigators have corroborated significant amounts of the dossier’s claims, although Trump still insists its ‘fake news’.
Admiration and shared views…UK: Nigel Farage says Putin is the world leader he most admires. Russian ambassadors attend UKIP conferences. UKIP MEPs are regularly on RT channel (‘Putin’s mouthpiece’). RT & Sputnik give voice to more anti-EU (& pro-Trump) sentiment than would be balanced. Refusal to criticise…USA: Trump continues to praise Putin. When asked to comment on Putin’s record of killing people, he said ‘America isn’t so innocent either’. When he had a phone meeting with Putin, aides turned off the voice recorder.
Fossil fuel cronies…UK: UKIP and Leave campaign leaders are generally climate sceptics, have encouraged a drop in public support for renewable energy, and many, such as Roger Helmer, have connections with the fossil fuel lobby. Oil and Russia cronies…USA: Rex Tillerson, Trump’s Secretary of State was chair and CEO of ExxonMobile, and has headed up the joint US-Russian Exxon Neftegas. Exxon has led funding of climate denial despite knowing the truth of anthropogenic climate disaster since the 1970s. Tillerson is friends with Sechin, the head of Kremlin’s military security services. In addition, Henry Kissinger was brought in to mastermind rebuilding relationships with Russia, particularly around allowing Russian access to oil/gas fields.
Organised trolling…UK/Europe: ‘Troll factories’, online activists are paid by Russia to spread propaganda vs EU. Kremlin has also encouraged hacking to expose scandals about pro-EU figures. Organised trolling…USA: The tactics and terms of these troll factories are also echoed by social media armies funded by US-based groups with links to Russia and the fossil fuel lobby.
Interpersonal links between the two campaigns
Atlantic Bridge…UK: Liam Fox (hard right Brexiter, May’s Secretary of State for International Trade) founded Atlantic Bridge. Funded amongst others by Hintze who funds climate denying lobbyists. Fox was disgraced as AB was exposed as not operating as a charity, so he resigned as defence minister and AB was shut down. ALEC and Heritage…USA: Atlantic Bridge set up a sister thinktank in US called ALEC. This helps corporations develop model bills that demolish environmental & social regulations. ALEC’s director of international relations, Catherine Bray, has worked for UKIP/Leave leaders and her husband worked on Trump’s presidential campaign. Liam Fox is also close to the Heritage Foundation, devising Trump’s policy.
Chummy…UK: Nigel Farage (ex-leader of UKIP) is friendly with Trump. He visited him soon after the election. Theresa May was the first world leader to visit Trump after the inauguration, aiming to make a post-Brexit UK-US trade deal. She invited him on a state visit, without checking public, Royal or Parliament support. Feelings mutual…USA: Trump said Farage should be UK’s ambassador to US. Trump kept calling himself ‘Mr Brexit’, and has been a vocal supporter.
Poll predictions and electoral issues
Remainstream…UK: Assumption that Remain would win, given that both major parties were wedded to this policy, to the extent that neither Leave nor Remain side had a plan for what next if Leave won. Some polls still predicted Remain right up to the last minute. Nobody expects the Trump inquisition…USA: Pollsters predicted Clinton would win based on the popular vote.
The will of the people…UK: Leave won with a narrow margin of 51.9% to 48.1% Remain. If it had been defined as a non-advisory binding referendum, a much bigger majority would have been required to bind the result. It is being treated as a binding result, nonetheless. Now only 35% back the current plan for Brexit, even though both main parties have voted it through assuming that it represents the ‘will of the people’. Neither May nor Corbyn have shaped a narrative that offers the people to have a further say or routes out of Brexit. ‘Not my president’…USA: Clinton did gain nearly 3 million more of the popular vote, but the Electoral College voted Trump in, partly because so many Democrat electors didn’t support her. Trump is complaining that this popular win was due to electoral fraud. No POTUS has ever been so unpopular and subject to so much protest, worldwide, so early in his term of office. 46% now think he should be impeached, and 46% disagree.
Disenfranchised young…UK: Young people were overwhelmingly Remain, but 16–18 year olds were disenfranchised, and 64% of 18–24 year olds turned out compared to 90% of over 65s (who favoured Leave). Snowflake generation…USA: Only 37% of 18–29 year olds voted Trump but over 1 million didn’t vote and 1 in 10 went for a third party candidate.
Reasons given for voting Brexit or Trump
Note the context in both UK and USA is of reduced purchasing power by working people, increased hoarding of wealth by the 1%, declining profits from the fossil fuel industry and an increasing reliance on debt. This causes genuine suffering for those most disadvantaged by this context. Nonetheless, their experiences have been manipulated by corporate and media influencing.
Just a protest vote…UK: ‘Things have to change. We need to shake things up.’ (A desire not to see the status quo continue. It’s more attractive to vote for change.) Too much Obama…USA: ‘Things have to change, we need to shake things up.’ (Frustration after 8 years of Democrat presidency, whereas real causes of economic decline related to corporatocracy and peak fossil fuel.)
Refugee crisis…UK: ‘We must control our borders and keep out migrants’. (Based on fears stoked by alt-right media that ‘the world is full’ and that over-population is fault of countries in the Global South, combined with the created perception that terrorism is part of Islam rather than having complex geo-political origins.) Bad hombres…USA: ‘Let’s build the wall to keep out Bad Hombres and ban Muslims.’ (As with the narrative around Brexit.)
We don’t make things anymore…UK: ‘The EU has destroyed our industry/town/livelihoods.’ (Based on the perception that the EU rather than the neo-liberal ‘Deep State’ is responsible for globalisation that has shifted production e.g. of cars/textiles/steel/coal out of the UK.) Rust-belt decline…USA: ‘Obama and liberal elites have destroyed our industry/town/livelihoods.’ (Based on the perception that Democratic establishment were responsible for globalisation, rather than primarily the corporatocracy and the dynamics of consumerism.)
Reasons given for regretting voting for Brexit or Trump
Dishonesty…UK: ‘I’m angry they lied about the NHS.’ Dishonesty…USA: ‘Trump is a liar!’
Not a racist…UK: Regretting that after the Referendum there was a rise in hate incidents. Reaction to a shock action…USA: More switched to regret after the ‘Muslim ban (‘How is this different than what Hitler did to Jews?’)
We didn’t vote for this…UK: Some regret about the emerging context of links with Trump and current plan to leave the Single Market, which still won’t reduce numbers of migrants. Diplomatic danger…USA: Thought Trump would protect against war but now worried that undiplomatic tweets/phone calls will cause war.
Evidence of leaders motivated by power and profit
Lack of mission…UK: UKIP and the Leave campaign groups had no defined plan for the kind of deal they would want in the advent of a Leave vote. Vote for me, I’m rich…USA: Trump’s campaign was based on his record of being a ruthless and rich businessman. He refuses to publish his tax records or fully divest himself of his businesses, against the Emoluments clause of the constitution.
Only for the attention…UK: Leave leaders were opportunistic and self-seeking e.g. Boris Johnson was ambivalent, and only chose to lead Tory Leave campaign because it was a route to being Prime Minister if successful. A coup engineered by chaos…USA: Trump’s lead advisor/Sec of State Steve Bannon has talked about being a ‘Leninist’, wanting complete revolution to enable corporate anarchy and white supremacy. There are many examples that Trump’s team are trying to follow the playbook of tyranny — grabbing power by creating confusion, managing their perceptions through media, sowing suspicion between dissidents etc.
Attitudes towards working classes
We are like you…UK: Appealing to ‘ordinary decent’ working people. Patriots…USA: Appealing to patriots, those who make sacrifices to work for America.
An appeal to listen…UK: Immediately after the Referendum, the UK commentariat media was full of articles saying ‘This shows we must listen to people in working class/Northern areas/places where industry has died. They have been ignored too long.’ Same appeal…USA: Immediately after the election, the US commentariat media was full of articles saying ‘We must listen to people in the south/the rust belt/places where industry has died. They’ve been ignored too long’.
Metropolitan elites…UK: Leavers criticising ‘metropolitan elites’ who are privileged and pro-EU. Libtards…USA: Trump campaigns demonise ‘libtards’, ‘politically correct’ and ‘liberal elites’. Trump campaign materials overtly encourage supporters to ‘annoy liberals’.
Actually, elite themselves…UK: Leaders and funders of the Leave movement are wealthy, many through private off-shore, untaxed and shadowy businesses and donations. Extreme elite…USA: All Trump’s team and funders are members of corporate and media elite, with many billionaires.
Hijacking socialism…UK: In defending a hard Brexit, Theresa May uses the tactic of pretending to be pro-working class, stealing the thunder of the Labour Party in vocalising care about ‘Just about managing’ families, while her policies do nothing to tackle inequality. Shock austerity…USA: Many of Trump’s team, outside politics, have expressed disdain for working people e.g. exploiting them in companies or criticising fecklessness. Trump’s plan to cut spending by $10.5 trillion, devised by the Heritage Foundation, will devastate lives of the poor by damaging public welfare and the environment.
EU is a money drain…UK: Leaders of Leave based their argument on lies e.g. that immigrants cause depression of wages and affect our GCP (although research showed they actually have a net benefit). They claimed a false amount of money that we give to EU, without accounting for the benefits we receive in return such as payments to poor areas and industries. They lied that we would spend the money we give to the EU on the NHS instead. Alternative facts…USA: Trump tells extraordinary lies, continually. His Counsellor, Kellyanne Conway, defends them as ‘alternative facts’. (Conway is a pollster responsible for a flawed poll commissioned by far-right thinktank CSP that justified idea of Muslim ban.)
Phrases and tactics used by trolls
Bullying…UK: ‘You lost.’ ‘Stop crying.’ ‘Get over it.’ ‘Accept democracy.’ Bullying…USA: ‘You lost.’ ‘Get over it’. ‘Accept democracy.’
Name calling…UK: : e.g. Cry-babies, Remoaners, Remainiacs, Traitors. Name calling…USA: e.g. Snowflakes and Crybabies (too delicate, fussy about morals). Use of term Libtards (i.e. liberal sheep/idiots, too privileged to see things as they are). Trump supporters call themselves Patriots.
Tarring with same brush…UK: Focus on Middle East/African refugees as the enemy e.g. ‘rapists’ and ‘terrorists’. Conflation of Islam with terrorism e.g. in justifying changes of plan to take child refugees. The same tarring…USA: Focus on Mexican migrants, and Middle East/African refugees as the enemy e.g. ‘bad hombres’, ‘rapists’ and ‘terrorists’. Conflation of Islam with terrorism in justifying the ‘Muslim ban’.
Soft racism…UK: Applied to EU migrants in UK even if long-settled and tax-paying e.g. not accepting they should have had a vote in referendum; distinguishing between UK ‘expats’ and other EU migrants; and saying ‘if you don’t like it here, go home?’ Soft racism…USA: Applied in the use of terms like ‘All Lives Matter’ in response to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. (Hard racism is more mainstream in USA, and has allowed Republicans to vote in Trump’s team that includes Ku Klux Klan sympathisers such as Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions, the new Attorney General.)
Representations of democracy
Enemies of the people…UK: The Referendum result was held up as the ‘will of the people’. Remainers/Liberals seen as anti-democratic, characterised in pro-Leave media as sheep-like followers of liberal elites, not thinking for themselves or having authentic experience. He won bigly…USA: Although the popularity of Trump has declined massively since inauguration, he is promoted as the choice of the people. Criticism of Trump protestors everywhere as being undemocratic. Trump said ‘why didn’t these people vote?’
Faceless…UK: The EU is criticised as undemocratic e.g. ‘unelected bureaucrats’. Corrupt…USA: Obama & Clinton criticised for being undemocratic, elite and corrupt, based on their inglorious entanglement with wars in the Middle East. Clinton in particular criticised for being corrupt in accumulating money from her position.
Overclaiming plebiscites as democratic…UK: Covert realisation that referenda are an alternative way of legitimising decisions that can be strongly influenced by ‘perception management’ in the media. Selective view of popular will…USA: Trump obsessed with proving the size of his supportive crowds and investigating voter fraud that he believes lost him the popular vote. Insists that there is no opposition to projects such as Dakota and Keystone oil pipelines. He only lauds the will of the people when it suits.
Attitudes towards law
Law is the block to their will…UK: Supreme court judges described in pro-Leave media as ‘Enemies of the people’ (when they ruled that it would be illegal to move to trigger Article 50 without a Parliamentary vote). See you in court…USA: Trump uses the law manipulatively, to get his way in business deals, rather than respecting its institutionalised authority. He sacked the acting attorney general who said the Muslim ban was not legal in the constitution. He cannot accept orders of circuit judges who continue to uphold the legal block on the Muslim ban.
Anti-expert…UK: Disrespect for experts, courts and defenders of rights that ensure decisions are well-informed, humane and legal. Anti-expert…USA: Disrespect for experts, courts and defenders of rights that ensure decisions are well-informed humane and legal.
Misplaced priorities…UK: Distraction by the negotiation of Brexit while neglecting and covertly enabling the decay of public services such as health, schools and transport. Wrecking of public services…USA: Executive orders that dismantle public institutions and regulations across the board.
Bad deal or no deal…UK: The Brexit proposal voted through by Parliament offers either a Hard Brexit deal or ‘No deal’. No deal means leaving the EU after 2 years with no arrangements in place — or jumping off a cliff edge. No consultation…USA: Trump’s team fails to consult state department staffers and legal advisors about the texts of the Executive Orders. Trump failing to attend intelligence briefings. Denying climate change and pulling out of plans for climate action.
Prospects for the planet
Eco-blindness…UK: Big systemic flaws in deep framing by all mainstream parties, and in the thinking behind Brexit plans. They show a failure to understand the fragile ecosphere as crucial to the current critical global situation. Eco-destruction…USA: Overt rejection of environmental concerns. An aggressive denialist stance in its deep framing that is anti-ecological.
Climate falling apart…UK: Leaving & weakening the EU reduces EU’s collaboration on urgent climate action (the importance of which significantly overrides all other issues). Pulling out too soon…USA: Announcements from advisors that USA will pull out of Paris agreement.
Leave environmental protection a long way behind…UK: Leave-supporting MP Jacob Rees-Mogg talked about being able to dismantle environmental laws after Brexit. Profit from climate chaos…USA: Executive orders to remove funding from and to silence the Environmental Protection Agency. Orders to start up oil pipeline works and the coal projects again. Covert but evident support for lifting sanctions on Russia so they can exploit oil in the Arctic. Pro-Trump groups (e.g. ALEC & Heritage Foundation) significantly funded by coal & oil wealth such as the Koch brothers. Given that their climate denial masks previous acceptance of the scientific truth, all this suggests a wish to hasten climate chaos in order to profit from the resulting war and mass population die-offs.