Saturday 2 July 2016

Nosemonkey's prophecies: the Brexit vote, UK media, and the EU debate a decade later

This blog would have had a hard time starting off in 2008 without Nosemonkey's "EU blog directory". Thanks to this list, I discovered what was, back then, basically the whole (relevant) EU social media sphere. But more than making me discover the EU blogosphere, Nosemonkey made me discover the UK's distorted reality field that has contributed to the Brexit vote last week.

In the UK's distorted reality, I learnt, you could only be europhile or eurosceptic, down to editorial policies of all major British newspapers. Nosemonkey's "state of British EU news coverage" (2008) or the insights gained from a series of event videos on “The EU in the UK media" (2010) would still largely work today, as confirmed by his 2014 article "The EU, the British media, the BBC, and ‘balance'".

The Sun today hardly seems different to The Sun in 2007. And when you look at this quote from the 2004 Nosemonkey post "The press, politics and the bloggosphere" you could think that nothing has changed in 12 years:
"The Yes Campaign routinely claims that the EU is not a leech on British sovereignty, almost everything it does is great, and anyone who can’t see the benefits must be a fool. This is obviously nonsense. 
The No Campaign likewise consistently alleges that the EU is destroying the British nation, introducing mindless and petty laws, forcing foreigners in, and will destroy everything you know and love. Equally rubbish.
The Brexit vote that ended 48% to 52% last week was thus just a reminder that the YES-NO divide is something that has existed for decades in the UK. If you joined EU social media 10 years ago, you would already have found the seeds of today's euro-sceptic and euro-hate speech online. This phenomenon seems far more mainstream than those crazy voices seemed to me when I joined the field in 2008, but they were already there. And they were many.

Voices like Nosemonkey's that did not fit into either of the YES or NO camp have always impressed me:
It’s time for pro-EU types to start looking rationally at the situation, and to realise that the time to win converts to the cause is long past. Anyone who really wants the EU to succeed in the decades to come shouldn’t be defending the current behemoth of overlapping institutions that make up the thing, but attacking it.
Nosemonkey had it all, and maybe we "pro-EU types" should have learnt much earlier to speak up both against what went wrong in the EU but also against what went wrong in some parts of the public debate about the European Union. Our weakness made Brexit a self-fulfilling prophecy. Or did we actually never have a chance?