Brexit, Chinese Antibiotics, Northern Irish Chicken, & Linsey McGoey’s The Unknowers

Combine Felicity Lawrence’s article on Chinese antibiotics in today’s Guardian

with her talk at the Museum of Comedy last week,

and you get a decent prism through which to interpret Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.

What’s the Deal?

If Northern Ireland is to officially remain in the Customs Union and follow the EU’s food safety regulation, this is proof that they have already started to flout it.

Concerned Brexiteers have spoken of Brexit in name only (BRINO) – but this deal, masquerading as Remain, retains the familiar Rees Mogg whiff of droit du seigneur, sans noblesse oblige.

Why all the enthusiasm from Macron, Merkel, Varadkar and even Xavier Bettel of Luxembourg?

I suppose that as the EU has painted itself as a moral organisation which exists to protect peace within and outside its borders, it is very hard for it to make noise about anything that resembles specific features from its own system of exceptions, caveats, favouritism and outright hypocrisy.

The BBC had a legal and trade academic from Cambridge University on yesterday talking about how the EU is afraid of a Singapore on Thames on its doorstep.

But what about Ireland and Luxembourg — what are they?

This is UK pitching to be a rogue state that gets to compete with everyone else in a race to the bottom taking every possible advantage it can whilst pretending to respect the rule of law and do deals with the equally hypocritical but harder to control EU.

Is there a way out of this mess? I don’t know.

The fact that nobody in the UK is made aware of the confirmation hearings for EU commissioners, let alone that at least three proposed commissioners have had their candidatures voted down by the European Parliament, indicates the outsize ignorance levels in which this country bathes.

Ignorance as a Weapon

Speaking of ignorance – I picked up Linsey McGoey’s new book The Unknowers last week.

I’ve been looking forward to this for about two years and the first few pages do not disappoint. This is looking like it’s going to be book of the year and recommended reading for anyone who doesn’t like being lied to.

The field of ignorance studies is also known as agnotology and strategic ignorance — one way of describing the tactics of those who have done so much to create our almost total lack of political awareness.

The axioms upon which the foundations of classical economics are built include perfect access to information and logical rational decision-making. One doesn’t have to be Kurt Gödel to disprove either. 

As the saying goes, We are not so much Dr Spock as Homer Simpson. 

Pedagogy of the Digitally Oppressed 

Instead of discussing whether or not we are being lied to, McGoey gets us comfortable with the idea that being surrounded by lies and omissions is just the norm.

A good place to start. I’m not yet familiar with the principles and schools of thought in the science of agnotology, but I feel quite sure that, whatever they are, they are being deployed by and upon us every minute of every day.

Censorship, Profits, Health Claims

The book has a section on Big Pharma whistleblowers, and relates to the whole world of non-disclosure and gagging clauses:

It is also of huge relevance now that facebook is setting up a “supreme court” to decide what can be posted and shared or not — despite bizarrely allowing lies in the world of political advertising.

I heard the EU Health Claims rules mean you cannot refer to the health benefits of any product without having done tests and having a licence to do so.

The degree to which these communication rules are enforced on social media, i don’t know. I suspect it’s one rule for large corporates and another for small companies.

Corporate criminality thrives on ignorance, but there should also be such a thing as privacy.

How best to diminish the former but protect the latter?


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Roger says:
    You perfectly decribe this
    Reality-based community
    The phrase was attributed by journalist Ron Suskind to an unnamed official in the George W. Bush Administration who used it to denigrate a critic of the administration’s policies as someone who based their judgements on facts.[2] In a 2004 article appearing in the New York Times Magazine, Suskind wrote:

    The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ […] ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do’.[3]

    The source of the quotation was later identified as Bush’s senior advisor Karl Rove,[4] although Rove has denied saying it.[5]

    My first introduction to this Rovian Turn in Narrastive management came from #InfoWars and #AlexJones, there is a video on You Tube of Alex Jones Doorstepping Karl Rove at an Airtport Gate.

  2. Financial Eyes says:

    Thanks, Roger! Propaganda-as-a-service masquerading as free press appears to be the only game in town. The press is “free” but you can’t choose the news. Or can you? the edutainment school of propaganda can take many forms. But again, the imagination only stretches as a far as BBC Breakfast and Good Morning TV with ten minute slots given to the likes of Harvey Proctor & Vinnie Jones. Whoever the Legal Correspondent for the BBC is right now appears to have been seriously crowded out by the rest of the miseducators. But the very fact that very little that can be seen is unspun provides ample opportunity to see the multidimensional cross platform Economic Googlies for what they are.

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