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Thursday 14 April 2011

The Danger Of Knowledge

A recent Guardian article by Ian Jack on the subject of Europe caught my eye, for one straightforward reason: the idea that, despite our proximity to mainland Europe, many in the UK remain unaware of much that goes on there. That is to the advantage of the more opportunistic hacks and politicians.

It’s the same as with any subject: those who do not have an intelligent position on the matter effectively surrender power to those who do – or who claim to. Thus the never ending diet of scare stories on the EU coming out of the Fourth Estate, and from politicians and lobbyists of like mind.

But, some might point out, there are tens of thousands of Brits holidaying in mainland Europe every year. Well, yes there are, although their experience may not have included contact with any locals beyond the resort perimeter.

How many visitors to the Costa del Sol used the bus service to visit Ronda or Gibraltar (rather than organised tours)? How many of the punters on “the strip” in Albufeira Nascente rode the train to Lisbon? How many of the partygoers of Salou caught a Rodalies to enjoy some retail therapy in Barcelona? The numbers, sadly, will be vanishingly small. And the numbers making any kind of social contact will be smaller still.

So even if our citizens visit other parts of the EU, their wider knowledge of those countries is limited. And into this void is poured a diet of Europhobia from the likes of Dan, Dan the Oratory Man, whose love for factual discourse is so strong that he went on Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse) to make a number of less than accurate claims about the NHS.

Hannan’s supposed love for Europe does not stop his pumping out Europhobic propaganda via his Maily Telegraph pulpit. His latest take, on trade figures, is typical: “We ... run a large deficit with Europe, but are in surplus with most other continents” he declared yesterday. Wrong. We’re in deficit with both the EU and the rest of the world. His assertion on Portugal and bail-outs is also wrong (discussed HERE).

This is typical of the anti-EU genre, along with the frighteners published with monotonous regularity by the Express (examples HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE). Of course, if we were more informed about the EU, we would be able to filter out all the guff, so that must be A Good Thing. Except that Europhobia specialist Douglas Carswell is so frightened at the thought that he has called it indoctrination.

There are an awful lot of folks, predominantly but not exclusively on the right, who desperately want to keep the public in the dark on the EU. Why might that be?

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