Saturday, 14 May 2016

Brexit: The Movie (Review)

Six weeks to go, and this will all be over (I promise!)

From the film-maker who told you that breast implant concerns were overstated and, on repeated ocassions tried to prove that climate change is a myth, Martin Durkin presents "Brexit: The Movie".

The film, which runs for about 70mins, was funded by £100k worth of contributions through crowd-funding. The film features the darlings of British Euroscepticism, who join forces for an hour-and-a-bit campaign of disinformation about the European Union.

Here are some of the big guns that were asked to give a penny for their thoughts, and ended up giving a bucket load of pennies worth: Nigel Farage, Melanie Phillips, Kelvin MacKenzie, Nigel Lawson, James Delingpole and Janet Daley, to name a few.

Let's look at some of the zingers and bones of contention.

1.) The film uses ignorance as an excuse

Photo by Mats Halldin / CC BY

The film makes its first error, showing Martin Durkin stepping into a Brussels taxi. In his best French, he makes the most cringe-worthy request imaginable: "The EU...s'il vous plait".

The driver looks back at him, as if he's just insulted his whole family. No surprise really. It's a bit like hopping into a black cab after landing in the UK, and asking the driver to take you to the Anglosphere.

The segment then wastes a few seconds making a point about the seemingly endless number of fancy buildings and important-sounding jobs held by people in Brussels and elsewhere.

Vox pops then get sprung upon us. UK and Brussels residents are shown an array of faces (e.g. Martin Schultz) and have no idea who the people are. The scenes are supposed to leave us with the impression that, if we don't know who our MEPs are, it's not worth looking them up, because they're either powerless, suspicious, or shouldn't be trusted.

Ask any Brit if they recognised an array of pictures of current MPs in the UK Parliament, and they probably wouldn't have a clue either. You don't see people suggesting we abolish parliamentary democracy as a result though. In the Internet age, there's far less of an excuse for people to be clueless, you could argue. If you feel so frustrated about not knowing who your MEP is, it's fair to say, just Google it, instead of getting all hot and bothered.

In a previous post on this site, a vox pop was used to write an article, but if you know anything about sample sizes, vox pops aren't actually useful gauges of public opinion as you might think. If you only chat to less than 50 people, it's estimated the margin of error can be as high as 15% or more. Not the kind of margin you'd want, for an issue like the referendum.

2.) The Sun has epically fallen out of love with David Cameron

Photo by Duncan Hull / CC BY

The Sun basks in the privilege of being one of the most-read papers in the country. Physical sales have collapsed, but it still finds its ways to lure readers in.

Liverpool has boycotted the Sun, ever since its shameful coverage of the Hillsborough disaster of 1989. In some circles, the paper is political radioactive waste. One of Ed Miliband's biggest gaffes as Labour leader was to hold up a copy of the paper for a photo-shoot, grinning ear to ear.

The paper has gained the reputation of picking sides in the run-up to general elections. This started in earnest with Mrs Thatcher in the 1970s, and the paper remained loyal to the Conservatives...until it wasn't. It performed a switcheroo in the 1990s to New Labour under Tony Blair, but then did an about turn, back to David Cameron's supposed de-toxified Conservative Party.

However, it seems that the Sun's editor, Kelvin MacKenzie has fallen out of love with the Prime Minister, big time. In a segment for the film, he tears into Mr Cameron:

"Toff...tries to hide it, probably quite a nasty piece of work"

Tell us how you really feel, Mr MacKenzie!

3.) The film goes all Tea Party, and brings up the Magna Carta

Photo by Jappalang / CC BY

The film helpfully points out a game-changing moment in English history: last year was the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, or Great Charter.

The film paints it as a triumpant moment, where the English people managed to rise up and demand the right to demand how much they should be taxed, and how it should be spent. The whole issue is then spun, in a way that makes it seem as if the EU is corrupt, because we supposedly have no say over the money.

First, it's important to point out that, for all the glitz of name dropping the document, the Magna Carta still failed to end the system of serfdom, one of the most egregious abuses of working people in Medieval England. It was only following the Black Death, where half the population perished, that labourers began to wield more power over their labour, and even dared to withdraw it and take it elsewhere, in the search for a better standard of living.

Labour following the Black Death was so scarce, and because wages were more closely based on the supply of labour, a huge drop in the workforce corresponded to a huge rise in wage growth, more than serfdom would have ever hoped to achieve. Second, not to belittle the document, but writings by JC Holt point to the fact that, by 1350, about half the clauses in the Magna Carta had been succeeded by more relevant laws of the day. That stems from the fact that times changed. The document became inflexible in various ways.

It's easy to see why Martin Durkin brought it up. Tea Party-types in the US use the US constitution as the totem of their faith, but Britain doesn't have a codified constitution. The Magna Carta serves as a romantic, sweet little reminder of Medieval English history. The problem is just that, though: it's Medieval.

4.) The film skims through the post-war era, when the European Project began

The European Coal and Steel Community, omitted from "Brexit: The Movie"
Photo by JLogan / CC BY

About a quarter of the way through, the film looks back at Britain at the height of the Industrial Revolution, exporting its way to prosperity. Then it takes a darker turn, with the two world wars. The state imposing itself over the course of this period becomes the next big issue.

A contrast is made with post-war Germany, which was used to show how less regulation helped it outpace Britain, and enjoy a post-war boom. The film makes the mistake of not reminding viewers about the birth of the European project, namely the European Steel and Coal Community, which Germany and other countries were part of, but not Britain.

Instead, the film skims through from 1945 straight to 1973, when Britain joined the EEC. In doing so, the film has conveniently avoided having to include the fact that the European Project was instrumental in ensuring a lasting economic recovery on the continent. The film treats Germany's boom as if it was caused by a sprinkle of deregulation and little else.

5.) The European Project is dismissed as a snobbish, artsy fad

Photo by Spicymystery / CC BY

Noted climate change sceptic and conservative writer James Delingpole sneers at the idea of the EU, saying:

"There's a tremendous snobbery built into the whole project, the idea that you are part of the elite, which should decide how the little people live their lives"

James Delingpole, it should be noted, is guilty of preaching to the masses, having authored a book titled "Watermelons: How Environmentalists are Killing the Planet, Destroying the Economy and Stealing Your Childrens' Future". For such a dramatic title, you'd expect anyone who tries to write about climate change to have at least some understanding of the science backing it up.

However, Mr Delingpole openly admitted:

“I feel a bit of an imposter talking about the science. I'm not a scientist, you may be aware"

Kelvin MacKenzie is then shown, and heard saying:

"These people up here, the intellectuals...are looking down on the plebs, and saying, 'you're not bright enough to decide the future of your country'"

This quote is frankly astonishing, coming from the editor of a newspaper, which has a column called "The Sun Says", where the reader is practically told what to think.

6.) The film depicts lazy and racist stereotypes

Photo by Lobo / CC BY

The film continues to go on about regulation in present day. One scene depicts two alpha male European men in a factory wearing vests. Instead of working, one of them is flirting with a woman, and the other is getting all vexed. Europe is being depicted as work-shy and uncompetitive.

Then the scene shifts to an Asian factory somewhere. Two oriental men are shown with clipboards, looking studiously at a childishly easy maths sum. Durkin exclaims about one of them:

"Look how good he is at maths!"

(Bangs head repeatedly against a wall)

For good measure, the film even depicts a Frenchman, complete with stripy shirt, beret, a ring of garlic round his neck, a baguette and a bottle of wine nearby.

7.) Switzerland is shown as a model for a post-Brexit scenario

Photo by Mei Burgin / CC BY

Towards the end of the film, Martin Durkin travels to Switzerland, and gets told by all his interviewees how free the Swiss feel with trade deals, despite not being in the EU.

It's just a shame Martin Durkin forgot to mention that Roberto Balzaretti the Swiss ambassador to the EU was quoted back in March as having said:

“What they should know is the situation of Switzerland. Being a member state is much more comfortable"

So there you have it; a run-down of some of the clangers in Martin Durkin's "Brexit: The Movie". Somehow, you get the feeling there won't be a sequel.

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