Slam dunk. Lambast Michael Gove with a hasty tweet hammered out while drinking my morning coffee. Push the emotional buttons of both Remain people and Scottish pro-Indy people in one go.

Impressions: 120k+ (based on Twitter’s Analytics)

Retweets: 300+

Contribution to public understanding of anything: pretty much zero

Contrast that with my detailed blog post yesterday about an issue that has been on my mind for a while, and is really delicate – the ratification of the EU–UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, and its passage through the European Parliament, and the interplay between the TCA and Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol. And a subject that has – in my view – received too little attention.

The reaction?

My Matomo web stats tells me the piece has barely scraped 1000 readers (which is nevertheless more than any non-Brexit blog post of mine ever gets!) and the tweet got 42 retweets and the link was clicked 352 times. About 50 people clicked on the link in the email notification sent when the post was written. A handful of other people have tweeted out the link to the piece, and no-one further up the Brexit news food chain than me. The post has not received a single comment.

At one level this is no surprise. The Gove tweet is simple and easy to digest. The blog post is long and complicated. But it nags nevertheless.

In trying to understand this complex world we inhabit, and to try to come to terms with its ridiculous politics, I crave explainers, I grasp at whatever understanding I can get. I want meaning. But the emotional slam dunk style does not help me there.

Or to take another example – the headaches of new border bureaucracy for companies in the UK. I can read dozens of stories that businesses are up in arms – R. Daniel Kelemen even has an ongoing thread about all of them. But I do not know what all of this means. To what extent is this temporary, to what extent is it permanent? How severe is the dip in cross channel trade really? What part of the lower traffic through Dover is thanks to trucks from Ireland now diverting around England altogether? Are we going to have a situation where we see queues in future – because trade will eventually exceed capacity? Or Brexit has depressed trade so much, even with the extra burdens to trade there is a damage that is permanent? Is the UK Government seeking seriously to solve the problems – designing the truck parks and IT systems as necessary? Or is it fudging? And I am not the only one musing about this. But it is easier to hammer out a quick rant about how bad all of this is, than to actually write the really comprehensive explainer – also knowing full well few will read the explainer anyway. And so the cycle persists.

In other words, I am not short of information – indeed the internet is overflowing with it. But I am short when it comes to understanding the meaning of things. But when I think I have found that meaning of something, and write it up, no-one wants to read it.

Is the perplexing conclusion of all of this that I am one of the few actually searching for meaning?

6 Comments

  1. Jams O'Donnell

    Re the Gove quote on Scottish Independence costing more than Brexit (!), you might like to read these to become “better informed, if none the wiser”. (I add this last part of the comment in response to your claim to ‘push the emotional buttons . . . of pro-indy people’). I say this more in sorrow than anger, as I had gained the impression that your views were a bit more enlightened, but there you go.

    https://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2021/02/04/the-lse-report-on-the-increased-costs-in-trade-for-an-independent-scotland-is-based-on-unsubstantiated-data-and-absurd-assumptions/

    https://www.nowscotland.scot/truth_behind_lse_report

  2. And I read your blog post but didn’t see your tweet. Twitter is ephemeral and gone, but your well craftest post you will own forever. Sadly, social media and Google killed the RSS feed and we’d all have a better discourse
    and the subjects we are most interested in.

  3. Fernando Ferreira

    Dear Jon,

    Try this for a change and I’m pretty sure that Mickey Gove (and Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Rishi Sunak, Priti Patel, Arlene Foster et al.) will give you his (their) full attention on Twitter:
    «No NI Protocol, No TCA Ratification by EU Parl;
    No full diplomatic status 4 EU London Embassy, No further negotiations with EU…»

    Greetings and salutations,

    Fernando Ferreira

  4. Claudio VdA

    In my opinion, modern political communication is dominated by emotion; UK is not the only country with this problem, e.g. : Italy.
    On the other hand, I think keeping trying search for meaning it is important for two reasons: (1) people actually looking for meaning still exist, and writing good articles is a way to try to enlarge the amount of these people; (2) contradicting emotions with more emotions seems hard and hopeless.

  5. Niall Martin

    Reading this on a tablet not a desk top. If the latter it would be be easy to tweet out. If not I need to log in to twitter when I am already logged in and I don’t carry the logins in my head. Just extra faffing around.

  6. Yup… the conclusion I’ve come to is that democracy is a sham. The public debate focuses simple “marketing message” and is largely divorced from the policy debate.

    The conclusion I’ve come to is why bother understanding policy if you aren’t involved in shaping it. It is merely a distraction from understanding things related to work/career/family that offer a much better pay off.

    I agree that your swype at Gove didn’t help advance knowledge but it was a decent hit on a particularly odious brexiter. Frankly if you cannot beat the brexity ignoramuses with facts then might as well join them in the political gutter!

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