Monday, May 02, 2016

Behavioural Studies in Democracy

A classic and often too under appreciated comedy.
Also one of the most true to life, especially now.
It's my personal belief right now that the single most interesting event for those of us with an interest in human behaviour and social interactions is NOT the continuing misadventures of Donald Drumpf. (Also pretty sure that would make a great Nickelodeon series)

Sure in a few months time that one is going to get crazy. But right now there is something going on that is full of the kinds of behavioural actions, emotional responses, and cognitive dissonance that makes a good marketing book.

I'm talking about the British EU Referendum. Or 'Brexit', as someone with a terrible taste in words thought up.

This referendum campaign has been one of scaremongering, misleading facts, racism, nationalism, outrageous assumptions and forecasting. Some of those from both sides of the debate, but largely from the Pro-Leaving campaign,

For example - The leave campaign, (which ironically is headed by an immigrant who arrived due to EU laws) repeatedly and knowingly describes the cost of  being in the EU as 350m pounds a week. Despite the fact that a chunk of that is rebated, and much of it goes back to the UK to support industries such as farming, not to mention that it secures access to 44% of the UK's current trade.

You then see this misinformation repeated by those ordinary people who back leaving.

Now I am very much pro staying in the EU. For all its flaws, it has achieved many great things*1, and leaving would not only be a disaster for the economy of Britain*2, not to mention ending Britain as we know it*3, but it would encourage growth and tolerance of extreme nationalism in the rest of Europe*4.

Classic Kent Brockman. Pretty accurate,
although sadly we haven't yet found a better way.
I did try to have reasonable debates with people of the opposite opinion, but so far all I have found is misinformation, repeated newspaper headlines from the 1990's, wild ideas that somehow your biggest trading partner will give you a great new deal after you dump them, etc etc. Not only that, I've discovered what seems to be the most stubborn and fact resistant cognitive dissonance I've seen since working on a pitch for healthy eating and exercise. (By the end of the strategy process I was literally wanting to shout "Just fucking DO IT!"... but obviously that wouldn't have been a great strategy.)

I've had people respond to my attempt to show them facts and respected opinions on the aftermath with insults and claims that I somehow don't love Britain because I live in Australia. Frankly I felt it showed I love it more, as despite being 10,000 miles away, I still knew more about it than them. Oh, and the fact that by voting their way, Britain would soon cease to exist...*3

My other favourite is when they say "The USA would never enter some kind of union with Mexico or Argentina." without even thinking about the fact that USA stands for 'United States of America'... or that they have previously used "United States of Europe" as an attack line against the EU.

Anyway. This has turned into much more of a rant than I planned. Largely because trying to engage reasonable debate on this topic is like trying to convince Trump supporters that his facts are wrong. Even though they are, it just isn't going to happen - and you are going to feel like you are banging your head on a brick wall the whole time. In the end I was commenting more for my own social studies than in any real attempt to change the opinion of people who are so emotionally dug-in on the outdated concept of a lone Britain 'RULE BRITANNIA!' able to dominate the world of the 1950's.

"Not another Scottish referendum"...
... I hear two people say.
That doesn't however, change the fact that watching the debates and social commentary on this issue is absolutely fascinating from a planning and strategy perspective. Working on the Pro-Remaining campaign must have been one of the toughest, but hopefully most rewarding strategy jobs of the last decade. At 41% pro-remain and 40% pro-leaving on current polls though - it may (as most Pro-Remain supporters are younger and therefore less likely to vote) turn out to be a futile attempt to save both the 'Great' in Great Britain, and the 'United' in United Kingdom.

*1 - Mandatory overtime after working certain numbers of hours. More peaceful relations between states. Free movement between countries - meaning no holiday visa fees and the ability to work anywhere you like. Improved consumer protection laws. Cross-country co-ordination against crime and terrorism. The Human Rights Act. Etc.

*2 - '44.6% of British trade comes from the EU'. 'The CBI estimates that the net benefit of EU membership is worth 4-5% of GDP to the UK, or £62bn-£78bn per year.' 'the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) shows the overall contribution to our economy from exports to the EU was £187 billion last year, and that it could rise by almost half again to £277 billion a year by 2030.' (Independent)

*3 - Scotland would wish to leave Britain if it left the EU. After the close vote last time, the damage of being outside the EU would almost certainly mean any new vote would result in a separate Scotland (they poll more in favour of the EU than England, enough to sway a fair number of voters) - and the end of Britain as we know it: 

*4 -

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