Lacanian Review Online: The Charlatan’sLittle Box of Tricks

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When they poured across the border
I was cautioned to surrender
This I could not do

(Leonard Cohen, The Partisan)
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7th January 2019

The Charlatan's Little Box of Tricks
Michael Dougan

I’ve been asked to speak about the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and what it can teach us about the tactics used by politically aggressive (usually hard right) campaigners.

These comments are more the product of professional reflection than of scientific investigation. After all: I’m an EU constitutional lawyer, using the frameworks and methodologies of legal research. But my close experience with Brexit perhaps provides some useful insights into the broader trends and implications which have fed into, and are emerging from, the UK situation.

It is important to recognise that the Leave campaign consisted of an “unholy alliance” of people who would normally have little in common with each other. It was largely right wing but ranging from outright racists and neo-fascists; through insular “Little Englanders” who want to return to the Victorian era; to neo-liberals who regard the EU as a socialist conspiracy to undermine global capitalism. Yet there was also a significant, if much smaller, left wing component – who believe the EU to be a capitalist conspiracy to undermine global socialism (ignoring the contradiction of allying themselves with a much larger movement that says entirely the opposite).

Regardless of their basic political orientation, these disparate tribes rallied around a common Brexit cause. But not only that: they also employed very similar campaigning tactics – which can be divided into four main categories.

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Issue # 6 of The Lacanian Review
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