Brexit: The flat earth political theory

PUBLISHED: 13:00 18 February 2018

The launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket. Picture: PA

The launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket. Picture: PA

UPI/PA Images

In the wake of the Falcon Heavy rocket launch and the dismissal of The Flat Earth Society, MITCH BENN argues that Brexit is the flat earth theory of politics.

I don’t know whether you paid much attention to the launch last week of Elon Musk’s Falcon Heavy rocket; even if you didn’t, you’re bound to have heard at least a little about it.

Musk has an unerring sense of publicity and an idiosyncratic sense of humour; the test, to see if the rocket could deliver a heavy payload into space, could quite easily have been carried out using a bag of cement, but instead, he chose to launch one of his cars (an electric sportscar produced by his own Tesla company) in the general direction of Mars.

That was the bit that caught the world’s attention; the bit that blew the minds of science fiction fans (like myself) in particular was the video of the rocket’s twin booster engines, rather than plummeting back to Earth and disintegrating in the atmosphere as did the old space shuttle’s similar appendages, flying back to the ground and landing intact and perfectly upright, in synchronisation.

I say this blew SF fans’ minds because this is something which rockets have always done in films and TV shows (one thinks of Thunderbird 3, or the Spectre rocket from You Only Live Twice) but which has never happened in real life before. I keep watching that clip and my brain still refuses to process it as anything other than a special effect.

Among those paying special attention to the unfolding events were the depressingly numerous and widespread members of The Flat Earth Society. I wish I could tell you that the name of this group is ironic, or perhaps some sort of elliptical reference to a political or economic concept, but alas no, it’s exactly what it sounds like.

There is, in the year 2018, a growing lobby of people who insist that the Earth is in fact a flat disc, and who dismiss every bit of evidence to the effect that it is spherical (that is to say, more or less of all science since the days of Ancient Greece) as falsehood and propaganda. The video of Musk’s red convertible drifting above a very round-looking Earth has been similarly dismissed as a hoax.

Leaving aside the fact that this group steadfastly refuses to do the one thing that would substantiate their claim – ie, find the edge and jump off – or provide an explanation for how gravity works on a disc (a massive sphere will attract smaller objects “downwards” towards its centre but there is no “down” in space), or explain what keeps the atmosphere on and stops the sea from draining away over the rim, or how day and night works when the sun would be visible (or not), to the whole disc at once, or where the hell Australia is, or why Ellen McArthur and many others make it all the way around the Earth without flying off into space at any point, or indeed how, with brains like theirs, they manage to walk without forgetting to breathe, the fact that – once again – in the year two thousand and bloody eighteen, there is a growing body of opinion that THE EARTH IS FLAT tells you all you need to know about how “belief” works upon the human mind.

Which brings us back to Brexit.

How much of the dwindling – but still entirely indulged – Leave lobby’s insistence that “everything would be peachy with Brexit were it not for the constant backsliding and undermining of Remainers” is sincere, and how much of it is desperate excuse-peddling (here’s looking at you, Digby Jones), we may never know.

It might seem to you or I – or anybody with a fully-functioning cortex – that to dismiss 48% of the population (probably more like 60-65% these days, but that’s another column) as irrelevant, impotent, and safely ignorable while simultaneously accusing them of secretly being in control of the whole process and steering it deliberately into the rocks is at best disingenuous, if not just plain stupid. But that, nonetheless, is the prevailing narrative.

At least the Brexiteers have finally abandoned their carefully-maintained delusion that everything is just going to somehow magically be okay, even if they’ve just replaced it with a carefully-maintained delusion that it’ll be everyone’s fault but theirs when it isn’t okay. Is this progress? Who can say.

It certainly seems to be the case that there is now more or less universal consensus, on both sides of the Leave/Remain divide, that Brexit is not going to be a good thing. There are still some holdouts, of course; still some who cling to the Tinker Bell Theory Of Political Actualisation (ie. it’ll all be alright if we clap our hands and say “I DO believe in Brexit”, boys and girls) and more still who acknowledge the coming turmoil but insist that “it’s a price worth paying”, even if they seem hopelessly unsure as to what it’s worth paying for. But pretty much everyone else, however they voted in June 2016 or indeed how they say they’d vote now, seems to be in agreement that Brexit is going to suck.

Which does rather beg the question: why are we still doing it?

Oh yes, sorry, I forgot: “The people have spoken.” They have spoken, and having spoken, must now never be allowed to speak again, even now they know what they’re speaking about. The will of the people must be respected, whether the people like it or not (and we’re not allowed to ask them if they do, in case they don’t).

Meanwhile, Labour are now polling four or five points behind the most divided and incompetent government in living memory.

Brexit is the Flat Earth Theory of politics, with one major difference: with Brexit, there really is an edge of the world.

And we’re headed straight for it.

Resist.

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