An interesting side-effect of the EU Referendum (well, interesting to me at least) is the way it highlights the use of emotive language. Even when trying to scare us, the Remain people talk in measured tones,  using well-constructed, syntactically correct sentences, and avoid clichés.

Most Brexiteers, on the other hand, don’t do syntax. They prefer to SHOUT at us, use a lot of Capitals and string Long Sentences together with as LITTLE punctuation as possible. You have to take a deep mental breath before starting one or by the time you reach the end you’ll be BLUE in the face. Here’s an example, from the Riviera Reporter’s Facebook Group:

John Norrish Please ask your selves why you personally want to stay in the UK, is it because you are happy with a relative easy life in France? with minimum paper work due to the UK being in the EU?? Give a thought for the home country the way it is being taken over and the Brave people in the Armed Forces that fought to keep Britain Great, SHAME on you all if you do not feel the slightest bit of Guilt. Germany is taking over through the back door, France formed the first alliance with them to start what has become the EU now it is TOO BIG no longer exclusive and run by totally unelected people, as for money spent when was the last Audit?? all hiden so people cant see the real gravy Train the EU has become for all the top Bureaucrats, When Brexit happens it will be for the right reasons, not the scare mongering from the “IN” brigade of Britain will lose Nato etc etc

Leaving aside the spelling mistakes, the writer is evidently a native English speaker but it seems most of his early education may have been largely wasted. There’s little evidence he even knows what commas and full stops are for, let alone where to place them.

Now you may think I’m being picky and just mocking because I feel superior. You’re entitled to that view but I don’t share it. My fear is that if the author doesn’t understand his own language, what else doesn’t he understand? Is his thinking regarding the EU as muddled as his use of language? It would seem so. It’s unfortunate that illiteracy sometimes removes the caution that the rest of us experience when trying to express ourselves. It’s so much easier just to pour stuff onto the page in a kind of stream of consciousness.

OK, now onto what friend John is trying to say. First he tries to shame expats (note the all capitals; he thinks he’s writing a Sun headline) into feeling guilty about the home country being “taken over”, but he doesn’t say who is taking us over and in what way. Did your town council suddenly get run by France? No of course not; it’s shorthand for “immigrants”, probably those of a different colour, but he hasn’t the guts to admit to being a racist.

Then there’s the reference to “the Brave people in the Armed Forces“, who apparently fought “to keep Britain Great”. What exactly is Greatness and how do soldiers fight for it? In the Second World War they fought to keep Britain free of invasion; nothing more.

Now we get Germany “taking over through the back door”. Cliché upon cliché. How many Germans do you see on a daily basis, John? Are they in the police force? Does a German voice deal with your tax enquiries? Has Marks and Spencer been taken over by Germans forcing us all to buy lederhosen? And where is this back door anyway? This sentence has absolutely no meaning; it’s designed to whip up hatred against all things German in the minds of people of little education.

The next part repeats a familiar cliché, that we are being run by unelected bureaucrats. It’s a lie peddled by those with an agenda they don’t want you to know about, so they set up a smokescreen in the hope you won’t notice. To their shame, most don’t. The fact is that bureaucrats don’t make laws; elected politicians do. And the EU accounts are audited every year, but why spoil a good lie?

Next we get a familiar slur on “top Bureaucrats” and their supposed “gravy train”. Do you have figures, John? Would that be too difficult for your confused mind to cope with? Or perhaps you already have the true figures and know they don’t suit your case?

And finally the last sentence, where John loses contact both with reality and coherency. What has NATO got to do with all this? Is he saying we’ll have to get out of NATO if we stay in Europe? Where did that come from?

When you are faced with hate-filled incoherent rantings like the above, take the time to deconstruct them, line by line, to arrive at the message. I have seen many of them and after a while they grow wearily familiar. I’m starting to find it difficult to believe there is an army of angry semi-literate EU-haters out there, all producing amazingly similar material. In view of the very repetitive nature of these posts, all displaying the same cavalier disregard of English grammar and syntax, I have two theories about “John Norrish”:

The first possibility is he’s real. Angry about how he sees the world is going but lacking the intelligence to think for himself he simply reiterates what other similar types have already written, just changing a few words here and there.

The second possibility is he’s not a real person at all, but one of a number of fake personal profiles set up by Leavers as a means to peddle their often hateful philosophy. They are aiming partly at the first group, providing them with a standard set of rants they can adapt to their own needs and go on spreading the same poisonous message.

Either way, it’s a depressing thought that there may so many angry people out there who are ready to lay the blame for whatever upsets them on the first convenient target they can find, with a total disregard for the consequences. The most worrying thing in all this is that if they succeed in dragging Britain out of the EU their anger won’t go away because we all know little will change for the better. Day by day the world is getting harder for us all and the way to hold things together can only by cooperation, not antagonism. So who will they transfer this anger to next? Would you want to be gay, to have the wrong religion or to be a member of a racial minority in a post EU Britain with no moderating influences to keep the John Norrishes from acting out their fantasies?

Or is it possible these people are far less numerous than it seems, being mostly a succession of invented characters designed to create the impression of a groundswell of opinion, created and maintained by a small core of fanatics and let down by careless attention to detail?

You decide.

  1. Freddie the Foreigner

    Let’s deconstruct all your myths and clichés now shall we?

    1. The people who are voting to leave form a diverse group, including captains of industry, business leaders, politicians, many of whom are highly educated, and certainly more educated than you appear to be. They come from all walks of life and all political ideologies.

    2. You attack on ‘John Norrish’ for his poor grammar just shows your own prejudice and classism. Let me guess – Middle class Tory voter? A lack of grammar does not equal illiteracy. How pompous you are!

    3. The leader of the In group is none other than Davy Camoron, who never mentions the armed forces without referring to them as ‘our brave soldiers’ so what is your point exactly?

    4. John appears to be saying that you should be ashamed of trying to sell the UK out to the EU when you don’t even live there. Why should you have a vote in the referendum? It is about the UK’s future relationship with Europe and you have chosen not to be part of the UK. Did you call it the yUK and brag to all your friends about how you will ‘never go back’ and its ‘gone down the toilet’? We all know that the only reason Dave has given you the vote is because he is scared that he will lose so adding a few million people who are bound to vote to stay in the EU, while at the same time removing hundreds and thousands of largely younger voters, many of whom are deeply anti-Tory and may not vote to stay. is shoring up his numbers

    5. I would posit that John is talking about the UK being taken over by the EU and it has nothing to do with refugees or migrants. That’s your prejudice talking, not his. And what does Camoron do? Wheels out Hollande and Schaubl – a Frenchman and a German, to make vague, unsubstantiated threats about armageddon if we leave. So he’s appealing to people who think that France and Germany have too much influence by using…you guessed it, a Frenchman and a German. You couldn’t make it up. There are many people who feel that German businesses in the UK are getting far too involved with threats that they ‘may’ leave if the vote goes for out. Incidentally, at the moment according to YouGov 42% would vote to leave and 36% to stay.

    6. The only ones talking of apocalypse are the shouty Leavers, whereas the ones talking in measured tones are the Inners.

    7. Do you seriously not believe that the ‘gravy train’ exists? How about the nepotism? Look at all those Kinnocks. And only in the past week the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs revealed that 120 million euros has gone missing due to corruption and mismanagement in the past year and do you need to be reminded that following a report on March 15 1999 by a Committee of Independent Experts investigating allegations of ‘Fraud, Mismanagement and Nepotism in the European Commission’ , the entire College of Commissioners resigned.

    8. You are right that the accounts are audited every year but you fail to mention that the Court of Auditors have found significant errors due to fraud and mismanagement for the past 18 years. While this is not as bad it is hardly good news either.

    9. You take a massive and frankly ridiculous leap to suggest that the Leavers are all homophobic racists or that the EU is the moderate voice that protects minority groups. Gay marriage is legal in the UK (with no help from the EU). Some other EU members have still not voted for it.

    It is sad that your personal ‘deconstruction’ of the arguments were littered with errors, assumptions and myths. This referendum should be about intelligent debate and this is definitely not it. Instead you have used your superior education to poke fun at someone whose level does not match yours. If you ever want to return the Tory party will welcome someone as judgemental and elitist as you.

  2. Thank you for your comments. It’s good to know I’m not just preaching to the converted. However:

    1. I was commenting on the inability of the author of the piece I quoted to think coherently. As for “captains of industry” and the rest, am I supposed to tug a forelock or something? All I hear from these people is how much better “we” will be if Britain leaves the EU. Well of course they will be; they’re in a position to make sure of that. it’s the rest of us, including the sheep who believe all the lies in the Daily Mail, who will suffer.
    2. Wrong on all counts.
    3. Who is David Camoron? Surely you’re not indulging in a cheap insult in place of reasoned argument, are you? And my point remains that soldiers don’t fight for “Greatness” or any other vanity.
    4. So many errors. You’d be surprised how many ex-pats are Leavers. Well I am, anyway. I’m proud to be an English European and I don’t see anything wrong with that. And I don’t think David Cameron has gerrymandered the franchise to include or exclude anyone; it was all done under a previous watch. I’m not a Cameron fan, by the way, but he has gone up in my estimation recently by not resorting to cheap lies copied from the Daily Mail.
    5. Threats about Armageddon? Spare me the OTT military stuff. What we’ve had is predictions that life will become harder and more expensive if we leave. For us and for the rest of Europe. And these predictions have come from the EU, the UK, the USA… you name it. Why would I vote to become poorer?
    6. An empty sentence with no discernible meaning.
    7. All those Kinnocks? All 2 of them? How many superyachts have they bought recently? Some gravy train. Of course there’s no corruption in the UK, is there? No favoured deals with companies wanting, for example, to turn a perfectly functioning railway system into a cash cow that only runs with the help of immense subsidies from the public purse?
    8. Are the UK accounts audited?
    9. Not all of them; just the ones that infest the various Facebook Groups. Gay marriage became legal while we were a member of the EU. I don’t claim any link or make a point about other countries. But I do believe that the expectations raised by the Leavers can never be satisfied and sooner or later the angry ones shouting “Out! Out! Out!” now will be looking for a new scapegoat. And the press will oblige by finding one.
    10. You evidently can’t make up your mind how well educated I am (see 1) and I’m not about to provide any clues. As for my politics, my recently expressed admiration for Owen Jones (in another blog) makes it unlikely that I could ever see eye to eye with the Tories, certainly not under Boris. I find it difficult to align myself with any party that can’t bring itself to be honest with us, so that excludes most of them This entire debate is littered with errors, assumptions and myths. We’re all entitled to the first two, while the third come mainly from the Daily Mail and the Sun, two comics for whom the truth is an irrelevance if it stands in the way of profit.

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