One knows a rotten idea by the consistent inanity of arguments for it. The EU passes this test: every argument in its favour is either mendacious or inane.
The speaker’s credentials don’t matter: federasty is a cauldron in which academics, ignoramuses and academic ignoramuses are all boiled together to produce a uniformly foul mess. True to form, neoconservatives throw themselves in as one of the less savoury ingredients.
Neoconservatives are making steady inroads on American politics, in foreign policy at least. And their British Parteigenossen tropistically reach towards the light shining out of certain outlets in the body of US neoconservatism.
This brings us to Niall Ferguson. Now ensconced at Harvard, he has discovered that neoconservatism pays, and never mind intellectual credibility. Ferguson never does, which is why he commits gross rhetorical fallacies in every piece he writes. His article Fog in Channel: Brexiteers Isolated from Britain’s Duty to Save Europe is a case in point.
True to his internationalist neocon allegiance, Ferguson has to uphold every article of EU faith. Intellectual probity matters to him no more than it did to Lenin, Trotsky and his other fellow internationalists.
Hence he relies on rhetorical fallacies, such as argumentum ad populum: the belief that a proposition is true because many people support it. Thus Ferguson has taken the roll call of “leading historians” and found out that more of them support Remain. Specifically, “70 historians gathered at 11 Downing Street to affirm their support for EU membership.”
There’s a remote possibility that historians who think differently weren’t invited to the home of Dave’s fellow Euro-tout – but Ferguson forges right ahead, undeterred by elementary demands of intellectual honesty.
“US administrations since the heyday of Henry Kissinger have consistently favoured UK membership in the EU” is another version of argumentum ad populum, this time with a sycophantic twist. This may be true. So what?
Under the influence of neocon gurus, US foreign policy has indeed been growing more internationalist. The ultimate ideal seems to be a single global government, within which the US will call the shots. (For details, see my book Democracy as a Neocon Trick.)
Recent US administrations may indeed have believed that such a development would be in American interests, but Ferguson’s argument is meaningless – unless of course he thinks, as he probably does, that our interests are always identical with American ones.
Ferguson also has the gall to drag in the great late thinker R.G. Collingwood who, he says, “would dismiss the arguments for Brexit”. Either Ferguson hasn’t read Collingwood properly or he didn’t understand what he read. In fact, Collingwood regarded self-government as an ironclad requirement for society.
Then comes the clincher: “the president of the United States… advised against Brexit”. This version of argumentum ad populum relies on the universal agreement that Barack Hussein is blessed with near-papal infallibility. Since little in his record affirms the belief that Obama is always right, this is yet another infantile rhetorical fallacy.
Then the question of European security comes up and, as we know, only Brussels stands between us and world catastrophe. However, “the Brexiteers insist that the EU is at best irrelevant: Nato is the key institution.”
This Brexiteer insists on just that, and I anxiously await persuasive arguments proving I’m wrong. Alas, none is forthcoming: to Ferguson this insistence is so self-evidently wrong that it doesn’t merit discussion.
This isn’t the only thing that goes without saying: “No one can seriously deny that the process of European integration has brought an end to centuries of Franco-German conflict and has settled the German question for good.”
Have you noticed how those who preach Trotskyist ideas also use Trotskyist style? “No one can seriously deny…” and that’s that. QED. If you dare deny, you aren’t serious.
An intellectually honest person is congenitally on guard against such phrases as ‘self-evident’, ‘it is obvious that…’, ‘it goes without saying that…’, ‘needless to say…’. He knows that they are either a sign of intellectual laziness or, worse, an attempt to dupe the gullible with falsehoods.
What “settled the German question for good” is the military castration imposed on Germany by the victorious allies in 1945 and since then enforced by Nato. France, whose belonging to the victorious alliance wasn’t entirely unequivocal, is consequently stronger than Germany militarily, if weaker in every other respect.
Anticipating this situation, Nazi and Vichy bureaucrats concocted at the end of the war plans for what now is called the EU. And true enough, another Franco-Prussian war doesn’t seem to be on the cards.
But Ferguson here repeats another fallacy one hears in France a lot, where they credit the EU with the post-1945 peace in Europe. What they mean by this is peace between France and Germany – but surely a British historian can have a broader perspective? Surely he has heard of a dozen bloody conflicts in other European countries? Surely he must realise there’s more to Europe than just France and Germany?
Not when he’s a neocon, he mustn’t. Neocons are true to their Trotskyist DNA: they’ll say anything to promote their political objectives. Ferguson is no exception, which is most lamentable in a scholar.