Unsound arguments can make even very intelligent people sound daft, and there are no sound arguments in favour of the EU, at least I have yet to hear one.
The best one can hope for is dubious but not grossly offensive generalities. For example, an otherwise intelligent Frenchman told me the other day that at this perilous time “we must stand together”.
This raises all sorts of questions, such as: “Stand together with whom and against whom?”, “What does standing together mean in practical, rather than idealistic, terms?”, “Since when does ‘standing together’ have to mean forming a single state?” or “Has the EU demonstrated any ability to cope with our perilous time?”
None of these can be answered with any rhetorical rigour, and neither can any other probing questions about the EU. Still, one must recognise the difference between a certain deficit of logic, as displayed by my friend, and clinical idiocy.
Alas, many arguments proffered by EU champions are clearly inspired by precisely that medical condition. What’s worse, those who suffer from this handicap don’t mind sharing their cretinous views with the public, in the confident belief that the public will gobble up any intellectual droppings it’s served.
Enter Sir Nicholas Kenyon, managing director of the Barbican Centre. “The contribution Europe has made to the arts in London and the UK is very significant,” wrote Sir Nicholas in The Evening Standard. (For Europe read the EU, which to the likes of Sir Nicholas, are fully synonymous.)
The expedient by which said contribution has been made is, according to him, “free movement of labour”.
By way of illustration, Sir Nicholas came up with an anecdote from his own recent success at the Barbican. That was a new production of Antigone by Sophocles (Greek!), starring Juliette Binoche (French!), directed by Ivo van Hove (Belgian!) and in association with the theatre company Toneelgroep (Dutch!).
Anyone refusing to abandon logic as an intellectual tool will then have to make certain ineluctable inferences. Such as to assume that, until the Nazi and Vichy bureaucrats hatched the plans for a wicked European federation that Britain has since joined, artistic labour never moved freely enough to reach London.
Yet that’s not the case. French actresses especially were a big hit in London even in Victorian times, when the Brits were still pig-headed enough to think they just might survive without belonging to the same state as Romania and Greece.
Mademoiselle Rachel, for example, was a huge success in London as early as in 1841, and in the 1880s Sarah Bernhardt captivated London audiences with her explosive rendition of Cleopatra. At the end Cleopatra demolished her palace and rolled over the debris in a paroxysm of rage. “How different,” an elderly English woman was overheard commenting, “how very different from the home life of our own dear Queen.”
And not so long ago I got the chance to glance at London concert programmes from the late 1940s, when the EU was already a twinkle in Jean Monnet’s eye but not yet a fully gestated reality.
And what do you know, in just one season the German Furtwängler was conducting all nine Beethoven (another German) symphonies, Cortot (French) was playing Chopin (Polish), Szigeti (Hungarian) was playing Bloch (Swiss), and dozens of other foreigners were playing works from all over the world – with no free movement of labour anywhere in sight.
So what point was Sir Nicholas making, other than indirectly complaining of an early onset of dementia? The point was that he loves the EU, but can’t come up with any other than spurious arguments in its favour.
Neither can anybody else, not even, by the looks of it, that giant intellect Gordon Brown, who managed to destroy Britain’s economy at a lightning speed seldom equalled by any other Chancellor. But he did rival Kenyon for most refreshing idiocy.
Brexit, explained Gordon, won’t restore Britain’s sovereignty. Sovereignty proceeding from Westminster is a 19th century utopia, he added. This ignores the millions of Britons who died for our sovereignty in two 20th century world wars. Little did they know that they were a century too late.
And now it’s definitely too late for political independence, according to Gordon the Moron. The world is too globalised for that. Just look at America, the world’s biggest superpower.
You think it’s independent? Not one bit, according to Gordon. America too has dissolved her sovereignty in such supranational organisations as Nato and the WTO.
It takes an advanced state of mental retardation not to know the difference between entering into a military alliance or a trade association and forming a single state. It takes dishonesty on a scale one doesn’t expect even from politicians to know the difference but still spout such rubbish.
Do you think that I’m being too harsh? These people aren’t idiots? Well, in that case they have to think we are. And we can prove them right by not tossing their inanities into their faces on 23 June.