Wherever you look there are angry Brexiteers. Twitter, Facebook, main stream media, broadcast media – in fact everywhere you find Brexiteers, they are angry.
But… ‘We Won’
Angry Brexiteers confuse me. They campaigned for something and they won. The standard Brexiteer argument is the ‘We won… you lost’; sometimes refined as ‘don’t you like democracy?’. But, where there is triumph (one might say triumphalism) there is much anger.
This is something with which I am unfamiliar. I am familiar with people being angry when they have lost. Take football as an example. Fans of victorious teams might be a little unruly and a little over-effusive in their celebrations. But it was the fans of the losing team that were angry. The same is true in politics. Trump was all for using the courts when he thought he was going to lose. He doesn’t seem quite so in favour of the courts now, does he?
The Angry Brexiteers
The anger is palpable, from angry Brexiteers stealing EU flags from demonstrators, hanging up on radio shows that they phoned into and even that tea isn’t grown in Yorkshire. I think we can agree that the darkest publicly accessible anger is that of the Daily Mail, which has all but called for execution of anyone who does not wholeheartedly support Brexit.
There are, of course, a rather large number of people on twitter who feel that people tweeting in their bedrooms are the cause of the rather poor outcomes of Brexit.
Attention all Remoaners! Stop doing Barnier’s work for him! This undermining of our Country’s negotiating with the EU HAS to stop. We’ll end up with a lousy deal & you will be to blame. Will that make you feel better? Surely you agree we should not give in to bullies.
— Lord Digby Jones (@Digbylj) February 11, 2018
I shant’t go on, but clearly there is anger and blame just as though they had lost. Odd isn’t it?
Cognitive dissonance may be the answer. Wikipedia defines cognitive dissonance as:
Mental discomfort (psychological stress) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. The occurrence of Cognitive dissonance … occurs when confronted with new information that contradicts said beliefs, ideals, and values. Cognitive dissonance – Wikipedia.
Eddie Harmon-Jones in his 2004 academic paper “Contributions from Research on Anger and Cognitive Dissonance to Understanding the Motivational Functions of Asymmetrical Frontal Brain Activity” (Biological Psychology. 67 (1–2): 51–76.) notes that the part of the brain that is activated during an occurrence of cognitive dissonance is associated with neural activity in the left frontal cortex, a brain structure also associated with the emotion of anger.
As more evidence suggests that Brexit will cause problems economically, socially and practically, the anger seems to get greater. Just recently 62 Conservative MPs wrote to the Prime Minister laying out what was basically a demand of specific policy points. There was an implied threat if this was not conceeded. This was fundementally blackmail.
Risk Minimising Beliefs
Cognitive dissonance deminishes and excuses the impact of risky behaviour. Omid Fotuhi describes this behaviour in relation to smoking cessation in his paper “Patterns of cognitive dissonance-reducing beliefs among smokers: a longitudinal analysis from the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Four Country Survey” (Tobacco Control Published Online First: 03 January 2012. doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2011-050139). Essentially, the smoker uses risk minimising beliefs (e.g. “The medical evidence that smoking is harmful is exaggerated.”, “One has to die of something, so why not enjoy yourself and smoke?” and “Smoking is no more risky than many other things people do”). Brexiteers have done this since before the referrendum – mainly dismissing all warnings as “Project Fear”. But now this has stepped up to a whole new level. Some Brexiteers have taken it to an extreme. They have suggested that the UK should abandon the Good Friday Agreement:
— Owen Paterson MP (@OwenPaterson) February 16, 2018
— Vauxhall Labour (@VauxhallLabour) February 22, 2018
Clearly, these people are angry and are risk minimising. Now I am no psychiatrist and I am no psychologist – but this looks just like a psychology to me. A behaviour that woud quite clearly damage the economy (note inflation and the value of sterling), healthcare (lack of healthcare staff and the availability of radiological materials) and possibly peace (abandoning the Good Friday Agreement).
Perhaps, courtesy of David Cameron’s government, we have moved from “hug a hoodie” to “embrace a europhobe”.