Over the weekend I watched the film Brexit: An Uncivil War starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Dominic Cummings, the brains behind the original Leave campaign. I must admit that I had not heard of Cummings before I saw this film. He seems to be someone who keeps a low profile and after running the campaign has largely disappeared again, leaving others to pick up the debris. The film highlights the use of data-mining people’s online activities to find out what drives them and targeting ads to exploit their fears, especially those who had dropped out of the system and no longer voted.
While the film was mixed on the merits, it did give a good sense of what went on in the original campaign for those of us who were not paying attention at that time. Rory Kinnear gives a good performance as the head of the Remain campaign who realizes too late that what the Brexit referendum unleashed was the long pent-up frustrations of an older and white population who felt that the country was no longer ‘theirs’, and that no logic or evidence that being part of Europe was better for the country was going to change their minds. These voters were looking for any reason to stick it to the establishment, and the fraudulent Leave promise that the money that was supposedly being sent to Europe would go to the popular National Health Service, and that the borders would be shut to immigrants, especially the threatened hordes from Turkey, was alluring.
The potency of that kind of political appeal to a mythical period of past greatness and to people’s frustrations and prejudices should be familiar to people in the US too.
Here’s the trailer.
While waiting at airport for my flight back to Cleveland, I enjoyed John Oliver’s return of Last Week Tonight for a new season. He gave an excellent review of how the UK got into the Brexit mess and what its current options are, none of which are good. It was typical Oliver, informative and funny even though the Brexit situation is no laughing matter really. (language advisory)