I spend my entire life in an echo chamber. I live in Cambridge, which, as a fellow Cantabrigian acknowledged recently, is over 70% Remain, and over 90% smug. On-line I'm surrounded by like minds, Remainers, OLFs who have a lot of time for cat memes and no time for Trump. Politics is a big part of my life: I write about it, study it, teach it. So, at the end of last year, I decided to get out of my political comfort zone: I entered the Brexit echo chamber. I wanted to find out what regular Leave voters understand by the slogan 'take back control.'
On-line communities of Leavers, such as Facebook's BrexitCentral and Leave.EU, are devoted to the notion of democracy. For most virtual Brexiters, taking back control means reviving British democracy after years of 'dictatorial' EU rule. However, virtual Leavers understand democracy in a particular way. A democracy is a society in which the will of the majority is decisive. This entails accepting that the majority has the right to have things their way, and that minorities have a duty to fall in behind 'the will of the people.'
On this basis, contributors to BrexitCentral pounced on Gina Miller's Supreme Court case as an affront to democracy. The following posts are representative of many more:
It's time to stop pandering to this liberal leftist scum cry that rots away democracy and get with reality.
Its getting f..king ridiculous now and May wants to get on with it instead a letting some jumped up hairdresser stopping Brexit how can one women stop a democratic process voted on by the british people [?]
On-line Brexiters also find Miller's heritage problematic. The fact that Miller 'wasn't even born here' is a common complaint on Brexit News and Leave.EU, where contributors are united in the view that a 'foreigner' standing in the way of the British people is profoundly undemocratic. Miller's case so exercises some Brexiters that they demand constitutional reform:
I find it astounding that a single private individual is able to bring a case to the High Court against the government on such a huge national issue. The ability to do this surely needs to be reviewed.
Concerns that majoritarianism poses a threat to minority rights are raised, from time-to-time, by virtual Remainers who stray onto Leaver forums. They are routinely countered with the argument that as the British invented individual rights, rights will always be respected in Britain.
However, Brexiters have their own take on minority rights. In a democracy, the majority has the right to adjudicate on what constitutes an abuse of minority rights. Consequently, Brexit forums are skeptical of statistics showing a 41% rise in hate crime since the Referendum. On-line Brexiters dismiss the figure, claiming that migrants do not understand the true nature of racism. 'REAL racism', according to one contributor to BrexitCentral, is prejudice 'that is designed to cause harm or upset!!'
Brexit was not motivated by race - contributors to BrexitCentral, and Leave.EU are certain of that, no matter how many migrants say otherwise. Brexit News goes further, specialising in posts accusing Remainers of racism. For Brexit News regulars, Black Lives Matter, Eurocrats, the African-Caribbean Leukaemia Trust, the BBC, and the National Black Police Association are all racist organisations. Diane Abbott is the most vilified 'racist' on Brexit News, and the Kipper Central article 'Diane Abbott and her Racist Black Supremacist Ideology' has been shared over 4,000 times.
Leavers, by contrast, are not racists:
Let's get something completely straight: Leave voters are not selfish, racist, xenophobic, bigoted or stupid. They voted for our democracy, they voted for our sovereignty . . .
Not only do migrants misconstrue perfectly reasonable actions by native Britons as racist, migrants cause racism. The problem with migrants, according to on-line Brexiters, is that they won't learn English; they expect handouts; they, having no regard for democracy, demanding that the majority adapt to them, rather than integrating. The 'fact', and on-line Leavers take this as gospel, that migrants are wholly responsible for the housing crisis, the NHS crisis, unemployment and low wages has also led to justified resentment by the native population:
. . . mass immigration has contributed to social instability and impacted on the poorly paid. It doesn't take a genius to see that this is going to cause some backlash.
The remarkable thing is that, for most on-line Leavers, reviving democracy requires much more than Brexit. The 'dictatorship' of the EU is only one impediment to the people's will. Brexiters have a radical vision of a Britain in which the will of the majority enjoys unchecked supremacy. British judges, British MPs, the House of Lords, the legal system, Remoaners, migrants who cry 'racist' will all have to be dealt with in order for Brexiters to take back control.