“Experts” Facebook Discussion June 2016

I am posting all of this, partly so that I can hyperlink to it easily, but also because it illustrates the best of the way the virtual EU referendum debate went for me. These are all people I know in real life, but they would never all be present in the same room. I know some professionally, some personally; some since I was a child (hey, this is a blended life blog!). And yet here they are, on my “wall” (in my imagination, around our virtual dining table) talking about things that matter, and sharing their, er, expertise.

Tammy Hervey

So – I’ve just posted this in a discussion – but it’s worth posting here too: This is one of the things I genuinely don’t understand about the EU referendum debate – let me see if I can explain. I would NEVER try to cut my own hair, or fix my car, or many other things which might (or might not) be associated with “working class” skills. I always get an expert – someone who knows about it – to do those things. I work in a University – I get that lots of people don’t know exactly what goes on in universities and that we could do more to explain that – but actually I feel that my University (Sheffield) does a lot to open its doors to local people, so that they can get a better idea. So it’s often hard to explain to people why what I do is of value – it’s much easier for a hairdresser, or a car mechanic, or many other people, to explain that. And now – for once in my life – what I do – what I actually know about – is REALLY relevant – I’ve spent my whole life studying and teaching about EU Law, and right now the insights that I have matter. And yet – the whole debate has become about “don’t trust the experts, they are lying, just trust your feelings”. I would listen to and respect the views of a hairdresser, and a car mechanic, and so on, about the things they know about. So why isn’t the same happening to those of us who do know about the EU? That’s the thing that I just don’t understand – I’m really sorry if that’s my fault for not understanding.

Jonty Este Jonty Este I entirely sympathise with your point of view on this Tammy. I’ve often quoted experts such as yourself (ie: qualified university researchers who write in The Conversation) to my group of Brexit-inclined friends in my local pub only to be told that they are either “mistaken” or “making it up”. V frustrating!
Alan Campbell Alan Campbell It is a sad reflection of our anti-intellectual anti-professional culture propagated by the tabloids and trashy media commentators. The hypocrisy of whom is breathtaking
Guy Wyatt Guy Wyatt Unlike you Tammy, I do cut my own hair, but we all know how that turned out. I absolutely agree with you.
Oisin Suttle Oisin Suttle I agree that this is very much the tone of the Brexit debate, and as a shift I think it worries me at least as much as the substantive issue. If we refuse to place trust in expertise, whether that be academic, bureaucratic or any other variety, then we’re in serious trouble. If we similarly refuse to place any trust in the bona fides of those in authority – and that’s similarly been a huge aspect of the Brexit case – not just refusing to place blind trust, but refusing to grant any credibility – then the prospects for legitimate government start to look pretty dim. 

That said, I wonder if this is just long-developing feature of our public discourse that is just feeling particularly relevant to you right now. Think about the way climate change discussion has for years included huge elements of ‘don’t trust the experts, they’re confused / lying / just in it for the money’. You could make similar points about telling economists to shut up about austerity and debt over the past eight years. And perhaps, although its probably somewhat different, efforts to limits the medical professions’ voice in NHS management.

What’s funny (?) is that a huge amount of this more general anti-intellectualism has been promoted by the same elements of the tory establishment that are now desperately trying to invoke expertise to oppose brexit. Reaping what they sowed. And dragging the rest of us down with them 

Frank Pasquale Frank Pasquale I sympathize with your concerns–and I blame, in part, the relentless attacks on the legal profession and the academy, oft abetted by tech and finance interests. 

Check out the #legaltech hashtag on twitter (or talks by Susskind, whose recent book I review below), and you get an endless stream of commentary dripping with contempt for professions as guardians of expertise and disinterested analysis.

Michael Szollosy Michael Szollosy I saw this yesterday, which is helping me make sense of exactly the point you are making (accepting that I am nowhere near as qualified as you are): http://www.telegraph.co.uk/…/michael-goves-guide-to…/
Kim Balmer Kim Balmer A few months ago it never occurred to me that people would actually vote leave. Stunned that we’re being told the polls are close. It’s very scary what we seem to have become as a nation.
Aliali Boom Aliali Boom Do any EU lawyers favour Brexit? If people perceive the experts as disagreeing with each other then they will be more inclined to pick a side (for any reason) and think the other side is lying. Eg the economics posts I’ve seen on remain/leave seem to involve plausible experts invoking economics principles beyond my understanding – on either side. So I wouldn’t know what to believe. This seems less likely to be the case for law, but maybe that’s because I’m a lawyer so it all seems clearer to me already.
Celia Wells Celia Wells Well said but I don’t think brexit is so much about dismissing experts as about a visceral emotional reaction to the woes various of life in 21st century UK. Of course hardly any (none) of those are to do with the EU. Many can be laid at the door of the very Tories who have launched this idiotic referendum but the schadenfreude is not going to be at all satisfying. (Sorry I didn’t study German so sp cd be wrong). It also shows, if we didn’t already know it, how easy it is to whip up xenophobia with some handy slogans such as ‘we want our country back.’ Who is the ‘we’ and what is ‘our’ entitlement?
Jo Shaw Jo Shaw The people who wrote Revolt on the Right would suggest that “we” (i.e. the mainstream) have completely misunderstood the political movements going on here, and this is a major contributing factor. Dismissing experts is a by product, not a causal factor. I think it’s important to keep that straight in our heads.
Tammy Hervey Tammy Hervey Yup, I’m sure you’re right Jo.
Tammy Hervey And Celia is right too – see the AA Gill piece in the Times that is doing the rounds
Alph Thomas Alph Thomas Well said that woman
Steve Peers Steve Peers I pointed out an ‘EU tax plot story’ was silly since the UK has a veto. Someone said I was wrong. I pointed them to the Treaty articles which set out the veto. They said I was trying to tell them that black was white – (not the other way around!). And today’s Sun says that stocks are soaring, whereas they collapsed. This really is a post-truth environment.
Michael Szollosy Michael Szollosy I agree. But it’s so sad. I don’t think that this was supposed to be the consequences of the once-revolutionary hermeneutics of suspicion, or of the postmodern dissolution of the metanarrarive – believing rich white men will over expertise and truth. 


Frank Pasquale's photo.
Steve Peers Steve Peers He knows more than the entire medical profession, of course!
Michael Szollosy Michael Szollosy Is that true? 

I can’t tell what’s real and what’s satire any more…

Mike Shilson Mike Shilson Tammy Hervey An interesting analogy with hairdressers and car mechanics, but we have all had different experiences of even the same hairdresser or car mechanic. Even the World’s leading authority and most qualified “expert” on Obstetrics will have no experience and knowledge of childbirth, if the doctor/Professor is a “he”.
So often it is a question of perception and perspective.
So I respect the views of Fishermen whose experience of the EU may differ; especially considering the contrast in the fishing industry, and fish stocks, in Norway (which technically is still applying,as an EEC member, to the EU).

Few people under 50 can recall a time when Britain had Europe’s largest fishing fleet, writes Christopher Booker.
Michael Szollosy Michael Szollosy But personal, anecdotal narratives – though vital in establishing the bigger picture – should not alone determine our course of action, outside the informed opinion of experts, you would agree? 

My wife has had a wealth of first-hand experience and knowledge of childbirth, but she would still defer on most issues regarding childbirth to qualified midwives and doctors

Tammy Hervey Tammy Hervey I think that’s my point, really.
Steve Peers Steve Peers Well, here’s an alternative expert view of the EU’s fisheries policy and the UK: https://theconversation.com/what-would-brexit-really-mean…
Tammy Hervey Thanks Steve Peers – any use to you Mike Shilson?
Mike Shilson Mike Shilson Thanks Tammy Hervey. The “hot brain” and “cool brain” research may add an interesting twist to the referendum debate:

Lion and wolf cubs, when they learn to stalk prey, learn fairly quickly that they must delay the urge…
Mike Shilson Mike Shilson The Government fishery report makes interesting reading, so can see where both sides can find statistics to support their case: 
“Which groups + organisations do Leave supporters trust on #EURef? Generally none. Academics most trusted for…
Michael Szollosy Michael Szollosy Wow. That’s really instructive. And depressing. And scary.
Rebecca Armour Rebecca Armour Nick Armour – a conversation you might find interesting xx
Mike Shilson Mike Shilson Tammy Hervey The main reason why the population is “confused” and no longer “trusts” is highlighted, at 15 minutes into David Cameron’s speech to the CBI in November 2015:
Tammy Hervey Tammy Hervey “the argument is how are we going to be best off” Is that the bit you mean Mike Shilson?
Mike Shilson Mike Shilson Yes Tammy. “Best off” is interesting and can be interpreted in a number of ways. Earlier on in his speech, he stresses the importance of devolution to local authorities to set business rates, and though all seem to agree on the “Common Market”, he stresses the importance of “flexibility” within it, but expressed grave concern about closer political and monetary union (25:45 minutes into the speech).
Tammy, I would value your view that as he didn’t succeed in his aspirations, his concern is more likely to happen. Especially as indicated by Guy Verhofstad: (“…and he has promised not to make obstacles for the deepening of the Union.”)
Thanks, Mike Shilson
Tammy HerveyTammy HerveyCraig Bennett of FoE told me that their analysis was that without the EU the North Sea would have been fished dry.
John Green John Green I am reluctant to enter into a debate on this, but in the first referendum I voted ‘in’ because I believe in fair trade and that it would benefit our exporting businesses, and help Europe trade with us. I was nervous of what it would do to Commonwealth trade, and to family members who live outside Europe. For the economic reasons, if you ask 100 economists you will get 100 different answers – and yes I studied Politics, Economics and the British Constitution before David Cameron was born. The ‘experts’ called to support ‘remain’ are in general big businesses, or are organisations like the BBC, CBI and so on, all of whom receive funding from the EU. I spent quite a while working, at the beginning of my career, with small businesses as a supplier, and towards the end of my career as an adviser to start up businesses as well as periods in between in business training and development. Most of them do not trade with the EU, but have to obey EU laws. I have seen our fishing industry decimated, and the amount of paperwork imposed on agriculture is unbelievable. I used to see colleagues from the Civil Service go off to Brussels to agree legislation which our elected members have no say over. Unlike our House of Commons, MEPs cannot propose or reject laws. It is the total lack of democratic control and influence over the EU that has led me to the opposite view and I will be voting to leave.
Tammy Hervey Tammy Hervey John Green thanks for your post – obviously you know that I do not agree with your analysis and I am also reluctant to let this get in the way of our friendship which I value greatly. But it isn’t true that MEPs cannot reject laws – they can, and do.
Sorcha MacLeod Sorcha MacLeod And even if we leave the EU and stay within the EEA (as seems to be being proposed, although it’s incredibly unclear) we will continue to be bound by EU law, still be required to contribute financially BUT we’d have no input into lawmaking or policy in the way that we do now. How is that an improvement? 

Here’s my personal, non-economic take on it:https://www.facebook.com/sorcha.macleod/posts/1048781065187493

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