John Harris

Journalist & Author

If the elite ever cared about the have-nots, that didn’t last long | John Harris

The knee-jerk denigration of Brexit and Trump was bad enough, but now it is being intellectualised

Ten days or so ago, on the great sunlit upland of empathy and rational debate that is Twitter, the science writer Ben Goldacre drew his followers’ attention to an image posted by someone else. “Brexit voters get tremendously upset when you say they are racists and idiots,” he said. Below was a Venn diagram, with one ring each for “racists” and “idiots”, and an intersection labelled “racist idiots” – which, said Goldacre, “communicates the issue very clearly”.

Last Wednesday the New York Times ran a column by the journalist Roger Cohen headlined The Madness of American Crowds, partly about the Americans who voted for Donald Trump – who, he baldly claimed, were simply “mad”. “People are weak,” he wrote. “They are susceptible. They are easily manipulated through their fears. They long to prostrate themselves. They can be led by the nose into the gutter. The angels of their better natures, if they’ve ever given a moment’s thought to them, are a lot less powerful than the devils of their diabolical urges. They lie, they exploit, they seek distraction at any price from the monotony of existence.”

Just about all of us cast our votes at least partly on the basis of gut instinct and beliefs only partly rooted in truth

Related: It’s time to separate EU migration fact from Brexit fantasy | Kenan Malik

Related: Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker review – life is getting better

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