Barry Ritholz ascribes the BREXIT vote to “culturally constructed ignorance”:
….there is a disconcerting trend that has gained strength: agnotology. It’s a term worth knowing, since it is going global. The word was coined by Stanford University professor Robert N. Proctor, who described it as “culturally constructed ignorance, created by special interest groups to create confusion and suppress the truth in a societally important issue.” It is especially useful to sow seeds of doubt in complex scientific issues by publicizing inaccurate or misleading data. Culturally constructed ignorance played a major role in the Brexit vote, as we shall see after a bit of explanation.
….Current agnotology campaigns seem to be having similarly desired effects. We see the results in a variety of public-policy issues where one side has manufactured enough doubt through false statements, inflammatory rhetoric and data from dubious sources that they can mislead public opinion in a significant way, at least for a time.
….In the aftermath of the Brexit vote, there is evidence that people didn’t fully understand what they were voting for. Some didn’t think their protest vote would matter, or misunderstood what they were voting for, or what the EU actually was. There seems to be a rise in voters’ remorse the days after. Many blamed the tabloids in the U.K.. The misstatements and myths which were being pressed by the leave campaign about the EU were so rampant and absurd that the European Commission had to put out repeated corrections and maintain a blog to rebut the nonsense.
While I am as concerned as Barry over the dumbing down of political debate, ably assisted by the tabloid press and the Internet, where “false statements, inflammatory rhetoric and data from dubious sources” are used to inflame the public, this is nothing new. That is politics. When emotions are aroused, the intellect is dormant.
But we should guard against the arrogance of presuming that voters are misinformed. Perhaps it is us, as George Friedman points out, who are aloof from issues on the street:
Immigration is socially destabilizing. There is always friction between older residents and immigrants…..But, better educated and wealthier individuals normally don’t experience this…
….the British who were for it, to a large extent, did not feel the profound social costs of immigration. That fee was going to be paid by those who—again with many exceptions—voted for leaving.