Donald Tusk’s Brexit comments – misconstrued or rather telling?

Donald Tusk’s Brexit comments – misconstrued or rather telling?

Earlier this week, on the 6th of February, President of the European Council Donal Tusk tweeted the following: “I’ve been wondering what that special place in hell looks like, for those who promoted #Brexit, without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely.”

Earlier this week, on the 6th of February, President of the European Council Donal Tusk tweeted the following: “I’ve been wondering what that special place in hell looks like, for those who promoted #Brexit, without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely.”

The comments resulted in much controversy, unleashing waves of heavy criticism as well as considerable praise from multiple media establishments, political groups and individuals alike.

This sort of reaction to political statements made by high-profile figures is rather unsurprising by now. After all, one of the essential elements of the political polarization we are witnessing at the moment in many parts of the world is the speed at which information spreads, often resulting in an immediate and sharp split in public opinion.

Tusk’s comments were no exception to this increasingly established pattern of communication. Someone makes a contentious political statement; the mainstream media pounces, often oversimplifying the information to make it conform to a particular narrative; and the public rapidly rushes to their preferred political camp, often cementing their positions and further driving polarization.

In this instance, the reactions to Tusk’s comments could be almost-neatly divided into two conflicting groups: those who believed that his criticism was aimed at a particular subset of British elites who promoted Brexit without a concrete plan, such as Nigel Farage, Jacob Rees-Mogg and David Davis; and those who believed that they were a direct attack aimed at all British individuals who voted Leave.

As an individual with numerous reservations about the EU who is not particularly pleased with the current state of political affairs, Tusk’s comments certainly appeared distasteful and rather divisive.

At the same time, however, we should be wary of jumping to conclusions in regards to his motives – was this really an expression of disdain and condescendence towards the entirety of the British electorate who voted to Leave the European Union?

One of the arguments typically employed by the Leave side of the Brexit debate is that the British people are being ruled by a group of unelected EU bureaucrats in Bruxelles who hold them in contempt and despise the democratic process.

From this perspective, Tusk’s tweets could quite easily be interpreted as the latest EU attack on the British people – valuable political currency for this side of the debate.

Brendan O’Neill’s and Jacob Rees-Mogg’s responses to Tusk clearly adopted this particular line of argument and turned his admittedly unpleasant comments – which may or may not have been a “punch down” at British Leavers – into definitive proof that they constituted an example of this elitist attitude.

In their respective columns on Spiked and The Sun, the two ardent Leave proponents argued that “(Tusk) effectively condemned to hell the 17.4 million Britons who voted for Brexit” and that “Mr. Tusk’s arrogant high-handed approach assumes the public did not make an informed decision to leave”.

Those who praised Tusk’s comments, on the other hand, highlighted the distinction between attacking all British Leavers and attacking a handful of British politicians who rightfully deserved to be lambasted for their promotion of a “Brexit without a plan”.

In all honesty, I am not sure about Tusk’s true intentions myself, and would definitely not rule out the possibility that his was indeed the latest example of the elites’ scorn toward the average Leave voter.

Whatever his intentions, however, one thing is rather certain: he should have been more careful with his words. In the current political environment, where information can so easily be shaped and deformed to fit one’s own worldview, statements like Tusk’s only serve to exacerbate an already boiling political situation.

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