Project Fear, the code name for the great anti-Brexit counter-offensive, is still under way but lost its attacking force some time ago. It now survives through a few tropes that have lost their rhetorical teeth, and their power to maul minds. Some instances:
1) Brexit as "crashing out." Cue: BBC clip of Formula One racing car sliding out of control into the barriers. We do not want that to happen to our country, do we? But the BBC is the propaganda arm of the Establishment.
2) Brexit as "self-harm." This is a favourite with female TV commentators. The image is of troubled young women slashing their wrists. A touch excessive for trading under WTO rules, you might think.
3) Brexit as a "gamble." Here two innocent senses of gamble are scrambled. One is a bet on a horse-race: the bettor cannot know the outcome but trusts to his luck and judgment. The other is a policy of state, whose ramifications cannot be fully comprehended in advance but which in the judgment of the State promises well. That judgment cannot be refuted by "gamble."
There are subtler appeals to what is left of the mind. The Queen, in her Christmas broadcast, urged Britain to overcome "deeply held differences," a clear reference to Brexit. These differences can only be overcome by the victory of one side or the other. They cannot be resolved by sweet reason and a harmonious coming together. Somewhat unwisely, the Queen went on to urge us to treat one another with "respect and as a fellow human being." Any appeal to "a fellow human being" is dud rhetoric. We knew we were human beings before being reminded.
As William Blake said, "the tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction." The Establishment has assumed the mantle of instruction, and now finds that the people are filled with "a terrible resolve" to reject their lesson. They will have their Brexit, and can see the WTO cavalry forming up on the edge of the battlefield. Project Fear has shrunk to mere scaremongering.
Ralph Berry writes from England.