The current debate about alleged data harvesting by Cambridge Analytica via Facebook, raises some interesting questions about the populist tide. In Britain, there is still disbelief amongst the metropolitan left who cannot accept the Brexit vote on 23 June 2016.
How could we have voted to leave the European Union? How could the masses be so stupid? There is an element of class prejudice that underpins the reaction to the Brexit vote. The revelation that data was harvested by Cambridge Analytica feeds into this view that the vote to leave was somehow the result of manipulation.
There is a similar stance by those who would like to believe that Donald Trump's victory in the 2016 Presidential election was the result of digital voodoo. Some Democrats, not least of them, Hillary Clinton ,seem unable to accept the result.
The rise of populism can be attributed to a number of factors, one of them being the failure of career politicians to connect with ordinary voters. In Britain, people failed to see the benefits of membership of the European Union. They also believed that immigration meant that there was open door that allowed an unlimited amount of immigrants to settle here. The expansion of the EU saw the free movement of peoples from the former Eastern Bloc countries. Anyone who opposed this was deemed a racist, only fringe parties like UKIP were willing to address this issue.
The incident of Gordon Brown's microphone picking up his comments about a female voter's views on immigration highlighted the attitude of the political class towards the working class voter.
I also think that Britain being an island nation saw the EU differently from the landlocked European nations. No amount of trickery or manipulation to target voters with carefully crafted messages based on their political views could create that.
It is very easy to look for a magic bullet that will explain Brexit or Trump's victory. We can tie ourselves in knots looking for reasons or explanations. At some point, we have to accept the result and move on. Blaming Facebook or data manipulation will not give us the explanation that we are looking for.