Project Fear has been ongoing for some time now. Here’s a poster urging the plain people of Ireland to vote ‘No’ to the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty back in 2008:
I suppose you don’t really need me to tell you what happened next. The Lisbon Treaty was eventually passed, after which EU paratroopers stormed into Ireland forcibly injecting our crying children with microchips (except not).
Simon McGarr has been tweeting about the way reactionary activists deploy paranoid messaging in referendum propaganda. Here’s his thread:
I’ve been photographing election and referendum posters for a few years now. I’ve set up Flickr groups so everyone can submit their pics as well, to try and catch more. Here’s the group from the Lisbon Referendum, just looking for the various No messages: https://t.co/mmYY8xVttC
— Simon McGarr (@Tupp_Ed) April 14, 2018
The idea that the deep state wants to infect your kids and make them cry is a very old trope, and has been popular among Luddites literally for centuries. For example, anti-vaccination scaremongering emerged almost within days of the first mass vaccination programmes, replete with baby-eating vaccination monsters:
In Ireland, social conservatives — well let’s admit it, Catholic conservatives — have long been concerned about foreign influence over our laws. The EU particularly frightened them because European countries tend to have ordinary basic human values. This of course clashes with the more Medieval misogynistic approach to law-making preferred by the Irish church.
The EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights — with its protection for gays, women, and secularists — was a definite bugbear. After all, if the EU force you to respect some of the rights of your non-coreligionist fellow citizens, then the next thing you know, they’ll force you to respect all of their rights. And then where would we be? Surrounded by wall-to-wall abortions, euthanasia, and gay marriage, of course.
Unsurprisingly, the microchipping of children wasn’t in the Lisbon Treaty, and I don’t think it’s mentioned in the Bible (I wouldn’t know).
That was used just to frighten people into voting ‘No’.
You see, when it comes to driving non-Catholic snakes out of Ireland, the religious right will throw everything into the mix.
In 1995 they claimed that legalizing divorce (yes, legalizing it, look it up) would immediately drive fathers out of the family home, making the kids of Ireland cry and go hungry. Their legendary slogan was: Hello Divorce, Bye Bye Daddy! Because, you know, men bad.
And in 2015 they claimed that gay marriage would lead to an increase in surrogacy and adoption, creating a new age of male-parent families. The precise negative consequences of this were left to our imaginations, but the implied child-welfare risk was clear. (Would it be fair to mention that the church probably know a paedophile when they see one? Maybe not. I won’t mention it.)
Anyway, this time their slogan was the snappy: She Needs Her Mother for Life, Not Just For Nine Months. Because, you know, gay men very bad.
So this year, Ireland is gearing up for a referendum on abortion, that pièce de résistance of hot button Catholic-maddening causes. If you consider that something as boring as the EU can give religio-conservative paternalist cranks the heebie-jeebies, well let’s just say that the prospect of legalized abortion has gone down pretty badly with them.
One of their delightful tactics has been to assert that people with Down Syndrome will be prime target number one when those godless abortionists launch their inevitable nationwide purge of the unborn. Down Syndrome Ireland, a charity, called on the campaign to stop using pictures of persons with Down Syndrome on their posters.
Anti-abortion campaigners be like, nope, we good here:
In some ways, the anti-abortion campaign has been something of a car crash. Many of their campaign initiatives have been debunked and ridiculed. But maybe that doesn’t matter.
Because we live in the new world now. Alternative facts and all that. If anything, making ludicrous claims and tooting incendiary fact-free dog-whistles makes you more likely to attract voters, rather than less…
This isn’t a time to sit idly by, people. Get up off your backsides and do something.
Brian Hughes is an academic psychologist and university professor in Galway, Ireland, specialising in stress, health, and the application of psychology to social issues. He writes widely on the psychology of empiricism and of empirically disputable claims, especially as they pertain to science, health, medicine, and politics.