With six weeks to go before the vote, the opinion polls are too close to call. After an initial strong showing by the Remain campaign’s “shock and awe” approach (its so-called “Project Fear”), it now seems to be losing some traction.
The Remain Campaign’s early attempt to define the referendum as a purely economic decision, rather than a more complex democratic, cultural and economic choice initially met with success. Its well-organised and well-coordinated campaign of dire warnings from the political, economic and business elite really hit home with electors.
The problem that has now emerged for the Remain Campaign is that in seeking to create shock and awe, it has also parted company with any sense of balance. When David Cameron tells us that a vote to leave the EU risks a return to conflict in Europe, the claim seems outlandish, if not a touch hysterical.
The facts on this matter are clear: it is America’s military might and vast nuclear arsenal – directed through NATO rather than the EU – that has kept the peace in Europe and no balanced view of the matter could truly argue otherwise. Yet this pro-EU argument is the one that David Cameron chooses to make.
Making a weak argument weakens every argument – this is a basic principle of adversarial communication.
If we believe the dire warnings of the Remain campaign, we can only reach the conclusion that exercising our simple democratic right to self-determination will be a total catastrophe, leading to economic meltdown, political disintegration and a war in Europe.
However, once the shock and awe has passed, the Remain campaign’s lack of balance and its overblown rhetoric may herald its ultimate failure.
Lynden Alexander is a forensic communication consultant and an expert in adversarial communication.