Word of the Week: Sophistry

Credit where credit is due; the word of this week was prompted by the recently departed UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s resignation letter.

This sudden chart-topping appearance might perhaps have been boosted by a declaration of friendship from another master of the dark art but, in truth, sophistry has featured in the Tory top ten for much of the past three decades — leastways on the anti-EU fringe — and its poisonous effect has become endemic.

The rush of Brexit blood to the head was proof of its effectiveness even amongst a populace well practiced in avoidance of political engagement. ‘Muddling through’ and obliviousness were long held to be admirable British traits until the era of economic austerity brought on the pains and the sophistry of blaming all ills on EU ‘interference’ marginally gained the upper hand.

After three decades of drip-feed distortions, aided gleefully by media channels targeting the gullible, and a failure of leadership to counter the clamour, the nation’s investment over 50 years is being discarded. The European Union, with all due respect to our 27 collaborative co-partners, is the UK’s finest achievement — and, yet, all is reduced to a ‘them and us’ falsehood to serve the narrow and delusional interests of fringe fanatics.

In almost every sphere of economic activity and societal investment, progress has been plagued by false presumptions of interference and obstruction by some dark and distant hand, whereas in truth this blame shifting has been a convenience, an excuse, for shoddy governance at home. No wonder our partners in other parts of Europe are scratching their heads in wonderment. No wonder business leaders with complex systems that reach across the continent are appalled at the likely damage. No wonder city leaders are hoping their local economies can find a way forward through a revived Hanseatic League. Own foot shooting has become a national sport.

Sophistry– deliberate and deceitful but seemingly plausible reasoning — has a mixed derivation. Partly from sophos (wisdom) but also sophisma (ingenious trick) the word reflects the darker side of sophisticated as projected by the current standard bearer for the provisional wing of the 18th century.

Go, look it up.

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