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The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

The Oxford Blog: Week 2

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Oxford University Coat of Arms

I can’t pretend to be an expert on what’s been happening in the UK lately. American news stations waited until the night of the “Brexit” vote to cover the story, and I know I’m not the only U.S. citizen feeling a bit blind-sided by the news. 
This is also a reminder that I’ve been slacking with reading international papers. Oops.
My interest in Brexit isn’t limited to the fact that I’m spending the next six weeks in England—although that’s definitely motivation to do a bit of research. Above all else, Brexit feels like an eerie reflection of what we might expect in our own presidential election in November. The pro-Brexit platform is disturbingly close to Trump’s in its anti-immigrant sentiments and desire for “restoring” the country to greatness. The Brexit platform aims, ultimately, to give Britain the right to close its borders—going directly against the European Union requirements—while maintaining trade with EU nations. Essentially, pro-Brexit voters want all the benefits of being in the EU without following EU rules.
The top British papers, particularly the Guardian, have been trying to balance both perspectives on the issue, focusing on the immediate problems arising from the vote and potential long-term issues. The founder of Virgin Group, Richard Branson, has been repeatedly cited as a strong advocate against leaving the EU. He is quoted explaining that the international investment in Britain has plummeted; that the value of the British pound dropped immediately after the vote. 
I must admit: I’m a little excited about the currency dropping, if only because it makes my trip a tiny bit more affordable.
But ultimately, Brexit is likely to lead to job loss for many British citizens.
The vote has raised some interesting questions about the meaning of democracy in the UK as well. Although Scotland voted to remain in the EU, the vote was irrelevant and outshined by Britain’s vote to leave. Scotland has since attempted to join the EU without Britain, but has been denied on all accounts by other EU members. The fact that Scottish citizens are forced to follow Britain’s lead, regardless of what they vote, is utterly astounding to me. Brexit is supposedly about democracy, about giving the “people” (excluding immigrants, I suppose) their voice back. In what way, then, can Scotland’s treatment be justified?
The whole issue reeks of xenophobia and racism. Since the vote, protests have broken out, both against and in defense of minority groups currently living in Britain. The Telegraph, a British newspaper, estimated that hate crimes, often anti-Semitic and Islamophobic, have risen about 60 percent since the vote to leave the EU. This is an alarming rise in crime. 
Britain’s vote will only embolden our own right-wing groups in the States, even in the face of blatant hypocrisy. No one has denied Britain’s history of possessing a world empire. I cannot imagine the frustrations of South Asian English speakers who must witness the very country that forcefully took over South Asia vote against, of all things, immigration. It is impossible not to ask why such an extreme double standard is at play, and why “freedom” only applies to select groups.
I can’t deny that I’m slightly apprehensive about being in England during this time. Racial tensions and Islamophobia are at an extreme high, but I’ve got a decent handle on it—especially since I experience plenty of it at home in the U.S. It can be hard to be hopeful when witnessing the rest of the world match the U.S. in an irrational fear of immigrants and minorities. 
Last year, news was circulating that a massive petition was being signed by British citizens to ban Donald Trump from entering their country. I wonder if those who voted pro-Brexit really understood the parallels between their own decisions and the decisions of U.S. conservatives. I’m eager to see first-hand how the racial and religious atmosphere in this country will play out and more specifically, how people will react to me. 
My life in Massachusetts has been packed with both subtle and overt bigotry. I can’t help but wonder what will meet me during my time across the pond.