After lunch, Dr Richard North returned to the podium to deliver what was undoubtedly the most inspiring talk of the day; the culmination of all the groundwork laid in the previous sessions.
As a supplement to the “conventional campaign”, which an establishment organisation like the Electoral Commission will expect and, indeed, demand to see, the RPG also intends to mobilise “something special and separate” that “will win the real battle for us”. This campaign component depends intensely upon “understanding the strategy and developing the tactics” to make the strategy work.
The primary role of this “reserve structure” is to back-up the conventional “leave” campaign and rescue it from the inherent failures already identified—specifically, the lack of strategic co-ordination among the various campaign groups and the absence of a consistent message. To illustrate the point, Dr North turned our attention to the 1964 British film classic, Zulu, which he says, “illustrates important campaigning principles”. “When defending a perimeter”, he explains, “the superficial logic says that you put all of your troops on the perimeter to protect the perimeter from being breached”. Counter-intuitively, Lt Chard, the officer who commands the battle, does exactly the opposite, “taking troops away from the perimeter to form, under Bromhead’s (Michael Caine’s) control, a flying platoon, which is separate from the battle, not engaging [the enemy] at all”.
When the thrust comes and the Zulus break through the perimeter, then you hear: “Clear the field of fire! Clear the field of fire!” The only role of the troops guarding the perimeter, it is revealed, is to “get out of the bloody way” because the flying platoon, which has now had the chance to observe the enemy and adjust to the direction of the attack is ready to intervene. “They form two lines”, Dr North informs us. “The survivors from the perimeter join the front line, and then they walk, alternating fire, to the cadence, “Reload! Rear rank… fire!”, as [the troops] gradually recover the ground back to the perimeter”.
This memorable scene illustrates the principle of committing your reserves. “You do not expect to hold the enemy”, Dr North remarks. “You allow the enemy to make their move, you identify the thrust and then you commit your reserves at the most decisive point, where the shock effect and the precision and the focus is designed to damage the enemy mortally and then you recover the ground—that is our strategic thinking—and this, unlike so many other things, is actually doable”.
All well and good, you may be thinking, but what does this have to do with winning a referendum campaign? There are, in fact, more parallels than are probably readily apparent. “The very interesting thing about a reserve”, Dr North affirms, “is that they have very limited objectives—and because the objectives are limited, they are easy to understand, they are easy to train for, and they are easy to recognise and to execute”. Moreover, this can be done with very small numbers of people. A classic misnomer in the superficial analysis of revolutions is that they are mass movements. Invariably, revolutions are engineered and executed, in the early stages, by remarkably small numbers of people. “It is dedicated, focused players that do the damage”, Dr North notes. “Not big, mass movements”.
Indeed, a referendum “is analogous to a battle in the sense that you are focusing all of your attention on a single event with a very clearly defined outcome”, Dr North outlines. “Furthermore, unlike the Zulu battle—[we are not firing guns, but delivering messages—which means that] we are able to use multiple channels of ‘attack’, including tools like social media, and the Internet, in general, to communicate our messages”.
So, what are these “highly focused, limited objectives”? The first objective: intelligence gathering—produce usable intelligence and then communicate it to the people who need it. The second objective: recruit and train people—the EU “is a very complex subject and none of us are capable of picking it all up spontaneously without guidance”. However, it is vital that what people learn is “a core of knowledge and not a core of mythology”. The third objective: community building—the reason why we buy into what the legacy media tells us is because those outlets have “prestige”. The Psychology of the Crowd, written by Gustave Le Bon, explains how prestige guides people’s perception of information—and the only reliable way in which you counter prestige is through personal affiliation and trust. “The idea is to break out of the traditional eurosceptic community to reach out to ordinary people who are not politically engaged, do not really understand the issues, but are amenable to being informed, if it is done in the right way”.
I will quote from the final section of the talk at length:
“Once we have those core objectives, once we know where the thrust is coming from, we need to neutralise the thrust—stop it dead in its tracks. So, in comes Cameron with associate membership. We destroy it. We say, this is a load of garbage, this is just a two-speed Europe and the intention is still ever closer union, nothing has changed, you are being led up the garden path. But that is not enough. We then have to come out with an alternative, and there is a further rider to that, we also have to specify a means for achieving that alternative, which demonstrates to people that it is doable and that it is safe…
“The beauty of all this is that now we have the Internet and this marvellous ability to communicate with anyone in the world at the drop of a hat at no cost, so we don’t need formal structures. We can develop cellular structures of overlapping, cross-linking cells, so that you can feed information into your core, which is enough to produce a dynamic that ripples out through your contacts and very quickly becomes an established meme. That is almost entirely reliant upon the Internet, but 90 percent of the households in the UK have Internet access…
“That’s what it’s about. It’s about networking and using a cascade system where you have a core which then cascades the information down. But that will only work with the one thing that eurosceptics are totally missing: message discipline. We have got to agree on a message and then we have got to focus on delivering that message when it counts. It is no good popping out of the redoubt, lining up and then all firing in different directions. The only way that picture in Zulu worked was with disciplined, sustained fire to a tempo. Otherwise it is just noise, and that is the difference.
“Message discipline and a focused response with all of us firing in the same direction at the same time [is the key]. It does not sound very complicated, but… if we can achieve it in small numbers, then we are in business… [Finally,] [t]he government is relying upon the status quo effect, so what we will be saying is that there is no status quo. There is a divergence of paths. We can either go into the euro or we can become second-class citizens. That is the message. If we take the trope at face value that we want to be at the heart of Europe, due to what Cameron tells us and what the Tories have always told us before, the European Union is going to say that the price of being at the heart of Europe is now joining the euro. We can’t do that… But we’ve got a better way—and I think that is actually quite a powerful, positive message that people will warm to if it is presented properly”.
Now, I probably ought to watch Zulu.