Sunday, April 1, 2018

The problems with 'wargaming' history. (Particularly WWII.)

I had a good comment on my 'Ten Myths about the Phoney War' post from a Swedish respondent called DIREWOFLx75.

He makes some fair points, adn of course some that I disagree with. I think he is oversimplifying some things, but that's fair, he thinks the same of many of my points.

His arguable points include, for instance, the idea that a British 'intervention' might forcing Sweden and Norway into Germany's arms. (Not convincing I'm afraid... I note that the German invasion didn't automatically sweep Sweden into Britain's arms? Or into Germany's arms?)

But most of what he said was just interesting commentary that is worth reading.

However he did say that one of my points (about Russia staying on Germany's side for the rest of the war) could only be held by "an arch idiot who left his brain behind".

He justified that statement with the line: "Analyse it, war-game it, the conclusion is..."

Now I love a good war-game, and have played many versions of World War Two boardgames: from the stupendous Europa (so large scale, with so many pieces, that you need hundreds of hours to play a single front), to the more manageable World in Flames (where a game can take merely scores of hours, not hundreds...) Though I admit I haven't had time to play for years, so some of the following is possibly dated... but I digress.

All of them had the same problem. The rules pre-suppose certain outcomes, and force certain responses to make sure you can't avoid those outcomes.

In World War Two games the most obvious problem is that they force the sides to fit the way they actually worked out, regardless of the fact that far more realistic alternatives were in fact more likely.

For example:

1. Who would believe that Yugoslavia would voluntarily join the (currently losing) British team in 1941? Yet it happened.
2. That Hitler would attack his best ally and supply source - Russia -while still fighting on 2 other fronts in 1941? Yet it happened.
3. That Japan would suddenly attack the US in 1941? Yet it happened.
4. That Hitler would voluntarily declare war on the US two days later? Yet it happened.
5. That Italy would side with it's WW1 opponent Germany, to attack it's long term ally and protector Britain in 1940? Yet it happened. (With the same results for Italy as when Turkey had made the same poor choice a war earlier...)
6. That Brazil would decide to enter the war at all? Yet it happened.
7. That fascist Spain - in huge debt to Italy and Germany - would sit out the war? Yet it happened.

I could go on and on, but please note that all these unlikely things are built into the structure of every major World War Two game. The rules are written to force such things to happen 'correctly'.

Even the Days of Decision pre-game for World in Flames only allows minor things like Spain changing sides (if you can get the Republicans to win instead of the fascists). It never considers the infinitely more likely case of Italy NOT changing sides and remaining in the British camp. It never even considers the option of Japan joining Germany in conquering Russia (the plan when the Japanese army was dominant) INSTEAD of the much stupider Japanese attack on the United States (when the IJN was dominant).

I sometimes managed to talk some other players of these games into trialling more realistic scenarios. (I am being quite serious, the things that actually happened - Yugoslavia for instance - were hardly logical, let alone inevitable.)

Italy joining the allies against Germany was actually not only reasonable, but even very likely during the Finnish crises. (Mussolini had threatened war with Germany in 1934, and all Italy was incensed at Germany having a treaty with the hated Soviets in 1940. Italy was working hard to get military supplies to Finland, and Britain and France were seriously trying to engage het Italians. Talk of a deal between France and Italy to reclaim the old Baku oilfields that had been nationalised by the Soviets saw stocks in the old company's rising on the Paris Bourse. The American ambassador to Russia cabled that the Russians were desperate to get the Finns to negotiate to get troops down to the border with French Syria where a large French army was gathering. The German's were helping the Russians put mines in to defend Black Sea ports. The British and French despatched a large force of bombers to Syria to prepare to destroy the Baby oilfields... The Japanese army was showing interest in getting revenge for the only recently failed compaign in Mongolia against Russia... None of this is fantasy...I can go on extensively!).

The German/Soviet alliance of nasty dictators versus everyone else in Europe (possibly including Italy and Japan on the allied side) is actually very realistic.

Japan co-operating with Germany to squash Russia is far more realistic than wandering off to attack the US! (In fact Japan NOT co-operating with Germany to pressure the allied position in the Middle East in 1942 was not even unlikely, just plain dumb!)

These are just some of the things that you can easily war-game to see how it might have worked. And despite DIREWOLF's assumptions, Germany and Russia in 1940 were not a lay down Mozaire over Britain and France supported by... Finland, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Yugoslavia, Greece, Rumania, Turkey and Japan (with the US still in the background).

That combination was in fact quite possible, and indeed, much more likely, than the eventual campaign that saw even Finland (Finland!) forced into the Axis camp against Russian aggression! (Finland was the allied hero of 1940, and the League of Nations expelled Russia and urged all nations to support Finland. Italy was one of the strongest supporters! Yet in 1945 one of the first actions of the UN was to accuse Finland of being the aggressor against Russia! Let's discuss inevitability?)

Unfortunately many gamers believe that the rules that force certain sides to develop in certain ways reflect political inevitability. Crap.

I have even had gamers insist that I follow the exact letter of the way the rules are set up, and only do what the rules let me do, with no discretion at all.

I found a fun way to screw such over-simplistic stupidities over. (Or I could 20 years ago... hopefully some changes have taken place since.)

If you ever want to test the stupidity of following the rules of a game that pretends everything can be fixed, then give World in Flames (say version 4 or 5) a go from the British players role.

Turn 1, rebase most British forces to Canada.

Turn 2 & 3, invade and conquer US.

Turn 4 & 5 rebase all British forces to bolster France before European spring.

Rest of war Britain only has to protect the 4 sea links to the US (and link up Australasia with India)  to beat the U-boats and have effectively unlimited US resources to share with it's allies. (Which can include Russia if you keep following the stupid rules? The allied supply route to Russia also becomes much easier to defend under this scenario.)

Even if France can't be saved (unlikely the way the rules are set up, unless a lucky coup in Yugoslavia and a couple of sacrificial air drops or invasions to undercut German factories are successful), Britain can still build a factory somewhere in the Commonwealth every turn for the rest of the game, and have the resources to use them. By the time Japan is supposed to enter the war in late 1941, you can have some real fun with the fact that there are not enough pieces in the British forces mix, and you have to co-op pieces from their new colony... the US... to continue playing. (In fact the best chance for the 'Axis' under this scenario is to have Japan attack Britain in 1940, which of course the rules are working to prevent...)

This utterly stupid and wildly unrealistic scenario nonetheless fits within the letter of the rules of the game.

I have played it that way a couple of times mostly to demonstrate the stupidity of playing purely by using rules written specifically to get a fairly unlikely historical outcome.

But it's bloody good fun if you like playing with history!

So when I "analyse it, war-game it, the conclusion is..." I find that the conclusion is far more affected by assumptions about how things must have worked - because people are assuming that such a route was inevitable... than is is by historical realities.

Dear DIREWOLF. Game it by all means... just check you're pre-assumptions at the door, and REALLY look at all the possibilities.

The deeper you go into what might have happened, the less what actually did happen will seem 'inevitable'.

And it can be really fun.

New Quadrant article: Republics - The least stable form of Government

It's a bit embarrassing to note that the last post I did was announcing an article in Australia's Quadrant magazine over a year ago.

Unfortunately my wife had a serious injury last year, and many items have consumed by time since, meaning that I have not even had a chance to reply to the many excellent comments I have had during the year.

Can't promise much, but will try to be better.

Meanwhile my latest article, also in Quadrant (March 2018, Volume LXII, Number 3, No 544) is another little discussion about the flaws of Republics as a system of government.

http://quadrant.org.au/magazine/2018/03/republic-least-stable-form-government/

Unfortunately it's behind a paywall, so you have to buy the magazine to get the whole article, but Quadrant is worth the subscription if you like magazines that value freedom of speech and expression. Another of my Quadrant articles was re-printed in Canada's Dorchester Review, which has a similar ethos.

(Amusingly when Quadrant was set up way back in the 1950's - in Australia that is called the Menzies era - it's commitment to freedom of speech and freedom of opinion was considered pretty left wing. Now of course, the same position is regarded by politically correct crowd as being extremely right wing. That is a comment on the way the society has changed, not the magazine...)


The articles main points are:
1. 95% of all 'republics' collapse into dictatorship, repression, or civil war, within about 20 years. Very few make it to 50 years. (France has only just got to 50 years under it's fifth republic - plus 3 monarchies and 2 empires - in the last 2 centuries or so, and Germany effectively has a new constitution dating from re-unification 2 decades ago - after 3 republics and a dictatorship causing two invasions in the last century, and is showing signs of being quite Italian in it's 'success' as a system of government since then...)
2. The wold's 44 Monarchies or Constitutional Monarchies - some of them quite new startups - have about a 17 times greater life expectancy than the world's 140 odd - some very odd - republics and peoples republics and soviet socialist republics etc. (Note that the longest lasting republics are mostly 'Soviet Socialist' style dictatorships, with a few limited exceptions).
3. Republics can last for 50 years or more, but apparently only if they are mono-cultures (like Finland and Botswana) or under constant threat of invasion and destruction (Israel, Germany, Italy and South Korea) to focus the mind.
4. The only 'long term' success anyone can identify (ignoring its foundation as a slavery state, it's failure to give much of it's population a vote until 50 odd years ago, and a minor civil war with 600,000 dead) is the one that 90% of the of the PRO-republicans in places like Australia think has completely unacceptable politics, system, or leaders! (Repeat after me, 'Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump... my evidence for wanting a republican system???')
5. More importantly, just note that 70% of the world's richest and healthiest places to live are Constitutional Monarchies, and 99% of the world's most horrible places to live are Republics. (The one monarchy that - barely - makes it into the bottom 100 being Morocco at about 97 from the bottom... Morocco!)
It was a fun article, and has received a lot of good comments.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Ten Myths about the Phoney War - new Quadrant Article

A new one of my articles has just been published in the Australian Quadrant magazine (Vol. 61 No.1-2,  January-February 2017 edition), that attempts to kick the crap out of the historians who write off the 'Phoney War' as a period where nothing happened.

It is based on the proposed Allied March 1940 plan to move troops through Norway and Sweden to assist Finland against the Soviet invaders they had been remarkably successful in resisting for several months.

The 10 issues I cover are:

1, The Myth that the Soviet Union was strong in 1940.
2. The Myth that Germany was strong in 1940.
3. The Myth that the British were flailing for a strategy in 1940.
4. The Myth that Poland's collapse made everyone believe in 'Blitzkreig'.
5. The Myth that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact could not last.
6. The Myth that the sides were already fixed.
7. The Myth that intervention would not improve the Allied situation.
8. The Myth that intervention would be militarily foolish for the Allies.
9. The Myth that the Allies could have chosen not to help Finland.
10. The Myth that Norway and Sweden would oppose an intervention.

The fun part is the reason behind the story.

Orders were actually given by the British and French Chiefs of Staff at 6.30pm on March 12, 1940, for the landings in Norway to go ahead the next day. Only last minute duplicity by the Socialist Foreign Minister of Finland Vaino Tanner to hide this information from the cabinet while he forced through a surrender before midnight, prevented the war from developing into a Molotov-Ribbentropp Pact war against Britain, France, and probably their new allies - including possibly Italy, Japan, Turkey, Scandinavia and the Balkans countries...

If you want the full reasoning, you'll have to get the article.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The best Carrier based Torpedo Bomber of World War Two?


Having recently re-read the many comments on an old article in which I discussed the relative strengths and weaknesses of carrier aircraft in WWII, 


(and having reviewed some of the discussion groups that insist on misquoting me), I though it might be useful to make a couple of reflections that show just how silly these debates can get.

First lets make the key point – in the battle between offense and defence, the pendulum keeps swinging.

When I do a discussion with a school group about medieval weapons and armour, I point out that the fanciest sword is no good, if it can’t defeat a new style of armour; and the fanciest armour is no good, if offensive weapons can defeat it. It is always about ‘does this weapon defeat the defence, or does the defence defeat the weapon’.

In WWII this means two things.

First: that even spectacularly effective offensive aircraft from 1939 or 1942 are usually hopeless in the same circumstances against improved defences two years later.

Second: that technological change will require adapting new methods.

Third: that the 'best' aircraft at a given time, is not necessarily going to do the job best at that time, if other elements of the offence vs defence balance need to be considered!

There were many torpedo bombers of course – from bad carrier versions, like the Devestator and the Barracuda, to good land versions, like the Beaufort and the Condor, but for the sake of the argument, I will stick to the two contrasting torpedo bombers that make the most interesting point about what worked best when, and why…

To put that in perspective, lets start with the significant point that the most successful (in terms of tonnage sunk), torpedo bomber of the war – the Fairey Swordfish – was a technological relict even before the war began; while the most successful (in terms of being technologically advanced and impressive to crews) torpedo bomber of the war – the TBM Avenger – was a complete failure in its first actions!

The Fairey Swordfish is possibly the most amazing/amusing aircraft of the war. An old style biplane, with a ridiculously slow attack speed (only 138mph for early versions): it was nonetheless the only allied combat aircraft to remain in production, and in front line combat squadrons, throughout the entire war.

Known as the ‘Stringbag’ not because of its old fashioned wire and fabric construction, but because – like an old ladies string shopping bag – it could be adapted to an incredible range of loads and tasks: the Swordfish was as success mainly because it could keep changing its functions.

Operating as a conventional torpedo bomber for the first half of the war, the Swordfish – despite its antiquated appearance – had innumerable successes. From sinking the first U-boat sunk, to manning the first escort carriers, to rocket strikes on miniature submarines in river mouths in the last days of the war. From disabling the Bismarck and the Italian cruiser Zara in day actions to allow British battleships to catch them; to the first radar guided night attacks on ships and submarines of the war. From the spectacular success in daylight against the anchored French Fleet at Mers El Kebir, to that at night against the anchored Italian fleet at Taranto. (Where a mere 21 obsolescent Stringbags sunk or disabled 3 battleships, 2 cruisers, 2 destroyers, several other ships, a dozen seaplanes AND did the sort of damage to oil an port facilities against a well defended and prepared base during wartime that the Imperial Japanese Navy conspicuously failed to achieve with multiple strikes by ten times the number of much more advanced aircraft at an unprepared and practically defenceless Pearl Harbour during peacetime).

Of course the Swordfish had many failures too… failures that point to the fact that it HAD to change its role to survive.

The incredible manoeuvrability of the Swordfish meant that it was probably the only combat aircraft that could have slipped between the barrage balloons defending the Italian fleet at Taranto, but the appallingly slow speed meant it often couldn’t catch fast moving ships (like the French Dunkerque escaping at Mers El Kebir). It’s success against the Bismarck was partly due to the fact that it flew so incredibly slowly that the Bismarck’s anti aircraft predictors could not slow down enough, and constantly fired shells far in advance of the aircraft. Which was fine if there was no fighter cover! But a few months later the 6 Swordfish that tried to strike the German battle-cruisers and cruiser running up the Channel in daylight were sitting ducks to German fighters in daylight (despite some inadequate attempts at fighter escort). Both the British and German admirals commented very admiringly of their amazing courage and determination, but very much along the lines of the French general who witnessed the charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava…”it’s magnificent, but it’s not war!”

By 1942 the Swordfish, or its successor the Albacore (which it outlasted in service in the end), simply could not operate in daylight if the enemy had any sort of air cover. But the fact that they had Air–Surface search radar from mid 1941 meant that they remained effective strike aircraft at night, when the enemy COULDN’T intercept them.

This is where the TBM Avenger must be considered. Certainly technically the best torpedo bomber of the war, and one that served well into the 1950’s, it was nonetheless a failure at its first actions. At Midway for instance, 5 of the 6 available were smashed out of the sky (a much higher loss percentage than that of the slow and obsolete Devestator torpedo bombers they were replacing).  This is for the simple reason that even the best and fastest and most advanced torpedo bombers could not survive against fighter cover in daylight at this stage of the war. (Only much later in the war when the allies achieved overwhelming superiority could the Avenger’s operate safely…. But that same circumstance would have mead the Swordfish or Albacore or Devestator completely successful day torpedo bombers again, so that is not saying much).

So the Swordfish and Albacore could be considered more dangerous and unstoppable torpedo aircraft than the much more advanced Avenger for the two years it took until the Avenger could also operate as a night bomber. (Or for the 3 years until the Avenger had overwhelming fighter cover to get it through in daylight.)

Meanwhile of course, the Royal Navy had also adopted the Avenger, and also fitted it for night strikes. But still found jobs a plenty that the Swordfish could do, and the Avenger couldn’t.

First and foremost, was escort carriers. They were so small and slow, that a loaded Avenger usually needed them to be sailing full speed into the wind for a successful take-off, whereas a loaded Swordfish could often take off from one at anchor in harbour if there was even a moderate breeze over the deck. More importantly, if the convoys in the north Atlantic faced rough weather that tossed the ships up and down dramatically, the Swordfish was slow and manouvrable enough to continue the flying operations and landings that were inconceivable to faster more modern aircraft.

Next is flexibility. Swordfish operated successfully as seaplanes, floatplanes, ski-planes, land planes, and carrier planes. They operated from land bases too short for other aircraft; from fields too rough for other aircraft; and from frozen fjords too exposed to the elements for other aircraft. They flew from catapults on battleships and cruisers, from Merchant Catapult Ships, from Escort carriers and Fleet carriers. They operated as torpedo bombers, dive bombers, level bombers, rocket bombers, depth charge bombers; and in conditions ranging from arctic to desert airstrips, and from tropical cyclones to Atlantic sleet storms. They operated successfully both day and night (at a time when few other aircraft could), and continued to be successfully deployed to new tasks when many younger designs (including some specifically designed to replace them) failed to adapt to new needs.

After that comes survivability. Everyone was astonished how much damage a Swordfish could absorb and still come home. Rents, tears, holes in every surface, the Swordfish would just soldier on. (And could often be repaired with a few canvas patches hastily glued in place, and sent straight back into action.) The Swordfish was to aircraft what the USS Yorktown was to ships!

Finally, the Swordfish was simply the most successful torpedo bomber of the war. It damaged and sank more warships (German, Italian, Japanese and French!), more submarines, more merchant ships, more torpedo boats, more midget subs, more just about anything, than any other single type of plane in the inventory of either Axis or Allies. On one occasion in Libya, just three torpedoes from three land based Swordfish sank four ships (2 U-boats, a destroyer and a supply ship). In fact a single Swordfish group varying between 12 - 27 aircraft operating from Malta sank about half a million tons of Axis shipping in nine months – pretty much equivalent to the wartime totals of the Condor, or Judy, or Kate, or Beaufort, or B25, or Dauntless or Helldiver; and not much short of the total for the Avenger.


So, although there is no doubt that the Avenger was a much better aircraft; or that the Kate had a much more dramatic impact in its few short months of effectiveness; or the Beaufighter was incredibly more accurate: the simple fact is that – in so many ways – the best carrier torpedo bomber of WWII was a slow, lightly armed, almost completely obsolescent biplane, that just kept on finding new ways to do things no other aircraft could…

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Medal tallies, Great Power Politics, and Angry White Men!

One of the most amusing things about the 2016 Olympic Games was that the medal tally bore an astonishing resemblance to a table of post World War Two 'great power' nations.

Consider this 2016 medal tally list in terms of World War Two and the 1945 peace settlements, and where the various economic and colonial powers stood at the time.

1. US
2. Britain
3. China
4. Russia
5. Germany
6. Japan
7. France

Notice anything familiar about the pattern so far?

Below that, the tally becomes a little more interesting, with a surprise entrance by South Korea at number 8, but only in the last few days of the competition. Up until then the last spots switched a bit between 3 or 4 countries who eventually finished:

9. Italy
10. Australia
11. Netherlands

As Australians, we can be amused that we sneak in over the once great colonial power The Netherlands. Sometimes during the competition, we led France and Italy as well! We can also boast that we come in above Canada, which had, and still has, considerably greater population and GDP. (I suppose Canada has never taken sport as seriously as Australia... Do they even have a cricket team?)

Still, thinking about Canada brings up another interesting comparison.

Consider the Anglosphere.

The United States with way more than twice the population and close to three times the combined GDP, of the rest of the 'old' Anglosphere nations*  - Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland - still gets less medals (121) than the others (144).

Would it be fair to say that the US clearly isn't trying as hard as the rest of us?

Should we also note that the Anglosphere alone, despite consisting of only 6% of the worlds population, accounts for more than 26% of the world's medal tally?

Does this tell us anything useful about 'great powers' in general? Does it help explain why the Anglosphere has pretty much ordered the world for the last three centuries? Does it contribute to the global dominance of the English language? Or does it suggest that sports dominance equals 'soft' cultural power?

No idea, really. But someone should be able to get a research grant, even if only on the injustice of the Olympics being clearly a repressive representation of WASP culture. (After all, Catholic Ireland only counts for 8 of the Anglosphere's 265 medals... sort of proves the point really!).


What it does suggest, is that all those who claim the West in general, and the Anglosphere in particular, are in relative decline, had better check their numbers. On these figures, the Anglosphere will remain at the top of the podium for another century at least.


* (321 million US population vs a combined 130 million for the rest; and 17, 348,000 million US$ vs a combined $6,626,152 million according to Wikipedia''s Anglosphere article sourced 22.8.2016)

Friday, June 24, 2016

Brexit, and a ‘confusion’ of pollsters.


Well, I drafted this a couple of weeks ago, but got distracted and didn’t publish it until it’s too late (at least to be predictive). Shame really, I probably like being able to say ‘I told you so’, even more than the average egotist. Still, some of the points still have some relevance…

The reason pollsters get so much so wrong, is that they are just a subset of the chattering class.

They are university educated, inner urban, part of the ‘knowledge’ economy, and try to look like they are actually trendy. They hang out with the latte set, circulate mainly within the ‘goat-cheese circle’, and spend as much time as possible doing media commentary with like minded chattering class loonies.

The idea that their privileged, insular existence, leads them to fail to communicate with the great unwashed, pretty much fails to occur to them.

(Which could be why the Brussels bureaucrats, British chattering classes; conga line of international political twats from Obama to Turnball; and big business PR faces: all worked so hard to convince themselves that British voters would ignore Angela Merkels unilateral announcement of the collapse of the EU - when she announced an open door to Europe…  NOTE: I have long since been fond of saying that eventually the Germans would find their third attempt to take over Europe in a century might end no better than the other two… perhaps worse. Well now we’re going to find out.)

I occasionally succumb to curiosity about pollsters, and actually let a cold caller or an on-line survey through, just to see how unthinkingly biased the questions are. The sad fact is that I, like most people NOT of the chattering classes (despite the fact that I am a university educated inner urban professional with no kids) would usually hang up on such callers.

The other exceptions, who will actually answer questions, often being so bored and lonely, or starving for attention, that they will talk to anyone… often agreeing with whatever crap the interviewer clearly favours just to get approval.

When I do bother to answer, I am amazed at how clearly the preconceptions of the questioner come through.

Sometimes it is just the dreadful phrasing… Instead of saying ‘do you favour Brexit or Bremain?’, the question is actually more likely to be ‘are you willing to take the risk of flushing everything you have ever known down the toilet, or do you prefer stability?’. Amusingly, they usually don’t even realise this might be a problem.

I had enormous fun playing with these sorts of phrasings in first year Psychology class… it was great how you could – Yes Minister like – order 3 or 4 leading questions to get any answer you like…”

[Sir Humphrey demonstrates how public surveys can reach opposite conclusions]
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Mr. Woolley, are you worried about the rise in crime among teenagers?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Do you think there is lack of discipline and vigorous training in our Comprehensive Schools?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Do you think young people welcome some structure and leadership in their lives?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Do they respond to a challenge?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Might you be in favour of reintroducing National Service?
Bernard Woolley: Er, I might be.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Of course, after all you've said you can't say no to that. On the other hand, the surveys can reach opposite conclusions.
[survey two]
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Mr. Woolley, are you worried about the danger of war?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Are you unhappy about the growth of armaments?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Do you think there's a danger in giving young people guns and teaching them how to kill?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Do you think it's wrong to force people to take arms against their will?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Would you oppose the reintroduction of conscription?
[does a double-take]
Sir Humphrey Appleby: There you are, Bernard. The perfectly balanced sample.

The problem is, of course, that most modern pollsters don’t even realize that they are biasing the responses. They are simply convinced that ‘ALL RIGHT THINKING PEOPLE BELIEVE X’, so their questions are rarely phrased in a way that doesn’t assume that anyone who believes anything else must be a moron or a criminal deviant.

Even when the questions are actually better phrased, you can usually tell by the tone of voice how you are expected to respond.

I once tried saying the absolute opposite of whatever the pollster clearly wanted to one of these phone callers. You could hear the strain in his voice as he tried to sound as though he was just calmly going through questions while really thinking ‘this guy is a f******* idiot’.

Try it sometime, it can be fun... If you're really, really bored.

So the pollsters managed to avoid the obvious response of the huge number of people who are sick of politicians talking down to them, and convince themselves that their preferred outcome was obvious.

They managed to ignore the fact that all the Bremains Chicken Little Act (yes I mean you David ‘the sky will fall’ Cameron), was so clearly manipulative crap, and assume that people would be scared for it on mass. The obvious response – that people would be so pissed off at the lies they might revolt – apparently didn't occur to them. 

(Amusingly, the only ones to take it seriously appear to be… the chattering classes! Despite the fact that this is a tactic they themselves invented to manipulate the unwashed?)

You might imagine that the fact that they got last years British election so wrong (or the Scottish referendum so wrong, etc) by only listening to the feedback their prejudices demanded, might have had an effect? Apparently not.

It’s not that they are too wedded to their failed models, its that they are too wedded to their pre-conceptions.

I am irresistibly reminded of Australia’s referendum on a republic a while back. 

Every single member of the chattering class - every newspaper, every commentator, every radio program – was absolutely convinced the referendum would walk it in, in a land slide. The confusion when not a single state supported it. (I don’t count Hot Air Central as a useful political division, seeing the entire town is designed and built for the chattering classes to gorge themselves at the taxpayers trough.)

The only sad part is that the markets are so prone to gullibly swallow what the chattering commentators say, that they had their normal panick about the sky falling.
How dare people do what their betters have told them is wrong!

(I am actually going to the UK in a couple of weeks, and my wife is there now. Wish I had the organizational ability to jump on the exchange rate when the markets did their initial panick. Could have saved a fortune on what things will be back to almost immediately.)

Still it gives one to think about a few other things the pollsters are likely to screw up.
Donald Trump definitely won’t get anywhere in primaries… Well he won’t win the candidacy…. Well he can’t win the presidency…

Keep talking guys. The more you put down your own voters, the better he will do.

(Not saying that’s a good thing… the man’s a protectionist moron. But Obama and George W and Clinton and… well you get the idea… are not exactly sensible coherent internationalists are they? As a side comment, the US now is going through the weariness and incompetent insularity that led British interwar voters to simultaneously vote for more action to enforce peace, and disarmament, and believe both were not mutually exclusive! Possibly with similar consequences long term?)

Pollsters, if they want to reclaim any relevance, need to stop acting like those sad universities who actually sack anyone who dares to question the accepted orthodoxy just because it is based on distorting the facts to fit.

They have to actually accept that people who aren’t the elite few might have opinions that have value.

But that would require them to accept that their limited insular clique is not the one true holder of the truth?

The nobility managed it, eventually (well, after the occasional revolution). The clergy managed it, a bit (after enough child abuse scandals). The Marxists have gone underground (or to the Greens, or to anti-bullying programs). Perhaps the chatterers might manage it too?

Or will that require its own bloodletting?

Let’s ask the bureaucrats in Brussels?