So now we know. After three years of investigation at huge expense to the taxpayer, the Information Commissioner has found no evidence that Cambridge Analytica and its phantom Russian backers had any significant influence on the Brexit referendum. Now the natural question is how such an obvious conspiracy theory came to be taken seriously by a supposedly well-informed political class in the first place.
In truth, it’s not especially hard to explain the establishment’s irrational behaviour since the Brexit referendum. The endless search for scapegoats and shadowy international players is a helpful distraction from any meaningful introspection.
Whether it’s Russian trolls, social media manipulation or adverts on buses, the search for some explanatory Brexit aberration continues unabated.
While this sudden diversion down Conspiracy Cul-de-sac is a mystery to the average Brexit voter, it makes perfect sense to a large class of people who’ve spent their whole lives exercising political and cultural authority. How else can they explain that authority being rejected in the most spectacular fashion at the very moment it mattered most?
The Cambridge Analytica and Boris Bus controversies are proof positive that our cultural and political establishment have been living in a self-reinforcing bubble for many decades now. As a result of this detachment from our shared reality, a large chunk of the political class remains psychologically unable to grasp that the majority of the electorate sees a very different world to the one they inhabit. After all, if most voters believed the European Union was a net benefit, Britain would simply have voted Remain.