Media dissect Brexit with an eye toward finance, politics and soccer

The cable news networks morphed into a golf resort infomercial Friday as they aired Donald Trump in Turnberry, Scotland while he heralded the supposedly wondrous renovations and management at a renowned course.

Then, after what seemed longer than 18 bogey-filled holes amid the seaside winds and heather, he opened up to questions and their thrust was unavoidable: the vote by Great Britain to leave the European Union.

 CAMERON PLANS TO RESIGN," declared The New York Times on its primary news story.

This was a day on which print tended to have greater allure than TV due to the complexity of the matter, confusion about what beckons in the short term and what it might all mean in the grand scheme of things internationally. Doubt intermingled with somewhat apocalyptic visions and, of course, a glut of hot takes that were in sync with the particular niche of various publications.

"We are truly in uncharted waters. No country has ever left the EU before," wrote Slate's chief business writer, Jordan Weissmann.

That was agreed upon by The New York Times with coverage whose mere quantity argued for the epic nature of the event: "Britain, a nation whose storied history has encompassed the birth of constitutional government, global empire, royal pageantry and heroic defense against fascism, is entering unknown territory."

Some seemed to think the results were fairly clear, such as Politico, at least when it came to its distinctly American-centric take. British voters "ignored President Barack Obama, handed Hillary Clinton a potential economic burden and injected new energy into the populist currents roiling politics on both sides of the Atlantic." Subsequent polling presumably would inform us if Obama's urgings mattered one way or another.

What clearly did matter, for the pocketbooks of many millions, was the initial response of financial markets. As Reuters reported, "World stocks saw more than $2 trillion wiped off their value on Friday as Britain's vote to leave the European Union triggered 5-10 percent falls across Europe's biggest bourses and a record plunge for sterling." It could possibly move our Federal Reserve from raising interest rates "and might even provoke a new round of emergency policy easing from all the major central banks."

That was generally understandable even to those who grope to balance their modest checkbooks. But there was more financially cerebral analyses, such as Bloomberg's, which informed how "'Sigma-tized' might be one way of describing Friday's markets in the aftermath of Britain's historic vote to leave the European Union."

"Sigma-tized?" It turns out that "Statistical theory holds that 68 percent of all observations in a normal distribution lie within one standard deviation of the average of that sample. Events that lie on the fringes of this distribution are defined by a number of sigmas, which denote the increasing improbability of this outcome being realized." There you go.

Everybody wanted a piece of this story, including live bloggers such as those found at The Atlantic. Gawker weighed in with, "Donald Trump Is Stoked About Brexit — On An Unrelated Note, What Is Brexit?" But the glories of the digital age were perhaps underscored less by the satire than by all the smart folks who could weigh in quickly, including via foreign policy magazines that once had publication lead times of months.

"The Long Road to Brexit" in Foreign Policy offered its macro take: "Markets are stunned. Commenters are shocked. But future historians may view this moment as inevitable."

"That the United Kingdom — led by England and Wales — voted by a clear majority this week to leave the European Union has shocked the world," wrote Robert Tombs. "...If we take a longer view, this result is not surprising; future historians may even regard it as inevitable. As it has done many times in the past, Britain will now renegotiate a new relationship with its near neighbors and with the wider world."

What will happen next? Well, CNBC offered some seeming answers. Though outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron could ignore the will of the majority, the legal process for leaving the bloc beckons. That would mean "a series of negotiations would begin about how to disentangle the U.K. from the many EU structures to which it is a party. The process could take two years or more, if both the U.K. and the European Council agree to extend the discussion period."

No surprise, the volume and passion of coverage in Great Britain far outstripped what one found elsewhere. In the U.S., there were obviously other stories during a big 24 hours of news, which included the Supreme Court handing Obama a big defeat on his immigration policy.

But, in England, it was all Brexit, quite naturally. Early breakdowns of the voting reminded one of similar micro-dissections found after presidential primaries this year. For example, the BBC noted the generational split found in early tweeting.

"Some of the most visceral reaction to the Leave vote came under two related hashtags: 'Not in my name' and 'What have we done' shot into Twitter's top trends list on Friday morning and were used more than 20,000 times combined."

Of course, "Twitter does not reflect the general population's view," the BBC cautioned. But since its demographic skews much younger than the country's population as a whole, it seemed clear that youth were more inclined to vote to stay in the European Union, "and thus many commenters using the hashtags were decrying the result."

The Guardian, no friend of David Cameron, tended to a classical analogy as it assessed a seeming modern-day calamity.

"They used to call it Greek tragedy when the fates wrought their revenge on human folly and weakness," wrote Martin Kettle. "But maybe a better term in the case of the folly and weakness of the modern Tory party is European tragedy. For, as a broken David Cameron announced his resignation on Friday morning, one question must have been battering his exhausted brain more than any other."

And then there were reminders that there were an awful lot of ways for the press to slice the story. The Washington Post's coverage include an entire opus the possible relationship between the vote and a major European soccer tournament now underway throughout France.

"Europe is in crisis. So is its favorite sport. Can a soccer tournament show the way forward?" it asked.

"The tournament has long been a symbol of European unity. Long before the euro became legal tender, soccer was common currency." Well, that's correct. But the tournament has also brought "terrorism, racism, rioting and hooliganism." It's been rather untidy. Oh, yes, it's also been a period in which the sports is experiencing "corrupt officials, blackmail plots, lurid sex scandals and accusations of cheating."

Those don't quite seem the ingredients of post-Brexit harmony. But The Post seems to be taking a glass half-filled approach in finding "signs of hope so far in France: a tiny island nation’s (Iceland's) exaltation at a last-second goal; an aging, iconoclastic Hungarian goalie’s heroics; a French hero born 6,000 miles from France; an Irish miracle and a chance for revenge."

"The tournament can’t fix all that is ailing the sport, let alone Europe. But can it show the continent a way forward?"

The press consensus elsewhere Friday was it's a long shot.

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    James Warren

    New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S. News & World Report. Former managing editor and Washington Bureau Chief, Chicago Tribune.


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