Election Diary: Full Facts, Squirrels and Northern Monkeys

A week packed with intrigue and deception took an twist yesterday with Arron Banks DM’s spilled into the public like an upturned truckload of silage (note the fake “Northern Monkeys”), only to be outclassed by the Tories James Cleverly ordering the re-branding of their Twitter account as ‘Fact Check UK”.

It’s one thing for some rando-hacker to have a go at Banks, but it’s another for the governing party to blatantly spread disinformation. This is an incredible lurch into blatant disinformation during an election campaign – now unapologetically defended by Dominic Raab on national media this morning. As one person noted “The Tory press office’s rebranding of their Twitter account as #FactCheckuk is more sinister than seems at face value, because it casts doubt on the veracity of all #FactCheck accounts. Straight out of the Trump playbook.”

Meanwhile the Lib Dems stagger on with their terminally irritating leader casually combining a love for the liberalism of Jacinda Ardern with the unhesitating ability to unleash weapons of mass destruction …

The ITV live debate had all the trappings of a US presidential debate and successfully excluded the SNP, the UK’s third largest party. By doing so we encounter the reality outlined by the writer Gary Younge that “we have all become so inured to the naked rightwing partisanship of the British media that it barely registers beyond a knowing shrug. But somehow we never quite seem to compensate for its effect in our politics. Its persistent power has produced a corrosive democratic deficit.”

It’s not a conspiracy to observe how insidious the media is. Younge again:

“It is simply not possible to make an informed decision when one is routinely, wilfully and cynically misinformed … People think they are immune to all of this. They’re not. We can and do, of course, make up our own minds. But we don’t make them up out of thin air. Boris Johnson’s “Teflon qualities”, Labour’s “incomprehensible” Brexit policy or Jeremy Corbyn’s “leadership failings” are all remarked upon as though they are unrivalled facts rather than judgments, all mediated through an almighty filter with extreme prejudice. The framing is so dominant and pervasive, and reproduced so consistently, omnisciently and persistently, that it ceases to feel like a frame at all.”

Of course he’s right about the constant oblique attacks on Corbyn, but for Sturgeon she’s simply “disappeared”.

Where are all the liberal commentators who stoutly defended the right of Steve Bannon to have a platform on BBC Scotland and whined their incoherent whines about “free speech”? Where are they now? Nowhere to be seen.

Anyway, the “leaders debate” was toe-curling stuff, with two deeply unconvincing characters wheeling-out an array of cliched policies, both eliciting laughter from the audience. Neither are trusted or believed. So we are in a state of disbelief: a country led by someone everyone knows is a liar, a man who is laughed at when he mentions the truth and who called the monarchy ‘beyond reproach’.

The ITV host repeatedly struggled to contain Johnson as he spun smear and dogwhistle politics about immigration, and even managed to call Labour a “cesspit of anti-semitism”.

“framing is so dominant and pervasive, and reproduced so consistently, omnisciently and persistently, that it ceases to feel like a frame at all”

Johnson wheeled repeatedly to the issue of a Scottish referendum, playing well to a Salford audience. How extraordinary to be in an election where an entire debate takes place about the constitution without the SNP present? As playwright Peter Arnott put it:

Neither leader remotely engaged in anything outside of a tiny, fetid bubble of Westminster Swamp gas. Neither has any conception, let alone imaginative solidarity, with any of the “regions and nations.” The social fabric of the UK is a fiction. The Union is the walking dead.

This entire election feels like a poorly staged denouement of British political life, staggering forwards in a dystopian flurry of lies, fake news and absurdity.

 

Comments (4)

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  1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    Thanks for this helpful synopsis.

    A couple of comments:

    1. I rate Mr Gary Younge as a journalist and generally find myself in agreement with his articles. However, with the exceptions of Suzanne Moore, John Harris, George Monbiot and, surprisingly, but welcomely, Simon Jenkins, the Guardian is on the whole, one of the most metrocentric, anglocentric newspapers that there is. It routinely denigrates Scotland (and Wales and Northern Ireland) in fairly colonialist language and its ‘ScotlandTeam’ led by Severin Carrell are pretty much purveyors of ‘Scotland baad’. Occasionally, their are accidental bits of praise for Scotland, when, say, a health correspondent will compare NHS data for England unfavourably with equivalent data for Scotland. The Guardian is one of the attack dogs with regard to alleged antisemitism in the Labour Party.

    2. While last night’s ITV debate between Messrs Corby and Johnson, was not particularly informative, I personally thought that Mr Corbyn was significantly better than the PM. He actually attempted to answer the questions and – most importantly – to widen the debate on to issues like the environment, poverty, health services. To equate them, as you have done, is cavalier and, indeed, plays into Mr Johnson’s hands. We all know that he is a mendacious and incompetent character and he knows we know. To equate Mr Corbyn – who has been pretty true to his principles throughout his career – with Mr Johnson, is to accept the “Politicians are all the same” trope which encourages voter cynicism and apathy and in the erroneous belief that “politics cannot change anything”. I and, I assume you, will be voting SNP at the forthcoming election because we believe that politics CAN change things for the better.

    Recently you wrote an article about Rangers FC which brought near apoplectic response from some blue noses. It has been a lazy commonplace in Scottish football to equate Rangers with Celtic – “one’s as bad as the other.” This is manifestly not true. There are significant differences between the policies of the clubs and have been for much of their histories. Celtic FC are not immune from criticism, but they should be criticised for those specific aspects and not make the assumption that the sins and misdemeanours associated with Rangers apply equally to Celtic. You have been one of the few Scottish journalists (along with such as Graham Speirs) to take this nuanced approach. Therefore, it is puzzling why you are equating Mr Corbyn with Mr Johnson – one of the most appalling characters in UK politics in my 72 years, and there have been some nasty ones. But Johnson is down in the sub-basement with the worst of them.

    1. Thanks Alasdair – I’m not equating them – I think Jeremy Corbyn is a significantly better human being than Boris Johnson (not a very high bar) and if I was living in England I’d vote for him.
      Ive written and published many many times on Johnson’s multiple crimes, gaffs, lies and deceptions.

      I think Corbyn won the debate.

      My point is that neither is very inspiring – and neither inspires confidence and both were laughed at. I think these things are true. I found the debate bizarre and of a very low quality in every respect and I find the campaign the same.

    2. Jo says:

      Alasdair

      One of the things I noticed after the “debate” last night on the Guardian live blog and in articles popping up, which they termed “analysis”, was the criticism of Corbyn for not going for the jugular when trust was raised. Critics pointed out he should have buried Johnson over personal issues from his private life, affairs etc. But that isn’t who Corbyn is. He wants to talk policies and change in a civil manner without throwing dirt. What’s wrong with that?

      I didn’t enjoy the debate. I just find it impossible to believe that Johnson is tolerated as a serious candidate. I also found Etchingham’s suggestion to be “nice” …. which led to that excruciating handshake… ridiculous!

      Awful! Just awful.

      As I’ve said before, politics is a dirty business but changing that needs a clean media. Our media is toxic.

  2. Jo says:

    It’s time broadcasters introduced mics that can be cut off so that people like Johnson don’t get to behave as he did last night. Julie Etchingham’s attempts to rein him in were inadequate and useless. Well, she’s female, why on earth would Johnson pay attention?

    Also, if ITV insist on blocking the SNP from the debate how bloody dare they discuss Scotland!

    The journalist Gary Younge, while making valid points about the treatment of Corbyn and Labour by the media, omits to mention that the paper he writes for, the Guardian, is a serial offender. At editorial level the Guardian and many of its columnists have embraced the smears, the plots and the poison unleashed since Corbyn was elected. Toynbee, Cohen, Freedland and its many other “opinion” columnists have gone to town. Over the period its comments facilities have been severely cut back.

    Only ten days ago, Freedland tweeted that a Labour candidate (called Mahmood) had been axed over anti-Semitism allegations. The Guardian reproduced his tweet on its live politics blog. A bit later Freedland tweeted again to admit he’d named another person with the same name. No “sorry”, just, “…so I’ve deleted my earlier tweet.” Below the line he was challenged on his journalistic standards…why no checking of the facts? The Guardian’s Moderation team sprang into action and comments criticising Freedland were deleted. To add insult to injury, we were treated to a further attack from Freedland the next day in his column about why Corbyn was a danger to Jews. (Comments were disabled, of course.)

    Gary Younge may very well disapprove of all this. As he says….

    “It is simply not possible to make an informed decision when one is routinely, wilfully and cynically misinformed … People think they are immune to all of this. They’re not. We can and do, of course, make up our own minds. But we don’t make them up out of thin air. Boris Johnson’s “Teflon qualities”, Labour’s “incomprehensible” Brexit policy or Jeremy Corbyn’s “leadership failings” are all remarked upon as though they are unrivalled facts rather than judgments, all mediated through an almighty filter with extreme prejudice.”

    ….but the very paper he works for is up to its neck in the judgements and prejudices he grieves over. He needs to call it out.

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