Monday, 18 February 2019

The problem is us.

I absolutely detest Kate Hoey. Watch the video and you'll see why. She is the personification of the Dunning Kruger effect. She has absolutely no idea how thick she is. She has no comprehension of why she evokes such strong feeling against her. She goes through life thinking that the problem is other people.

But then I suppose she's probably right. The problem is us. We put her where she is. One of the things I hate about politics is that my fellow leavers will support this creature because she is a Brexiter. The reason we have shitty MPs is because we set the bar so low. We are basically fine with morons so long as they agree with us.

Why Lexiters support this drongo beats the hell out of me. She gave out copies of Liam Halligan's "Clean Brexit" book to her friends at Christmas. It's an ultra Tory libertarian tract based on the dribble of Gerard Lyons and his wildly askew misunderstanding of the WTO. There is no inquiry or scrutiny of an individual so long as they're on side.

This in a big way is the whole problem with Brexit. It cannot be resolved by binary positions. The basic constitutional question of who governs us is binary and the easiest question of all to answer. How we deliver it and what comes next is open to a world of debate and disagreement. Yet, without examination of the issues, people will pick a side on the basis of where gatekeepers stand on the issue. There's a digital feudalism at work.

I suppose that is only to be expected. People generally look to people they identify with. Superficially Kate Hoey is a run of the mill Brexiter and if you didn't know what a nasty piece of work she is you could very easily mistake her for a nice lady. People will generally outsource their thinking and do very little of their own. What people want is to have their own opinions tidied up and spoonfed back to them. 

I could grumble about this but that much is never going to be fixed. It's human nature and propaganda will always work. What we need from our politicians, though, is a higher standard. We need them to recognise they have an obligation to be properly informed. They have no excuses not to be informed. They have the time and the resources.

What we find, though, is that MPs all too often rely almost entirely on British media. Yesterday an MP tweeted a Daily Mail article which reported remarks made to The Sun by Dominic Raab. Says The Sun:
BREXIT scaremongers were exposed as hoaxers last night after their warnings of No Deal chaos were finally demolished. EU chiefs have secretly agreed measures to ensure transport links with Britain are maintained, The Sun on Sunday can reveal.
Former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab said: "It is welcome that the EU wants to agree reciprocal arrangements for a No Deal. This pierces the Project Fear myths and shows that the UK and EU can work sensibly together".

The actual source of this is the EU's own contingency measures announced in a press release in mid December. I cannot see that there is anything new or newsworthy about it yet neither the Daily Mail or The Sun picked up on it, or properly stressed that these are limited temporary measures where only basic connectivity is maintained - and though this brings some remedy to the customs concerns, full regulatory controls will apply in respect of conformity to standards.

It wouldn't wouldn't actually matter if either newspaper had emphasised this because generally the headline is all that people will read. One thing I note from running this blog is that the number of retweets has no relationship to the number of click-throughs. Again that is human nature and I'm sometimes guilty of that myself. I will retweet something without reading it.

This is why the tabloids are actually grossly irresponsible. They know better than anyone how this works yet they take no responsibility for the damage they do. They knowingly mislead their audiences. They are every bit as culpable for "fake news" as any Russian bot farm.

This then opens us the murky question of press regulation. Instinctively I oppose the sort of measures proposed since they tend to point the finger at social media and place obligations on them to filter content. That then demotes independent sources such as this blog and gives preference to mainstream media which is more culpable than orchestrated black propaganda.

There is, though, a case for the legacy media to answer. All too often they produce content which does not support the headline, or in this case allow themselves to be used. The Sun's editor should have known full well it was reporting on old news.

As it happens, Twitter wasn't buying it. Any MP who did retweet the article will have seen angry corrections in the replies. Being that they are in transmit mode only, though, they will continue to assert that a lie is the truth. Of itself that should be a news story - that the Brexiter MPs are engaging in a systematic campaign of lying. Certainly there is no propaganda Kate Hoey won't gleefully retweet. 

So with MPs failing to inform themselves and a media which knowingly misinforms its readers, and with readers only too happy to allow themselves to be misinformed, very often cheering on a fraud like Rees-Mogg purely on the basis of who he "triggers", there is no basis for informed debate. 

It once was the purpose of media to hold politicians to account as an essential pillar of our democracy. I think probably that was always a conceit and our media is no better or worse than it has ever been. The emergence of blogs and Twitter allows the public to step in and perform that role. The problem, though, is that for all there are some excellent investigative tweeters and bloggers, none of them have institutional prestige or media recognition thus are condemned to toil in obscurity. The public still prefers trusted brands despite the overwhelming evidence that our media is universally malevolent.

Probably the only thing we can really do is teach media literacy from an early age and encourage media scepticism. We're not going to get better politicians and the media is not going to improve because we, the public, give them licence. Even those who think they are free thinkers are susceptible to manipulation. It is a constant source of amusement to me that Brexiters rail against "the establishment" then in the same breath will retweet an article in The Spectator.

I have written a great deal lately about the merging of politics, think tankery and media and its manifest inadequacies. This toxic self-regarding bubble has a total monopoly on the narratives and with it being centred in London, it is increasingly estranged from normal standards of decency. This is how the Owen Joneses and the Dunning Krugers of this world reach positions of mass influence. The whole jamboree is repellent to anyone with a shred of integrity which is why our politics is so devoid of it. Until we break up the Westminster grip on power, we will continue to be victims of its poison.

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