- Date published:
9:05 am, October 26th, 2019 - 54 comments
Categories: boris johnson, Donald Trump, facebook, Media, spin, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, uncategorized, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: brexit, Claire robinson
I think our democracy is in for a rough time. I get the feeling that the right in Aotearoa New Zealand and elsewhere think that the truth is a nice to have, and not a necessity when it comes to campaigning. Clearly winning is more important than being honest.
There have been some pretty jaw dropping examples of political dishonesty in the western world this week.
Like in Australia where Federal Minister Angus Taylor used a forged document to attack the Labor Mayor of Sydney over travel related emissions. The document he used was clearly shown to be a forgery. He could have apologised immediately and cooperated with police so the source could be discovered. Instead he doubled down and in true tory fashion refused to properly apologise. He claimed there was “clear evidence” on the council’s own website “that there are different versions of the same report online right now”. Plonker. He should explain to the police how he came in possession of a forgery. It seems pretty clear it did not come from the Council’s website.
Or in England where the Conservative Party produced a social media onslaught claiming that the Brexit Bill had been passed.
Come on. The bill has not passed. It went through the second reading. It still has to go through the committee stage as well as the House of Lords.
And in America there was further reason to be concerned. A bunch of Republican lawmakers planned to storm the Trump impeachment hearing to protest a “lack of transparency”. But the funny thing is there are 48 Republican lawmakers who have access to the hearing as a matter of right. And 13 of those were amongst the protesters. This was a stunt based on a lie.
This was all brought to significance through some very effective questioning of Facebook’s Matt Zuckerberg by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez who showed that by asking very short simple questions and demanding answers the truth will come out. Here is the video.
There were a couple of pearlers. If it is acceptable to Facebook for advertisements to claim that individual Republicans had voted for the Green New Deal when they had not then very little will be out of bounds. And having a group with white supremacy links do the fact checking for Facebook does not fill me with a great deal of comfort.
And the right’s media strategy was laid out for all to see. The use of naff boomer themes that are easily shareable apparently work best. From the Guardian:
Two political campaigners hired by the Conservatives to run their digital campaign at the next general election previously helped run an enormous Facebook propaganda network.
Sean Topham and Ben Guerin have been employed to improve the party’s online operations, following a disastrous 2017 election when the Tories were outgunned by Labour in internet campaigning.
This summer, it was revealed how Sir Lynton Crosby’s CTF Partners used Facebook to run a large-scale professional disinformation network on behalf of paying clients including major polluters, the Saudi Arabian government, anti-cycling groups and various foreign political campaigns.
Documents seen by the Guardian show that Topham and Guerin, while working as contractors for CTF Partners, had oversight of dozens of these pages which sidestepped Facebook’s rules on transparent political campaigning, reaching tens of millions of people on behalf of paying clients while appearing to be grassroots independent news sources. All parties have previously pointed out that they operated entirely within the law.
And this “talent” was born and nurtured in New Zealand.
The pair’s arrival comes after their success helping Australia’s rightwing coalition unexpectedly win the country’s general election, where they were praised by local media for their understanding of how to fight online campaigns. Purposefully low-quality memes based around popular shows such as Game of Thrones were used in a bid to drive interactions – good or bad – at any cost, on the basis that this would boost the reach of future Facebook posts.
“We’d make them really basic and deliberately lame because they’d get shares and lift our reach; that made our reach for the harder political messages higher,” an anonymous individual told the Sydney Morning Herald, dubbing the strategy “boomer memes” as the content appealed to older audiences.
This all ties into the hearing this week to determine if Parliament’s rules on the use of broadcast material should be relaxed. Of course National has done a double backward summersault on the issue. They were the ones who insisted that the rules stay the way they were, now they are presenting this as some sort of attack on freedom of speech.
At the hearing they had some help from their friends, notably former Bolger Government staffer and appropriately named Spin Doctor Claire Robinson. Trevor Mallard ripped into her for her disingenuity. The Herald has the details:
[Spin Doctor] Robinson took a different view, saying political advertisements should be allowed to be inaccurate or misleading.
“These are very clearly ads. These are not videos that pretend to be an accurate representation of Parliament. That exists already, in its unadulterated form, on Parliament TV … for people to see if they want to.”
She said it “beggars belief” that Labour wanted no commentary, music or mashing up of video extracts in its use of footage for political advertising.
“It actually singles Labour out as a dinosaur when it comes to the latest forms of political communication.
“Labour may not like the way it is being attacked by National at the moment. Labour may consider itself above that form of attack. But this is insufficient reason to revise the Standing Orders simply to suit Labour.”
Mallard took exception to Robinson’s submission.
“I’m exceptionally unhappy with your characterisation of this inquiry, which is done at my behest and not the Labour Party’s behest.
“Your frankly offensive description of me … I was offended by it. The decision to have this inquiry was mine.”
Robinson tried to engage Mallard on his comments, but he cut her off.
He then asked her about an ad that featured edited footage of Cabinet Minister David Parker saying “I hate farmers”, taken from a video clip where the full quote was: “The member says, ‘I hate farmers.’ I do not hate farmers.”
This led to a further argument about what qualified as a political advertisement under the Electoral Act.
Robinson said that the ad should be permitted as long as it carried an endorsement from the political party running the ad.
You can see why this is important to National. They want the ability to run ads such as the doctored video showing David Parker saying “I hate farmers” ad infinitum. And Facebook is happy to help them.
Stand by as we have one of the dumbest election campaigns in political history.