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Truth, boomer memes and the next election campaign

Written By: - 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: ,

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.

54 comments on “Truth, boomer memes and the next election campaign”

  1. Sanctuary 1

    I was talking to friend of mine about this the other day. He is a quite well known MMO gamer and in his own modest way, reasonably respected in the online world.

    He pointed out that Facebook allows you to tailor ads that focus on your individual prejudices in way that amplifies and weaponises them. I asked him want could be done to regulate social media. His response? Well, first remember this is a guy who lives online and is as future embracing and modern and tech savvy as you can get. He has thought about these things alot.

    And his solution?

    Ban political advertising of any kind on all social media platforms at least one year out from a general election. A blanket ban removes any excuse from the likes of Facebook that it is too hard to police.

    Print and broadcast is fine. It allows you to get out your policies and message as we always have.

    • Ad 1.1

      Facebook own't allow that.

      Hard to see any western-style democracy going for it.

      You'd need Chinese-level censorship to achieve it.

    • Dukeofurl 1.2

      We have a 'sort of ban law' now. Political advertising now has to have an authoriser statement. Doesnt matter if its directly asking to Vote National or its a 3rd party campaign, all types of 'political themes' must have name and address of authoriser. yes it only applies to 3 months? before election day.

      But how do we get facbook to remove those ads that dont ?

      • mickysavage 1.2.1

        Only if it is above the threshold which is $13.2k. That is a heap of facebook pushing. There is also the complication that commentary is not included.

  2. JustMe 2

    Between now and the next election I am sure we can be well assured that the NZ National Party will do its damndest to send out deliberately mis-leading advertising discrediting this government. It should be considered their(National's) Modus Operandi.

    Clearly National will demean itself to any level just to get back into government. It just shows how we must stare clear of them at the voting booths.

    To date I wouldn't trust a National MP as far as I would like to throw one.

  3. Dukeofurl 3

    " Conservative Party produced a social media onslaught claiming that the Brexit Bill had been passed."

    The image provided says” the deal” had passed , which it had. It was a requirement of parliament that an indicative vote be passed, and it was . This is what eluded May , and eluded Johnston before as well so is some achievement.

    Surely you cant be claiming the follow on 100 page Brexit Details Bill not having passed -it could take a week , a month who knows- constitutes a falsehood ?

    • Incognito 3.1

      Unattended blowtorch on roof makes it unsafe to swim in Viaduct Basin area

      Can you parse that?

      • Dukeofurl 3.1.1

        I have no idea either ? Is this even connected to Political Falsehoods

        • Incognito 3.1.1.1

          If you answer the question with an affirmative, you’ve understood what the OP is about IMO and how these things work in an election campaign. If you answer the question with a negative, I believe you did not get the gist of the OP; same if you don’t know how to answer. In other words, paraphrasing George Lakoff, don’t think of a blowtorch 😉

          • Dukeofurl 3.1.1.1.1

            European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill: Second Reading

            Ayes: 329 (Tellers: Stuart Andrew, Iain Stewart)

            Noes: 299 (Tellers: Nic Dakin, Nick Smith)

            Question accordingly agreed to and Bill read a second time.

            • mickysavage 3.1.1.1.1.1

              By every definition the law has not passed. It still requires committee stage, third reading, House of Lords consideration and royal assent.

              • Dukeofurl

                Mickey , you should read the source documents to get a better understanding of what has happened and whats to come. The Brexit Deal vote has passed !

                "Withdrawal Agreement Debate (22 October 2019)

                2nd reading Aye 329 No 299

                Approval Rapid Timetable ( procedural)

                Aye 308 No 322

                Technical Withdrawal Amendments as Regulations (23 October 2019)

                Repeal of Freedom of Movement

                Repeal of EU Regulatory Oversight

                Repeal of EU Financial Services Regulations

                All passed.

                In reality its a procedural nightmare for outsiders as thereare cascading series of Bills, Procedural, indicative votes and Amendments to regulations votes.

                The Commons Library has spelt out here

                "What are the UK’s requirements for ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement?"

                In July 2018 Parliament passed the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (‘the 2018 Act’). Section 13 of that Act states that a Withdrawal Agreement treaty cannot be ratified unless four conditions have been met:

                • copies of both the negotiated Withdrawal Agreement and the Framework for the Future Relationship have been laid before both Houses, with a “statement that political agreement has been reached”[ Done]
                • the House of Commons has, on a motion of a Minister, approved those documents (the so-called ‘Meaningful Vote’[Done]
                • the House of Lords has had the opportunity, on a motion of a Minister, to “take note of” those documents[Done]; and
                • a further Act of Parliament to implement the Withdrawal Agreement has been passed.[In progress]

                Another guide for the meaningful Vote

                "Section 13 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (theWithdrawal Act) sets out a scheme whereby the Government must secure explicit Parliamentary approval for any “deal” reached between the UK and EU negotiators.

                The Deal vote has passed ! What is now happening the ( First) Bill required for the Brexit legislation is procedding , and a whole pile of other follow on bills can be done as well.

                As is typical of the Remainers, first they said they wanted to stop No deal Exit, and yet when Johnson had his revised 'Deal with EU passed' the remainers are still obstructing the legislation process, nor do they want an election, as the real aim is for a 2nd Referendum or more explicitly from Lib Dems -'just cancel Brexit'

                • Incognito

                  You seem to be overlooking a fairly crucial four-letter word but irrespective, it comes down on how you parse the tweet.

                  • Dukeofurl

                    I probably have been long winded and in a round about way saying 'The deal' has a specific meaning for Brexit .

                    People in UK would understand it, as meaning Parliament has voted for the Full Deal as arranged by Johnson and EU. This had to happen before the Withdrawal Bill could be debated and the whole attendant Regulations and Bills that follow could happen.

                    A couple of weeks back Mickey had another misunderstanding about a No deal Brexit not paying the 'Divorce costs'. There is nothing wrong with walking from a conditional agreement and not be liable for a cent. The Brexit deal only became unconditional once it was approved by parliament, and agreement to pay the costs over 5 years or so- there is a phase out of the Customs Union as well, so that much will happen on Brexit day now the deal is done and the legislation is underway

  4. Pat 4

    The status quo (including the MSM) was never going to roll over and surrender and they are fighting for survival.

    It may explain the proliferation of protest throughout the world

  5. AB 5

    Thanks for tying these events together Mickey. The contrast between the intellectually flabby, self-serving horror of Claire Robinson's defence of dishonesty, and the principled clarity of AOC's attack on the Zuck has been doing my head in. Capitalism throws up monsters.

  6. TootingPopularFront 6

    I assume this is the same National Party that got this banned https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDscbVWRBCw?

    [Corrected typo again in user handle]

  7. Ad 7

    If the left aren't prepared to play to what new media requires, they will keep losing.

    New media aren't going to go away.

    We'll need more than Jacinda's wedding to give us power in the media to overcome the power of distortions.

    What we need is convincing results from a delivering government.

    • Incognito 7.1

      What we need is convincing results from a delivering government.

      You have just defined the battleground of the coming and in fact all election campaigns 😉

    • Sacha 7.2

      New media does not 'require' lying any more than old media does.

  8. RedBaronCV 8

    I saw somewhere that facebook tests it's in new stuff in New Zealand because we have most of our friend links in country and don't get the same level of tech scrutiny. Don't know if that is still so..

    I'd agree with ban the lot on the internet – closely followed by a copy of the ads running on parliament TV and a voluntary effort from the left on memes.

    Imagine some of this is already going on – spoke to someone who was all fired up about Jacinda having the baby at the UN- seemed to think that she had taken the child into the business part rather than a family catch up at the end captured by press. Voluntary or not?

  9. alwyn 9

    Out of curiosity can you tell me whether one would be allowed to run an ad that said.

    "The Labour led Government promised, in the KiwBuild scheme, to build 1,000 houses in the year to June 2019, another 5,000 in the year to 2020, and a further 10,000 in the year to 2021". Then could you point out that the real numbers were nothing like that.

    Or do you think such ads should be banned?

    https://www.labour.org.nz/faq_kiwibuild

    • Ad 9.1

      Anyone expecting truth in an election campaign is a moron.

      • Wensleydale 9.1.1

        I don't think anyone realistically expects it… but it would be nice.

      • Stuart Munro. 9.1.2

        I guess the wretched current generation never read their Blake:

        A truth that's told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent.

        This was the rule of political discourse prior to Key's lie fest, which took us into the post truth era. The tragedy was how pathetically the MSM folded.

    • Wensleydale 9.2

      Anyone lying by omission, twisting the facts, employing fudged statistics or being purposefully disingenuous should be pilloried, irrespective of their political loyalties. Wearing a red rosette (or green, or black) shouldn't give you a free pass to tell porkies.

    • Incognito 9.3

      As a man of facts, I thought you would be keener on an ad comparing what the Government is delivering compared to what the three National governments have done over nine years.

      This Government is not trying to hide the facts: https://www.hud.govt.nz/news-and-resources/statistics-and-research/government-build-programme-housing-dashboard/

      I’ll leave it to you to list the ‘accomplishments’ of the Opposition in this area.

      BTW, we don’t run ads on this site but we do frown on people who stir up shit for the sake of it.

      Did you make a submission to Mallard’s inquiry because that’s where your hypothetical question belongs IMO, not here on TS.

    • McFlock 9.4

      Was kiwibuild NZFirst and Green policy during the election? If not, then the government-to-be didn't promise it.

      If you are referring to the details announced after the government was formed, then it would probably be fine – depending on whether a "plan" is a "promise" along the lines of "whatever it takes".

  10. Macro 10

    Well I'm hoping to see lots of ads claiming National will cut Superannuation by half, send grandchildren to feed crocodiles, plan to vote for an increased tax on large SUVs, and introduce a CGT on the family home and farm.

    Mind you this is nothing new, dancing cossacks, hammer and sickles, and unlabeled graphs spring to mind*.

    *Oh yes! Those were run by the National Party.

  11. Ad 11

    Fox News is so powerful because it enables its opinion show Fox and Friends to dominate all other Fox shows.

    https://www.theguardian.com/media/2019/oct/25/fox-news-watching-what-i-learned

    Fox news isn't going to go away either.

    There needs to be a left-leaning equivalent to Fox News with a lot more opinion and a lot less reliance on facts.

  12. Stuart Munro. 12

    Difficult as the issue is, of deliberately fake and misleading ads, Facebook is properly reluctant to become the arbiter of political truth. That determination must be made outside social media providers, in the NZ context presumably by the likes of the electoral commission. The truth having been ascertained or objectionableness determined, it is then appropriate to expect social media to take down content expeditiously, and to that end, to provide access to posted material to electoral authorities so that they can make such determinations in a timely fashion.

    • Dukeofurl 12.1

      NZ Advertisning Standards has already rules against National Party ads on Facebook that were misleading

      "The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found against a Facebook advertisement promoted by the party attacking the Government's proposed 'feebate policy' and the accompanying fuel efficiency standard. The ASA said it was "likely to mislead consumers".

      https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/115736503/ad-watchdog-rules-national-party-ad-misleading

      The rules exist already to have them 'banned' and the advertiser 'shamed' – not that the NP has any shame.

      Im very surprised readers here seem totally unaware of NZs regulatory regime, the ASA is a voluntary body and cant be seen as government censorship ( but we have that for different forms of film/media and literature)

      • Stuart Munro. 12.1.1

        It's quaint really, that a voluntary body controls such activity, and may go some way to explain a lack of cut through with Facebook. Professional censures are most effective within professions, and likely neither the publishing Gnats nor Facebook are part of that group.

        Nor is advertising the only problematic possibility with Facebook; the formation of communities of interest is much more effective than ads, which are invariably annoying even to people somewhat susceptible to their message.

        Both conventional media and advertising would benefit from a stronger sanction regime for bullshitting, even when it wears the shrunken and wrinkled figleaf of "opinion". No-one argues that a competent press is indispensable to a properly functioning democracy, but, like housing, no-one is taking substantial action that could conceivably fix it.

  13. Wensleydale 13

    Claire Robinson is almost hilariously awful. "Political advertisements should be allowed to be inaccurate or misleading." Erm… why? People are expected to make an educated decision about who to vote for based upon reason, logic, facts, and actual policy, not "Tee hee, look at this smarmy bit of selective editing we've done that makes David Parker appear to hate farmers!" Commercial operators get done for false advertising all the time. Why should election campaigns be any different? If anything, they should be held to a higher standard. They're all supposed to be grown-ups after all.

    Of course, National probably won't win if they can't tell a bunch of lies and terrify Joe Public into submission. "Labour are going to confiscate your dairy herds and turn them into biofuel so Green MPs can drive to work without feeling guilty!"

    • Wensleydale +100

      This is the sort of thinking emanating from the manure pits of the Conservatives and the Brexit organisers in the UK where the mantra is, what is a bit of exaggeration (lying) between friends to influence the public ie stacks of money to become available to the NHS, and probably other sweet-sounding encouragers.

      And the public have fallen for this s..t. A building will fall when it is built on or with sand, and there is no strength in a system where the meaning of truth is open to discussion.

      Over there the Conservatives have worked out how to extract more money from the doings of government. It is a giant cash cow for the neoliberal economisers (economic tightening for you but not for those with power and influence).

      And basically orchestrated by a liar and apparently a crook whose name sounds like forage (which has scavenge as a synonym), who is at the centre of this coup, with big pay-offs coming to him and the rest of the moneyed class; the success of their cunning plan wil be named the Huge Heist (a suitable noun as it comes from the USA which is the elephant in the room about to sit wherever it pleases).

      We are right to look askance at Professor Claire Robinson, College of Creative Arts, Massey University, with twitter handle Spinprofessor! She apparently finds our political system an amusing, suitable toy to play with which attracts clickbait and notoriety. In present university priorities, getting published for anything gives brownie points but that thinking is biting them in the bum if it results in their being brought into contempt and discredit. Her comments lack probity and they reflect on Massey University that appears to be at war within itself as to where probity lies.

      • Drowsy M. Kram 13.1.1

        Agree with what you (and Wensleydale) write, Grey, but how about this blast from the past [2012]? All spin doctors are 'evil', but some are more evil than others?

        "The research by Massey University Associate Professor Claire Robinson finds that the Herald, Herald on Sunday, Dominion Post and Sunday Star-Times all exhibited substantial bias in their selection and use of images during the election campaign, most of it in favour of Prime Minister John Key.

        “Labour and Phil Goff have real grounds to feel they were unfairly treated in print during the last election campaign,” Dr Robinson says."

        https://www.massey.ac.nz/massey/about-massey/news/article.cfm?mnarticle_uuid=48735398-FC90-8334-7A51-09FCFDB95B7D

        And then there’s a study, written by Victoria Mappleback and published by Royal Holloway University, suggesting that we are increasingly becoming our own spin doctors, casting ourselves “in as positive a hue as possible.

        "We have become our own spin doctors and constantly want people to find out what is going on in our lives, from the incredibly mundane to personal decisions and choices that would have otherwise been private."

        https://dzone.com/articles/are-we-all-spin-doctors-now

        • Wensleydale 13.1.1.1

          Granny Herald and others exhibited brazen bias in favour of John Key?! Stop the presses! I'm sure Professor Robinson is reasonably good at her job, but you don't need a university degree to observe the blatant shitfuckery that passes for political journalism in papers like the NZ Herald. You need functioning eyes and a basic capacity for critical thought. Actually, you could cobble together a rough approximation of the Herald's take on our political landscape by simply scrawling "Labour bad! National good!" in crayon across the front page.

        • greywarshark 13.1.1.2

          DmK

          I think these are two different spins. Prof Claire can place herself as objective and scientific and non-partisan but beware Claire you are playing with our hearts and minds. There has been examination of objective scientific thought as to whether it is real objectivity; it has been probed and debunked, showing that in the decision to pursue some scientific object, there is bias at the start in the choice, so always there.

          And – We are all spin doctors. Interesting point – why would young women and, I understand, men of uncertain age, send photos of themselves naked on the internet? Exposing themselves in so many ways. Why do women wear make-up even when they are young and at the height of their beauty.?

          Is there a society-wide conformity of fashionable behaviour with a constantly changing shape and people have to keep checking in on their devices to see what is 'in' and out, now, and what their friends have decided. People are more inclined to reveal bits of their lives, thoughts etc so as to be interesting to others, in a swirling world of peers who seem to be in the swim, and if you aren't 'with it' you are out.

          'casting ourselves “in as positive a hue as possible.” – that is an interesting choice of words. What is real, are we in the picture, are we 'casting ourselves' in a reality show. When you can't get a job because the boss and team don't think 'you fit' the zeitgeist of the group, then it is ever more important to know the tone of the people you work with and be able to play along.

          This of course has a serious effect on the personal growth of the individual, and their thinking. Are people able to think for themselves any more, make judgments, or like an intelligent older friend of mine, do they happily listen every day to Leighton Smith who seems to express their opinions well? Or does he form them, where does the line occur? This type of mental process, or lack of it, poses a problem when change is needed, and thought about it is required. Is anyone at home up there?

  14. RedBaronCV 14

    Are National going to tell us their plans if they decide to privatise all schools and hospitals and remove employment rights to holidays and sick leave? Can we ask? can we put out ads doing this?

    They don't usually bother to tell us their plans – adding a million people to Auckland without money for housing or infrastructure.

    [Nice one but could you please provide a link showing that National added a million people to Auckland without money for housing or infrastructure? Otherwise, it would like you are making up shit – Incognito]

    • Incognito 14.1

      See my Moderation note @ 8:38 PM.

    • RedBaronCV 14.2

      okay the million was a loose estimate based on 7-8 years of inwards migration of around 75000 to 130000 . I have seen articles where outwards and returning kiwis are spread over the country but the new to new zealand tends to hit auckland hardest.

      the interesting question became how many people are there in Auckland, well even stats NZ only seems to have only an estimate of about 1.6m (which it seems to be revising up and down by around a 80,000) and in 2006 it was 1.3m, so okay not 1million.

      In total Nz looks to have gone from 4,2 million in 2008 to 4,8 roughly in 2018 . as to the money I'm not sure that anyone saw Nact building any social housing much – auckland or anywhere else,

      • Dukeofurl 14.2.1

        Red Baron the numbers you are looking for are these

        "From 1971 to 2013, a period spanning more than 40 years, Auckland has outgrown the rest of New Zealand combined – adding 650,000 people vs 575,000.

        and 1991-2017 it was 410,000.

        A round figure from the 1990s- 2020 is 500,000. This is the one to remember. Your time frame was too short and the total was out by a factor of 2x. Its still a huge number

  15. newsense 15

    Clare Robinson is an academic. She's totally neutral. Get it right!

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  • Formal apology and payment to George Nepata
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  • COVID-19: More funding for schools and boost to construction sector
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  • Subsequent children legislation to change
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