Connect with us

Media

How the British media helped Boris Johnson win – Al Jazeera English

Published

 on


The mediation of messages plays a key part in the outcome of most elections and the United Kingdom’s December 12 general election was no exception.

Incumbent Prime Minister Boris Johnson‘s Conservative Party took the single strapline “Get Brexit Done” and repeated it endlessly. The slogan was plastered on billboards and emboldened on every pamphlet. It was also Johnson’s preferred response to most questions, even when it made very little sense in context. But after three and a half years of political wrangling over whether the referendum vote to leave the European Union would be implemented or not, with parliamentary processes stuck in an endless mire of withdrawal agreements and with news broadcasts seemingly talking of nothing else, it is no surprise that this slogan resonated strongly with the British public.

Pretty much everyone was sick of anything “Brexit” and the Conservative message enabled those frustrations to be vented. As a result, the Conservative Party secured a comfortable majority, while its main rival, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, which pledged to negotiate yet another withdrawal agreement with the EU and put it to a public vote, experienced its worst showing of seats since 1935. 

In those seats where more than 60 percent of voters voted Leave in the 2016 EU referendum, the increase in Conservative support on average was 6 percent. However, in seats where more than 60 percent opted for Remain, the party’s vote fell by three points.

Many of the additional seats won by the Conservatives came from what used to be called the “Red Wall” – a block of largely post-industrial areas in the Midlands and the North of England that have traditionally been Labour strongholds. 

Many people in these areas voted to leave in 2016 and supported the party that promised, above all else, a swift exit from the EU in the 2019 general election, for several reasons. 

These are also areas that have often faced long-term economic problems and where markers of deprivation are high. People in these areas suffered the sharp end of the global financial crash, with many of them losing all hope for secure employment. A government policy of debt reduction has left local authorities experiencing massive cuts, leading to greatly reduced social services. Moreover, welfare benefits were slashed, leaving the poorest and most vulnerable in these areas yet more impoverished. 

The Brexit referendum brought to the fore the economic dislocation that has taken place since the 1980s revealing deep class as well as generational and ethnic divisions. Marginalised voices voted Leave to kick back against a post-war party system that has failed them and a professional political elite that has largely ignored them. And in this election, they just wanted the job done, so they voted for the party that promised to do just that.

Getting Brexit “done”, however, is unlikely to resolve the deep-rooted social and economic problems facing many of the people who voted for it.

Some predictions estimate that leaving the EU will further exacerbate place-based inequality across the country, causing England’s regions to grow 13-16 percent less than they would have done if the UK had remained in the EU. Moreover, some regions like Cornwall are forecast to lose up to an additional £60m ($78.5m) per year in EU funding.

This was clearly not a message that the Conservatives wanted broadcast, so their rebuttal tactics were  robust. Any attempt by the media to get the Conservative candidates to talk about the risks and realities of leaving the EU, or anything else that shows them in a bad light, was side-stepped – sometimes literally. The approach was straightforward – dodge the detail, just repeat the mantra, “Get Brexit Done”.

This resulted in a series of tactics of evasion and misinformation. The Conservatives tried their best to avoid difficult debates, with Johnson refusing to be interviewed by BBC’s Andrew Neil, a veteran journalist known for his combative interview style. The prime minister also vetoed several other programmes during the election campaign, including a climate debate on Channel 4, where he was replaced with an ice sculpture.

When a reporter used his phone to show Johnson a picture of a boy with pneumonia lying on the floor of a Leeds Hospital due to lack of beds, the prime minister took the phone and hid it in his pocket to avoid answering questions. And then there was the time the prime minister hid in a large fridge at a dairy in order to avoid giving an interview to ITV’s Piers Morgan.

The Conservative pledge to “Get Brexit Done” was grossly misleading. With the large majority that Johnson now has, his withdrawal agreement will no doubt be ratified in Parliament. However, there will still be very many years of negotiations on multiple trade deals before Brexit is finally “done”. 

Misleading statements did not stop there, either. An investigation by First Draft, a nonprofit focusing on truth and trust in the digital age, found that 88 percent of Conservative campaign ads on Facebook were deemed by Full Fact, the UK’s leading fact-checking organisation, to be misleading. 

In an age of social media, honesty is not straightforward. Earlier this year Facebook confirmed that posts from political organisations and political adverts are exempt from fact-checking. The move to targeted messaging, and the inability for all citizens to see and adjudicate between information in a targeted online campaigning environment, raises critical questions about equality of information, open debate and transparency.

The Conservatives played on this and focused on messages that would be crowd-pleasing, circulate rapidly and feed off emotional responses rather than accuracy. During a TV debate between Corbyn and Johnson in November, they even rebranded one of their official party Twitter accounts to make it look like a fact-checking service. 

Labour tried desperately to broaden the agenda so that the election would be about more than just Brexit, attempting to focus on public services and the environment. Many of their plans were popular –  renationalisation of railways, water companies and the Royal Mail gained large support and a promise to increase public spending, particularly on the NHS and education, resonated strongly on the doorstep.

They put forward an ambitious manifesto with multiple new initiatives that promised widespread transformation. Different aspects of it were highlighted at regular intervals – free universal broadband one day, and a million climate jobs in every region of the UK, the next.

All this should have been seen as a gift by those seeking a better life after years of austerity. But as the days passed, rather than becoming more enthusiastic about Labour’s pledges, people started to query their economic viability. Years of rationalising austerity politics have clearly left their mark.

And although the Labour Party had settled on a Brexit strategy in support of holding a second Brexit referendum once the detail of a new deal was agreed, with “Remain” also on the ballot paper, it did not satisfy Leave voters and did not excite remainers.

Labour’s vote fell on average by more than 10 points in the most pro-Leave areas. Labour also had to battle the majority of the mainstream press which continuously pushed out anti-Corbyn and anti-Labour reports, analyses and opinion pieces.

Research by Loughborough University showed that the election coverage of the Labour Party by most national British newspapers was overwhelmingly negative. This was no surprise when just three companies – News UK, DMG and Reach – dominate 83 percent of the national newspaper market and hold the power to set the mood and the agenda for much of the mainstream media.

Traditionally, the British public relies on the broadcast media, which is subject to impartiality requirements, to make sense of the raucously biased reports they see in newspapers during election periods. This election, however, the adequacy of impartiality rules was also challenged.

Broadcasters were fastidious in ensuring that each of the main parties had the same amount of airtime. But counting minutes aired did not necessarily translate into fairness in content. News agendas were dominated by Brexit, the economy and taxation (all preferred issues for the Conservatives), with those that put Labour on the front foot such as health care and the environment distinctly lagging behind.

The BBC also suffered a series of gaffes that seriously dented its credibility. It was twice forced to apologise for misleading editing that showed Johnson in a good light; its leading journalists repeated Conservative Party spin on Twitter; and its programming highlighted allegations of anti-Semitism against Corbyn over those of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party. Amplification of the Conservative agenda was the news of the day.

Explaining election outcomes is never simple. While the media undoubtedly plays an important role, many other factors also influence the results. Nevertheless, if UK media organisations and journalists are guilty of even the slightest distortion of democracy, then we should be very worried.

In a complex and confusing digital age, the time has surely come for new regulations to ensure all elections are free and fair, and all forms of power, including the media, are held to account.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Media

Threat of inauguration violence casts a long shadow over social media – TechCrunch

Published

 on


As the U.S. heads into one of the most perilous phases of American democracy since the Civil War, social media companies are scrambling to shore up their patchwork defenses for a moment they appear to have believed would never come.

Most major platforms pulled the emergency break last week, deplatforming the president of the United States and enforcing suddenly robust rules against conspiracies, violent threats and undercurrents of armed insurrection, all of which proliferated on those services for years. But within a week’s time, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Apple and Google had all made historic decisions in the name of national stability — and appearances. Snapchat, TikTok, Reddit and even Pinterest took their own actions to prevent a terror plot from being hatched on their platforms.

Now, we’re in the waiting phase. More than a week after a deadly pro-Trump riot invaded the iconic seat of the U.S. legislature, the internet still feels like it’s holding its breath, a now heavily-fortified inauguration ceremony looming ahead.

(Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

What’s still out there

On the largest social network of all, images hyping follow-up events continued to circulate mid this week. One digital Facebook flyer promoted an “armed march on Capitol Hill and all state Capitols,” pushing the dangerous and false conspiracy that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

Facebook says that it’s working to identify flyers calling for “Stop the Steal” adjacent events using digital fingerprinting, the same process it uses to remove terrorist content from ISIS and Al Qaeda. The company noted that it has seen flyers calling for events on January 17 across the country, January 18 in Virginia and inauguration day in D.C.

At least some of Facebook’s new efforts are working: one popular flyer TechCrunch observed on the platform was removed from some users’ feeds this week. A number of “Stop the Steal” groups we’d observed over the last month also unceremoniously blinked offline early this week following more forceful action from the company. Still, given the writing on the wall, many groups had plenty of time to tweak their names by a few words or point followers elsewhere to organize.

With only days until the presidential transition, acronym-heavy screeds promoting QAnon, an increasingly mainstream collection of outrageous pro-Trump government conspiracy theories, also remain easy to find. On one page with 2,500 followers, a QAnon believer pushed the debunked claim that anti-fascists executed the attack on the Capitol, claiming “January 6 was a trap.”

QAnon sign

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

On a different QAnon group, an ominous post from an admin issued Congress a warning: “We have found a way to end this travesty! YOUR DAYS ARE NUMBERED!” The elaborate conspiracy’s followers were well represented at the deadly riot at the Capitol, as the many giant “Q” signs and esoteric t-shirt slogans made clear.

In a statement to TechCrunch about the state of extremism on the platform, Facebook says it is coordinating with terrorism experts as well as law enforcement “to prevent direct threats to public safety.” The company also noted that it works with partners to stay aware of violent content taking root on other platforms.

Facebook’s efforts are late and uneven, but they’re also more than the company has done to date. Measures from big social networks coupled with the absence of far-right social networks like Parler and Gab have left Trump’s most ardent supporters once again swearing off Silicon Valley and fanning out for an alternative.

Social media migration

Private messaging apps Telegram and Signal are both seeing an influx of users this week, but they offer something quite different from a Facebook or Twitter-like experience. Some expert social network observers see the recent migration as seasonal rather than permanent.

“The spike in usage of messaging platforms like Telegram and Signal will be temporary,” Yonder CEO Jonathon Morgan told TechCrunch. “Most users will either settle on platforms with a social experience, like Gab, MeWe, or Parler, if it returns, or will migrate back to Twitter and Facebook.”

That company uses AI to track how social groups connect online and what they talk about — violent conspiracies included. Morgan believes that propaganda-spreading “performative internet warriors” make a lot of noise online, but a performance doesn’t work without an audience. Others may quietly pose a more serious threat.

“The different types of engagement we saw during the assault on the Capitol mirror how these groups have fragmented online,” Morgan said. “We saw a large mob who was there to cheer on the extremists but didn’t enter the Capitol, performative internet warriors taking selfies, and paramilitaries carrying flex cuffs (mislabeled as “zip ties” in a lot of social conversation), presumably ready to take hostages.

“Most users (the mob) will be back on Parler if it returns, and in the meantime, they are moving to other apps that mimic the social experience of Twitter and Facebook, like MeWe.”

Still, Morgan says that research shows “deplatforming” extremists and conspiracy-spreaders is an effective strategy and efforts by “tech companies from Airbnb to AWS” will reduce the chances of violence in the coming days.

Cleaning up platforms can help turn the masses away from dangerous views, he explained, but the same efforts might further galvanize people with an existing intense commitment to those beliefs. With the winds shifting, already heterogeneous groups will be scattered too, making their efforts desperate and less predictable.

Deplatforming works, with risks

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, told TechCrunch that social media companies still need to do much more to prepare for inauguration week. “We saw platforms fall short in their response to the Capitol insurrection,” Greenblatt said.

He cautioned that while many changes are necessary, we should be ready for online extremism to evolve into a more fractured ecosystem. Echo chambers may become smaller and louder, even as the threat of “large scale” coordinated action diminishes.

“The fracturing has also likely pushed people to start communicating with each other via encrypted apps and other private means, strengthening the connections between those in the chat and providing a space where people feel safe openly expressing violent thoughts, organizing future events, and potentially plotting future violence,” Greenblatt said.

By their own standards, social media companies have taken extraordinary measures in the U.S. in the last two weeks. But social networks have a long history of facilitating violence abroad, even as attention turns to political violence in America.

Greenblatt repeated calls for companies to hire more human moderators, a suggestion often made by experts focused on extremism. He believes social media could still take other precautions for inauguration week, like introducing a delay into livestreams or disabling them altogether, bolstering rapid response teams and suspending more accounts temporarily rather than focusing on content takedowns and handing out “strikes.”

“Platforms have provided little-to-nothing in the way of transparency about learnings from last week’s violent attack in the Capitol,” Greenblatt said.

“We know the bare minimum of what they ought to be doing and what they are capable of doing. If these platforms actually provided transparency and insights, we could offer additional—and potentially significantly stronger—suggestions.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Media

Music producer, convicted murderer Phil Spector dead at 81: Media – Toronto Sun

Published

 on


Article content continued

Spector had a long-standing reputation for gunplay. He carried a pistol and a biographer said he often placed it on the recording console as he worked. He reportedly fired a shot in the studio during an acrimonious recording session with John Lennon.

WALL OF SOUND

Born Harvey Phillip Spector on Dec. 26, 1939, he grew up in New York City and formed the Teddy Bears with three high school friends. They scored a hit single in 1958 with a song titled after the inscription on his father’s headstone: “To Know Him Is to Love Him.”

The Teddy Bears had little other chart success and disbanded the following year, allowing Spector to shift from performing to working behind the scenes at the dawn of the ’60s. He teamed with songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, co-writing the Ben E. King hit “Spanish Harlem,” playing guitar on the Drifters’ “On Broadway” and producing several top 10 hits.

In 1961 Spector and promoter Lester Sill formed Philles Records, issuing singles with what was becoming his trademark sound but also albums such as the perennial holiday favorite, “A Christmas Gift for You.”

Spector signed Ike and Tina Turner in 1966 and released what he considered one of his masterpieces – the powerful “River Deep, Mountain High” – but it reached only No. 88 on the U.S. charts.

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

[embedded content]

For a time, Spector turned his back on the record business, marrying Ronettes singer Veronica “Ronnie” Bennett, who would later say he was abusive, possessive and made her a virtual captive in their home.

Spector returned in 1969, signing a production deal with A&M Records and working with Lennon on his hit single “Instant Karma” and with the Beatles on the “Let It Be” album.

“Let it Be” was considered a major comeback for Spector, but Paul McCartney was so unhappy with it that in 2003 he oversaw the release of “Let It Be … Naked,” which removed most of Spector’s work.

Spector returned to the studio in the mid-1970s to work on records by Cher and others but by the end of the decade he had become increasingly reclusive and worked rarely after that.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Media

Music producer Phil Spector, convicted of murder, dead at 81: media – TheChronicleHerald.ca

Published

 on


By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Rock producer Phil Spector, who changed the sound of pop music in the 1960s with his “Wall of Sound” recordings and was convicted of murder for the 2003 murder of a Hollywood actress, has died at age 81 of COVID-19, according to authorities and media reports.

Spector produced 20 top 40 hits between 1961 and 1965 and went on to work with the Beatles on “Let It Be,” as well as Leonard Cohen, the Righteous Brothers and Ike and Tina Turner.

He was diagnosed with COVID-19 four weeks ago and transferred to a hospital from his prison cell, where he had been serving a 19 years-to-life sentence for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson, the Daily Mail newspaper said.

In a brief statement, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said Spector died of natural causes at an outside hospital, and that his official cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner in the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office.

Clarkson, 40, was killed by a shot to the mouth, fired from Spector’s gun in the foyer of his mock castle home outside Los Angeles on Feb. 3, 2003. The two met hours earlier at a Hollywood nightclub.

Spector was convicted of second-degree murder in a second trial, after the first trial deadlocked in 2007. The case drew worldwide interest because Spector was widely known as a rock music pioneer. In 1989, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

He began his career as a performer, recording a hit single as a teen with his band the Teddy Bears, but found his true calling as the producing genius behind 1960s girl groups such as Crystals and the Ronettes.

His signature production technique was the “Wall of Sound,” which layered pop and even classical instruments into a full, lush sound that was new to pop records. He called it “a Wagnerian approach to rock & roll: little symphonies for the kids.”

By the late 1970s Spector, who once said he had “devils that fight inside me,” had become something of a recluse, retreating behind the walls of his 33-room hilltop mansion near Los Angeles where Clarkson was killed years later.

Prosecutors charged Spector with murder despite his assertions that Clarkson, star of such films as “Barbarian Queen” and “Amazon Women on the Moon,” had shot herself for reasons he could not grasp.

He told Esquire magazine in an interview that Clarkson had “kissed the gun” in a bizarre suicide.

Spector had a troubled early life. His father committed suicide, his sister spent time in mental institutions and Spector suffered bouts of severe depression.

Spector had a long-standing reputation for gunplay. He carried a pistol and a biographer said he often placed it on the recording console as he worked. He reportedly fired a shot in the studio during an acrimonious recording session with John Lennon.

WALL OF SOUND

Born Harvey Phillip Spector on Dec. 26, 1939, he grew up in New York City and formed the Teddy Bears with three high school friends. They scored a hit single in 1958 with a song titled after the inscription on his father’s headstone: “To Know Him Is to Love Him.”

The Teddy Bears had little other chart success and disbanded the following year, allowing Spector to shift from performing to working behind the scenes at the dawn of the ’60s. He teamed with songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, co-writing the Ben E. King hit “Spanish Harlem,” playing guitar on the Drifters’ “On Broadway” and producing several top 10 hits.

In 1961 Spector and promoter Lester Sill formed Philles Records, issuing singles with what was becoming his trademark sound but also albums such as the perennial holiday favorite, “A Christmas Gift for You.”

Spector signed Ike and Tina Turner in 1966 and released what he considered one of his masterpieces – the powerful “River Deep, Mountain High” – but it reached only No. 88 on the U.S. charts.

For a time, Spector turned his back on the record business, marrying Ronettes singer Veronica “Ronnie” Bennett, who would later say he was abusive, possessive and made her a virtual captive in their home.

Spector returned in 1969, signing a production deal with A&M Records and working with Lennon on his hit single “Instant Karma” and with the Beatles on the “Let It Be” album.

“Let it Be” was considered a major comeback for Spector, but Paul McCartney was so unhappy with it that in 2003 he oversaw the release of “Let It Be … Naked,” which removed most of Spector’s work.

Spector returned to the studio in the mid-1970s to work on records by Cher and others but by the end of the decade he had become increasingly reclusive and worked rarely after that.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Daniel Wallis)

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending