In the last few days, the British MSM – Anti-Brexit to the core – have been publishing reports alleging that Russia ‘interfered’ in the Brexit vote, through manipulating social media like Twitter and Facebook. There were even questions in Parliament demanding the HoC Intelligence and Security Committee to investigate.
These allegations have been around for a year, well under the radar of the MSM. They started in the wake of Trump’s election as President of the USA with the ensuing accusations, outcries, FBI investigations etc about Putin having got Trump elected by manipulating Americans online, by manipulating social media, by manipulating voter behaviour.
Nobody here in the UK seems to have noticed that Russia interfered in the Leave vote – until, surprise surprise, at this exact moment when the Government is trying to get the Brexit Legislation through the Commons, with the anti-Brexiteers in all parties doing their utmost to prevent this and thus to prevent Brexit.
When one starts reading beyond the headlines, something odd occurs. From ‘Putin did it’ at the top, we soon come to the basis for those claims: some research by some scientists who show that there was a ‘spike’ in Russian tweets. That spike, however, is pitiful but e.g. the Guardian, while correctly quoting the numbers, omits to also report the context. They write:
“UK academics have already established that at least 419 Twitter accounts operating from the Kremlin-linked Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA) tweeted about Brexit and that thousands of other Russia-based Twitter accounts posted more than 45,000 messages about Brexit in just 48 hours during last year’s referendum.”
That article was published on the evening of Nov 15th. Remember that date!
Next let’s look at the report by the BBC, of Ms May attacking Russia in a banquet speech (see here). Except for reporting the fact that she did indeed do this, there’s no meat in the article, no supportive evidence. Perhaps the BBC reporter had already seen this piece in ‘Business Insider’, reporting that the Facebook (Europe) Vice President said:
“Facebook has seen no evidence to suggest that it was used by Russia to interfere in Brexit in the same way it was during the US election last year.”
That article was published on Monday 13th November, reporting on an interview on SKY. So some journalists at least must have known by then that ‘Russia did it’ was not based on facts.
A week before that, on Nov 6th, there was an interesting piece in the ‘Financial Times’ – a publication not exactly known for their pro-Brexit attitude. Here’s a most instructive quote:
“During the Brexit campaign, the audience ratings for Russia’s RT television channel were too low to justify complaints that pro-Brexit propaganda addled the brains of British voters.”
Even more instructive is the conclusion:
“[…] it makes little sense to attribute the Brexit victory to Russian dark arts. The result’s origins lie in the miscalculations of David Cameron’s 2010-2016 Conservative government and in longer-term British political and social discontent, which culminated in a collective howl of protest on referendum day.”
That, to recap, was published on Nov 6th, the ‘Business Insider’ article on Nov 13th. But on Nov 14th we find a wonderful example of how to manipulate with headlines. This report was published in the night of Nov 14th:
Starting with the ‘oh look – the Russians did it’, it soon becomes obvious that this allegation was blown out of all proportions:
“Ms Lu told Sky News: “First of all the number of these tweets is important to highlight. So there’s about 400 tweets here out of 22.6 million. That is a very infinitesimal fraction. So the word interference is perhaps a bit exaggerated.”
However, those accounts appear to have coordinated strategically, retweeting each other to amplify their message and making much more use of photos and videos than normal Twitter users during the same period.
“There’s some kind of network happening here,” Ms Lu said.”
And there you have it – the bare numbers: ca 400 out of 22.6 million! We really must be very afraid … and worse: the re-tweets! Networking! Because nobody else retweets anything, do they …
And now we have the Hon. Labour MPs demanding during PMQ on Wednesday, Nov 15th that the HoC Committee on Intelligence and security should investigate – armed with, one assumes, the SKY headline which, as demonstrated above, is misleading, to say it gently.
Obviously, our MPs and our PM don’t have time to read the papers themselves, they only have time for the headlines. Equally obviously, the MSM headline writers know this, as they know that questions will be asked at PMQ. Also obviously, given their anti-Brexit attitude, they are only too happy to ‘help’ anti-Brexit opposition politician by providing at least a juicy headline they can base their question on. No, that’s not collusion – only the Russians collude!
One would, however, think that the researchers and civil servants supporting Ms May might have been duty-bound to point out the various reports saying that no such Russian influence had been found, that it’s all very much hot air. So – did they, or didn’t they? If not – why not? Did Ms May insist on alleging that ‘the Russians manipulated Brexit’? If so – why?
Explanations will of course not be forthcoming, but one might entertain the impression that our Government and Whitehall are not precisely heaving with Brexiteers – but that’s a theme for another article!