Tom Watson will save us all from fake news

Tom Watson, authorised by nothing more than his moment in the sun (no pun intended) questioning the evil one Rupert Murdoch live on TV at the DCMS select committee, has decided that he shall be the investigator of fake news.  Caped-up, psyched-up and, obviously, well caked-up, Watson and his trusted side-kick Michael Dugher intend to save us all from having our defenceless minds being infiltrated, infested and assimilated by dastardly wrongdoers telling us stuff that isn’t true.

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How could we survive without this superhero twosome?  Personally, I believe everything I read, just like everyone else does.  No-one has any concept of satire or mock-taking or story-telling or wit or sarcasm or mischievousness.  We have no imagination and always assume everyone who writes something has no imagination. Of course, that is all sarcasm.  I made it up.  But, the deeply-dippy duo Watson and Dugher are unable to accept that almost all people are intelligent and experienced enough to spot “fake” news instantaneously.  

An ingrained facet of elitist politics, part nature, part nurture, is to choose to assume that the majority of the public, an other to the elite’s elevated existence, are neither bright nor discerning.  We are denied the capacity to make informed, logical decisions.  We must be led and that means we must be protected.  That is, censorship.  Fake news, heavily biased opinion presented as news and rabble-rousing articles have been part of civilised society for centuries.  The consumption of it has always been optional, and its distance from truth and facts has always been clear.  No-one needs to be protected.  

The aforesaid pompous pair are committed to their crusade.  A synopsis of the scope of their inquiry into fake news is here: Watson Fake News Inquiry.  The wording of the intent of the inquiry needs examination and response.  (Quotes from the synopsis are in italics.)

It will ask if social media platforms could, or should, take steps to ensure users are exposed to a greater diversity of views, and whether they have a responsibility to prevent fabricated content being widely shared.”  

Yes, that is an exact word-for-word quote of Tom Watson, Labour MP, and not a memo from the office of Erdogan or Jung-Un.  It should always, without exception, be the user’s choice how great a diversity of views that she or he encounters.  It could be the entire range of political views or it could be a single rigidly defined political view.  It is the choice of the person using the social media platform and should never be restricted or controlled by an arbitrary spurious authority, whether that is the platform host or a politician.  For Watson to ask that the owners of a platform decide what is fabricated news, and what is not, is to assign a heap of power to an entity that cannot be trusted with it.  The power of that decision should be left to the user.

It (the enquiry) will explore whether they (social media platforms) can make editorial decisions without being accused of political bias.

They cannot do that, and nor can Tom Watson.  Every word spoken or written about politics is partly informed by bias, as it should be.  The user’s own bias will determine what she or he chooses to read.  No third party should interfere with that choice.

The remainder of the inquiry abstract is a series of questions to which Watson suggests people can provide answers as contributions to the inquiry.  All the questions are wordy: Watson is keen to direct the thought-process of the respondents so that each question is answered subject to a myriad of presumptions.

What distinctions should we make between “fake news”, “clickbait” and sloppy or inaccurate journalism?

Is Watson asking the respondents to define what they think “fake news” is?  If so, why does he suggest exclusions.  If he is requesting a definition of “fake news” why is he holding an “inquiry” into “fake news?”  Surely, it is incorrect nomenclature to describe a process as an inquiry if the topic being inquired into isn’t even defined?  As an aside, if, for example, I encountered an imaginative article on, say, Progress Online website that wholly misrepresented the views or actions of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn would that be “fake news”, “clickbait” or “sloppy and inaccurate journalism?” 

What are the financial and other incentives in creating “fake news” and how might these be reduced or removed?

This is an odd question because most people who write like to get paid for it, and most websites seek income of some sort.

What is the role of social media “gatekeepers” such as Facebook and Twitter in creating so-called “filter bubbles” in which the news material people see all comes from the same political perspective, and in skewing people’s news consumption in the direction of sources which are more partisan and/or less reliable?

There is so much direction in this question.  Two gross assumptions are made in the question in order to direct the respondent into answering within boundaries declared by Watson.  First, the word “gatekeepers” ascribes power to the platforms that users should not recognise.  All social media platforms, however they may have been designed, are used how the users wish to use them.  The only restrictions should be functionality, that is, technical restrictions.  Watson, however, wants to infuse the perspective that the platforms are moral and ethical guardians.  The second gross assumption that Watson makes is, as noted earlier, that he posits as undesirable that some users only encounter political views similar to those they hold.  It is the user’s choice.  It is neither good nor bad if a user wishes to only see similar political views to her or his own.

Could social media companies do more to ensure that news material shared on their platforms is reliable, or to make it easier for unreliable material to be flagged as such or removed? Could users be given more power to fact-check and/or raise concerns about fake news?

Watson suggests that social media companies can decide on the reliability of news.  There is absolutely no reason why any such company is more able to do that than any user of its platform.  Users fact-check content all the time; they do not need “power to fact-check” as that means giving some users power on what other users can read.

Could social media companies do more to ensure that users see more balanced news material, and if so is this desirable?

This is definitely not desirable.  Watson is persisting with his theme of presenting the social media companies as having the sense to make decisions that he feels the user cannot make.

What role can/should search engines play in checking the reliability of news-related material and should reliability play a role in prominence in search results?

Watson thinks search engines can have some ultra level of common sense that we mere users cannot attain.

How have changes in the way the public consumes news, especially the rise of social media, affected the way news is covered by journalists?

A simple forced assumption made here: The question doesn’t ask if journalists methods have been affected by social media, it just states they have been.  Clearly, any lack of quality in journalism is the fault of journalists and their employers; to blame social media is to excuse poor journalism.

What impact are declining sales and advertising revenues having on the ability of news organisations to invest in journalism, and on the quality and range of news coverage?

More blame attached to social media: Watson suggests that the future of journalism is at stake.

What are the values reflected in the editorial and community standards required by social media platforms, and what is the relationship of those standards with the regulatory environment around UK press and broadcast media?

The values named above are whatever the users of a particular platform decide they will be as said values develop over time determined by how users behave and use the platform.  There should not be any relationship between social media “values” and any regulations for press and broadcast media.  Juxtaposing those two concepts is no more useful than asking if every social verbal conversation should abide by, say, parliamentary rules.  It is insidious of Watson to offer this juxtaposition as a possibility to be considered.

How can we encourage media consumers to think critically about the reliability of the news sources they read and share?

This is such an offensively condescending question.  Watson’s contempt for the intelligence, reason and cognitive abilities of the public is glaring in its pomposity and peremptory superciliousness.

What is the role of education in promoting critical thinking and media literacy, and who can play a part in this?

I am sure that “critical thinking” is a module of many educational courses.  Teachers are the best people to ask to do this as they do it already.

What impact, if any, is “fake news” having on political discourse in the UK and elsewhere?

It encourages challenge to opinions.  That is, it is beneficial because the recipients use their brains to analyse, dissect, correct, respond to and/or dismiss.

Does the government have any role to play in addressing the problem of “fake news”?

No.

True intent of the fake news inquiry

As stated above, users are able to decide how to use any social media platform and how to interact with any content thereon.  Not only is there no need for the platform hosts to guide users with respect to accuracy of news but also such guidance is, by nature, censorship that is extremely unwelcome.  

Watson and Dugher are pursuing an aim that is not information gathering but is a laughable exercise in attempted coercion that is doomed to fail.  The leading questions, packed full of forced assumptions, are designed to guide the answers.  But, just as fake news is spotted easily by almost all social media users, so is the undynamic duo’s clumsy plan.  

So, what is the intent of the fake news inquiry?  The simple answer is support for censorship of social media discourse.  Nothing scares the elite more than the public talking to each other about political issues.  

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Tom Watson will save us all from fake news

Paul Nuttall is Oliver Letwin without the posh accent

“Bad Bootle UKIP meff” Paul Nuttall was elected as UKIP leader today.  He succeeds Nigel Farage who eyes lucrative speaking engagements in the USA to a room of bigots while still raking in his EU parliament expenses despite never turning up to do the job he was elected to do as an MEP.

Nuttall is an obvious choice for UKIP leader.  Of all the main protagonists in the party, his political views and aims are the closest to those of UKIP owner Arron Banks.  That is, Nuttall’s politics are a re-statement of everything that Thatcher stood for, with added anti-PC rhetoric.  

Some of the facets of Nuttall’s financial political vision are

  • Privatisation of the NHS including forcing people to have health insurance
  • Lower tax rates for the most highly paid and removal of inheritance tax
  • More savage cuts to welfare provision
  • Further restriction of workers’ and trades union rights
  • Climate change denial (to aid fossil fuel companies’ profits)

All of the above are designed to assist the small financial elite.

Nuttall is, and always has been, a typical supporter of extreme free-market ideology that seeks to favour only the small financial gangster elite at the expense of everyone else, and he is keen to use distraction techniques to con people into supporting his objectives.  Just like the Tories in the 1980s and those today, Nuttall promotes hatred toward immigrants, Muslims, gay people, unemployed people, single mothers, etc. and he wants severe restrictions on access to abortion and repeal of equality legislation.  This distraction technique and the false blame accusations are standard right-wing conservative strategy practised by, for example, notorious election campaign strategist and confidence trickster Lynton Crosby. (see Sir Lynton Crosby.)

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That is, Paul Nuttall aspires to offer exactly what Tory propagandist and chief machinator Oliver Letwin offers: Reckless, selfish free-marketeering accompanied by a vicious dishonest blame game.  Like Letwin, Nuttall is an enemy of the vast majority of people of Britain and, like Letwin, his entire presentation of his politics is a con.  Two rancid peas in an offshore pod.

The UKIP con requires media assistance

The relative success of UKIP in the last half-decade owes a lot to mainstream media depiction of the party as a challenge to ‘establishment.’  This is not necessarily because various newspapers and TV networks always support the party’s policy and a lot of the coverage has been negative.  However, the undertone, even when UKIP policy is being refuted, is to emphasise the ‘anti-establishment’ (spurious) nature of the party and, thus, by warped deduction, its appeal to ‘working-class’ people.

This con-trick, both by the party and by the media, is a simple strategy to present UKIP as the vehicle for anti-establishment fervour rather than allowing a left-wing party to be a dominant visible challenge.  The small financial elite that UKIP serves fears a rise in left-wing politics more than anything else, as do the newspapers’ respective tax-dodging proprietors Murdoch, Barclay brothers, Desmond and Rothermere.  The centrist liberal media fear that a genuine left-wing force will cause them to whither away rapidly and permanently; their irrelevance will be exposed as they disappear into the ether clutching well-thumbed copies of ‘On Liberty.’

Nuttall’s predecessor, Farage, was assisted by bizarre media descriptions of him as ‘charismatic,’ ‘persuasive’ and even ‘erudite.’  None of those words apply truthfully to a man with the persona of a snake oil salesman who only accepts cash, and Farage is a bad actor whose utterances are not informed by intelligence, knowledge or logic.  For the continuation of the ‘anti-establishment’ UKIP con-trick, Nuttall has something Farage doesn’t have: A regional accent; in particular, a Liverpudlian accent.  Of course, that is irrelevant, but both UKIP and the compliant media will pretend it makes a difference in the appeal of the party.  

The invented narrative of Nuttall helping UKIP to take votes from Labour in northern England will be presented by the media as having happened, when what they are actually doing is campaigning for it to happen.  Right-wing media and liberal media may have different attitudes to UKIP’s policies but both, for different reasons, will perpetuate the con that a Nuttall-led UKIP will hoover up ‘working-class’ votes in northern England.  It is an indictment of the abject lack of quality in British professional political journalism that such a clumsy obvious con-trick will be repeated over and over without shame nor self-awareness.

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Paul Nuttall is Oliver Letwin without the posh accent

Castro’s Death: Reactions Reveal Occidental Elite’s Fear Of Socialism

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Fidel Castro’s death was announced yesterday.  No political leader of the last sixty years has had as much influence on worldwide politics as Castro, and none will be appreciated, analysed or criticised as much as him.  

His stature is not merely a reflection of the successes in Cuba, particularly in the last thirty years, but more notably a consequence of the durability of Cuba as a non-isolationist communist state.  Cuba has inspired, directly and indirectly, political actions and ideas throughout central and south America, Africa and Asia.  That inspiration will not be diminished in breadth or intensity following Castro’s death.

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The corrupt international capitalists are always wary of Cuban influence or inspiration.  Indeed, they are forever fearful of Cuba’s indefatigability as an example of what is possible for people around the world.  Financial gangsters fear the consequences of that enabling influence most in the countries where, still, international capitalism is based.  Fear is greatest therein because the various democracies (unlike Cuba’s communism) could vote for a political party that enacts communism; people could Vote Communist and change the entire financial system.  

Thus, the reaction among right-of-centre and centrist politicians and media in Western Europe and North America to Castro’s death has gone beyond peremptory snideness.  It has been a deluge of excitable contrarians eager to jump on any exposition of the inspiration of Cuba to the wider world.  Pseudo-detailed accounts and cataloguing of the Cuban government’s failures have been uttered and transcribed hurriedly and feverishly to try to counter sensible intelligent eulogies.  Mock shock from the screaming heads and professional trolls has abounded in response to any positive analysis, particularly analyses that emphasise the desirability of socialist theory and actions.  This mass fury of opinionating is not just the normal desperation of hacks, self-styled experts, think-tank confidence tricksters and fame-obsessed politicians to get their noses in view while a story is current.  The perpetrators are compelled to aggressively knock back any positive analysis or obituary of Castro because of a desperation to try to ensure that positive viewpoints of socialism are drowned.  

Fear oozes from word, spoken or written by the reactionaries.  Fidel Castro’s death has, unsurprisingly, perked up interest in him, in Cuba and in both socialism and communism.  His passing, as a news event, has acted as a catalyst for people to investigate, study and learn about the politics and how they work in practice.  The fear worming its way through the Western elites is palpable.

They should be fearful.  They should be so fearful they defecate themselves.  

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Castro’s Death: Reactions Reveal Occidental Elite’s Fear Of Socialism

Trumped: Causes And Consequences

File photo of Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaking during a campaign rally at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas

Twenty-five percent of the registered voters in the USA chose to vote for Trump and for the Republican party.  (That is a slightly higher percentage than the proportional of British citizens who voted Tory at 2015’s general election (24%) and a much greater percentage than that attained by Theresa May to be appointed prime minister (0%).)  That is, nearly sixty million USA citizens voted for Donald Trump. 

Causes

The blame game has followed Trump’s election.  The eagerness to point accusatory fingers of blame is felt most keenly by, unsurprisingly, the useless self-appointed centrist guardians who blame everyone but themselves.  Of course, anyone and everyone is to blame.  

Political causes include a Democrat candidate too closely aligned with financial gangsters, an election system that is designed to prevent third-party candidates from making an impact and an electoral college system that allows a few states to decide the result of the election.  Tactical causes include focus on Trump’s clownish behaviour rather than his politics, a haughty and arrogant attitude from Clinton, and racially motivated voter suppression organised at a local level by the Republican Party.  The key epochal cause is a worldwide decline in trust of established authorities compounded by the lack of an obvious replacement.

Meanwhile, the aforesaid useless centre is drowning itself in pseudo-anthropological claptrap as it pins most of the blame for Trump on his voters.  Deluges of half-baked supercilious cod analysis posit all sixty million as a separate species and then essay surreal deductions to account for the anomaly of a Trump victory.  The fact is Trump’s votes’ total equated to standard Republican Party numbers, a total that would have been matched by other potential Republican candidates such as Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush. 

Consequences

While the rejected political professionals crow about their loss and natter on about “markets,” “trading partners” and table manners, the real consequences of Trump for the American people are frightening.  A few of the consequences are the following.

Bigotry 

Trump used and promoted racism throughout his campaign and he has a personal history of racism learnt from his father.  With Trump as president, racists, both individuals and owners of power in state or local government, will feel hugely emboldened.  They will eschew any vetting of their views and actions and will believe that the law will not protect their victims.  Of course, this renewed confidence to be racist will permeate through many police forces.  

Trump has persistently attacked Islam and has equated Islam with “terrorism.”  Thus, the racism against Muslims is further empowered by the racist’s justification of a claim to be concerned about terrorism.  Again, the attacks on Muslims will not just be from random individuals or gangs but also at work, college, school and other public places from those given power by local or state authorities.

Trump’s right-hand idiot Pence is vitriolically anti-gay.  Other likely senior members of Trump’s governing team are opposed to LGBT rights.  This will mean advancements in equality legislation will cease, and, as with racism, bigots will regain their boldness to be prejudiced.  Access bans for gay people to entertainment venues, shops and public buildings will proliferate.

It is the presence of Trump as president that emboldens the bigot and the denier of freedom both legally and by collective imbued confidence.

Health

Trump has made his opposition to abortion very clear.  Although he cannot change a key constitutional right, states that are governed by anti-abortionists will be able to effectively make abortion impossible – except for the wealthy – by closing all providers of abortions and of advice.

Trump will rescind the Affordable Care Act.  Access to necessary medical care will become much more dependent on personal wealth.

Safety

Trump will make access to guns much easier.  Background checks will disappear and the available weaponry will be more deadly.  Local and state justice systems will feel more confident about being lenient to the perpetrators of gun violence, dependent on prejudicial factors.

Employment and wages

Trump’s focus will be to help employers to exploit their employees.  Basic human rights in the workplace will be optional.  This includes hourly rate of pay, working hours, access to breaks, access to paid holidays, protection from dismissal, access to healthcare plans, health and safety in the workplace, equality of pay, etc.

Trump is, first and foremost, a friend of financial gangsters.  All his actions will assist his objective to enhance the wealth of said gangsters at everyone else’s expense.  His continued use of divisive language and practices will be both a distraction and a trick to appease and fool bigots to keep them on his side.  He couldn’t care less about the consequences of his actions.  He is the enemy of all but a tiny percentage of the American people.

Trumped: Causes And Consequences

The Desperation Of The Support For Judges

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Thursday’s High Court decision to instruct the government how to govern has encouraged many political protagonists to reveal – knowingly or otherwise – their respective agendas and priorities.

The far-right’s extreme and clownish response to the judges’ decision – a response displayed with violent emotion in Murdoch’s, Rothermere’s and Desmond’s newspapers as well as by UKIP screaming heads – has been, rightly, criticised for its tone but has received equal ire for its opposition to the judges’ interference.  Centrist and left-of-centre politicians, journalists and others with fortunate access to a public platform have formed a phalanx of crafted indignation with the far-right’s attack on the judiciary.  A bizarre and surreal spectacle persists where arbitrarily-appointed highly-paid judges’ dissection of the minutiae of ancient and modern law is presented by the aforesaid indignant as a defence of democracy.  The desperation of those who are (or pretend to be) left of centre to seek solace in technical machinations of the bewigged establishment is as pathetic as the desperation of applauding the House of Lords when it delays or blocks a government bill’s passage through parliament.  It is a misplaced defence of the respective remits and powers of the sections of British establishment’s control.   

The judges at the High Court, and those at the upcoming Supreme Court appeal, will make decisions based on legal interpretation.  They cannot be wholly absolved of blame but the main fault lies with the applicable law that takes power away from the elected government.  A mass circle jerk of barristers have been dancing gleefully in the unexpected limelight as they superciliously and condescendingly explain to we mere plebs exactly how the judges can act the way they have.  These technicians, financial beneficiaries of High Court cases, are knowingly ignoring the fact that most opposition to the case in question is opposition to how the law works rather than to the judges’ interpretations.

A strong assault on the politics and polemic of the far-right is possible without aligning with a control structure that is unacceptable.  A socialist government would be attacked relentlessly via the courts by mobs of international financial gangsters.  Left of centre support now for the institutional dampeners on progress, such as High and Supreme Courts, is driven by desperation and by a lack of confidence.  Anyone who is genuinely opposed to a structure that guarantees the continuation of capitalist exploitation should oppose how courts are allowed to dictate to government, even when that government is as reprehensible as the current Tory spivs, and should attack the morons on the far-right without automatically supporting whatever they are opposing.

Necessary change includes massive changes to the structure of government, including how much or little power judges have.

 

The Desperation Of The Support For Judges

Judge Not!

Today, the High Court decided it would force the Tory government to have a parliamentary debate about the departure of the UK from the EU.  

This invasion has been welcomed by many who are not supporters of the Tories including those who consider themselves to be left of centre; they are willfully oblivious to the fact that such a court could just as easily scupper changes made by a socialist government.  Some with knowledge of the law have chosen to espouse the spurious explanation that the interference by the judges is to be applauded as upholding democracy.

The supporters of Brexit have complained about interference in the democratic result of the recent referendum and those opposed to Brexit have welcomed an opportunity to have such a debate.  It may be sensible to have extended debate on all facets of the departure from the EU but it is wrong for a court, any court, to instruct the government how to govern.

The Tory government, as reprehensible and disgusting as it is, was elected via the current democratic process.  This government’s incompetence, encapsulated by the shambolic Brexit decisions so far, should not be a valid reason for a court to arbitrarily steal the decision-making power of government.

The (il)liberals have welcomed the court’s interference.  Their joy is informed in part by their desire to scupper Brexit; but, they have also expressed genuine satisfaction with the court’s role in the democratic structure in this country.  Analogous to false arguments about the usefulness of the House of Lords or the monarchy, to welcome the power of a court (unelected and unaffected by change of government) as one part of British democracy is to deny the power of the people of the country to have the government they want to have, without interference from overseers.

If a socialist government was elected its first act should be to remove a court’s power to interfere in government decisions.

Judge Not!

Philip Green’s behaviour epitomises capitalism

Sir (but not for much longer, apparently) Philip Green was the target of multi-party harangues in the House of Commons yesterday during a debate about whether he should retain his knighthood.  The consensus of those who spoke is that he should lose the title.

Of course, the issuing of knighthoods to successful business people has always been part of the mutual back-scratching between government and the corporate world.  It is a process wholly outside of reality.  So, why a parliamentary debate about one such honour bestowed on the former owner of a bog-standard chain of high street stores?

Of course, the pantomime is a nice distraction.  The current government likes distractions.  “Look at them over there!  Send your ire at them.  Don’t monitor our destruction of the country.”  However, the primary reason for MPs of all hues getting all flustered about Green is that they are desperate to manufacture an uncontested analysis that Green, and a few others, are the exception not the norm.  

The defenders of exploitative capitalism and of financial gangsters know there is growing awareness of the corrupt relationship between government and corporate parasites.  Therefore, isolating one or two such low-lifes – typically those who are too stupid to hide their exploitative practices – creates a theme whereby it is just a few vagabonds who are behaving badly, and that they will be dealt with via the law and/or removal of knighthoods.  The invented analysis is that some capitalists are being exploitative rather than the system itself being intrinsically and necessarily exploitative.  

The methodology used by filth like Philip Green and Mike Ashley, including side-stepping employment and health and safety law and theft of employee pension funds, etc. is the norm.  Lies, fraud, law-breaking and tax-dodging are the norm.  These are facets of capitalism in action, they are not isolated wrongdoing of a few outliers.

Philip Green’s behaviour epitomises capitalism