Propaganda, Conspiracy & Cock Ups

Our Health Crisis – My Perspective

When Government first started using wartime phraseology at the start of our present lock down my thoughts went straight away to propaganda. What will be true amongst what we hear from now on I pondered and what will be that which political leaders want us to hear/believe?

Yes of course we are always subject to propaganda it’s what politicians of all colours and indeed many journalists/newspapers/media outlets do day in day out when things are ‘normal’. However, in times of ‘war’ this gets ramped up and governments sometimes with collaborating media outlets produce agendas which are very much associated with what they want us believe. In other words they push the boundaries of what is acceptable deceit (is it ever acceptable?) much further. So to a free thinking mind, amongst all that we are been told, is what is truth and what is fiction?

Another word for our times is conspiracy. If you use social media you may well realise that folks invent utter rubbish and present it as fact for criminal purposes, to mislead, to give false hope or for other reasons. Conspiracy theories are rife about the origins of the virus, who can get it, what quack medicine protects us from it etc. etc. What’s more these conspiracy theories can sometimes look plausible at face value and we are urged to pass then on. Any tweet or facebook message which urges us to pass it on to our followers, friends and family should ring loud alarm bells but if we have found the message comforting or it fits with our own misinformed prejudices we can easily be hoodwinked into doing what we are asked rather than what we should be doing – deleting.

And what about cock-ups? Government has probably made many right from the start of the emergence of the virus either through lack of information, misinterpretation of data, ignoring data/facts, bad advice etc. etc. When this terrible period in world history is over and the actions of governments are assessed those which got things right and those who got it wrong will probably be exposed. The consequences of this could be dramatic and governments could fall if voters find out they were lied to on an industrial scale, were subject to unacceptable levels of propaganda and/or incompetent leaders.

But who amongst world leaders looks like they are making the least missteps? Trump is now little more than cringe worthy. Merkel, as always, looks calm cool and collected. The New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern is, as usual, a delight to listen to and like Merkel is seeming significantly trusted. On our own doorstep Rishi Sunak has come across well as for me did George Eustas on his one appearance in front of the cameras. Priti Patel, Dominic Raab and Matt Hancock look to be well out of their depth.

Government here looks far from confident or indeed competent. Even before the PM became ill he came over as someone well out of his comfort zone who was struggling with a situation he was not prepared for. As a populist politician, in some ways like to Trump, he seemed poor on detail. I wonder how he will emerge from his serious health scare and whether it will have changed him?

But my other great concern is about our journalists as few of them seem willing/capable of holding government seriously to account in our crisis. Far too many vague answers from Ministers are let go, far too many questions to Ministers are too rambling and imprecise. In short, to my mind, many journalists are simply not doing their job of cutting through the propaganda, exposing the cock-ups and most of all making our leaders feel the heat. As for all the adulation of Johnson by the media due to his unfortunate and obviously serious illness this has been very much over emphasised. And I say that not because the health of our PM is unimportant but because he is only one of many thousands of seriously ill and sadly dying people in the UK. Continually focusing on Johnson’s health has been lazy populist journalism which has been very useful cover for a weak government.

Funnily enough this crisis, falling as it has just after Brexit, could probably not have come at a worse time for the UK. A Government elected to deliver a fantasy anti-EU/little Englander world against an opposition which had thrown in the towel years ago has saddled us with many 2nd division politicians in high office. Our troubles now are built on the fact that we have few credible leaders in government or indeed in opposition as they were purged by our two main political parties as a consequence of Brexit.

The good news is what is happening despite government as many folk in communities across the land are rising to the challenge of our unprecedented health crisis to help those in need. There is indeed hope out there but little of it is coming from the UK’s political leaders………..

Maghull – A Facebook Community Group’s demise – Some thoughts

In a surprise move a few days ago the Maghull Community facebook Group, which had around 8,000 members, suddenly closed down. It left me and I suspect many others scratching their heads wondering what on earth had happened. Then a friend sent me this:-

Hi fellow Maghullians. Well it’s been a very stressful 48 hrs. As you are aware, the Community Page has been archived, and MCP would like to inform its lovely members why this very saddening step has been taken.

This site was created for the Community; for the people of Maghull to make friends, share stories and feel part of something bigger than themselves. However, as in reality, a virtual society needs guidelines to try to keep the majority happy. This includes rules like No Advertising – the Business Page is for this, no re-occurring Recommendations – the Recommendations Tab is for this, and of course more importantly being polite and not swearing on the page – remember we all have friends and family on the page – would you like bad language or inappropriate remarks being made in front of your own children, parents, etc?

When MCP first started, it only had a few hundred members, which was a pleasure to cast an eye over. As the numbers grew, it became more difficult to keep on top of requests, complaints about posts, and bullying, etc. Although more members were drafted in to help on Admin, it quickly grew into thousands, and became an impossible task to deal with everything that came along. With almost 9000 members, a 20 minute glance at the page has been vastly increased, and it has literally taken over the volunteers lives. Some say it does not need moderating, but some of the disgusting and disgraceful posts that have been reported or deleted, argue otherwise. MCP reflects that some things could have been handled differently, maybe some could have been acted on more quickly, and some more sensitively, however, it was run by people, not robots, and sometimes emotions get the better of people.

Over the last 48 hrs, a very small minority of the previous MCP have publicly made some very upsetting comments about this page, people on the page, and even guarded threats. This minority has made the last 2 days very disturbing for those involved in the page and has meant the page was amended, to be run anonymously. Subsequent jubilant remarks of MCPs demise, followed by shocking verbal attacks and upsetting and frightening physical threats on other social media pages, has lead to its saddening current status of archive.

MCP has always strived to satisfy the many, to the annoyance of the disgruntled few. These few are now publicly making personal remarks aimed towards people they have never met. These remarks are being read by people who are judging this few, and their behaviour, hopefully unwittingly, but nevertheless, portraying themselves as bullies and verging on a lynch mob.

The written word can often be taken out of context and it’s worth remembering that whatever gets written on the web can never fully be deleted, and will leave a ‘digital footprint’ behind. Once said, it cannot be unsaid – a great lesson to remember is; if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

Please remember folks, this is just a Facebook page and to most of us, there are much more important things to focus on. There are lots of FB pages people can join (or leave). Take a look at them; If you don’t like it, don’t join, or read, or comment! Like the MCP, most are not a dictatorship – try it, if you don’t like it, that’s fine, do your own thing, but don’t lower yourselves to trying to belittle, exploit or bully others; it’s not big, and it’s certainly not clever!

MCP would like to thank all of its valued members for your loyal membership, your lovely messages of support over the months, and particularly the last 48 hrs. Understandably, people may wonder why it couldn’t have been handed over to another member. However, it was felt that it would always be associated with the original creator, who as stated, were faced with threats towards them and their home. The young families of all involved had to be paramount. Therefore, the most difficult decision was made, that the only solution would be for the group to be removed completely.

Hopefully someone picks up the mantle to fill this gap; another community group that is about the little things, about being an online community who are there for each other, who are not members purely to gain for themselves or belittle others, but to share in something that is there for the spirit of togetherness and generosity.

Thanks to you all. Finally, let this be the line drawn and move forward. “Forgive, forget, bear with the faults of others, as you would have them bear with yours”. x

Quite a read indeed and my first thoughts were bullying and even the potential for hate crime issues at the extreme end of the troubles outlined.

Although the above is only one side of the story it is a very sorry read indeed. People being unwilling to follow group rules jumps out at you and sadly this must be a big problem across all social media. Why some people behave in ways they know they should not do is interesting on one level and frankly it would be useful to hear why those who gave out the grief to the group admins did what they did. Were they motivated by politics with either a small or a big P? Do some folks simply enjoy the use of inappropriate language and behaviour or is the problem that what is unacceptable to to some is very much everyday behaviour to others. Could the admins have inadvertently brought trouble upon themselves by trying to maintain standards that a significant minority of the group simply did not recognise as being acceptable to them?

Some time ago I was asked whether I was an admin for the MCP. An odd question I thought because all I was doing was placing some of my blog items, that may be of interest to Maghull folk, on the Page. I was also asked by an opposition politician some time ago if the people running the MCP were Lib Dems or words to that effect? Another odd question and to which I responded I have no idea, I only know that one of the admins is a Maghull in Bloom volunteer.

I’m aware as are many others that some folk allegedly got themselves banned from the Page due to inappropriate behaviour of one sort or another. Some of them did not go quietly it seems?

Social media has a big part to play in any community these days but managing a group with literally thousands of members, some of whom may be daggers drawn with each other, must be a quite a challenge and a time consuming one at that. I run a small FB Group where everyone gets on but the responsibility for running one where all sorts is going on day in day out must be very dispiriting indeed. Frankly, I can see why the admins decided they had just about had enough and shut the doors.

In many ways FB has, on a community level, replaced/enhanced exponentially the letters page of the local newspaper, but in the old days you had to go to the trouble of writing a letter, posting it and then having the paper’s editor holding the decision as to whether it was printed or not. Now a community FB page provides instant publicity for your just cause, prejudice, hatred, political stand point etc. etc. etc. The the word ‘instant’ is crucial here because it allows the angry to say what maybe should not be said in the heat of the moment. In other words it’s possible to put out there some useful timely information that many will benefit from knowing about, but it’s just as possible to come back from the pub and say what a sober person would not say. It’s this instant gratification that can often do far more harm than good and no one has yet found a way to moderate social media when it is in the hands of every single one of us. Why even Trump is on Twitter!!!!