My Election Notes 2019: E-Day – 18

by Pseud O'Nym

Last night provided me with the perfect illustration of how a series of known facts can, thanks to Twitter,  Facebook and other ‘social’ media platforms can easily be distorted or presented in such a way as to confirm pre-existing prejudices.

Last night, my house-mate showed me a video she had seen on Twitter. Apparently, when Foreign Secretary, Boris’s Johnson has visited Russia to visit the media mogul Eugene Lebedev at some parties.  The house where these parties took place was supposedly near some land owned by Vladimir Putin. These parties were, reported  John Sweeney with the earnestness befitting a man standing on a on a hill somewhere in a Russian forest, ‘Bunga Bunga parties! On one occasion, Johnson had gone without his police escort! Apparently MI6 thought presented potential problems.  Sweeney reassured us it was all true, cross his heart and hope to die true, because both the BBC and the Sunday Times had reported it.

I didn’t watch the entire video, but apparently Sarah Sands accompanied Johnson at least once, I was told, and she is now the editor of BBC R4 ‘Today’ programme, this proved something. Well to me it proved that before becoming editor of ‘Today’, she had formerly been editor of ‘The Standard’. a London newspaper owned by – cue drumroll – media mogul Eugene Lebedev and they were friends, and he was being friendly. And what to make of the claim that Putin owned some land nearby? Just because he owns it, doesn’t mean he uses it. He’s the President of Russia, I bet he owns lots of land there. Possibly for tax reasons, or possibly to preserve a natural woodland habitat. Who knows? I don’t and more importantly, neither does John Sweeney,  but that doesn’t stop him from planting the suspicion in our minds that something – no-one knows what – murky is going on.

Those parties that were like ‘Bunga Bunga’ parties? Talk about nudge-nudge, wink-wink! We all know – or think we know – what the ‘Bunga Bunga’ parties were all about. Hosted by the ageing crooner and former Italian PM, Silvio Berlusconi, and attended by older men and much younger women, they invariably turned into what happens when older men, alcohol, other illicit substances and younger women have a party.

We know what sort of a man Boris’s Johnson is. In fact, what sort of man would take his police escort to a party of that sort?

And as to Sweeney’s assertion that because the BBC and Sunday Times had reported on this, it had to be true, well if I was to learn that those articles had been written by him, shocked I would not be.

But that is the danger inherent with social media. Things that feel like they might be true, have a patina of credibility to them and re-enforce existing prejudices, regardless of truth, can be shared many times over by those in the same echo chamber.

But then I would write that, given that as I don’t have a smart ‘phone, I don’t get these videos sent to me. More importantly, even if I did, I like to delude myself that my natural cynicism, memory and critical thinking would help me interpret things differently. But here’s the thing, in this age of ‘fake news, is my delusion simply that!

Or, to be even more paranoid, am I meant to start doubting myself?

And just to prove how easy it is to present things out of context so as to give a false impression of the background leading up to it, who better to illustrate this point than John Sweeney himself. This is a trailer that the BBC put out for his ‘Panorama’ documentary, ‘Scientology and Me’, which shows him shouting and generally losing his temper in a not BBC way.  What we don’t see is the constant intimidation by the Scientologist’s that caused this. But what need have we in an age of Twitter, of context or nuance?