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COVID disinformation connections

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 Bob Kemp 06 Apr 2021

Interesting article about the wider network of COVID-19 disinformation propagandists that are connected to the Conservatives’ COVID Recovery group:

https://bylinetimes.com/2021/04/01/disinformation-lobbyists-and-brexit-business-bosses-finance-conservative-covid-sceptics-pr/ 

In reply to Bob Kemp:

Interesting site!

Reassuring to see that someone at least is holding them to account.

Talk about malevolence!

 Richard Horn 06 Apr 2021
In reply to Bob Kemp:

Why do you place so much trust in the truth of this article?

Post edited at 13:57
 Bob Kemp 06 Apr 2021
In reply to Richard Horn:

Where does it say I do?

 Harry Jarvis 06 Apr 2021
In reply to Richard Horn:

> Why do you place so much trust in the truth of this article?

Are there any particular elements of the article you consider to be untrue or misleading? If so, factual corrections or alternative interpretations would be interesting? 

 Richard Horn 06 Apr 2021
In reply to Harry Jarvis:

The opening statement highlighting "murky coalition of anti-lockdown groups" leads to immediate suspicion of a heavy bias being applied. 

 Bob Kemp 06 Apr 2021
In reply to Richard Horn:

Did you read the rest of the article? There’s plenty there to suggest that ‘murky’ is an apt choice. 

 wintertree 06 Apr 2021
In reply to Richard Horn:

> The opening statement highlighting "murky coalition of anti-lockdown groups" leads to immediate suspicion of a heavy bias being applied. 

Not when their evidenced point is that a significant amount of high quality research reveals a hidden coalition of behind the scenes groups underlining dissent against control measures including lockdown, safety measures in schools and so on.

It looks like a pretty neutral summary of events to me.  Many of these groups are anything but transparent, and they hide behind others - law firms, street mobs, a subset of backbench MPs, social media campaigns.  “Murky” would seem to be technically accurate rather than biased.

You might not like it, but perhaps you’d care to engage with the detailed substance of their points rather than make arbitrary claims of bias.

 jkarran 06 Apr 2021
In reply to Richard Horn:

Does a judgemental tone in the reporting of something bad mean the bad thing being reported didn't happen?

jk

 Harry Jarvis 06 Apr 2021
In reply to Richard Horn:

> The opening statement highlighting "murky coalition of anti-lockdown groups" leads to immediate suspicion of a heavy bias being applied. 

Of course one person's bias could be another person's reasoned interpretation. The article describes a number of political lobbying groups which have taken stances opposed to a range of lockdown measures. That to me seems indisputable. Would you agree? 

 timjones 06 Apr 2021
In reply to Bob Kemp:

> Where does it say I do?

Do you post links to articles that you don't trust?

 Andy Hardy 06 Apr 2021
In reply to Richard Horn:

The rest seems well researched and evidenced though. 

 Bob Kemp 06 Apr 2021
In reply to timjones:

My posting an article does not necessarily mean I entirely endorse it. It’s not a simple split between total trust and no trust. There are many points between. 

 mondite 06 Apr 2021
In reply to Richard Horn:

> The opening statement highlighting "murky coalition of anti-lockdown groups" leads to immediate suspicion of a heavy bias being applied. 


Aside from that looks to be the standard editor headline/subheading so I am not sure why you would discount the entire article?

In reply to Bob Kemp:

I keep meaning to sign up to a subscription to the byline times and forgetting. I have now.

Post edited at 16:38
 NathanP 06 Apr 2021
In reply to Bob Kemp:

I can't say I'm surprised.

In reply to timjones:

> Do you post links to articles that you don't trust?

I posted a link from The Express the other day...

 timjones 07:14 Wed
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Every rag has it's moment, even it is merely a fluke ;)

 timjones 07:16 Wed
In reply to jkarran:

> Does a judgemental tone in the reporting of something bad mean the bad thing being reported didn't happen?

Having fought my way through the tedious writing in the article I'm not sure what the "bad thing" is or whether it happened

 Martin W 08:31 Wed
In reply to mondite:

> that looks to be the standard editor headline/subheading

The term you are looking for is "standfirst": a brief introductory summary of an article in a newspaper or on a website, typically appearing immediately after the headline and typographically distinct from the rest of the article.  [Definition from Oxford Languages via Google.]

As you suggest, they are often/usually concocted by the editorial staff, sometimes with little or no consultation with the author of the article.  The standfirst shouldn't be regarded as being part of the content of the actual article.

 Bob Kemp 08:55 Wed
In reply to timjones:

If you’d ‘fought your way through the article’ you’d have seen the last paragraph. It’s quite clear what the ‘bad thing’ is, or maybe you don’t think “allowing false and inaccurate views about the pandemic to circulate among politicians, business leaders and other key stakeholders” is a bad thing.

In reply to Martin W:

> As you suggest, they are often/usually concocted by the editorial staff, sometimes with little or no consultation with the author of the article.  The standfirst shouldn't be regarded as being part of the content of the actual article.

It would appear to be pulled straight from the 4th paragraph of the article....

In reply to Richard Horn:

You may have missed my earlier question, which I'll repeat here: 

'The article describes a number of political lobbying groups which have taken stances opposed to a range of lockdown measures. That to me seems indisputable. Would you agree?'

 Eric9Points 10:55 Wed
In reply to timjones:

The bad thing is that some people paid a group of Tory MPs £19.5k to employ a PR guy to put their case for ending Covid restrictions.

The article states that the group of MPs spread disinformation on Covid. I think this is a stretch. Disinformation is lies, I think the correct word is misinformation, stuff that's wrong but not deliberately misleading.

 wercat 11:33 Wed
In reply to Eric9Points:

that is an extremely charitable way of letting them off the hook

 Andy Hardy 11:47 Wed
In reply to Eric9Points:

Given the gravity of the situation, how can spreading information that is wrong, and which is known to be wrong and known to have serious consequences, be anything other than lies?

It's the same tactics as used to protect the investments of the wealthy, at the expense of the rest of us, as was used by the makers of  tetra-ethyl lead, cigarettes and fossil fuels.

 wintertree 21:36 Wed
In reply to Bob Kemp:

Not unrelated, Reuters have done a long piece on Yeadon, and have managed to interview multiple former colleagues and to get some - terse -quotes from companies he used to work with/for.

https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/health-coronavirus-vaccines-skeptic/

Post edited at 21:49
 timjones 08:19 Thu
In reply to Bob Kemp:

> If you’d ‘fought your way through the article’ you’d have seen the last paragraph. It’s quite clear what the ‘bad thing’ is, or maybe you don’t think “allowing false and inaccurate views about the pandemic to circulate among politicians, business leaders and other key stakeholders” is a bad thing.

How do you stop "false and inaccurate views" circulating without stifling debate?

Some views are false, some are inaccurate  and others are merely inconvenient because they clash with our own views.

We're on a slippery slope if we start censoring any of them.

In reply to timjones:

Essentially it’s the “shouting fire in a crowded theatre” debate. 

 felt 08:41 Thu
In reply to Bob Kemp:

Absolute shower of sh*t.

 Andy Hardy 08:56 Thu
In reply to timjones:

> How do you stop "false and inaccurate views" circulating without stifling debate?

> Some views are false, some are inaccurate  and others are merely inconvenient because they clash with our own views.

Seems to me that Yeadon's falsehoods gained traction because of his background (ex VP at Pfizer) and the fact he had lots of twitter followers.

Maybe we should hold people in such positions of trust and authority to higher standards on social media, starting with criminal and civil liability for the various harms they cause. (See also ex-president Donnie Orange). 

We also need to improve the public's critical thinking skills - not sure how though!

 Bob Kemp 09:06 Thu
In reply to timjones:

> How do you stop "false and inaccurate views" circulating without stifling debate?

> Some views are false, some are inaccurate  and others are merely inconvenient because they clash with our own views.

> We're on a slippery slope if we start censoring any of them.

This is a bit of a red herring. The article is about how the CRG is part of a wider network of organisations who are funding their activities. It isn’t a call for censorship. If anything it’s a call for transparency and openness. 

 jkarran 09:21 Thu
In reply to wercat:

> that is an extremely charitable way of letting them off the hook

I think I'd rather be considered a crook than a chump if I had to choose between the two.

jk

 jkarran 09:23 Thu
In reply to Andy Hardy:

> We also need to improve the public's critical thinking skills - not sure how though!

Teaching it would be a start.

jk

 wintertree 09:33 Thu
In reply to Andy Hardy:

> Seems to me that Yeadon's falsehoods gained traction because of his background (ex VP at Pfizer) and the fact he had lots of twitter followers.

I think he didn't have many twitter followers until he started making the demonstrably false claims, probably just a few hundred.  His initial ramblings were I think weaponised by the people pushing misinformation for their master's profit, and this led to his twitter followers increasing rapidly - thousands more a day at one point.  

I suspect the constant praise, validation and reenforcement offered by the sudden appearance of 80k largely deranged twitter followers contributed to the rapid changes in his character, away from the evidence driven scientist his former colleagues recollect in the Reuters article up thread.

> Maybe we should hold people in such positions of trust and authority to higher standards on social media, starting with criminal and civil liability for the various harms they cause. 

Three separate issues IMO.

  1.  We need to tackle stealth political lobbying and drag it kicking and screaming in to an open, regulated environment with full fiscal transparency and strong penalties for going "off radar".
  2. Elected politicians who are so dense they represent a clear and present threat to the public they are supposed to serve.  We have that in extremis with a local councillor in our county.
  3. People deliberately pushing lies at the expense of health should be held criminally and civilly liable.

> We also need to improve the public's critical thinking skills - not sure how though!

Yes.  Since March 2020, deconstructions on here of some of the nonsense being presented as a counter point to well evidenced, long established public health measures has been meet with crap about "open debate" and "equally valid opinions". I think the extremes TV news has conflated "balanced reporting" with "finding an opposing view no mater how insane" has thoroughly undermined the role of critical thinking for many and replaced it with an idea that the reasoned approach lies between the extremes someone else presents to you.

Post edited at 09:33
 wintertree 09:36 Thu
In reply to timjones:

> How do you stop "false and inaccurate views" circulating without stifling debate?

By debating things that can make a difference and not fantasies of small statists looking to grow their own wealth at the expense of everyone else?  Issues like:

  • The level of support provided for all members of society during necessary control measures during a public health crisis
  • The quality of the state response to said crisis - especially in terms of timeliness of actions
  • The realities of our eventual exit strategy from this public health crisis
  • The extent of cronyistic disaster capitalism - especially when combined with many funding crises in social support areas.

It's not hard to see why quite a few people would be happy to derail meaningful debate from real, tangible, important things that can actually make things better for everyone and on to fantastical nonsense based in deceit and treachery.

In reply to Andy Hardy:

> We also need to improve the public's critical thinking skills 

I sort of hope that all the apparently idiotic posts I see on social media are resulting in payment; it would make me feel happier to think people are venal, rather than just stupid...

In reply to jkarran:

It used to be quite widely taught up to A level. In 2011 the new government poured scorn on it

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2011/aug/21/a-level-results-critical-thinking

and it withered away. Can’t think why they would have done that.

 Offwidth 08:51 Fri
In reply to captain paranoia:

Rational independent thought isn't at all easy. Even experts suffer from our human tendancy to form rigid internal narratives. I say look at the mistakes of the well educated before we insult the ordinary populace.

In the last election there was a progressive majority voting against the tories (where Boris was the biggest existential threat to the UK in a generation) but it was mainly well educated progressive voters who couldn't get their act together and vote on a large enough scale tactically. Even in easy winnable marginals (like Vernon Coaker's seat, a moderate Labour MP, in Gedling, 100m from my house) tens of seats were lost to obedient Boris minions.

Post edited at 08:53
 timjones 11:54 Fri
In reply to wintertree:

> > How do you stop "false and inaccurate views" circulating without stifling debate?

> By debating things that can make a difference and not fantasies of small statists looking to grow their own wealth at the expense of everyone else? 

Who gets the define the "things that can make a difference"?

 timjones 11:56 Fri
In reply to jkarran:

To be fair critical thinking does seem to be encouraged more in schools these days.

 elsewhere 12:05 Fri
In reply to timjones:

> Who gets the define the "things that can make a difference"?

Anybody & everybody in a democracy.


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