Liberal Comfort Blankets 366

Carole Cadwalladr posted a nonsensical tweet today showing the swing of opinion from Remain to Leave during the EU referendum campaign and claiming this as evidence that the Leave advertising worked.

This is a ludicrously childish assumption of cause and effect by Cadwalladr. Consider this graph showing the even more spectacular leap of support by Labour during the 2017 general election campaign. Yet the Tories vastly outspent Labour on advertising.

Then look at this graph of the Scottish Independence Referendum, where again No outspent Yes on advertising but opinion swung the other way.

Carole Cadwalladr has done excellent work on the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook data sales scandals, revealing dark doings that needed to be exposed. But the claim that advertising spending has a decisive effect on polling intentions is very dodgy indeed. In fact, looking at the examples of the Scottish Referendum and General Election, using the Cadwalladr induction method you would conclude that advertising spending is counter-productive.

But Cadwalladr’s foolish tweet today is more than an attempt to enhance the importance of the research of Carole Cadwalladr. It is part of a continuing effort by the liberal elite to find simplistic reasons why their views were rejected by a major section of the general populace in two seismic political events – Brexit, and the election of Donald Trump. The elite are seeking to comfort themselves with the idea that happenings of very marginal significance – Cambridge Analytica’s audience research, or 13 Russians allegedly trying to hack unspecified info – were in fact massive factors that explain the electorate’s “deplorable” behaviour.

For what it is worth – and perhaps it is not worth much, though it is worth more than Cadwalladr’s logical fallacy – my own view is that hatred of the political class, by a population which has come to realise it is exploited, was a major factor.

In the Brexit referendum, Remain made the fatal mistake of being fronted by detested politicians – Nick Clegg, Will and Jack Straw, George Osborne, Tony Blair. The chance to kick these people proved irresistible. Similarly Hillary was the most detested machine candidate the Democrats had available. By contrast, while the “authentic” personas of Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage may be fake, they were well placed to tap into the anti-politician mood.

This also explains why Remain did much better in Scotland, where it was headed by the SNP’s far less detested politicians who are themselves regarded as anti the UK establishment

Finally, the key factor that unites all the three opinion poll charts above – General Election, Brexit and Scottish Indyref – is that opinion swings very fast indeed inside the period of broadcasting restrictions, when broadcasters have to give at least a semblance of fair time to the view which the Establishment generally derides. Unlike the advertising explanation, which works in only one out of three cases, the hypothesis that broadcasting restrictions redressing establishment bias is the most important factor, would appear to work very well in all three cases.

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366 thoughts on “Liberal Comfort Blankets

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  • Dom

    The enhancing of the importance of this story by desperate remainers continues apace in today’s Guardian/Observer, with Cadawalladr now terming it “one of the great political scandals of our time.”

  • Tom Joad

    My few pence worth as I am normally very much agreeing with Craig.

    It probably is lazy argumentation from CC in the sense that most elections have a last minute spurt.
    It might be correct that many parties spend money and use ads and this might or might have such an impact.
    This particular referendum result might or might not suit your particular view point.
    CC might or might not be a self promoting journalist of a certain ilk.
    And whether Russians IT techies were involved is irrelevant.

    But I am with Ian on this one.

    The real issue for me is the way modern technology has been developed to farm Big Data from unsuspecting individuals and implement concepts like micro-targeting to find, address the individuals that could swing the results. And that the very planned and coordinated utilization of these measures, their funding and the content the use is at the moment completely opaque and entirely unregulated.

    But the likes of Bannon is understanding this very well and will cause further mayhem using it for his purposes.

  • quasi_verbatim

    How Brexit turns out is a moot point, but I suppose that after the population falls to a sustainable ten million or so it will turn out alright. But we won’t have to wait fifty years for that.

    One thing is certain, Britain cannot afford and will not survive another female Prime Minister. Two back-stabbing opportunists, previous and incumbent, are quite enough.

      • Shatnersrug

        I would have thought if one thing was proved by politicians such as
        Thatcher(No society)
        May(strong and stable, husband owns missile company )
        Merkel(fuck Greece)
        Albright(50,000 child deaths are worth it)
        Feinstein(family owns arms company)
        Margret hodge(covered up pedos, encourages BNP, hides money offshore)

        …is that gender makes absolutely not a jot of difference to the venal conivences of the political class.

        Class bring an ironic term seeing as none of them displayed any.

        • Garth Carthy

          @ Shatnersrug: I agree, but I still think ideally, there should be an equal number of female MP’s to male MP’s. However, as you say, female Prime Ministers and female political leaders generally, tend to be as bad as the males.
          It’s really the system that needs changing isn’t it? There should be harsher restrictions on how much political parties can be funded by big business and a thorough clean out of the overpaid BBC establishment toadies. Then of course, I suppose we can only dream…dream of a fairer, saner system of politics where the ‘deep state’ is kept under control and our rulers behave like adults.

    • Ingwe

      Daft, sexist thing to say. The gender of the PM is irrelevant. It is her policies, like that of Margaret Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown, Cameron and now May that are the problem.

  • Sharp Ears

    Ahed and her mother have been freed from prison by the Israelis. Brave girl.

    Palestinian girl, 17, who was jailed for eight months after she was filmed kicking and slapping Israeli soldiers is freed from prison
    Activist Ahed Tamimi accepted a plea deal at Israeli military court earlier today
    She was recorded kicking and punching Israeli soldiers in West Bank last year
    They did not respond to her provocations but she was still arrested for assault
    Her and her mother have now been freed and are returning to the West Bank

    29 July 2018

    • Sharp Ears

      Also in the Mail, details of what has been covered up by HMG. The Belfast lawyer was Pat Finucane. His widow of 29 years’ standing has never achieved justice. See below.

      Whitehall is ‘covering up the past’: File on Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s marriage, Lockerbie records and MI5 ‘link’ to Belfast lawyer death among documents blocked by government
      The Advisory Council on National Records and Archives released its latest report
      Whitehall is supposed to send files to the National Archives after 20 years
      Officials can block the release of files if they compromise National security
      The number of blocked files has jumped from 4,300 to 5,900 in a year
      28 July 2018

      Widow of Pat Finucane urges UK supreme court to back inquiry
      Belfast solicitor (39) shot dead by loyalist paramilitaries in 1989

      • pete

        I can’t help but think that the government blocking the release of information regarding the murder of Pat Finucane so long after the event is just to cover up the security forces involvement in the case, they are not interested in resolving this matter.

    • Sharp Ears

      Did the author mean ‘She and her mother…’ rather than ‘Her and her mother..’ ? Back to school for some English grammar lessons.

    • Ingwe

      A 16 child is jailed for 18 months for slapping an armed soldier, whilst an Israeli soldier shoots dead an unarmed, injured Palestinian and doesn’t even face trial. That’s Israeli justice for you.

      • Doug Scorgie

        Correct ingwe and the “internationally accepted” definition of anti-Semitism would deem your comment
        to be anti-Semitic. Freedom of speech in Britain is being undermined by Zionist groups to crush any criticism of Israeli actions in the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights.
        Strength to BDS.

        • Ingwe

          Amen, Doug Scorgie. Yes, I’m one of those self-hating Jews opposed to Zionism and for whom none of the Jewish organisations alleging anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, speaks.
          As you say, strength to BDS.

    • Andyoldlabour

      Thanks Sharp Ears – a little ray of sunshine on this damned World.
      At least we can hope for better morsels in the future.
      Sorry I am so cynical.

    • John Wayne

      It remainers are truly taking this one seriously I suggest they “Bobbit” themselves as a prophylactic measure and to show their faith in the EU.

  • quasi_verbatim

    I note from the Guardian that Kevin McKenna thinks Quisling of the Privy Council is on the updated MI5 list of Scottish subversives. How out of touch can you get?

  • Dave

    I don’t think the Jo Cox event was included in the Remain return of expenses either.

    But separately the Electoral Commission was set up by New Labour to undermine rather than enhance democracy and replicated existing bodies such as Association of Returning Officers who were professional/impartial rather than political in their approach. That is the new EC is far too concerned with expenditure in elections rather than reform of the voting system, with mostly irrelevant concerns about misspends/overspends attracting fines and perhaps disqualification.

    The example that illustrates the point and makes me laugh is the nonsense over the Labour ED-STONE. Advisors said don’t do it you’ll be a laughing stock and it will lose us votes, but no it was deemed a great biblically enhanced playing on the former manifesto pledge cards.

    After the elections they were fined about £20,000 for not including in their return of expenses (I don’t know how much it cost) the cost of a stunt that probably lost them votes or made no difference apart from the laughter.

    • Sharp Ears

      The Jo Cox legacy. Many questions remain about all of it.

      See this. Part of Jo Cox’s legacy according to Treeza. How will it be audited and who is accountable for the disbursement of £20m? What is ‘loneliness’. How is it described?

      Press release
      £20 million investment to help tackle loneliness
      Charities and community groups will get £20 million of new funding to help isolated people and those suffering from loneliness

      ‘Tracey Crouch
      Jun 18
      Delighted to announce today, as part of Jo Cox’s legacy, a £20m investment into tackling loneliness. Thanks to Gov funds & our amazing funding partners this extraordinary sum will help support & grow projects that create much needed meaningful connections.

      The Minister for Loneliness aka the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport and Civil Society
      is adept at collecting donations. For what purpose is not stated.

  • Charles Bostock

    “Widow of Pat Finucane urges UK supreme court to back inquiry
    Belfast solicitor (39) shot dead by loyalist paramilitaries in 1989”

    It would be nice to hope that human rights activists will still be making a fuss about Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky nearly thirty years after he was died in a Russian state gaol.

    Mind you, many of those human rights activists never made a fuss in the first place – that had to be left to the US Congress.

    • frankywiggles

      Pat Finucane’s widow wants full disclosure about her husband’s murder, colluded in by the British state. If you were her, so would you.

      • Charles Bostock

        I’m not talking about his widow, I’m talking about the “human rights activists” who make a fuss about Finucane and ignore Magnitsky.

          • Dave

            There are patriots who are so opposed to immigration they oppose all ‘left-wing thinking’ which includes anti-war sentiment and feel they are obliged to support ‘right-wing war’ in defence of the patriotism, ignoring the fact its a criminal neo-con foreign policy on behalf of the warmongers that has led to a migrant crisis on a biblical scale that they claim to oppose.

    • John A

      Magnitsky was an accountant, not a lawyer. Involved in tax fiddling with Browder. He had a history of heart trouble. One can argue that he should have received better medical treatment in gaol, but claims that he was murdered should be viewed with a bushel of salt

      I suggest you watch
      “The Magnitsky Act: Behind the Scenes,” by Russian filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov that is available on line. Browder has tried to ban it. Basically, Nekrasov, who is anti-Putin, was invited by Browder to make a documentary about the matter. The film starts with him interviewing Browder and being sympathetic to him. However, as Nekrasov investigates further, he discovers that Browder’s claims do not stand up. In later interviews, Browder is very shifty.
      But watch the film for yourself. By all means disagree with it, but do watch it to open your eyes to the 2 sides to the story.

  • Sharp Ears

    Dominic Raab’s reputation is being ‘wasted’ by Murdoch’s Sun

    BREXIT MR NASTY Dominic Raab’s axed assistant blasts the Brexit Secretary and says ‘he screamed at staff… I felt bullied’
    The 21-year-old has spoken exclusively to The Sun to reveal details of her time as Diary Secretary to Mr Raab (apologies for the link)

    and in the Observer today, he is subjected to Theresa’s domination.

    Dominic Raab, Theresa May’s little helper – cartoon
    +1,000 comments thereon!

  • Hatuey

    I see wingsoverscotland has had its YouTube channel closed down for alleged copyright infringement in respect of bbc news clips. No matter what you might think of Wings, this is a flagrant attack on the Scottish independence movement (probably conducted by the BBC) and free speech.

    Note that it’s entirely legal to use clips produced by the BBC and other news agencies for the purposes of Criticism, review and reporting current events.

    Sinister forces are at work, but why? Why now? There’s a sense that something big is coming and they are doing everything they can in advance to neutralise official enemies.

  • Isa

    In the parliament report regarding the vote leave advert campaign the uk parliamentary committee analysed Catalonia : the number of injured due to police intervention on Catalonian referendum is a Russian Bot lie . I suggest you tell the hospitals and official health authorities in Catalonia that they’re lying as well as Enric Millo, the Spanish government representative in Catalonia that he is also lying and both are Putin’s agents …

    “197. We heard evidence that showed alleged Russian interference in the Spanish Referendum, in October 2017. During the Referendum campaign, Russia provoked con ict, through a mixture of misleading information and disinformation, between people within Spain, and between Spain and other member states in the EU, and in NATO. We heard evidence that showed that Russia had a special interest in discrediting the Spanish democratic system, through Russian state a liated TV organisations spreading propaganda that bene tted those wanting independence in Catalonia.”
    So it did provide an opening for a democratic crisis that is ongoing and very complex”.245 Our witnesses talked about the prevalence of up to 70% to 80% of bots that retweet disinformation.246 Furthermore, journalists who reported on Russian troll farms were attacked verbally and so the established media was undermined by disseminating false information purporting to be fact, such as the claim that 900 people had been injured in Catalonia, which did not happen.”

    This makes my blood boil . If they want to price there was breach of rules do so with an honest report and investigation but to say that the injured in Catalonia are Russian Bot lies or interview Bill Browder that paragon of virtue as a reliable source to claim Russian interference shows me that politicians and the media are totally out of control and we are powerless to stop this .

  • SA

    Interesting discussions going on about how a no-deal Brexit will hurt the continent as much as it will hurt UK. This is an example:

    “As we leave the EU, the metaphorical width of the Channel is an open question. Berlin, Paris, Rome and the other key capitals should reflect that the UK remains a fundamentally European ally. EU membership was rejected by our political system. But European values aren’t the four freedoms of the single market. They are the respect for the rule of law, liberal democracy, a free press, and powerful institutions – and these run deep through the UK.”
    Reminds me of this headline:
    “Fog in Channel – Continent Cut Off”
    It is also interesting to further analyse these so-called European values but this could take a lot of space.

    • MJ

      What will hurt the EU most is the UK leaving the Customs Union while maintaining an open border with Ireland. This will provide non-EU exporters with a back-door into the single market without having to pay EU tariffs.

      • SA

        And I think the EU will reject this solution because it violates the EU border with a non-EU country.

        • MJ

          Yes. The UK has offered to collect tariffs on the EU’s behalf and this solution has been rejected, leaving Ireland in a quandary. It will probably be resolved by Ireland leaving the EU.

          • Dave

            The solution is for the Republic to leave the EU and join a new Independent Britain and Ireland Union with devolved governance as they have far greater economic and cultural links to UK than to EU and gave up their independence when they joined the Euro and would have a greater influence in a B&IU than a EU and could take back control of their borders.

          • MJ

            “What advantage would that be to Ireland?”

            Obviously the continuation of free trade with the UK, as has been the case for decades and long pre-dating its membership of the EU. The huge majority of Ireland’s trade is with the UK and it only joined the EU because the UK did.

          • frankywiggles

            Ireland leave the EU to join the Brexit Clown Show? You’ve more chance of seeing a one-legged cat burying a turd on a frozen pond…

          • Maywood

            “You’ve more chance of seeing a one-legged cat burying a turd on a frozen pond…”

            Well said.

          • Dave

            Except the Republic has voted for gay marriage and abortion so anything’s possible!

      • Charles Bostock

        I may be mistaken but I don’t think the UK government has said it will maintain an “open border” with Ireland in the sense that there will be no checks on goods and merchandise for the purposes of customs duties and VAT. The checks (and payment of duties and VAT) would be done electronically and not physically. If that is correct (and feasible), then any setting up of a so-called “hard border” (ie, physical checks) would be the doing of the EU-27 and not the UK. Si tht particular ball would ppear to be in the EU-27’s court, so to speak.

        • John A

          No checks on goods in Ireland will be a welcome mat for smugglers. Once goods are inside the EU, they have free movement, subject to the odd spot check, which is why there has to be checks to EU borders to ensure goods are compliant with EU rules, regulatoins and standards. If Northern Ireland stays with Brexit, there will have to be some kind of border controls. That can either be the Irish Sea or a hard border between the north and south. Electronic checks cannot tell if goods are compliant, there must be veterinary checks that meat and livestock standards are compliant, palletised goods must be on EU pallets etc. It is a fairy story to think that can be done by computers. There has to be some kinds of physical checks.

        • SA

          The UK proposal is subversion and obfuscation. The EU, like Britain will be two separate sovereign entities, it was Britains choice not that of the EU.

  • quasi_verbatim

    Two more Skripalgate stinkbombs this morning:

    Investigators now believe that “two groups” were involved in transporting and delivering NoviSpray. How many Russkies does it take to carry a bottle of perfume?

    Or was it a crate? The investigators believe that “another such bottle might be found in Britain and pose a serious threat”, despite the fact that the investigators don’t think the bottle “later found by a Salisbury resident could have been used as a container for the nerve agent”.

    So there we have it. Nine green bottles, still hanging on the wall.

    • SA

      And if one green bottle, should accidentally fall-releasing novichok on a door handle, there will be 8 green bottles, hanging on the wall.
      Eight green bottles hanging on the wall etc…
      And if one green bottle should accidentally fall-releasing ammonia smelling oily novichok, there will be 7 green bottles hanging on the wall..

    • Reg

      Makes perfect sense
      If you are making up a story about a Russian hit squad, if they ever release or more likely leak the names one group could be disproved by an alibi, with 2 groups the story (however fictional) becomes more difficult to disprove with an alibi.

  • Isa

    Carole Caddwalledr is now on twitter saying the UK needs a Robert Mueller for their enquiry . Easily done , invite Tony Blair to lead the enquiry into Russian influence . Sure they tell the same lies they have the same competence .

    • SA

      Mueller and Blair were both cheerleaders and facilitators for the war on Iraq so good choice.
      It is of course of great interest that the Russia gate in US has taken two years to get no proof of Russian involvement in manipulating elections, so it will take us also as long here to do the same concerning Brexit.

      • Isa

        People’s memories are selective to suit bias and agendas and that is not only sad but also alarming .

        The report is also claiming that the number of injured in the Catalonia referendum is fake news , Russian bots made up the 900 injured .

        The corruption of media and institutions and the hysteria , convenient amnesia and bias of the majority of the public is astounding . If you point this out they go absolutely irrational and although Mueller is on video lying , it’s fake news . we are living through true days of doom .

        • Dave

          Referencing whether the public agree or not to this or that is mostly besides the point because in practice its the politically active who are the important audience because they sit on the committees that decide what’s agreed illustrated by a referendum that delivers a result the MPs, the legislators, don’t want to implement and are trying to sabotage whilst ‘honouring the vote’!

          This is why they hate Corbyn because he was prepared to question the anti-Russian narrative and provide the elected leadership of the people despite the cry of fury from all sides of the House and why the volume of hate is being turned up against him by the pro-war lobby in the name of anti-Semitism.

          • Isa

            Agreed . As an outsider ive watched with incredulity over the months both US and UK developments . When I read the leaked report yesterday I couldn’t believe what I was reading . Incompetence , deceit , mediocrity is all I can find .

  • bj

    A quote, if I may:
    “And then there is that hidden “meddler” behind the meddling; Britain. The extent of British meddling in American politics – at least since – the beginning of the 20thcentury would shock even the most devout cheerleaders of ex-MI6 agent Christopher Steele and his “dirty dossier”. In a case reminiscent of America’s current hysteria over Russia, British intelligence even” (…)

  • Charles Bostock

    Is it not the case that while the UK and US monitor the internet (and rightly so), certain countries (China, Russia, Venezuela….) censor it ?

    Quite a big difference there seen from a human rights and freedom of expression standpoint, I think.

  • lysias

    Craig has answered the laughable claim that the UK does not censor in his new thread.

    • Charles Bostock

      I was talking about censorship of the internet by the national authorities and not “censorship” by private companies or about how the BBC chooses to present the news, Lysias. You know – censorship by blocking access to certain websites, etc. As apparently practised by China, Russia and others.

  • David Venables

    The above article seems to present several valid arguments that remain had an unfair advantage. With a significant amount of its funding coming from Lord Sainsbury and the big four foreign investment banks in addition to the tax payer funded remain leaflet from Cameron posted through everyone’s door and proven by Sheffield University study to have positively influenced conservative voters in favour of remain. A leaflet which made it perfectly clear, even to the ill-educated grumpy old northern gits who voted to leave, what leave actually meant. All arguments posed by remainers about soft and hard Brexit should refer to this leaflet in case they need clarification of what we were actually voting for.

  • Tony

    Hillary Clinton was a flawed candidate who fought a flawed campaign.
    Can you remember what her campaign slogan was? No, I can’t either.
    But I bet you can remember Donald Trump’s.

    This conversation took place on Channel 4 News just after the election. It underlines the importance of a slogan which is regularly repeated and which goes unchallenged:

    Reporter: Did you vote for Donald Trump?
    Woman: Yes, I did.
    Reporter: Why is that?
    Woman: He’s going to make America great again.
    Reporter: How’s he going to do that?
    Woman: Well, I don’t know (in an uncertain voice)

    Incidentally, ‘take back control’ was the slogan of the Brexiteers during the EU referendum. I think it was a very clever slogan especially given its meaninglessness. This slogan was never really challenged either. Incidentally, can anybody remember the Remain campaign’s slogan. I can’t.

  • Neil Howarth

    An excellent article again by Mr Murray. From my own experience the establishment is at the moment only being saved from a full uprising because of the split in the working /middle class. From the Tommy Robinson side to the Corbyn revolution. What supporters of both ( I’m with Corbyn in my belief he’s a man of principle and his foreign policy) have in common and I’ve never felt it anywhere near these levels before is it’s not just a hatred for politicians like May , Blair etc it’s an absolute hatred of the media. Not everyone but a huge number of people have woken upto the fact that the MSM is not to be trusted. I rarely see people of working class origins on bbc/ sky news and there is a real and growing feeling of revulsion in the masses. Now I don’t share any common ground with Robinson’s views but one thing I do have empathy with his supporters ( White working class ) is they know they are absolutely hated by our elite and political class unless there is a war to fight!

  • James

    Both statements can be true.

    Yes, hatred towards ‘the political elite’ is certainly a big factor. But I think advertising also played a part – although of course it is notoriously difficult to isolate the impact of this from other factors.

    What is true is that we are in a new game. In past elections, candidates would temper their advertising, not because they thought their supporters wouldn’t like it, but because it left them open to attacks from their opponents. Publish an ad attacking immigrants, for example, and the right might shore up its own support but be attacked as racist from the left.

    In micro-targeting ads through social media, campaigners could deliver quite extreme content that would only be seen by those they were targeting. Also, the scale and anonymity of the internet means that they can always deny authorship of anything that does cause a negative reaction.

    We are now in a terrifying world where neighbours can consume entirely different media, and thus be fed entirely different narratives about what is happening in the world. The multiplicity of new voices is great. Confirmation bias and self-reinforcing bubbles are not.

    A high % of voters are now deluded, and often choose to be that way. And deluded people cannot possibly make rational choices.

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