For everyone interested in the work of Britain's Parliament; the US Congress; the European Parliament and the French Parlement.
Discuss Practice, Procedure, History and current issues.
Wednesday, 28 August 2013
The Power of Misinformation
I thoroughly recommend reading Dana Milbank's piece in today's 'Washington Post' - "It's Obama vs Misinformation". (Accessible here). He has some truly terrifying results from some opinion poll research. "Opinions" being the appropriate word. It captures the astonishing beliefs that some people hold.
Why do 29% of Louisiana Republicans believe that President Obama was responsible for the poor response to Hurricane Katrina in August 2005? [he became President in January 2009].
I'm not aware that Fox News, or any right-wing 'shock-jocks' have been peddling this particular myth - and this was not an event that happened in some "far off country...of whom we know nothing". Katrina hit Louisiana, only eight years ago. So how has it arisen?
Milbank's article says -
“Obama derangement syndrome is running pretty high right now among a certain segment of the Republican base,” Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling, told me. “There’s a certain segment of people who say, ‘If you’re going to give me the opportunity to stick it to Obama, I’m going to take it.’ ”
In other words, a large number of that 29 percent who said Obama was responsible for the Katrina response knew that he wasn’t but saw it as a chance to register their displeasure with the president.
It's not the direct result of misinformation peddled by Opponents of Obama - or by crafty Republican operatives - but the result of a climate of hate and distrust.
Could it happen this side of the pond?
Joseph Goebbels knew the value of spreading lies to build an atmosphere of distrust, leading to hatred. In fact it's a technique as old as the hills. It is also seen in the effectiveness of "Euromyths" - stories peddled in the Eurosceptic media - and those ready to fire off an anti-EU opinion, be it in the pub or on late night radio.
Perhaps it is time we started to call out those who are so ready to pollute and poison political debate. To refuse to let their false claims go unchallenged. We are not just fighting the particular lie they tell at that moment - but begin to tackle the atmosphere these multitude of little lies are designed to generate.
I am a tutor for the Open University and have practical experience of working in the UK and European Parliaments.
Until May 2010 I worked at Westminster as Political Secretary to Lord Bach and to Lord Hunt of King's Heath. Previously I had worked as Research and Policy Director in the Office of Sir Peter Soulsby MP. In 2001 and 2005 I stood for Parliament in the South Leicestershire Constituency of Blaby. In 2009 I was a candidate for the European Parliament in the East Midlands Region.
I have a keen academic and practical interest in the workings of both the UK Parliament and the US Congress. I have made a number of study visits to Washington DC - and monitor proceedings, procedure and practice in the four chambers [House of Commons, House of Lords, House of Representative and the Senate]
Over the years I have broadcast on both UK & US Politics for BBC local radio including Radio Northampton; BBC Three Counties and BBC Radio Oxford.