The dark arts of political advertising as the clouds of a Brexit war gather

I was struck by an image today of Dominic Cummings, the master of the dark arts of campaigning and political advertising, now Johnson’s chief SPAD at No. 10, whom this author describes as a Svengali-like figure. In the 1895 du Maurier novel, Svengali is a figure who seduces, manipulates, dominates and exploits his victim. Behind the jovial, bumbling, jokey but false front of Boris Johnson’s pre-election campaigning (it seems), lurks this arch-manipulator. Perhaps he symbolises what Brexit is about, a fraud on the British people, no doubt sincerely believed in by huge numbers but cleverly sold in 2016 by this Vote Leave team now in power, a massive wrench to the country with no plausible, developed policy and programme, with a claim to being democratic while their behaviour demonstrates otherwise, and with behind them an actual policy of a further … Read more

Now is the age of the hyperleader of reactionary populism

Today is the age of the hyperleader whose power rests on a superbase of mainly online social media supporters, which is partly eclipsing traditional politicians. To understand the power and appeal of reactionary populism, and therefore what Brexit is about, one needs to get the nature of this largely male beast and its ability to manipulate its following, and the challenge it poses to representative democracy. What are hyperleaders? Trump, the Five Star movement and also Salvini in Italy, Modi in India, and to an extent Farage in the UK, for example, are hyperleaders, according to Paolo Gerbaudo, drawing immense empathy and loyalty from their followers, often charismatic, demagogic some might say, very outspoken, often outrageous, presenting themselves as outside the political establishment, claiming to represent the “ordinary person” against the perceived remote and corrupt political elite. They present themselves … Read more

Political disinformation has become dangerous and unacceptable

Further evidence has been emerging in the last few days of an undermining of democratic processes in the UK and elsewhere as the UK Select Committee , the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, reported on political disinformation and “fake news”. This report underlines previous posts in this blog on what can be described as potentially illegal or at best ethically questionable activities to influence voting. The charge sheet keeps growing The charge sheet that is being drawn up includes: A small group of individuals and businesses are influencing elections across multiple jurisdictions, not just the UK. One wealthy person, Arron Banks, who funded one of the pro-Brexit campaigns in 2016, has not been able to fully and satisfactorily account for his activities both in the UK and overseas including Russia. There is a lack of clarity as to the … Read more

Are Trump and Brexit two sides of a hard-right anti-democratic take-over bid?

Are Trump and Brexit two sides of a hard-right anti-democratic take-over bid? One has to ask the question, since in the pursuit of power and influence both groups seem to be using questionable techniques that could lead one to wonder quite where this is going. In the US there is an ongoing probe by the FBI-appointed special prosecutor Mueller into whether the Trump campaign indulged in illegal activities in collaboration with a hostile foreign power, Russia, to swing the 2016 Presidential election in Trump’s favour. In the UK, the Information Commissioner is examining the Brexit campaign’s exploitation of personal data potentially at the risk of data protection laws, while the Electoral Commission is looking into the possible by-passing of strict spending limits and whether there was interference in the campaign by Russian troll farms through social media. Some commentators are … Read more

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