Over the last 24 hours on Twitter there was a perfect example of how mainstream fake news happens. Of course, it’s an old story – on Wednesday, a lazy article claimed Corbyn had asked no questions on Brexit in PMQs (Prime Minister’s Questions) even though the reporter knew that Theresa May was making her Article 50 statement after PMQs, to which Corbyn asked many pointed questions – but the fake news stuck in the minds of some, perhaps many.
Similarly, the nonsense about Corbyn ‘failing’ to declare part of his income in his tax return was thoroughly debunked immediately after it was claimed – but just a couple of days ago, mainstream publications like the Evening Standard were repeating it as fact. Lazy journalism or malicious – either way it’s inexcusable.
Today’s example started with an ill-phrased Twitter comment yesterday by Buzzfeed journalist Marie Le Conte in which she complained about slow responses by Labour to requests for quotes from the leadership:
Others jumped in, ready (or keen) to reinforce the apparent point that Corbyn’s comms team is slow and, presumably, ill-organised:
Within half an hour, Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘LOTO’ (Leader of the Opposition) head of communications, Matt Zarb-Cousin, responded quickly to make the point that he, well, always responds within half an hour:
To her credit, Ms Le Conte was quick to backtrack and clarify:
However, in the interim, a host of ‘journalists’, no doubt happy to have a ready-to-eat Corbyn-kicking/Labour-bashing story on hand, had already started to spread the original, misleading comment as ‘news’. Sam Coates of the Times appears to have been fastest:
Quickly followed by a ‘Who’s Who’ of anti-Corbyn/pro-LibDem journalists and hacks:
That vital ingredient in the anti-Corbyn fake-news soufflé – the self-serving blairite malcontent(s) keen to stir the excrement – wasn’t absent for long. In this case, it was one of the worst, Neil Coyle, who was quick to capitalise:
Once word got around about Matt Zarb-Cousin’s response and Ms Le Conte’s subsequent correction, other journalists, including right-wingers such as Guido Fawkes – plus one or two of those who’d jumped on the wrong bandwagon, to be fair to them – acknowledged it:
Not the odious Coyle, of course.
But the narrative of incompetent/inefficient comms at Jeremy Corbyn’s office was already set – and anyone who didn’t catch the later corrections or who only followed those who failed to correct will still be carrying the fake-news around with them as if factual.
Ms Le Conte did make one serious point, of course. The official Labour press and social media teams are very poor – but according to Labour insiders, that’s by design – and we’ve already seen the evidence, such as last year’s ‘#TeamGlitterballs’ fiasco.
A senior Labour source told the SKWAWKBOX:
The Labour Press team has been dire, but that’s not by accident, and some people are all too happy to portray performance as poor to try to make Jeremy look weak. That’s why he had to set up his own comms team on Twitter – and they’ve done brilliantly.
Indeed. So well, it seems, that some are more than happy to exploit any opportunity to undermine them – even while some of Labour’s natural enemies acknowledge the job they’re doing.
This case study will, I hope, make it all too clear how the mainstream is often responsible for either generating or propagating fake-news, whether it starts by accident or design – and how important it is for us not only to be awake to how it happens, but to take responsibility for getting real news and truer perspectives out into general circulation.
Jeremy’s own team is clearly doing well – but they can’t do it all on their own. Over to you, dear reader.
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