In Defence of Liberty

Driven by data; ridden with liberty.

Memetic Mendacity

The internet can be the battlefield of ideas, but distortions and misrepresentations can spread virally. (Edited: David Berkowitz)

The internet can be the battlefield of ideas, but distortions and misrepresentations can spread virally. (Edited: David Berkowitz)

In the crusader vision of politics, the means are justified by the ends. On the ‘Cameron Must Go’ Twitter hashtag, Labour supporter Dr Eoin Clarke has published multiple graphics, which attempt to demonstrate why the current Prime Minister should not retain his office. In light of Spectator journalist Isabel Hardman’s critiques of ‘the empty chamber’ meme – which purportedly show the House of Commons to be nearly empty on pertinent matters – these photographs should be examined.

One tweet suggests that Mr Cameron called an MP a “dwarf”; a peer was called an “alien life form”; said “calm down dear” to a female MP; “mocked 1 MP for his Tourette’s”; labelled an MP a “dinosaur”; another elderly MP was told to “take his pension”; and supposedly “mocked 1 female MP as being sexually ‘frustrated’”.

Mr Cameron recounted the following joke made by Simon Burns MP: Mr Bercow said “I’m not happy”, to which Mr Burns replied, “Well, which one are you then?” David Cameron did not refer to Mr Bercow as a “dwarf”, so this is false. Mr Cameron jested that Lord Mandelson was one of “alien life forms”. This joke was made in 2009.

In an interview, the Prime Minister made the following remark about the Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls:

I’m very bad, in the House of Commons, at not getting distracted, and the endless, ceaseless banter.  It’s like having someone with Tourette’s permanently sitting opposite you.

Mr Cameron later apologised, but one matter is crystalline: Mr Balls does not have Tourette’s syndrome, so the PM could not have “mocked 1 MP for his Tourette’s”. In response to a question by Nadine Dorries MP, David Cameron abandoned his answer due to laughter:

I know that the honourable Lady is extremely frustrated about the… perhaps I should start all over again… I am going to give up in his one.

Ms Dorries said the PM was “not Machiavellian”, and a Downing Street spokesperson insisted the innuendo was unintentional. There are factual claims in the list: Mr Cameron did say “calm down, dear” to Angela Eagle MP. Both of the remarks aimed at “an elderly MP” were directed at Dennis Skinner MP.

“Redefining Unemployment”

Dr Clarke’s graphic claims ‘Cameron Must Go’ as the Conservatives are “literally redefining unemployment”. No political parties define unemployment: it is defined by the Office for National Statistics, in line with the International Labour Organisation. It is true people who cease looking for employment for a sustained period of time are not considered ‘economically active’. However, both the employment and activity rate have risen during this government’s term.

Under this government, the inactivity rate has fallen, and the employment rate has risen. (Source: Office for National Statistics)

Under this government, the inactivity rate has fallen, and the employment rate has risen. (Source: Office for National Statistics)

Certainly, dead people are not part of the national labour force. Those on state-assisted employment schemes are considered employed, but this was the case under the previous Labour government.

Lastly, it is typical for words beside a person’s head – in first-person – to be words they have spoken or written. Dr Clarke does not believe this is a standard worth upholding, descending into self-parody.

On the internet, it is critical to check your sources.

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This entry was posted on December 3, 2014 by in National Politics and tagged , , .
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