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The means may change but History always repeats itself

Overnight the lead stories on both the website of The Guardian newspaper and Radio Five Live have been similar, detailing advance ‘leaks’ of the finding of a Commons parliamentary Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee about the clear and present danger that the recent global explosion of people peddling ‘fake news’ – especially of the specifically-targeted variety – amounts to a very real threat to Western democracy and all that it stands for.

[At this juncture it is incumbent upon me to state that whether these were ‘official’ leaks – as routinely happens with Governmental and parliamentary findings or announcements so that (hopefully) the mainstream media is primed in advance to give them maximum exposure and publicity when the time comes – or rather what I’d describe here as ‘genuine’ leaks, i.e. those  that have occurred by complete accident or alternatively via the activities of astute/clever journalists or possibly even whistle-blowers is unclear to me as I write.]

See here for a piece by Jim Waterson on the subject, appearing today upon the website of – THE GUARDIAN

Columnists on The Rust previously touching upon this self-same topic have extemporised both upon the theme that, of course, one man’s meat is another’s poison and also that what one politician (or political party) might regards as ‘fair comment upon a matter of election/political interest’ another – perhaps from a party at the opposite end of the spectrum – might view as scaremongering, ‘fake news’, or a complete fabric of deliberately-manufactured lies specifically designed to gain electoral advantage by playing upon the fears and/or prejudices of innocent, naïve (quite possibly low IQ) voters.

My first key point today is the obvious one that tapping into (not to say manipulating) the views of the electorate – even to the extreme of finding out exactly what the popular concerns of any particular day are and then adopting whatever ‘populist’ policies might chime best with these when voters are entering the polling stations at the next General Election – has been standard UK electoral practice ever since the time of Boudicca.

Especially when – three months after the election result that has placed you in Number 10 and Government – the electoral/manifesto policy pledges that you resolutely stood by upon the campaign trail can be unceremoniously dropped whenever you like by explaining “Er … that was then, but we have now been overtaken by new, disturbing and vitally important considerations that now require the adoption of a completely different policy’.

My second is that this standard political practice has suited the political classes, the Establishment and everyone else in the UK ‘who matters’ for nearly two thousand years and everything that this Commons DCMS committee report purports to address can actually be filed under the following heading:-

Ooops – we’ve suddenly woken up (thanks to Ed Snowden, President Trump, Russian interference in the West wherever it suits them, Julian Assange, Facebook, Google, Cambridge Analytica, backroom square-head policy wonks full of IT-speak and crap, not to mention 21st Century latest methods of manipulating ordinary folk out there who own computers and smartphones but don’t really appreciate how much data all these organisations, including political activists, are capable of retaining about them and then selling on to any third party, benign or malignant …’) to the fact that our current ways of fooling the electorate into voting for us – which by secret deals and understandings between us have served us well for so long, not, of course, that we can admit that to anyone  – are hideously-outdated and in danger of becoming obsolete and irrelevant.

That’s all I wished to register today, really.

I then decided to tool around on the newspaper websites for a bit, as a result of which I can now present Rust readers will the following links which may be considered relevant in the current context:



Ashley Cowburn on how the EU has delivered its latest sub to Mrs May – THE INDEPENDENT

Ruth Michaelson reporting from Egypt upon the way ‘fake news’ has been used in Egypt to stifle dissent, as to be seen on the website of – THE GUARDIAN

John Rentoul on how a second EU Referendum could work – THE INDEPENDENT

James Moore on all the lies that the Brexit campaign told the UK electorate – THE INDEPENDENT

James Moore again on how the betting odds upon a second EU Referendum and a cliff-edge Brexit calamity have fallen – THE INDEPENDENT

Jim Waterson and others on how Vote Leave youth group’s Facebook ads were seen by more oldies than youngsters in – THE GUARDIAN



Marina Hyde putting the boot into new Brexit minister Dominic Raab in – THE GUARDIAN

Quentin Letts on the stereotypical Establishment patronising doomsayers who bang on ad infinitum because they can, from the – DAILY MAIL


About Lavinia Thompson

A university lecturer for many years, both at home and abroad, Lavinia Thompson retired in 2008 and has since taken up freelance journalism. She is currently studying for a distant learning degree in geo-political science and lives in Norwich with her partner. More Posts