This article was written by Sune Auken
Listen, please. I think this is important, crucial even. I assembled this twitter thread of #FBPE people attacking the British Conservatives. It repeats the same point over and over and over. I tried to be somewhat entertaining in my presentation, but there is basically only one thing demonstrated.
It was very easy to do; part of the material simply came to me while establishing the thread, and the rest was easy to find. I could literally go on with it forever and ever, and if I felt like it, I could still add new material. I’ve assembled a fair few Twitter threads. And this was one of the easiest ones. However, since every tweet basically demonstrated the same point: an #FBPE-person attacking the Tories, it only gets more trite tweet by tweet. One of the people, I quoted, @audreidana, said I was boring, and she was spot on: not only was the point on repeat; it was also stating the bleedingly obvious.
Why would you state the same bleedingly obvious point in tweet after tweet? Because it was not obvious to everybody. It was a contested point. #FPBE was being described as an anti-Corbyn, Tory (or “Blairite” whatever that is) movement.
I feel no need to “defend” myself from that claim. I have no skin in the pro >< anti-Corbyn game. I am pro EU. Moreover, I am from Denmark. I could not care less who the leader of the Labour party is, as long as that person is pro EU. However, I do care about something else. I care about basic facts, and I care about disinformation. There is so much smoke, so many mirrors in public debate these days that it threatens the fabric of society; it threatens democracy as it renders meaningful debate impossible.
Now, what we were dealing with was trite, obvious. #FBPE—Follow Back Pro EU—defined by the tag’s founder, Hendrik Klaassens (@AuroraBlogspot) as Pro EU and against the rising tide of the far right, is bound to be critical of a Tory government that pushes for Brexit through any and every safeguard.
Still, however, this very very simple fact is obfuscated for political gains leading to weird claims in debates, recurrent confusion, false claims being made and repeated and doubt—doubt everywhere. About the simplest, most evident claims. And so I piled on the evidence, and piled it on and piled it on. So the next time somebody says “#FBPE are actually just Tories in disguise”, or something equally disingenuous, I have it ready.
Why? Because I’m annoyed, obviously. But even more because it’s utterly destructive to civic discourse to allow disinformation to travel through SoMe unchallenged. It needs to be beaten down. Beaten down every single time. So, if you want to debate #FBPE-people; be my guest. But if you resort to a strawman against which the evidence is so easily accessible, you are either speaking against your own better judgement, or you are critically negligent. In either case you are a bad faith actor at a point in time in which democracy itself is on the line, and disinformation is one of the most potent weapons used against it. Don’t, just don’t!
Oh, and in case you are wondering: how about anti-Corbyn #FBPE-activity? Easy to find, easy to document, completely to be expected from the stance of #FBPE. I could do a mile-long boring thread on that too. Nothing to it. If and when it’s needed it, I’ll do it right away.
Also: I’m a researcher; is this a research result? Not quite. Could the pile up be replaced by better forms of evidence? Sure. Can a tech wizz work it up in a much better way? Not a doubt about it. Do you seriously doubt it would move the evidence significantly?
So, the long and short of it, even if the fight is heated, don’t obfuscate the simple things, those where the evidence is THAT easy to find. If you do, you are playing into the hands of the bullshitters, the liars, the disinformers, and the anti-democrats.
Don’t do it.
PS: This, too, was originally a Twitter thread. You can find it here.
PPS: For more on the basics of #FBPE. See this post.
PPS: If you want to read more about the multiple forms disinformation in the public sphere, you can access my colleague Sille Obeliz Søe’s (@SilleSoee) PhD dissertation here.