Propaganda: The Telegraph’s ComRes poll – ‘completely degenerate journalistic standards’
The Daily Telegraph’s decline from what was once a respectable broadsheet to maniacal fanzine of Brexit and Boris continues unabated with its latest propaganda piece. The paper now circulating at just one-quarter of what it was a couple of decades ago and minus 8% in the last year alone is desperate for headlines to increase its fading chances of survival.
Known as the ‘Torygraph’, for obvious reasons, it latest headline, with no connection whatsoever to objective reality has caused a bit of a stir – mainly because propaganda, disinformation and lies is where the Telegraph has now pitched itself.
When the Daily Telegraph announced in a stark front-page headline that “Public backs Johnson to shut down Parliament for Brexit”, you can see straight away the lie that it is. They have tried to create majority public support for such a huge constitutional risk and they ‘ve tried to make it sound so all assured. And when this headline is reiterated by Newsnight’s Emma Barnett – who rarely lets anything remotely contentious slip by – without so much as a raised eyebrow, it receives an implicit nod of authority from the nation’s impartial public broadcaster.
In truth, the ComRes data found 44% agreed, 37% disagreed, and 19% said don’t know. So they just eliminated the don’t knows and reformulated it to make it look like a majority. And who were they asking?
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The trouble with opinion polls is that they exude an aura of scientific truth. Those numbers and percentages are so reassuringly solid, especially when generated by one of the well-known names of the polling world, that for many people they represent hard evidence of the state of British public opinion.
As Steve Barnett from openDemocracy says – “In fact, it is complete nonsense: at best, a misleading interpretation of a simplistic poll attempting to tap public feelings on a complex and controversial issue; at worst, a deliberate and malign distortion of a poorly designed poll, with a headline calculated to set the news agenda and serve the interests of Johnson and his strategy sidekick Dominic Cummings.”
Ian Dunt at politics.co.uk makes the same point – “It’s an example of completely degenerate journalistic standards. But it is also part of a sustained psychological campaign from across the Brexit-supporting press and government, which is just as baseless. It’s an attempt to convince opponents of no-deal that they are doomed.“
The Telegraph deliberately distorted weak data to produce a headline they desperately wanted in pursuit of their unadulterated pro-Johnson agenda.
That suspending Parliament has “the support of more than half of the public” is a straightforward lie, derived from ignoring the one in five “don’t knows”. In fact, 44% agreed with the dodgy statement, 37% disagreed, and 19% said they did not know. However much you try to slice up the statistical cake, 44% is not half the British public.
There has been at least one accuracy complaint to the puppet press “regulator” IPSO which, if past behaviour is any guide, will now take several months to determine that everything is absolutely fine; or that perhaps a tiny correction might be warranted sometime next decade at the bottom of page 17. By which time either Brexit or Boris (and quite possibly both) will be ancient history (fingers crossed).
Back to Steve Barnett – “If this was a single lapse – either by polling company or by the publisher – it might be less worrying. But our Brexit-loving press will be using every conceivable device over the next 10 weeks to persuade MPs that a PM with no democratic mandate of his own is reflecting the Will of the People in his determination to crash us out of the EU.
Not only will they be exploiting polling companies who really ought to know better. They will also be exploiting broadcasters who routinely feature the next day’s press headlines in their programmes, as if these come from trusted bi-partisan seekers after truth rather than propaganda machines for Johnson and his band of hardline Brexiteers.”
One thing we also know is this – the public will not be able to trust the producers of programmes on the BBC News Channel and Sky News, as well as Newsnight, Marr, Peston and all the other political programmes that still love to feature our daily papers. They should treat every poll and every statement of “public opinion” with a huge dose of scepticism but don’t.
And as Barnett quite rightly says – “They need to remember that there are newspaper journalists and editors who, whether deliberately or not, are spreading misleading information under the cloak of “objective” opinion research.”
As for the pollsters, it is time they took responsibility for how their work is reported as well as conducted. The Market Research Society used to insist that its members take steps “to check and where necessary amend any client-prepared materials prior to publication”. But many (including ComRes who conducted the Telegraph poll) do not belong to the MRS, and therefore allow themselves to become accomplices to newspaper propaganda.
The whole concept of Brexit, the ideology, the language that developed for it, the lies, propaganda, the theft of data of millions, the billions of targeted micro-ads, the fear campaign stoking up bogus enemies – are all supported by the likes of The Telegraph, Mail, Sun and Express. It was always in their interest for survival and in the interests of the offshore billionaires who own them. It is theirs, they own it.
As it turned out – the pollsters got in bed with the hedge-funds, mostly American ones, on the run-up to the EU referendum and hoovered up millions shorting Britain’s currency because they knew what was coming. Don’t believe newspapers that commission polls – it is inevitably propaganda or just plain lies as this one obviously was.