With the general election fast approaching, party campaigning and public political opinion is becoming ever more aggressive. But how much of this information can you actually trust? Brexit propaganda saw thousands of voters disappointed by misleading information, and as these wounds are still sore it’s no surprise that voters are becoming less confident on the potential outcomes of their political decisions. Regardless of your political opinion, it’s imperative that you make your own mind and avoid carelessly casting your vote; history is being made, and if there is a time to do your research it’s now. If it’s all seeming a little daunting, or you cower at the thought of political conversations for fear of sounding like an idiot, read below to find our top tips on how to sift through statistics and who to unfriend on Facebook.
What is propaganda?
Almost everything you read or hear regarding the upcoming election will have an agenda of some sorts, so let’s go back to basics. The Oxford Dictionary defines propaganda as “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view”. Propaganda isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s a form of persuasion, but it causes manipulation of the facts and sometimes leads to disastrous and very real consequences (i.e. the value of Sterling dropping, xenophobia, those bloody Nazis etc.). Remember that biased news sells better, and with our constant access to the internet, this news is reaching us like never before.
Use your resources:
So how on earth can we sift through all this news, I hear you ask? Well, there are many resources around these days that can be used to dispel and debunk the information you may feel dubious about. One of the most useful of these is BBC Radio Four’s More or Less, a radio show presented by Tim Harford that concentrates on analysing the controversial statistics in some of the biggest headlines. Titles include ‘Fact-checking Boris Johnson’ and ‘How wrong were the Brexit forecasts?’, but one of the most recent and useful shows is ‘Living standards and Kate Bush maths’. Harford analyses Jeremy Corbyn’s claim that the government has delivered “falling living standards” in response to the snap general election, and finds that the average household income has actually grown since 2011. During the analysis, Harford also breaks down the jargon with the help of specialised guests. For example, the difference between ‘income’, ‘earnings’ and ‘living standards’ are explained to the listener, and although it may seem pedantic the key to dispelling propaganda is in the detail, and this is exactly what this show focuses on.
Read the manifestos!
I know it seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t read the manifesto of the party they’re voting for. Britain’s politics isn’t currently calm waters; who you vote for will greatly affect your present and your future. It will affect how your parents are taken care of in old age, how many children have to attend foodbanks, and, on a more trivial note, if you can afford your annual holiday. Although I hate to discourage people voting for the party of their choice, it’s time to be realistic: if you vote for anything either than Labour, Conservative, or (at a push) the Liberal Democrats you’re essentially splitting the vote. Not only should you consider these parties’ policies for the long-term running of the country, but you should also consider how the individual leader of the party will handle the Brexit negotiations.
Consider who is spreading this information and why:
A significant argument that usually arises when debating with someone of the opposite political opinion is which newspapers push which party’s interests. In all honesty, none of the big parties are actually that innocent when it comes to propaganda, but it’s useful to consider where your information is coming from and why. Below is an outline to which political agenda each newspaper usually pushes. Please note that this is a guide; sensationalist newspapers, such as the Mirror, Sun, Star and the Express, can change their alliances, and individual journalists can push the persuasion of their writing in one subtle direction or the other. This table does not include other significant factors that may also sway a newspaper’s agenda, such as who owns the paper, however, it does serve as a starting point to further your own research and thinking process.
Avoid ‘Facebook politics’:
If you’re like me, however, you’re probably getting the majority of your news from Facebook and other social media sites. Although this is, arguably, no more propaganda fuelled than any other form of media, it also means that news is reaching us like never before. Avoid liking pages that spread Populist click-bait, and remember that those who forcefully spread their opinion or comments on social media are usually the most extreme or most passionate. Although this is not necessarily a bad thing as it is a platform of speech for us all, if Gemma from Barnsley claims [insert extreme feminist comment here] it doesn’t necessarily represent the majority of that ideology. It’s easy to fall into the thought process that the views of our surrounding peers apply to the majority of the population, but just remember that this is rarely the case. Personal experiences and our perception of opinion aren’t actually that reliable, so always stick to the hard evidence.
Emma Atkinson TWN Editor Twitter: @emmaatkinson03