Saturday 22 December 2018

The new Guardian business model: Deceptive headlines to generate rage shares

Corbyn: Brexit would go ahead even if Labour won snap election blares the Guardian headline.

Why is Corbyn saying this unhelpful absolutist nonsense? Surely Labour needs a more nuanced stance on resolving Theresa May's Brexit mess? These were my first responses when I saw the headline, but then I noticed the distinct lack of quotation marks so I did what most of the thousands of people who rage shared the article didn't, and actually read the full article.

Within the first few paragraphs it becomes clear that what Corbyn actually said is very different from Brexit would go ahead even if Labour won snap election. (in fact he isn't quoted saying this anywhere in the article at all).

Corbyn's actual position is that if Labour won a snap election he would go back to Brussels to try to secure a better deal. Corbyn's statement that "you'd have to go back and negotiate, and see what the timetable would be" is clearly completely different to I'm going to force Brexit through regardless.

In fact Corbyn's position here is actually common sense. If he's lobbing Theresa May's shambles of a deal into the dustbin of history (where it belongs) the obvious next step is to speak to the EU negotiators to establish the basics of their position under the new circumstances. Are they prepared to renegotiate now that the government has changed? Are they prepared to renegotiate if Theresa May's Customs Union red line is dropped? Are they prepared to extend the Article 50 deadline to allow time for further negotiations?

Yes, the EU have told Theresa May "no renegotiation" but you'd have to be crackers to think they'd absolutely refuse to renegotiate if the British people voted to reject Tory Brexit and the new Prime Minister came with a new Customs Union proposal (that would certainly help to deal with the tricky Irish border issue).

If they said "no" they'd essentially be telling Britain that we're stuck with the unpopular shambles of a deal that both the British public and the British parliament have rejected, which would be an astoundingly anti-democratic stance.

If you're incredibly generous to the Guardian you could try to argue that Corbyn saying that he'd take the logical step of going to Brussels to talk about the practicalities and timescales of renegotiation is not entirely contradicted by the absolutist position blared out in the article headline, it's more of a distortion than an outright lie.

But then after trawling through 18 paragraphs of the article (including several on the absurd "stupid people" / "stupid woman" distraction) we get to the part that absolutely contradicts the bold absolutist assertion in the article headline.

When asked what Labour's position would be in the case of a second referendum Corbyn answers that "it would be a matter for the party to decide what the policy would be".

Admittedly Corbyn goes on to reiterate his position that his first step would be to see whether the EU would open the door to renegotiation, but how the hell is talking about what Labour's position would be in a second referendum compatible with the absolutist stance from the article headline that "Brexit would go ahead"?

If Corbyn is leaving the door open for a second referendum, and saying that the party's stance would be decided by the (largely pro-Remain) membership, why the hell is the Guardian unambiguously claiming that Corbyn's position is the absolutist stance that Brexit will go ahead regardless?

Why is the content of the article so clearly at odds with the headline?

And why are the crucial details that expose the headline as a lie buried in paragraph 18?

Surely a fairer and more accurate headline might read "Corbyn leaves option of second referendum on the table" or "Corbyn: If EU won't renegotiate, Labour members will decide referendum policy".

But nope, the Guardian chose to run a deceptive headline in the hope of creating a storm of outrage shares like the (admittedly far more despicable and deceptive) mega-viral Independent article earlier in 2018 that grotesquely cherry-picked highly selective quotations out of a Corbyn speech about trade policy to misrepresent what was said as an attack in immigrants.

The Guardian know that the vast majority of people who read the headline won't end up clicking through and reading all the details of what Corbyn actually said. And they also know that an accurate headline wouldn't generate a fraction of the 48,000 (at the time of writing) rage shares on social media, so it's perversely in their commercial interests to publish a deceptive headline in order to maximise the amount of exposure.

If they can ensure far more exposure, and a higher level of clicks through the use of a deceptive headline, why wouldn't they?

The Guardian clearly don't give a damn about further trashing their own reputation through the dissemination of dishonest rage-share click bait headlines.

They're clearly more interested in fuelling the anti-Corbyn bonfire with deceptive headlines than helping the public to understand the reality of what Corbyn actually said.

When a news organisation is prepared to publish deceptive headlines like this it becomes ever clearer that they're not actually trying to report the news, but to create it.

They're not providing reasonably impartial coverage of what was said, they're pushing political propaganda.

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