On memes mimics and misplaced malfeasance mutterings

Posted: December 1, 2014 by tallbloke in Big Brother, government, Incompetence, media, Politics

Image collages have been doing the rounds on social media of empty green benches where MPs are debating serious issues like child abuse or low pay, juxtaposed with a packed house of commons where MPs are allegedly debating MPs pay or expenses. Telegraph journo  who also edits the coffeehouse blog at the Spectator has been taking the facebook and twitter denizens to task for gullibly believing these memes, which she ascribed to ‘two anarchist sites’ while on on Radio 4 ‘today’, where she discussed her coffeehouse article this morning. She told us that it was odd but true that people didn’t believe what they were told by the BBC or other MSM, but believed uncritically what they saw on facebook or twitter. One of the meme images as seen below has been shared 65,000 times or more.


But has Isabel done her due diligence here? Lets take a look.

In her article, Isabel correctly points out that the image labeled ‘Debating MPs pay’ is in fact not of that at all:

The next image claims to be a debate on MPs’ pay. Well, I suppose if you count MPs coming into the House of Commons on the first day of the new Parliament after the 2010 election a debate on MPs’ pay then maybe. But you can read the Hansard here, just to be sure.

And the other similar meme image?

…it’s not from a debate about pay in 2013. It’s from Prime Minister’s Questions on 5 September 2012.

Bang to rights then. But hold on, where did the ‘anarchists’ (one of whom turns out to be a chap called Marc Damian Rhodes-Taylor) get the two meme images? It turns out they had quite a few choices of which pages on the net to lift them from.

The BBC itself used meme #2 for a piece entitled ‘MPs’ pay: Party leaders told not to interfere’ on July 5th last year. Image caption: Many MPs believe their pay has been held down for years for political reasons

The Guardian used meme #2 in a piece entitled ‘MPs’ pay rise: the proposal explained‘ a week later on July 11th which is probably where the first blogger lifted it from since this is the date they ascribed to the event. Image caption: The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority proposals aim to offer MPs a salary that will avoid further scandals. Photograph: Pa

The Grauniad used meme #1 in January 2013 for a piece entitled ‘Should MPs’ pay be increased?’
Image caption: The survey, carried out by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, also found more than a third of MPs believe their final-salary pensions should remain intact. Photograph: PA

The Daily Mail used meme #1 in a piece entitled ‘The Commons ‘men in tights’ paid more than MPs they serveall the way back in 2010 Image caption: ‘Underpaid’: MPs are calling for a salary shake-up, furious that some of their staff are being paid up to £60,000 more than Prime Minister David Cameron

and again in a piece entitled ‘MPs are earning up to 13 TIMES their salary by taking on second jobs‘ in August 2012 Image caption: Extras: Dozens of MPs have been found to be earning tens of thousands more by having second jobs

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2192396/MPs-earning-13-TIMES-salary-taking-second-jobs.html#ixzz3Kk2fhIKl
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

So where does this leave Isabel’s theory regarding silly facebook users taken in by silly facebook ‘anarchists’ who associate a packed house of commons with MPs pay as a deliberate prank to undermine our trust in our elected representatives, which then then gets retweeted by twits?

Isabel bemoans the fact that:

…the lack of suspicion about what the graphics purport to show doesn’t just arise because MPs have let us down. It’s also because of a failure to read the internet critically.

Maybe if the MSM, including the BBC itself, who unquestioningly gave Isabel the platform this morning to espouse her poorly researched thesis didn’t constantly use the images in question in association with stories about MPs pay, then social media users wouldn’t quite reasonably assume that is what the images represented.

Isabel is a pretty even handed and competent journalist, but something clearly went wrong here. Did she really not check where the image had been used in the past? Or did she uncritically assume that the hoi-polloi were doing their uncontrolled and ill-informed thing on facebook and twitter and haven’t learned how to get their information from ‘trusted sources’ such as, errr, the Guardian, or umm, the BBC.

I’m filing this one under BUSTED

  1. Joe Public says:

    Surely the BBC wouldn’t use inaccurately-described images to mislead its ‘customers’? That’d breach its stringent editorial guidelines.

  2. Ben Vorlich says:

    The attendance or otherwise can be viewed on the Parliament Channel which most people have flicked through several times in their life. Also scenes from the Commons often appear on the TV News. So most people have an impression gained by viewing TV on just when MPs are in the Chamber. We’ve all seen the Chamber empty after PMQs

    All this image does is confirm what they have seen on the BBC.

    Where in Hansard does it record who was present during a debate as opposed to the count of votes, as the number of MPs voting can be considerably greater than those attending the debate?

  3. colliemum says:

    The really interesting thing is though that the Isabelle Hardmans of this world bemoan the uncouth unprofessionalism of people on facebook because they are not after all ‘professionals’, but are happy to use these same social media as incontrovertible proof without ever checking, so that they fall for any hoax as long as it can be used as smear for the “enemy”.
    See this which was published this afternoon:

  4. tallbloke says:

    Big thanks to @banthebbc for retweeting this story to 288K followers!

  5. tallbloke says:

    Ben V: Welcome, and good question. I think the MP’s who are going to vote have to be in the chamber when the division is called in order to enter the division lobbies.

  6. tallbloke says:

    Interesting reaction to this post

  7. tallbloke says:

    What’s really going on here is that the journos don’t want the blame for spending years making everyone think the MPs are a venal bunch of moneygrabbers by associating the images with mp’s pay stories. So they’re trying to shift the blame to ‘anarchist bloggers’.

  8. tallbloke says:

    Oh boy!

  9. tallbloke says: