Tag Archives: social media

Getting Your Five A Day?

The government wants us to eat five portions of fruit & veg every day; why not engage with five different news sources each day as well – it would be equally as healthy for you, and for the wider world.

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5 a day

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Tom is currently employed by Edelman Berland (the research arm of Edelman and the organisation that produced the data referred to in this piece). He was not involved in the creation of the report.

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International PR firm Edelman released their 2013 survey of global trust, the ‘Trust Barometer‘, yesterday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The survey, released annually since the turn of the millennium, commenced with the rise of NGOs to the global scene as a consequence of the anti-globalisation movement in the US. Since then it has tracked the ‘Fall of the Celebrity CEO’ (2002), to the rise of ‘A Person Like Me’ as a credible spokesperson (2006), through to the ‘Fall of Government’ (2012).

The data released this year was telling. Some pointed to things that we already knew (people don’t trust bankers or journalists much these days), and some to things that you would be unlikely to consider (the most trusted location for a company to be headquartered, for example, is Canada). Below are my highlights – you can see the figures for yourself here.

The ‘informed public’ (college-educated/within the top 25 per cent of household income per age group/significant media consumption/engaged with business news and public policy) felt significantly higher degrees of trust than the general public. According to the data the global difference was 9 points (informed public trust standing at 57 points against the general public trust at 48 points), with the UK displaying equatable levels (taking into account margins for error). The US, however, surged ahead with a whopping 14 point difference (informed: 59, general: 45) – though it is worth noting that this may have been artificially inflated by the recent election and the ‘hope’ of Obama having a successful second term, however improbable.

Business was trusted more than government in 16 out of 26 markets surveyed, including the US, the UK, Japan, and India. Interestingly, citizens of Singapore and China – neither possessing especially liberal or hospitable governments – expressed greater trust in their governments than in business, by 5 per cent and 7 per cent respectively. Whether this is due to mass failings in business (corruption et al.), good economic performance, or the lack of a polycephalous media…

We in the West, perhaps somewhat idealistically, trust small businesses significantly more than we trust big businesses: in the UK this amounts to an astonishing difference of 30 per cent (trust in small business: 78 per cent, big business: 48 per cent). Emerging markets on the other hand, expressed greater trust in big business. 89 per cent of Chinese, for example, giving the thumbs up for large organisations, against only 65 per cent for their smaller equivalents.

The winning statistic, purely from a fear factor, is the increasing level of trust that many are placing in social media as a reliable news source – 58 per cent in emerging markets view social media as a credible news source, 28 per cent in developed markets.

Bertrand Russell once said, “I think we ought always to entertain our opinions with some measure of doubt. I shouldn’t wish people dogmatically to believe any philosophy, not even mine”. By relying on social media to provide information about the world around us we run the risk of regressing into an environment that relays to us only what we wish to hear, rather than ideas that challenge our perspectives.

In the case of Twitter, for example, a platform where you, and only you, are responsible for choosing the sources of your daily digestion, this possibility is entirely plausible. I myself am guilty of ‘unfollowing’ those with whom I expressly disagree with. An over-reliance on social media to provide us with a snapshot of world events creates the foundation for a wholly unbalanced diet of media consumption.

The government wants us to eat five portions of fruit & veg every day, why not engage with five different news sources each day as well – it would be healthy for both you and the world around you.

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Photo credit: luckyjimmy

A Rough Week For The English Defence League

Their leader is arrested.  Low turnouts at Norwich rally.  A hacked website.  Abu Qatada released from UK prison on bail.  Despite these shortcomings, don’t count the English Defence League out yet.

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We Are Norwich March 2012[dhr]

Life has been stressful for English Defence League supporters lately. Troubles began for them in early October when the young and charismatic poster boy for the movement, Tommy Robinson, resigned from his position as joint deputy leader of the British Freedom Party. He explained that he wished to focus his energy on the EDL, which he stated is where his true passion lies.

Just a week and a half later, Robinson was arrested in his Bedford home by the Metropolitan Police Service for attempting to use a fake passport to enter the United States in early September. Currently, he is being held in HMP Wandsworth, awaiting trial in January 2013. As expected, the EDL community has rallied behind Robinson’s cause, and are planning a rally on the 24th November outside the prison to bring awareness to his cause.

Though the month of October has been difficult for leaders of this polarising movement, the past week has stirred up additional anger, stress, and disappointment . Three demoralising events have kicked the soapbox out from under the feet of those aiming to keep Britain British.

1. The March on Norwich

A march organised by the EDL for the 10 November was meant to protest a decision made by the Norwich City Council to ban Pastor Alan Clifford, after it was discovered that he was distributing ‘hate-motivated anti-Islam pamphlets’. The Norwich community rallied around the council’s decision, and a coalition of 25 community groups organised a counter-protest called We Are Norwich, stating their goal was to fight back against fascism and racism.  Reports from 10th November state that We Are Norwich protesters outnumbered EDL protesters by about 2000 to 200. A year and a half ago, EDL protests in Blackburn drew numbers closer to 3000. While EDL leaders called the protest a success, one wonders if the sharp decrease in participants is solely due to geographical reasons, or a diminished constituency.

2.  EDL website overtaken

On 9th of November, the English Defence League’s website was hacked by an organisation entitled the Z Company Hacking Crew (ZHC). The hacked homepage now states “Fuck Zionists! Boycott Israel! Fuck the American Government! Fuck fascist organizations like the EDL”.

EDL website hacked November 2012

The ZHC posted a video in mid-October, threatening the EDL that they were planning an attack website and justifying their actions by describing the injustices of EDL ideology, entitled #Op EDL. The attack has continued since the hacking of their website. The second phase of their exposition on the EDL, called #Op Racism, includes a leaked list of male EDL financiers, released on the afternoon of the 13th November (The EDL has responded to this release, stating that the donor list is outdated). A description of ZHC’s motivations is listed on their YouTube page, stating “We Hack/Deface for a reason, our reason for defacing is to raise awareness of the issues in the world with a main focus on Kashmir & Palestine.”

3. Abu Qatada denied deportation

Despite attempts to have Muslim cleric Abu Qatada deported to Jordan, a UK court denied this request after discovering that witness evidence uncovered using torture would be allowed. On Tuesday 13th November Qatada was released from prison in  Worcestershire on bail after spending most of the last ten years in UK custody. The case has cost taxpayers more than £1 million as of 13th November, and lawyers are estimating that before the trial is officially over it will cost at least another £1 million. Facebook groups supporting the EDL and Robinson have rallied around the cause, stating the injustice of the British legal system, with followers stating:

“England’s justice system should be ashamed!”

“ its not our country anymore, they have taken over it, and the govenment have let them, they take in all the waifs and strays of the world, just what have our grandparents fought for in 2 wars, jack shit. THEY SHOULD BE ASHAMED.”

“I would love to know how much of tax payers money has been wasted on him over 7 years just for him to walk free to go home and carry on claiming his benefits justice what justice it no wounded he always got a smile on his face”


Morale is low amongst EDL followers, yet they have much to look forward to. Diminished numbers at the Norwich rally give the appearance of diminished support, but a robust Facebook and Twitter community have rallied around these three recent incidents. The turnout at the rally in favour of Robinson in two weeks will be an indicator of the remaining motivation and passion for poster boy Robinson’s cause. Similarly, the results of his trial in January will have an impact on the movement, no matter the outcome. On one hand, if Robinson remains imprisoned, he might turn into martyr for their cause, creating greater unity amongst the organisation’s multiple factions. Yet one wonders who will fill the gap of the charismatic leader at local rallies and events. Robinson’s tendency to incite anger from local Muslims instills greater passions from both his followers and his critics; without his polarising presence the British public may lose interest in understanding the EDL’s beliefs.

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Photo Credit: Roger Blackwell 

Omnipotent US President?

Is the President of the United States of America as powerful a position as it is made out to be? Or is political control over Congress distinctly more desirable?

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Thanks to Hollywood and “public relations” (the modern Western term for propaganda), it often seems God would have no America to bless if it weren’t for the President. When asked what role the United States played in the world at the final Presidential debate last week, Obama declared America to be ‘one indispensable nation’. Romney asserted that the US could only lead once its domestic policies were restored to good health.

The current President is axiomatically correct here, in the way that the United States, through ruthlessly efficient foreign policy and military supremacy, has been able to gain and maintain its superpower status. Foreign policy is indisputably America’s superlative strength, with no other nation yet to match it. In terms of issues close to home however, with high unemployment and an increasing deficit, military spending is generally not so relevant to the American people when they cast their vote.

The rise of social media in the twenty-first century inevitably led to a global revolution as Youtube, Twitter and Facebook became instruments that could tune and play public opinion. Four years ago, young people (and mainly Obama supporters) utilised social media to promote the potential candidates for the 2008 US Presidential election. The 2012 election has witnessed the online apparatus expand to older generations and the Republican’s – whose fan base is less young, are exploiting it just as much as Obama did in his successful 2008 campaign. So is it fair to suggest that the President of the United States is greatly limited by a “cyber-population”?

An increasingly common question is whether the Party or person who wins the election even matters; the chief limitation on the President which arguably subdues him to a mere puppet role is Congress. The past two years have consisted of petty partisan politics within government, as the Democrats and Republicans have failed to reach compromise on decisive issues such as the budget deficit. These unresolved disputes led to an automatic cut of $1.1 trillion from government spending. Ultimately how powerful can the role of the President be when he is effectively powerless in regards to domestic policy, since all decisions essentially lie in the hands of the House and Senate? More importantly, how much of a globally effective role can the US government play if it cannot even reach negotiations to resolve its own country’s issues?

China is foreseen to emerge as a highly competitive superpower in the upcoming years. Considering it isn’t a democracy, there is none of this Congressional crippling of power. Unlike the US, it doesn’t have what Romney says America does, which is ‘the responsibility and privilege to defend freedom and promote principles for world peace such as human rights’. When the Chinese government abuses human rights purely for economic growth, censorship bans the reporting of it. Without these constitutional restrictions therefore, there is a question of whether someone such as the Chinese President has more power to play with than the US President.

Overall, statistically the US government appears to be more powerful militarily and economically, but this is clearly subject to change. The question is not will, but can the winner of the 2012 US Presidential election play a role in affecting this change?

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Photo Credit: DonkeyHotey