Feeling confused? Frustrated? Finding yourself forever lost in a state of total bewilderment as you wade through an endless torrent of especially pungent bullshit, all in the vain hope of salvaging even a brief foothold of understanding as you become further swamped by empty promises, meaningless slogans and the uncomfortable sensation that everyone is lying to you?
It can only mean one thing – a general election is here. Perhaps Brenda from Bristol had a point after all.
For the most part it had been pretty bog standard – what with all manner of wonderment promised with little in the way of detail from which to achieve it forthcoming, coupled with the inevitable Boris blundering inexplicably having absolutely no negative effect on the polls.
However, in the past few days, an especially insidious change was afoot – emerging from the murky waters of the Twittersphere during ITV’s showpiece ‘Johnson v Corbyn’ debate.
The debate itself was fairly standard fare, what with Boris Johnson’s ceaseless tangential waffling around any question more difficult than being asked to explain what a potato is, while Jeremy Corbyn was continually pressed yet continued to be frustratingly hesitant on whether he’d back Leave or Remain in a hypothetical second referendum – despite the fact that his personal convictions are ultimately immaterial when it would be the people making the final choice.
Though, away from the debate and within the realms of the eternal dick measuring contest known as social media, something peculiar was happening. Twitter suddenly found itself awash with Tory propaganda masquerading as indisputable fact courtesy of a previously unheard of account calling itself ‘factcheckUK’.
Now independent fact checking organisations are nothing new – you can find many scattered throughout Twitter attempting to extract morsels of cold, hard reality from the onslaught of bombastic political bluster – but seeing one spawn at such a pivotal moment from the void of non-existence would rightly unnerve any sceptical mind.
Yet there it was – the much heralded blue tick of certified Twitter approval right next to their name. So they must be the real deal, right?
Fortunately, a few eagle eyed souls managed to not fall victim to the Twitter norm of offering a cursory glance at most while scrolling through a timeline and noticed the biggest red flag outside of Soviet Russia – @CCHQPress. This wasn’t just an account sympathetic to the Tories – this WAS the Tories; engaging in the sort of shameless subterfuge normally associated with your garden variety Facebook troll.
You’d think that being caught red handed in a sinister yet clumsy act of brazen deception would lead to many a grovelling, hamfisted apology being on offer. This is an election after all – surely it would electoral suicide to be busted holding the voters in such blithe contempt?
While that would be the sane and indeed vaguely honourable reaction, regrettably this isn’t an episode of Happy Days in which mistakes are made, lessons are learned and the Fonz calls the gent’s toilet his “office” without a hint of irony. This is the Tory Party. They don’t do integrity – but they do have an apparently inexhaustible supply of frighteningly cynical morality vacuums to churn out in the aid of ostensible “public relations”.
Dominic Raab, James Cleverly and Michael Gove to name but a few were asked to explain this most lamentable of con tricks, yet their response wasn’t one of contrition, rather one of obstinate defiance.
“There was no trickery!” they insisted in carefully rehearsed tandem. “Look! It says ‘from CCHQ’ right there!”
Superficially, this protestation is indeed accurate – but they typically neglected to mention two key points. Firstly, were the account to retweet anything (which it did), any reference to CCHQPress would be entirely absent, owing to the longstanding Twitter aesthetic.
And secondly, the member of the design team responsible for the page banner was clearly briefed to ensure the “From CCHQ” subheading was in the smallest possible font size which still allowed to be in any way credibly legible to human eyes.
However it wasn’t the pitiful attempts at claiming refuge in the most ludicrously ramshackle shelter of plausible deniability imaginable that was the take home message from this sordid display of skulduggery, rather how little regard they had for the very notion of integrity. Dominic Raab in particular seemed to actively revel in his obfuscation, seemingly offering himself a mental pat on the back whenever he indulged in a spot of misdirection or pretended to have no understanding as to how Twitter works.
This is really the fundamental problem we’re faced with as this election looms ever closer on the horizon. This isn’t just about Brexit – it’s about whether we as a nation are about to hand a working majority to a gaggle of historical incompetents who have absolutely no qualms about deceiving you for their own self interest.
It’s often noted that the Vote Leave campaign under the stewardship of Dominic Cummings did their utmost to baffle the public with a tsunami of misleading data and fanciful untruths – and now he’s the most senior adviser to Boris Johnson as he heads into this most critical of elections, the disinformation disseminator has been cranked into overdrive. The campaign is barely a couple of weeks old yet there’s already been enough bullshit to fertilise the entire planet, overwhelming your senses as you struggle to distinguish between the dubious and the outright deceitful – the actual truth becoming forever lost in the ever thickening haze.
In a sense, you’ve almost got to hand it Cummings. Not only is he undeniably adept as propagandist, he’s managed to get his minions so well drilled in the art of bare-faced blagging that the message has become almost impervious to reality. While the truth is what we should value, the narrative always reigns supreme – which is why, even when caught with their pants inconspicuously stuck around their ankles, you’ll still get a chronically hapless goon like Matt Hancock simply ignoring any valid counterpoint and sticking rigidly on message. Laughable perhaps, but he knows exactly what he’s doing. The message, regardless of credibility, must remain unblemished – as it’s this message that will create the false reality in which the Tories aren’t a cabal of hopelessly detached jobsworths who have spent the past decade screwing over the country.
The message that will win them the election.
I wish I wasn’t so pessimistic. I long for an election night in which all my worst fears are vanquished and relative sanity finally establishes a grip on the country I call my home – but the polls are increasingly ominous, barely shifting irrespective of the scandals which befall Boris Johnson on what seems like a daily basis.
This is being referred to as the most important election in generations – and it is. But it’s not just about Brexit. It’s about what type of people we want running the country – and if Boris Johnson and his reality distorting cronies are granted a majority, it’ll be all the validation they need.
Because their deceit won’t stop with an electoral victory – it’ll simply confirm that their approach of unscrupulous dishonesty gets results.Follow @grahamlithgow