Since last year, change has come thick and fast in the UK. Prime Minister David Cameron resigned after saying he wouldn’t, Theresa May took over at number 10 and installed bumbling Boris as her foreign secretary. It all seemed to be changing far quicker than anyone could have expected.
The referendum has meant so much to so many over the past year and a half. Many feel they have reclaimed their sovereignty from the EU whereas many see it as, now, a much harder process to visit other countries that are on the UK’s doorstep.
Many questions have arisen since the vote however. Why didn’t as many people vote? What will happen to the UK in regards to the single market? What role did the media play? And most importantly, did the Russian government try and influence the British electorate through the use of social media?
The final question is one that is being worked on by journalists at the top of their game. They have received threats and ridicule in the public sphere, mainly by those who were donors to the Leave campaign like Arron Banks.
There is strong evidence that the right-wing, Tory backing, media launched strong and competitive campaigns to leave the EU. Editor of the Daily Mail Paul Dacre, a well-known eurosceptic, was joined by News Corp owner, and frequenter to number 10 via the back gate, Rupert Murdoch. Between the two, they drummed up the masses who staunchly opposed any decision that resulted in the UK remaining within the EU.
Both the Daily Mail and the Sun ran stories filled with malicious lies which, it has been proven, swung the minds of those that were not sure which way they would end up voting come referendum day. It also reiterated points that stirred up emotional, and sometimes racial, hate amongst voters that were sure they wanted to leave.
The Daily Mail, which supported David Cameron for years and subsequently ravished the Labour Party over two elections, threw ‘dodgy Dave’ under the bus when it came to Brexit. With over a million readers daily, the Mail had one message- If you believe in Britain, vote leave.
It was reported on Newsnight, at the start of the year Dacre had been told by a close source that Cameron was trying to have him relieved from his position as editor. This started the wheels which would see Cameron lose a nailed-on referendum and therefore find his own position untenable.
The Mail were not alone as the Sun also filled their front pages, editorials and column inches with a brash anti-European agenda. The propaganda that was released by Britain’s biggest circulated paper ran headlines like ‘Independence Day’, ‘Up Yours Senors’, and ‘Draw A Red Line On Immigration Or Else’.
These types of headlines shook and unearthed forgotten Britain. The section of the public who were scared of immigrants ‘flooding’ into Britain with their boats landing in swarms like those on D-Day, but this time just below the white cliffs.
The fear employed by more than the media outlets mentioned above, but mainly by these two, has given a platform for prejudice, bigotry and a false sense of self-worth to take centre stage.
Britain has seen more terror attacks on domestic soil than it had in the previous decade. Unfortunately, the notion that terrorism divides and segregates us into higher insecurity and fear is true. The attacks, even after the vote, have been used by the media and therefore ‘Brexiteers’ to re-establish its position, no matter the consequences.
The pro-leave side also pumped up British ego. Taking back control meant that we could reinvigorate our industries in the North. As if, as soon as Britain was officially no more in the EU, the PM would turn the keys, the engine would combust into life and the empire would finally strike back.
All these points of view, which are believed to be independently curated, examined and justified, have actually come from the stories they read in their papers.
Obviously, these papers do not reach the kind of audiences that social media does. The likes of Facebook and Twitter reach tens of millions of British citizens daily. They are very powerful marketing tools which advertisers paying through the nose to get a piece of.
Many will not have heard of Cambridge Analytica. CA, as it is known. It combines data mining and data analysis with strategic information. What this means in layman’s terms is that this is a company that takes users data from websites like Facebook and ‘strategically’ analyses it to change the minds of voters.
It has worked extensively with the Donald Trump Presidential campaign as well as the Vote Leave campaign. Although nothing has been proven yet, CA is under criminal investigation in both the UK and US for its part in the above election and referendum.
The investigations will, hopefully, find out if the methods used and the party who hired them, deliberately broke election rules. Julian Assange confirmed in late October that CA had contacted Wikileaks and had requested the release of Hillary Clinton’s emails which some political commentators say, swung the election away from her.
It seemed that when facts were blurred and lies were pushed to the front pages, there was still space for a data mining company to make an appearance and carry the baton across the line to win the battle.
The average person in the UK found themselves with an uphill task. Learning all possible about the EU and Britain’s position within it in such a short amount of time all while Rupert Murdoch, Paul Dacre and Cambridge Analytica stood above them as puppet masters pulling the strings.
The unknowing public didn’t stand a chance of making an informed decision and, consequently, didn’t.