Kippers & Cybernats Most Stuck in Twitter Echo Chambers

Guido has written previously about how we are living in our own filter bubbles, both on social media and offline. Demos take us inside the echo chamber with their report “Talking To Ourselves”. The study confirms what many have observed for years: there is a huge echo chamber effect in political discussion online, meaning people tend to share and engage with news sources and individuals who share their own beliefs, and shun those with opposing views. Demos analysed the Twitter accounts of 2,000 users, finding:

“supporters of UK political parties tend to talk to themselves online, to read and share news that is ideologically in tune with their party and discuss issues on which they hold strong ideological views”

The research shows SNP and UKIP supporters have a particularly strong aversion to engaging with people or organisations who hold opposing views. Labour supporters are most likely to share links from the BBC, Guardian, Mirror, Indy and HuffPo. Tories seem less stuck in their echo chamber, sharing links from the BBC, GuardianTelegraph and MailAll groups tend shares news from sites aligned with their party affiliation – the further from the centre their affiliation, the deeper the echo chamber becomes…

This is replicated in the analysis of retweets. Labour, SNP and UKIP supporters retweet their fellow party supporters the vast majority of the time. Tories retweet fellow Tories less, though still more than they do anyone else. 

The data found @GuidoFawkes is the sixth most retweeted political site among the survey group, ahead of even the BBC and ITV. Unsurprisingly our retweeters are more likely to come from parties on the right:

The report concludes:

“Compromise, the ability to process a diverse range of opinion and, above all, an acceptance of some kind of shared reality and truth are central to a functioning democracy. All are threatened by the echo chamber effect.”

As our information sources become ever more filtered and self-socialised this will mean that we live in our own social media echo chambers. Is this a significant social problem? As we have seen recently, it means that after elections and referendums the losers are unpleasantly surprised…

If They Have Nothing to Hide, They Have Nothing to Fear

Whatever your views as to the rights and wrongs of another runway at Heathrow, Guido can see no reason why it should not be discussed in parliament. John McDonnell’s constituency will be blighted by the project, schools will be closed, green acres will be lost, homes will be demolished.

These pictures of McDonnell picking up the mace were not originally* broadcast and have come out from the raw video feed – much to the annoyance of the parliamentary authorities. Why the parliamentary authorities think it is up to them to censor what the people see going on in their parliament is beyond Guido. They work for you, the workings of parliament are not for them to reveal when they choose, it is the right of the people in a democracy to see into the democratic forum. An open democracy does not hide its workings from the voters.

Elsewhere the parliamentary authorities are suppressing full disclosure of MPs expenses. Jacqui Smith has (without reference to parliament) given herself the right to read Guido’s email without a warrant, yet MPs in contrast are changing the Freedom of Information laws to allow them to obscure our view of their petty fiddles. There is no other credible explanation. They claim that it would be too expensive to account for all expenditure – try putting that on your tax return. Some MPs are taking it upon themselves to voluntarily publish ALL their expenses, some will not, draw your own conclusions. If they have done nothing wrong, they have nothing to hide…

*Guido stands corrected. It appears that the BBC has (online at least) put the video up. There was a row yersterday because under the terms of the contract drawn up by MPs the BBC is not supposed to broadcast this type of disruption.

Early Election? Don’t Think So…

Propellor-Head Wonk Watch: the appointment of Douglas Alexander to oversee preparations for the next general election might be seen by some as Brownite genius. Guido thinks that depends on how you view his overseeing of the recent election campaign where Labour lost control in Scotland for the first time in generations. Some think it could have been worse.

Guido remembers attending a Demos event last year where the new campaign commissar was giving his thoughts. With all this talk of an early election in the air the boys and girls at CCHQ and Cowley Street would do well to dig out his Serving a Cause, Serving a Community Demos pamphlet from last year. In it he urged the Labour party to work in partnership rather than parallel with like minded organisations including trade unions. Gordon is spinning today that he wants to reduce the power of the unions through one man, one vote.

He wrote about the party to becoming a “community hub” creating space for shared discussion with social interest groups who will have input into local party campaigns using blogs and chat rooms to encourage debate with those preferring not to go to formal party meetings. LabourHome is their best semi-unofficial attempt at this, and it still shaded by ConservativeHome.

He also claimed he wanted to throw off the control-freak shackles and loosen the rigid party structures to allow issues to be discussed informally and he wanted to decentralise professional party staff resources from national to local level. Once again the Tories have the edge here, they are far less control-freaky and they already have their Northern call-centre operation with regional offices benefiting from Lord Ashcroft’s cash.

If the Demos pamphlet was Douglas Alexander’s job application it will take time to achieve his goals for Labour. That together with their cash crisis, makes Guido doubtful they will go for an early election.

White Coat Demo

Tomorrow morning doctors from all over the UK are having a protest march from the College of Physicians in Regents Park to the College of Surgeons in Lincoln Inn Fields; it is not often that doctors give up a Saturday at the golf club, so they must be pretty exercised.

Demos Calls in Two-Brains

Propeller-Head Wonk Watch: The new director of Demos, Catherine Fieschi, seems to be steadying the ship and pointing it in a new direction after the short-lived captaincy of Madelaine Bunting produced a mutiny of the wonks.
Catherine Fieschi is respected as a real academic wonk who hails from the soft liberal school (she is on the editorial board of Prospect, the bible of Hampstead liberals). Essentially, unlike Bunting, she has a Phd and knows how to use it.

So it is interesting to see that Demos have arranged a Valentine’s day lunchtime love-in with David Willets on the New Tory buzzwords social responsibility. Not sure who is wooing who here – the brand decontaminating Tories, or Demos who want to distance themselves from their Blairite New Labour heritage. The important thing is not so much what they are saying, as who is saying what to whom as the tectonic plates shift.

Sith’s Wilf and Gordon’s New Policies

From: Guido Fawkes

To: FoI Unit HM Treasury

7 February, 2007

Dear Sirs,

This is an FoI request concerning an email sent by Wilf Stevenson, of the Smith Institute, last month to a number of persons based at at HM Treasury. The email was also addressed to staff at some leading think-tanks including the the Smith Institute, IPPR and Demos. In it I understand that Wilf Stevenson explained that Gordon Brown was interested in gathering in policy ideas for his administration and that he would like to co-ordinate this activity.

I believe that Ed Balls and John Healey were also recipients of the email.

The activities of the Smith Institute with regard to policy formulation at HM Treasury are of great public interest. Please could you, in the first instance, provide me with a copy of this email and any other emails sent by Wilf Stevenson to persons based at HM Treasury.

Regards,

Guido Fawkes Esq.

Guido is Giving Yates a Book for Christmas

Demos think-tank founder Geoff Mulgan was Tony Blair’s chief policy guru from 1997 to 2004. He has a book out Good and Bad Power – The Ideals and Betrayals of Government.
The title is apt – flick to page 84 for an interesting admission from a man who, when he was at the centre of government, is known to have seen the odd honours list in his time “In later years the scarcely concealed sale of peerages to wealthy party donors, and the appointment of the party’s top donor – Lord Sainsbury – to ministerial office, did little to restore the British public’s confidence.” Oh really?

Clearly a copy of this admission should be sent to Scotland Yard sharpish. Any other suggestions for books for Yates of the Yard? Guido sent him the The Little Red Book of New Labour Sleaze months ago. Now what is Yates going to give Guido in return?

You Read It Here First

As reported here yesterday, it is official today:

“Madeleine Bunting has decided to resign as Director of Demos. Since it has emerged that her vision for Demos is incompatible with that of the trustees.”

She was appointed 4th September 2006 and resigned today (19th October). Demos wonks should feel free to Email Guido anonymously with gems from her 45 day reign of madness.

Hang Out the Bunting

Propeller-Head Wonk Watch: The new Director of Demos, Madeleine Bunting, is leaving Demos to go back to the Guardian. If this story seems familiar it is because she has only just arrived from the Guardian.

Don’t expect much of a whip-round for a leaving pressie Madeleine.

This is the Cultural Tipping Point

It is all over for Labour, even the gayers hate them now. Popbitch (Guido thinks of her as his eMother) is a cultural phenomenon, it is was originally a music press chatboard with a heavy gay slant and some of the wittiest wordplay in cyberspace. Now it is something more than that. Guido’s City mates luv it, media wannabees worship it, journos waste time on it, webmongs laugh at it, it influences our media culture. Self-loathing and satire is mixed in with tales of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll pop-culture gossip.

The banner changes daily to reflect the cultural zeitgeist and today’s banner is above GUIDO TRUFAX! In a change from normal programming the Popbitcher’s took time out from analysing Garth Brooks’ sexuality and critiqued the waste of paper that is Demos’ latest publication. Read the bitchiness and weep.

Demos Downhearted

Propeller-Head Wonk Watch: Guido went along last night to Demos’ launch of Serving a Cause, Serving a Community by Douglas Alexander. Labour really are fumbling around trying to figure out how to do politics online and to re-engage with their activists. (Hint : try honesty and drop the control freakery.)

Douglas was speaking NewLabourSpeak most of the time so Guido read the pamphlet, which amusingly talks about Popbitch in awestruck terms. Why is it so popular? (Clue : it is funny and gossipy.) They touched on blogs briefly.

Noticed that all the furniture at Demos is Ikea. The leftie crowd was very demoralised. Guido almost felt sorry for them. Almost.

SMF Renounces Blair

Propeller-Head Wonk Watch: The Social Market Foundation was the creation of SDP Owenites financed by Lord Sainsbury. With the election of Blair it became Blairite after losing a few wonks like Danny Finkelstein to the Tories. It was never as “in” as the IPPR and Demos, only producing worthy dull stuff on the welfare state.

Guido wonders what Lord Sainsbury, Tony Blair’s biggest sponsor, will make of the event they are holding today in the House of Lords; The Tragedy of Tony Blair“. This following on from Demos renouncing Blairism with the appointment of Madelaine Bunting points to the beginning of an intellectual trend in Wonkland. The distancing of think-tanks from their Blairite third-way policy failures could become a theme over the next year or two. Not sure Lord Sainsbury will be too chuffed, still he can just bung even more money at Progress, the last redoubt of Blairites.

Demos Goes Bunting

Propeller-Head Wonk Watch: Madeleine Bunting is leaving the Guardian to become director of Demos in the autumn. The Guardian columnist and associate editor also writes for the Catholic Tablet. She is somewhat off-message for Blair and her appointment is yet more evidence that the era of New Labour is coming to an end.

If a think-tank like Demos is no longer in safe hands for New Labour it can only underline that the advance of Blairite ideology will definitely end when his premiership ends.

Blairite Wonk Endorses Cameron

Geoff Mulgan used to be at the heart of Downing Street when he was head of Blair’s policy unit. In an interview for GMTV tomorrow he will say through gritted teeth the usual positive guff about Gordon – a tad insincerely methinks – and then he gets a dig in at the end.

“I think David Cameron is a pretty impressive leader as well. That’s why I think Britain is unusually well placed from the next decade or so in terms of our potential political leadership.”

He is basically saying he won’t mind if Dave not Gordon becomes PM. Mulgan is not some outsider, he is a Blairite wonk who founded Demos and went on to become Blair’s director of strategy at the Performance and Innovation Unit. Is that the first time an über-Blairite has publicly endorsed Cameron?

How Blogging Will Save the World

We Media was as expected about Media Tarts and people who want to be Media Tarts. The wannabees are all earnest types who want to change the world and the suits run the world, or at least know the people who do.

Checking the audience, Guido asks “Who knows the blog?” Half the suits put up their hands, together with the political bloggers and the BBC types. Those saving the world and wanting to be proper Media Tarts look blank. Conclusive proof that monging on this blog will not help save the world, which is a relief.

Ran through the presentation, cracked a few Rosie Winterton jokes. Argued with a drunk Tim Ireland. Got introduced to Mr BBC, Mr Yahoo and Mr Other Important Suit. Mr BBC was a Guido RSS subscriber and everyone else’s boss, Mr Yahoo had windswept hair and looked like he had badly overdone the sunbed. Clearly had no idea where he was or why. Perhaps he was fire damaged. Judging by the simpering of Media Tarts around them, these were important suits.

Note to Biased BBC, you are getting under their skin. You will be pleased to know you are the recognised enemy. BBC types representing all shades of opinion spoke at length, from those that want to extend the licence for another decade, to those that want to increase the licence merely in line with inflation and those that think it is a disgrace that we even have to discuss the hallowed licence fee. One speaker talked entirely about the disgusting idea of advertising. He thought it would be a threat to the BBC’s impartiality.

Things Guido learnt : Some people think blogging will change the world. They each have blogs read by 7 other world-changing type people. They think Reuters, News Corp. and the BBC will be dethroned from the elite heights of Media Tartdom by using trackbacks and through backpacking American undergrads taking pictures of demos in Nepal, which they upload from their digital cameras to the internet. Bloggers will especially dethrone Murdoch and the bad King of Nepal (possibly not in that order). The Media will be better for it. The suits were very quiet during these bits. Blogging about blogging will save the world. Some of the world-saving bloggers intend to make money from this. They are the suits of the future.

What Dave told Demos

Interesting and clearly its the definitive (for now) ideological text for Cameroonies. It’s an honest analysis of Blair / New Labour as well. Cameron argues for realpolitik made policy.

I’m A Davis Campaigner…

Guido was at a wonk-fest dinner Saturday night (the after dinner speaker was an amusing Stephen Pollard), talk around the table was how wonks from big-government Demos to the tax-cutting Reform were going to re-align themselves towards Cameron. On the right, pictures of Davis were being deleted from their websites, former Davis campaign volunteers had found pressing commitments back at the office, ideological pontoon bridges were being rapidly erected towards Cameron.

So many MPs have publicly dumped their support for Davis its embarrassing, although entirely in keeping with Tory tradition. One case intrigues Guido: who was the Davis campaign team MP who told Denis MacShane in Brussels when asked why he wasn’t back in Westminster campaigning for Basher, that “there was no point in flogging a dead horse”? (A tale recounted gleefully to Andrew Marr).

Paid Message

Wonk for Sale : This feature is in danger of becoming almost exclusively about Demos, but they really are the rent-a-wonks of the think-tank world. Their new seminar report “Mobilising Public Services” is about the brave new Blairite world of public services. From it Guido learns that the “mobile phone is the ultimate personal device“. Gems of insight like this must be worth the money mobile phone company 02 paid. Well that and recommending that local government uses text messages to communicate with citizens. 02 makes millions from text messaging…

Backbencher Backs Down

Guido’s new think-tank feature Wonk for Sale (October 21) mentioned Demos and its IKEA furniture linked to a published policy paper. As so often happens with this blog, the Guardian’s Backbencher picked up on it on October 26.

“Would you like a think-tank to write about your product? Hey, would you like a think-tank to endorse your product in exchange for a fee? If so, have you thought about approaching Demos? “How can values-based products make the transition from the niche to mass market?” asks the latest Demos newsletter. “Why does increasing awareness rarely lead to changes in our consumption patterns?” Why indeed? If only our great thinkers had tackled that paradox. “This project will explore how Collaborative Brands can help values-based products make the transition, by connecting large numbers of individuals through a brand…”

Next week, unlike Guido, the Backbencher (November 2) backed down;

“With reference to the item about Demos in last week’s edition, the think-tank has asked the Backbencher to make it clear that it is “plain wrong” to imply that it offers product endorsement in return for payment.”

Oh yeah? Look at this selection of sponsors logos taken from their website,:-
As wonk-whores go, Demos flaunt it, one outrageous example: The Politics of Bandwidth: Network innovation and regulation in broadband Britain published by Demos, funded by Cable & Wireless. It recommended the break up of bitter rival BT and that the BT local loop be run not-for-profit. If you can’t beat em in the market-place, get a government friendly think-tank to recommend destroying ’em.

Demos has a reputation for policy prostitution, so why did Backbencher back down? Guido reckons Demos have got away with writing sponsor-friendly press releases for too long. Think-tanks need to distance themselves from donors to have any credibility, otherwise they are just PR houses writing press releases.

Send writs and more blatant examples of wonk-whoring here.

NEW FEATURE : Wonks for Sale

Guido’s think – tank feature Propeller-Head Wonk Watch is one of the most popular services of this blog, it gets more attention in wonk-land than anything else. So today Guido is excited to announce a new and hopefully no less interesting occasional feature: Wonk for Sale.[…] Read the rest

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