Head of Commons committee investigating ‘fake news’ warns people will be ‘very frightened’ by the idea that Hitler’s tactics were copied

A leading campaigner for Brexit heaped praise on the “very clever” propaganda techniques of the Nazis and Isis, a recording has revealed. Andy Wigmore, who ran the Ukip-led Leave-EU campaign, also admitted it “completely, completely, completely” copied Donald Trump’s tactic of making “outrageous” statements.

Meanwhile, the chief executive of the parent company of scandal-hit Cambridge Analytica was recorded saying Mr Trump deliberately portrayed Muslims as “an artificial enemy”, in the same way that Adolf Hitler played on German hatred for Jews. “[Hitler] didn’t have a problem with the Jews at all, but the people didn’t like the Jews… So he just leveraged an artificial enemy.”

Damian Collins said the Nazi tactic was “to create bogeymen for people to be frightened of” and that its inquiry wanted to determine “were these tactics being used in the referendum campaign…” Andy Wigmore continued: “Immigration was the key issue in pretty much all polling… Facts are not scare tactics, if that’s what people feel is their concerns, and it was our opinion that we had to keep that top of the agenda in line with our polling and the strategy of Nigel Farage.”

In simple terms the big-money donors driving Brexit aren’t interested in immigration. Through carefully targeted social media campaigns and the consisted immigration agenda of tabloid newspapers (see below) they stoked the country’s fear of mass immigration from Turkey and the Balkan states (both lies) to drive votes in their favour.

Source: The Independent

An anti-migrant poster unveiled by Nigel Farage was reported to the police with a complaint that it incites racial hatred and breaches UK race laws. Dave Prentis of the Unison union, wrote to the Metropolitan police about the poster, which shows a queue of mostly non-white migrants and refugees with the slogan “Breaking point: the EU has failed us all.”

Prentis described the Ukip poster as a “blatant attempt to incite racial hatred”. “This is scaremongering in its most extreme and vile form. Leave campaigners have descended into the gutter with their latest attempt to frighten working people into voting to leave the EU. To pretend that migration to the UK is only about people who are not white is to peddle the racism that has no place in a modern, caring society. That’s why Unison has complained about this blatant attempt to incite racial hatred and breach UK race laws.” ~ Dave Prentis, Unison.

Source: The Guardian

Triple threat to transparency: a Brexit Story

Any discussion of propaganda and the 2016 European referendum starts with years of Euromythology and migrant-bashing.

The main institution which drove Britain out of the EU was the right-wing press. For decades, papers owned by oligarchs like Rupert Murdoch, Richard Desmond, and the Barclay brothers protected politicians that their journalists ought to have been holding to account, shifting the blame for their failures onto a convenient, fictionalised version of the European Union.

Any discussion of propaganda and the European referendum has to start within that context, rooted in a history of lies told not as fake news or Facebook memes, but in so-called respectable national papers, by liars who were not hidden behind anonymous Twitter accounts, but who proudly paraded on the bylines of their articles.

The original Brexit liar was the Telegraph Brussels correspondent from 1989 to 1994. Already controversial when he was appointed – he’d been sacked by The Times – this propagandist for the British establishment used his role to distract people from the struggles of the Tory government of the time by inventing a string of stories about the European Union, creating, as one of his fellow Brussels correspondents would later say, “an entire newspaper genre: the Euromyth, a story that had a tiny element of truth at the outset but which was magnified so far beyond reality that by the time it reached the reader it was false.”

Read the full article here: https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/can-europe-make-it/triple-threat-transparency-brexit-story/

Demonizing minorities for political gain

Straight out of the Nazi propaganda playbook, right wing tabloid newspapers including the Daily Mail, The Sun and Daily Express have consistently fanned the flames of religious and racial intolerance, creating an ideal environment of low level hatred and distrust of immigrants for the Leave campaigns to provide their simplistic and largely impossible solution. 

Nazi Europe circa 1939, as seen through the lens of propaganda-laden cartoons depicting the Jews as rats to be swept out of Germany. British cartoonist Stanley “Mac” McMurtry borrowed heavily from that imagery for his latest piece in The Daily Mail. Instead of Jews, however, the “rats” are a horde of Muslims.

In the foreground of Mac’s cartoon, a man in a tunic carries a mat, presumably for praying. Just past him, the darkened silhouette of a woman in a hijab walks toward a sign that boasts of “open borders” and “the free movement of people.” “Welcome to Europe,” it reads. 

Another man, already past the sign, is unidentifiable but for the muzzle of a rifle poking ever so slightly into the air from his back. Lest there be any doubt about the ominously shadowed man’s true nature, an unkempt beard sprouts from his face, his head topped with a Pashtun cap of the sort worn by Afghanistan’s mujahideen.

All the while, rats scurry between the immigrants’ feet.

Soon after The Daily Mail published Mac’s cartoon, Internet commenters linked it to this work, published in a Viennese newspaper by the name of “Das Kleine Blatt” in 1939. 

The work depicts a swarm of rats, wiped from the doorstep of Germany, then delights as they’re barred entry from “democratic” countries – the same ones critical of Germany’s treatment of the Jews.

Upwards of 750,000 refugees have sought asylum in Europe so far this year [2015], many of them fleeing violence in the Middle East. A prevailing – if overblown– concern has been that religious extremists might infiltrate countries by posing as a refugee.

Source: Huffington Post | The Guardian

Stop Funding Hate

“History has shown us time and again the dangers of demonizing foreigners and minorities… it is extraordinary and deeply shameful to see these types of tactics being used… simply because racism and xenophobia are so easy to arouse in order to win votes or sell newspapers” – United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2015

A free society relies on a media that we can trust – which tells the truth, and treats everyone fairly, whatever their religion, ethnic background, gender or sexuality. Yet studies consistently show that the UK press is among the least trusted in Europe.

Financial incentives are pushing some newspapers to produce headlines which distort the truth, play on prejudice, and demonise minority groups in our society.

This problem matters, above all, because it’s having a real impact on people’s lives.

As long ago as 2010, experts were warning that hostile media coverage was fuelling a rise in anti-Muslim hate crime. In 2016, Leicester University’s Centre for Hate Studies warned that a wider surge in hate crime against migrants had been “fuelled and legitimised… by the media”, while Cambridge University highlighted that “Mainstream media reporting about Muslim communities is contributing to an atmosphere of rising hostility towards Muslims in Britain”.

Research by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees has found that the Daily Mail – along with The Sun – showed a hostility towards migrants that was “unique” among the newspapers they sampled across five European countries.

Source: Stop Funding Hate

Lies and misinformation in the press

The British mass media market is dominated by Eurosceptic press titles. This has led to a scale and intensity of negative coverage about the EU that informed commentators have judged to be ‘unique’ in Europe as a whole. This development – which began in the later 1980s and accelerated through the 1990s and beyond – has strongly influenced the ways in which UK politicians think about what is achievable in their European policies, as well as what is desirable in the first place.

A ‘climate of fear’ from press backlashes has meant that UK governments have been increasingly unwilling to devise, implement and publicise pro-European initiatives. In this context, David Cameron’s referendum gamble can in part be seen as a tactical response to the catalytic part the UK press has played in fomenting mass Euroscepticism in UK politics and public debate.

The staggering scale of disinformation from UK press can be vividly seen in the EU’s own survey of lies and disinformation pumped out by UK news media at EU Myths. Below is a chart of this analysis by the Economist, for the full story visit the link here. It’s no co-incidence that the owners of the top eight in the list below have been implicated in tax dodging / non-dom tax avoidance schemes. 

Sources: The EconomistUK in a changing Europe | EU Myths

The Daily Mail’s reporting of Immigration in the run up to the election

It’s worth quoting the conclusion of this report from the London School of Economics in full as it shows how Britain’s most influential media outlet directly affected the Brexit vote. Source: LSE – Brexit, Agenda Setting and Framing of Immigration in the Media: The Case of the Daily Mail by Deborah Sogelola

Through the content analysis of the Daily Mail, the most popular newspaper in the UK in terms of readership, it is evident that articles aimed to inspire readers to vote ‘Leave’ focused on immigration. Over the periods examined, there was an 88% increase in the amount of articles written on immigration, in comparison to the 77% increase of articles on the economy. While both topics increased in coverage, by writing increasingly about immigration and dedicating more newspaper coverage to the issue through longer articles and headings, the Daily Mail contributed to the shift in public opinion from viewing issues of the economy as being the most important to viewing issues of immigration as being most important during the Brexit campaign.

According to Lippmann, the media is in charge of creating the pictures in our heads when it comes to public opinion (Lippmann 2014). Thus, not only did the Daily Mail raise the salience of immigration, they also shaped how people viewed the topic. The issue of immigration was framed by the Daily Mail in a negative manner focusing on five themes, namely the ‘us vs. them’ narrative, liberation from corruption, islamophobia, border invasion and the negative impacts of immigrants on the economy. All five themes suggested that immigration was bad for the UK and was robbing hard working citizens of benefits that were rightfully theirs. By setting the agenda and framing the news coverage on immigration, the Daily Mail can be said to have acted in a manner that does not align with objective journalistic standards. Instead, using negative rhetoric with reference to immigration, the Daily Mail created frames that engendered negative associations with immigration. The frames were effective because it fed into established stereotypes and created a sense of urgency. Their choice of words served to alienate immigrants, which resulted in presuppositions when it came to the Brexit referendum (Rowinski 2016). By such means, they exaggerated an immigration crisis that could not be substantiated but seemingly required immediate attention. The solution presented was voting ‘Leave’. By doing so, Britons would be regaining control of their borders. However, it is important to note that the newspaper rarely mentioned how the process of regaining control would work beyond voting ‘Leave’. This false sense of urgency could have mobilised readers to vote on the ideological stance the newspaper had taken without having any other knowledge on the issue.

While agenda setting is not necessarily a bad thing (McCombs 2014), in the case of the Brexit referendum, the act of agenda setting by the newspaper failed to inform people in an objective manner. The Daily Mail was arguably biased in favour of its political stance and its rhetoric reflected this. A few hours after the vote and result of the referendum ‘what is the EU?’ became a trending google search in the UK and similarly, searches on ‘what happens if we leave the EU?’ had tripled (Fung, 2016).

This implies that a sizeable portion of the United Kingdom’s demographic – which might also include readers of the Daily Mail – were not duly informed on key matters that underscored the referendum. So, even though 51.9% of people voted to leave the EU many didn’t really know what the EU represented (Fung 2016). The role of the Daily Mail in not only setting the agenda for the referendum but also framing the key issues such as immigration detracted from the capacity of its readers to act in an informed manner. With all the emphasis on immigration and taking back control, it is important to note that most of the articles never explained how voting ‘Leave’ would curb the perceived immigration problem or impact the future of Britain economically and socially. Instead, newspapers like the Daily Mail focused on sensationalism and poorly substantiated claims. A potential area of further study would be to examine the extent to which all other newspapers acted in a similar manner.

This paper has sought to determine the role of news media in shaping public opinion on matters central to the Brexit referendum. While it has concluded that the Daily Mail failed to serve the public in an objective manner, it is also pertinent to consider other reasons for why public opinion took shape as it did. Perhaps it was the case that papers like the Daily Mail were simply reporting on sensationalist campaigners and relayed their misinformation with journalistic accuracy, rather than engendering it themselves. A further limitation of this paper is its exclusion of other issues from the analysis, aside from Brexit and the economy, which may be of salience. For instance, the average Brexit article may well be longer than the average article on the economy, but how long are articles on other relevant political subjects? Moreover, while it was useful to examine the similarity of language employed by Boris Johnson and the Daily Mail, this comparison would be all the more informing if we had the context of contrasting language employed by ‘Remain’ campaigners and their media allies.

How Leave campaigns used propaganda

The anti-EU sentiment of the British right-wing press increased Conservative Euroscepticism to a point that the Brexit referendum was inevitable, if only to put an end to the divisions within the Tory party. A perfect storm of unethical campaigning practices, poor data protection and governance, a belligerent and resurgent Russia, Hedge-funds on the make (and wary of the new EU Tax Avoidance Directive ) and an increasingly neoliberal American elite happy to stir up Nationalist sentiment to profit from the resultant economic disruption.


Drip feed of low level eurosceptic news and misinformation by UK right wing press creates climate of anti-europe sentiment.

Conservative euroscepticism increases as a reaction to media pressure making it almost impossible for the conservative-led remain campaign to campaign on a pro-europe message.

Stage 1

SCL Group company Aggregate IQ uses sophisticated data analytics to accurately target swing voters.

Leave campaigns create anonymised social media campaigns to create an anti-muslim and anti-immigrant climate, testing and evolving millions of targeted adverts to optimise their impact.

Russian intelligence uses cold war inspired ‘troll farms” to engage the arguments creating division and stoking further hatred by spreading misinformation and fake news. Bots are deployed to increase the visibility of hot hashtags to spread further division and division.

Stage 2

Leave campaigns create targeted advertising with misinformation and fake news (for example, the £350 million per week claim and the Turkey Accession claim).

Leave campaigns provide ‘the solution’ to the climate of fear they have created – to leave the EU.

Leave campaigns ‘silence’ Remain campaign messaging on the risks to the economy as ‘Project Fear” – effectively a form of censorship.

Stage 3

Vote Leave and Leave.EU illegally overspend by up to 10% in the last few days of the campaign – the most critical period in campaigning. Millions of targeted adverts flood social media at a time when the remain campaign have run out of funds. These adverts target swing voters to vote Leave, and attempt to suppress the Remain vote. 

Leave wins by a small margin. 

A few examples branded and unbranded Facebook adverts from Leave.EU and Vote Leave

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