Tweet Checking: Giving the Actual Facts to Dan Hannan, Donald Trump and Others

Twitter may have helped bring about such radical transgressions as the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement, but it’s also helped birth some of the worst reactionary calamities to have struck Western civilisation in the past two years. “Post-truth”, “post-factual”, “fake news”, “MSM”, “establishment”, and many more buzz-phrases are bandied about even more and more while meaning less and less.

As such, there is an overbearing need to rigorously defend the actual facts in a cybernetic public sphere that has become utterly senseless. Unfortunately, that means digging through the webbed muck to find the most egregious examples of bite-sized disregard for truth (and feasibility). Some of them are admittedly just mistakes by the well-meaning. Others are just plain stupidity. But many are more sinister calling-cards for undermining the very epistemological foundations of our social bonds.

Here are the five worst — or at least the most curious — examples on Twitter I could find this week. To pick on the most shared/screamed at tweets would be too easy. Your humble columnist has put on his diving gear and descended into the dank pits of individual user feeds. It was gruesome, my good people, but it was worth it

5. Donald TRump

I couldn’t find the video of the original Fox and Friends report to confirm this (the programme does seem to have had problems understanding this stat before), but what I did find was this article in the Washington Post, which quoted the economist Nicole Smith as saying: “The 4 percent number is not exactly a number that economists are necessarily happy with [.] What’s been happening here is, if we look historically at other times when the unemployment rate has fallen below 4 percent, it’s times where it was the boom phase just before recession or just after a major war period. […] It’s almost a precursor for a recession or a precursor for another slumping economy.” She also suggested that higher rates of poorly paid part-time work is contributing to an inflated figure. There was also the always excellent David Pakman explaining why low unemployment isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.

Either which way, the falling unemployment rate fits a downwards trend going back to late 2009.

4. Arron Banks

We’re all so glad you admit to not giving a fuck Mr Banks, but you seem to think that the European Medicines Agency is just another mean, old, grey extension of the fascist EUSSR, rather than something that thousands of lives depend on. Perhaps you can use your vast unexplained wealth to jet off whether you wish for medical resources, but that kind of leaves all the other people—whether they be Leavers, Remainers, or non-voters— in the lurch. A replacement for the agency in question has not yet been nominated by the government, nor are there any exact plans in place to deal with its workload for the future.

This goes without mentioning the evacuation of the European Banking Authority to Paris, which although Banks as a freedom-loving patriot scorns is still important to the stability of his own industry: finance. What will replace the EBA in the UK is also yet to be decided, or even acknowledged, by the government.

 3. CHRIS WILLIAMSON.

Is treating non-voters as an untapped resource the best way to go about things? It is after all a central tenant of Corbynite electoral theology.

 There’s virtually no evidence that non-voters can change election results. Indeed, a poll of non-voters from 2015 suggest that if every non-voter was forced to reconsider their vote, the result would be almost exactly the same. There is no evidence non-voters suddenly voting affected the 2017 vote either (for Labour it seems, in psephological terms, former UKIP, Lib-Dem and Green voters were far more influential in them gaining votes back, as well as Williamson’s hated Tory voters changing their minds):

https://www.ft.com/__origami/service/image/v2/images/raw/http%3A%2F%2Fcom.ft.imagepublish.prod.s3.amazonaws.com%2F71fedb1e-4d14-11e7-919a-1e14ce4af89b?source=next&fit=scale-down&width=600

(Source: Financial Times)

 According to the House of Commons Library, the overall turnout only rose by approximately 2.6% from 2015 to 2017 anyway.

 And also, isn’t Williamson contradicting Momentum’s policy?

2. NIGEL FARAGE

Yes, the art work is nice, and I do in fact agree with what I think is its message, but not in the way you do, Nigel. Good readers, you may not like or respect Margaret Thatcher, but had the tenacity to fight for her positon consistently and with gusto. As Channel 4’s FactCheck notes, she was an enthusiastic EEC membership supporter during the 1975 referendum, and in 1986 signed the Single European Act, which “set a deadline of 1992 for the full completion of the single market to allow the free movement of goods, capital and people within Europe.” Yes, in 1988 she warned of a “European super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels”, but part of her ‘game plan’ with the EEC was that she managed to get Britain firmly in the single market (free trade Nige, remember?) while not only reducing our direct commitments but getting the massive rebate back on our annual contribution.

The cartoon actually shows the opposite of what Farage thinks it does: it’s not that May is some sort of “traitor” to EU interests while Thatcher was a patriot. It shows that we gain far more from staying in the EU than leaving it due to our formerly unique position.

5. Dan Hannan

To be perfectly honest, Daniel Hannan could have taken every place in this whole article, but we have to be fair to the others.

Let’s forget Dan’s own past insistences that we “adapt” rather than attempt to mitigate climate change, and say yes, it sure is accurate to say that the US and UK have pioneered emissions reductions in the period noted, and that this is A Good Thing. But what of historic emissions, Dan? You know, the actual long-term source of the contribution to the bulk of the current excess carbon level?

According to figures from the World Resources Institute (via The Guardian), in terms cumulative emissions given off between 1850 and 2007, the US fares worst at 339,174 MT (million tonnes) of CO2, or 28.8% of the global atmospheric total. The UK fares better than China, Russia, and Germany, but in the same period of time it’s total emissions still stand at an embarrassing 68,763 MT, or 5.8% of the total.

Should we really patting ourselves on the back for, you know, trying to fix a problem we not only started, but made the biggest contribution to?

There are also other factors, such as how much the Great Recession and general deindustrialisation contributed to the drop-off in both countries as opposed to actual planned emissions reductions schemes and energy efficiency initiatives from 2000 to 2016.

There is also something a little more unusual here: “Anglo-Saxon”? The United States? Someone had better tell all the African-Americans, the Hispanic-Americans, the German-Americans - in fact, someone better tell the 92.4% of Americans who aren’t of English-descent.

Even applying this descriptive to the whole of the UK is problematical. Even though your dear columnist identifies as ‘ethnically English’, a more accurate term would be Anglo-Celtic given his mix of English, Irish and Scottish heritage. Millions of other Britons are in the same category.

In and of itself, the term “Anglo-Saxon” has some questionable users

Oh dearest Hannan, it may just be the beginning, but I get the warm, glorious feeling that for this column you are going to be the gift that keeps on giving…

  • Think you’ve seen something on Twitter that needs a bit of a dressing down? Tweet me at @ha_coverley.

More about the author

About the author

Harris Coverley writes the Tweet Checking column for Disclaimer and is constantly looking for readers to help him correct the worst of internet. No stupidity or falsehood is too great a challenge.

He lives in Manchester and holds an MA in Intellectual History from UCL. He also writes short fiction and poetry, the former of which only Disclaimer has had the good sense to publish.

Follow Harris on Twitter.

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