Irish Independent’s framing of poll suggests ‘Brexitisation’ of #RepealThe8th debate

THE ISSUE

Many feel that one of the factors that contributed to both the Brexit and Trump victories  in 2016 was the mainstream media’s attempts to appear ‘neutral’ [for sales reasons every bit as much as ones involving ‘fairness’] which often led to over-compensating in their coverage of the perceived ‘losing side’ ahead of election day.

THE MEDIA

Article by Philip Ryan in Irish Independent on February 18, 2018

Poll shows strong support in favour of abortion referendum – but ’12 week’ proposal splits public

A total of 40pc said unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks was ‘about right’, while 8pc said it ‘did not go far enough’, a combined 48pc in favour.

However, 33pc said unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks ‘went too far’ and a further 19pc were undecided – a combined 52pc against or unsure.

THE COMMENT

The headline reads ’12-week proposal splits public’.  Actually, any poll result that isn’t 100% in favour of one side can be called ‘split’.  So what is Philip Ryan of the Indo trying to do here?

Well, let’s look at the numbers being presented, starting with the pollsters themselves.  The article calls it a ‘Kantar Millward Brown poll’ which suggests a degree of, pardon the pun, ‘independence’ about the source, though if you actually go to the firm’s website you’ll see that pretty much all of their polls are done for the Indo.

But here is where I want to be absolutely clear…I am not suggesting that the Irish Independent is somehow secretly working on behalf of one side of the abortion debate.  This is something different, yet it is potentially just as harmful to the #RepealThe8th movement.

The article begins by pointing out that as many as 63% of respondents are in favour of Eighth Amendment Repeal.   It then adds that ‘A total of 24pc are opposed and 13pc do not know or offer no opinion.’  That shows a clear separation between the different viewpoints, in favour, against and no opinion…three distinct camps.

But the reporting starts to get a little, shall we say, ‘murky’ when we get to the part about the proposed ’12 week’ provision.  Remember…this post is not meant to debate that issue itself, rather the Indo’s reporting of a poll on it.

As you can see from our highlighted quote above, when it comes to these particular figures, the author has chosen to throw the ‘undecided’ percentage in with those who feel that 12 weeks is ‘too far’.  Why is that?  Surely the fact that they haven’t stated an opinion means the number should be kept separate, just as it was with the overall figures?

The answer is simple, at least in my opinion.

It’s not so much that the Indo wants you to vote a particular way in the referendum…it just wants to be able to write a headline that attracts attention from both sides.  So by ‘cooking the numbers’ to suggest there’s a category where the ‘No’ camp is actually winning, they are effectively ‘throwing them a bone’.

Many use the term ‘clickbait’ for such manipulation in the framing of a headline, but I’m not wild about that as it suggests that it only happens online.  I’d rather call it ‘lookbait’ as not only has it always featured in the print media [mostly tabloids though not exclusively], but also it is essentially uses the same principle employed by advertisers.  That scantily-clad woman holding the beer on the billboard isn’t there because if you buy the product you’ll get to meet her, yet they certainly don’t mind you thinking you will, even if it’s for a split second.

But to return to the #RepealThe8th movement, it’s very important that they remain mindful of this type of skewed media coverage and highlight it whenever they can, otherwise that 63-24 gap could get a lot closer between now and the referendum itself.  JLP

#IANWAE

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Mueller investigation confirms Russian interference…Trump’s only concern is himself

THE ISSUE

Whether or not Donald Trump personally colluded with the Russian government in their interference with the 2016 US Presidential election, the fact that he has done nothing to stop them doing it again since arriving in the White House is greatly worrying to say the least.

THE MEDIA

Article by Jan Wolf in Reuters on Friday, February 16, 2018

Russian Indictments Could Set Stage For More Mueller Charges

“While they went to great pains to say they are not indicting any Americans today, if I was an American and I did cooperate with Russians I would be extremely frightened today,” said former federal prosecutor Patrick Cotter.

The White House took a different view, issuing a statement saying that Trump had been briefed on the matter and was “glad to see the Special Counsel’s investigation further indicates there was NO COLLUSION between the Trump campaign and Russia.”

THE COMMENT

Rod Rosenstein looked so scared making his announcement you’d swear Trump was standing right in front of him.  I suppose you have to hand it to the President for at least being that intimidating.

Knowing full well his boss wants to fire him, Rosenstein had the unenviable task of explaining the latest move by the Mueller investigation to the media, namely that Russian citizens were being indicted for operating things such as ‘troll farms’ to sway public opinion.

When I was growing up I seem to recall Russia as being an enemy of the USA.  I’m not saying I was ever happy about that state of affairs, but one thing I know for sure is that it was the Republican Party pushing that line more than any other.

Now we have concrete evidence that they [and by they we can only assume the orders came from the very top] have been meddling in the democratic processes of supposedly ‘the land of the free and home of the brave’, we have to assume that the priority of the US government is to punish them and make sure it doesn’t happen again?

Of course not.  All Trump cares about is himself.  Is that just my opinion or do I have proof?  What say we examine his first tweet since the announcement of the Russian indictments…

Great, Mr President – so it looks like you’re in the clear [even though the announcement proves nothing of the sort].  Glad to see you have your priorities straight.  Who needs to worry about the Russians having an ‘anti-US campaign’ anyway?  Not the President, that’s for sure.  No doubt if challenged you’ll point to the fact that Obama did nothing either, even though he did and at the time you said it was bullshit.

As always, we can only scratch our heads as we try to figure out the mental capacity of, not the President himself, but the citizens of Utrumpia who swallow his every word hook, line and stinker.  That’s not a typo.  JLP

#IANWAE

Rachel Maddow makes a good case for being the most smug about the epic fail that is the Nunes meh-mo

THE ISSUE

In a desperate attempt to help his overlord president thwart the Robert Mueller investigation, Congressman Devin Nunes cherry-picked classified intelligence information and spun it into the form of a memo which, after whipping up a frenzy of curiosity for weeks, he sent to Trump who authorised it for public release on Friday.   The reaction everywhere other than Fox News has been underwhelming to say the least.

THE MEDIA

YouTube clip by The Rachel Maddow Show on Friday, February 2, 2018

This is what all the hype was about? I hyped that I’d got Donald Trump’s tax returns …for one hour before I actually released…what actually were Donald Trump’s tax returns and for a year now people were telling me that was unconscionable hype”

THE COMMENT

Over in Utrumpia, where this memo is being paraded around like it’s The Ten Commandments, it doesn’t matter what the actual words on the page are.  

The type of person this sideshow was aimed at is never going to actually read the memo.  This White House is counting on that, and it always does, which brings us to the underlying problem in all of this – how do you tell people they’re being manipulated when the people manipulating them have them convinced that YOU’RE their enemy?

Being a smug member of the so-called liberal elite is something Rachel Maddow does better than most – it doesn’t bother me personally but I know her presentation style is way too ‘smart’ for Utrumpia natives.  That said, she did take a lot of flak for the way she hyped the tax returns she received and I was one of the few who stuck up for her at the time.   She is definitely justified in bringing it up.

She then goes on to spell out not only how little is in the meh-mo that actually helps Trump, but also how some of it works against him.  Pity Utrumpians won’t be watching, however.

Best quote I have seen about all of this so far has come from Senator John McCain…

“The latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests – no party’s, no president’s, only Putin’s. The American people deserve to know all of the facts surrounding Russia’s ongoing efforts to subvert our democracy, which is why Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation must proceed unimpeded. Our nation’s elected officials, including the president, must stop looking at this investigation through the warped lens of politics and manufacturing partisan sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him.”

We’ll see what Robert Mueller has to say about it all.  JLP

#IANWAE

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Notes from Dáil Leaders’ Questions – Wed Jan 31, 2018

Dail LQ notes

Intro

Leaders’ Questions is arguably the most important weekly event in Irish politics, as the government must give answers on various topics to the opposition parties on live TV.  However, as it is held on a Wednesday just before lunchtime, its effects on the national political discourse is minimal.  Unfortunately we’re far more prepared for discussions on sports, soaps and reality shows than we are political issues.

In this new series on FPP we’ll be taking notes throughout both the Dáil session and RTÉ’s coverage, with much para-phrasing of course…

Pre-game

Host – Sharon Ni Bheolain

Panel – Fergus O’Dowd TD – FG

Michael O’Regan – Irish Times

Michael Lehane – RTE pol corr

ML – FG seems to be rallying around Tanaiste on 12-week

MOR – It’s going to be a long campaign

FOD – I’m in favour of change, when you bring it down to family you’d change your views.  We’ve a lot of persuading to do – HE DOESNT DIRECTLY ANSWER QUESTION when asked which side of LV/SC divide he’s on

SNB – could referendum be passed but legislation not go through Dail?

ML – yes that is a prospect, there might be a ‘compromise’

MOR – Martin reckons legislation could fail – I think the voters understand it’s a complex issue

FOD – We have a big job of work to do in debating the twelve week issue – do we need a bigger majority in referendum that 50%

SNB – the government needs to lead – is there a plan of action?

FOD – We need Harris’ bill to be exactly right

SNB – Is there an added complexity surrounding impending Supreme Court judgement?

ML – Some TDs will be guided by results, turnout and what constituents will say to them

Leaders’ questions

Micheal Martin- A few weeks ago I raised a question about hospices, since govt has excluded them from pay increases.  Funding has been withheld, MoH is now asking HSE to engage with these organisations, but that’s insulting to them, and a joke – I put it to you that they are being treated like second class citizens while govt is looking for credit for disability services.  The issue has been to Labour Court saying pay linking to HSE exists.  This is an issue of funding not industrial relations.  There’s a drop in morale…when is govt going to do the honest thing and pay the organisations properly

Leo Varadkar – Its important to put on the record that there are many different organizations and a gap has opened up between them and HSE bodies.  They’re not govt employees nor have they ever been.  Labour Court stated that it’s a decision for employers, some have met the increases, in others they have not.  It’s a diverse picture and in many cases staff have been caught in the middle.  We still dont know how the exact numbers.

MM – That is unacceptable and dishonest.  We know places are in deep trouble – are you saying nobody bothered to assess this last year?  We dont want to upset the budgetary figures.  It’s obfuscation and needs to be reversed

LV – it’s not fair, I agree.  I can only give you the facts, one of the unions accepted out proposal yesterday evening

John Brady [Sinn Féin] – Study of deprivation in EU countries…lone parents and working age adults with a disability saw the largest gap between them and others in Ireland.  26 and 14 percent higher in Ireland ‘deprivation gap’.  This did not happen in nine other countries.  According to ERSI proactive steps are required.  What specific measures is your govt going to take to lift these people out of poverty

LV – we had a lost decade because of economic crisis and we’re not to blame but we did work very hard to put country right and we were opposed by your party at every turn.  We have turned a corner, we are on the right track.  Your study also shows that the numbers are going down. The best anti poverty policy is creating jobs and we’re aiming at full employment in this country and those numbers are also showing progress.  We’re also increasing social welfare, educational supports, family income supplements and lone parent payments.  On disability we have the Missing Work Pay Report.  That’s a flavour of what we’re doing and I wish we had more time

JB – ESRI report shows that vulnerable suffered more under austerity.  We published a report last week showing how lone parents can be lifted out of poverty trap.  Have you had a look at that – if so, can you look at establishing

LV – I haven’t, but I will, what passes for a policy paper in SF is what my party calls a ‘press release’.  The people who have suffered most is those who lost their jobs, that’s why our focus has been on employment.  Employment, Child Care,Education and increase in welfare are the key things and this govt is working on them

Mattie McGrath [Independent] – Provision of home care packages, why is there a discrepancy in the provision of these services in some areas [like South Tipp General] than others?  HSE seems unable to enact change.  Will you commit to establishing the RIG Home Care Package Scheme into law?

LV – I agree that home care provisions needs to be increased to help free up beds.  The budget supplies extra money, here’s some stats, and this is a significant increase.  Most people accept the Fair Deal scheme works, what we suggest is something similar for home care.  It’s a public consultation at the moment.  Plans have been approved for 40 extra beds in South Tipp, it’s up to hospital to put them to best use

MMcG – agreeing with me and doing something about it are two different things. I want investigation that many carers re under 15 years of age???, it seems your spin machine is operating ahead of itself.

LV – I’m advised by MoH that it is under way and it will be in place before next winter.

Catherine Murphy [Social Democrats] – Pat Kenny Show and Prime Time have been talking about Dublin traffic congestion one of the best things we can do is invest in public transport especially with fines imminent from EU on failing to implement climate change provisions.  Irish Rail have not received any new funding before 2020, and it has been eight years with no new capacity.  What about DART underground?  Will you do anything to help?

LV – Yes traffic is getting worse, because the economy has improved and people are working again, amn’t I great.  I’m mentioning the Lost Decade again to have a pop at Fianna Fail.  There have been improvements, Phoenix tunnel, Luad cross city, RTPI, integrated ticketing, even when we had no money….now we’re planning a ten-year investment in infrastructure, Irish Rail are funded to refurbished

CM – ??????????

Post game

They cut off Deputy Murphy’s second question to return to studio but for the life of me I can’t understand why because there was no analysis to speak of – SNB essentially went over the various questions while the panel repeated the answers that were given in the Dáil chamber.  You could say Deputy O’Dowd was put under some pressure by SNB but there were no real answers given, except of course at the very end when he had another chance to respond to Deputy Murphy’s first question.

FPP comment

Really annoyed they cut to the studio before Deputy Murphy could ask her follow-up.  The whole point of having a second question is so that you can respond to the first answer.  And it’s not as though the so-called ‘analysis’ was up to much either.  If you’re going to bother with a studio presence, better to make the show for an entire hour so you can see the entire Dáil session as well as having time for a decent discussion.

Also, I don’t see the point for having Sharon AND the RTE political correspondent.  As Gemma O’Doherty once said of an interview on the Late Late, it’s ‘RTÉ talking to RTÉ’.  Let Sharon represent the broadcaster and get another pundit, preferably another TD, and those in the studio should be from parties who were’t involved on the day.

Then we have the fact that for the second week in a row the Eighth Amendment was discussed in the ‘pre-game’ without it ever being mentioned in Leaders’ Questions.  It seems that often TDs use their time to ask questions they have trouble getting answers during the more specialised Dáil sessions, which means this national spotlight can often be wasted to an extent.

When it comes to my comments on this session itself…it looks like Varadkar is quite adept at taking any challenge put to him and spinning it to make himself and his party look good, which I suppose as a politician is the essence of his job, but it’s a shame the second questions aren’t used more often like Mattie McGrath whose spin machine comment was the highlight of the half-hour.

One final comment on the time limits for both questions and responses…I get why they exist as they can’t be there forever as the Taoiseach has other things to be doing.  However, I wonder if he was talking to one of his party’s donors would there be a ticking clock and a switched-off microphone?  JLP

#IANWAE

Impressive words and actions from Varadkar on #RepealThe8th announcement but how media will frame the debate remains to be seen

THE ISSUE

After much urging to announce both date and format regarding a referendum on the Eighth Amendment, Leo Varadkar’s government has finally done so.

THE MEDIA

Article by Rónán Duffy in The Journal on January 30, 2018

‘We’re asking people to trust women’: Repeal referendum to be held before the end of May

“We know that thousands of Irish women, women from every single county in Ireland, travel abroad for abortions every year. We know that women obtain abortion pills through the post to end their pregnancies without any medical support or counselling or supervision. So we already have abortion in Ireland, but it’s unsafe, unregulated and unlawful. In my opinion we cannot continue to export our problems and import our solutions,”

THE COMMENT

After much waiting, we have finally heard from the Irish Government on the issue of the Eighth Amendment, and for the most part it was the news we wanted to hear.  The referendum is to be held at the end of May, and for the most part, the vote is to be on a straight repeal.

It is natural for Pro-Choice campaigners to remain sceptical, however.

First, I have questions on this intervention by the Attorney General on the need to have wording left in the Constitution which allows the Oireachtas to legislate.  Why wasn’t this information given to both the Citizens’ Assembly and the Oireachtas Committee?  Or, if it was, then why are we choosing to ignore their findings?

And second, this quote from Duffy’s article concerns me…

Speaking at Government Buildings this evening about his own views on the referendum, Varadkar said that he would be campaigning to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

Given that Micheal Martin of Fianna Fail has managed to contort his own position into something similar to the Taoiseach of late, I sincerely hope that the Irish mainstream media does not consider the two ‘Civil War party’ leaders to be the foremost spokespeople of the Yes campaign between now and the referendum.

They are both leaders of political organisations that have been given free votes to their parliamentarians so we would hope that parties with stated positions on Repeal, as well as other organisations, will be given sufficient time to present their case when the debate takes place in the public domain.

All of that remains to be seen, but for now, this can only be seen as a positive step.  JLP

#IANWAE

CNN’s Chris Cuomo uses facts to challenge Trump’s claims of economic success, including the President’s own words

THE ISSUE

President Trump wants us to stop focusing on anything negative to do with his administration and instead heap praise on him for the success of the US economy since he took office.

THE MEDIA

YouTube clip by CNN on 29 Jan 2018

Trump [in clip from campaign speech]: “When you hear 4.9 and 5% unemployment the number is probably 28 and 29, as high as 35…”

Cuomo [in CNN studio]: “You know what?  I agree with the President!

THE COMMENT

“You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.” ― Daniel Patrick Moynihan

For me, the health of an economy is far from the only yardstick by which we should be judging our government.  But even if we accept that it is, CNN’s Chris Cuomo has done a great job putting the figures Trump has been crowing about into context.

At best, the economic reports under Trump are basically continuing the success that Obama had after inheriting a disastrous crash of the market.  But as Cuomo points out, in some areas the figures aren’t even that great in themselves.

But the best evidence he has comes from ‘candidate Trump’ who’s words are often found to be in direct opposition to those of ‘President Trump’.

And don’t just take CNN’s word for it…back in August the New York Times pointed out that : ‘Trump Praises the Stock Market at 22,000 That He Said Was a Bubble at 18,000

Let’s be clear…all politicians play fast and loose with economic figures to big themselves up, it’s just that in Trump’s case he has taken it to a whole new level by selectively ignoring his own words from the not-to-distant past.  JLP

#IANWAE