Comments as #repealthe8th referendum becomes a reality

Date:

A few thoughts on the start of the #repealthe8th campaign. Commentators who thought the anti-choice side were better organised because they went full throttle faster should reconsider - how much damage have they done to themselves with fake stories, fake 100s crowds & neo-nazi smears. At this stage they must be wishing they had done & said nothing over the last week & instead focused on fact checking & claims that could stand 30 seconds scrutiny. If you are pro-choice you should reconsider anything presenting the campaigns as if it was a apolitical horse race - focus on the issues and not on performance.

The most disturbing aspect of the past week is not the fake news & smears, that was expected. It's that almost no media in Ireland has challenged these, The Times Irish edition being the one counter example. Journalism it appears it just cutting & pasting ludicrous claims from Press Releases. The fakenurse story was only uncovered because a couple of actual nurses saw the obvious discrepancies and posted about them. They were then threatened with libel and described as mad by the official spokespeople of the No campaign while most journalists looked the other way. See https://twitter.com/ArtimusFoul/status/973714559889477632 for more details

The threats & gaslighting from the official spokespeople should cause serious thought for anyone inclined to swallow the weird astro turf feminism of the anti-choice brigade - as should the MRA types who cluster around their hashtags. Our fear with this is that without the mainstream media amplifying the exposures of fakenurse, neo-nazi smears and ludicrous attendance figures only the twitter bubble will be aware these were manufactured fakenews and the anti-choice side will continue them.

This is an important point for pro-choice online activists that are on Twitter and particularly on Facebook. We are in a relatively small bubble of perhaps 10-50,000 people. Social media exposures may not get far outside this, the exposing of the lies on our social media won't reach the Cavan hill farmer that the lies are aimed at. And this is very asymmeterical because the others have the cash to pay to reach everyone. With their nasty alt-right #strike4repeal ambush video last year they paid FB to reach everyone following the National Ploughing Championship page, we'd guess it was a 10,000 euro spend.

This is a technique straight out of the Trump and Brexit playbooks - large social media spends to target fakenews to people thought vulnerable to that sort of misleading story. In the above case playing to some rural prejudices with regard to Dublin & the idea of young people as foolish. That video was shot by an alt-right crew who came from London and later worked with alt-right The Rebel & hate preacher Tommy Robinson - one of many connections of far right here and abroad with anti-choice leadership.

The main point here is that they have the cash to push misleading material at what they presume to be vulnerable populations throughout referendum and we may not even see them. They can push racist material at people following racist pages and this will be invisible to almost everyone unless the media expose that this is happening. For journalists reading this see http://tref.ie who are going to try and track ads, for everyone else in Ireland you can help by installing a plugin see http://tref.ie/get-involved/ - they need another 400 people at least.

On the @repeal_shield controversy which allows people to block huge numbers of 'pro-life trolls' at once by subscribing to their list. We aren't using it as we are monitoring far right involvement with anti-choice and the anti-choice movement in general but what we noticed was that in the days after it launched we started seeing a lot fewer troll tweets showing up in our feed. Almost none now that are not direct @ at our Twitter account. Presumably that's because our followers are no longer arguing with such accounts & thus boosting them.

This is worth keeping in mind, if you choose to argue with McLurk or similar anti-choice accounts you are helping them reach more people. So it's only worth doing if to you can really own them the way @NursepollyRgn did with the fakenurse story. Even with our real numbers exposure of save8rally we've not engaged with McLurks Sunday & Monday attempts to troll us for the same reasons - its not the issue we owned him on which was the '6 Points that Prove that 9k and Not 100k Marched' at https://www.wsm.ie/c/save8rally-proof-9k-not-100k

We have answered 100+ challenges to our methodology here, on our Facebook pages and on our Youtube channel although TBH we've not seen a real challenge yet, more fury at the realities of math and physics we expressed. There is the material for a very interesting bias study right there.

A note to Repeal commentators - before making 'the campaign should do this' suggestions spend a little time checking if they are already doing so. In most cases they will. Blogging or article writing which criticise without doing this is demoralising & distracting rather than helping those doing the work. Likewise while informed tactical discussion is good but its is also worth considering what criticism to make privately rather than publically . Unless you are very very careful any public criticism will be used and retweeted by the anti-choice side and its hard to be that careful in limited twitter character count.

Twitter is a minor battleground, so is Facebook - the referendum will be won or lost in the 100 million personal conversations every week between now and the May vote. You are going to be most able to move uncertain friends, workmates & relatives not random strangers. But you can also make a small difference in a big way by canvassing, in particular if you live or are from the rural areas where the Don't Know votes are highest. There is a listing of regional groups at https://www.abortionrightscampaign.ie/get-involved/

This is an edited version of a Tweet thread we posted, the original is at https://twitter.com/WSMIreland/status/973881665113284608

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