A peculiarity of politics on social media is the way in which truth is simultaneously demanded as the highest prize and disregarded in favour of a quick hit and some retweets. Sometimes both of those inconsistent trends exist within the same tweet.
Take, for example, a clip that has been doing the rounds among the most obsessive EU enthusiasts who cluster to the #FBPE hashtag. It shows an intervention in the House of Lords, in which Lord Hannay attempts to refute Lord Ridley’s argument on EU tariffs against imports from Africa.
The FBPE tweeter promoting the video claims that it shows Ridley telling “porkie pies”, ie lies, and the clip has had 35,000 views at the time of writing.
But it doesn’t show that at all. When Ridley describes some of the tariffs the EU levies against imports, Hannay intervenes to claim that “the European Union has zero tariffs on all African countries”. On superficial viewing, this argument appears to hit the “middle stump”, as one peer cries out – except for the quite important fact that it is incorrect. Most countries in Africa have duty-free access, but not all. As Ridley has taken to Twitter to point out, Nigeria, Africa’s biggest single economy, pays tariffs on a whole range of exports, for example.
So, far from Ridley telling “porkie pies” or being “ignorant”, the clip shows Lord Hannay intervening with an incorrect claim. Thirty-five thousand views later, the false account has dashed round the world, while the truth tries to catch up.