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Emrys's Journal
Emrys's Journal
October 22, 2023

For those who aren't Twitter-averse here's the video from David Nugent-Malone's Twitter feed:



I've seen toppled pines etc. in forests before with large plates of soil and roots attached, even camped in the lea of one, but never seen the process before they fell over.

I'm just glad his dog was OK - I kept thinking it was going to get squished.
October 21, 2023

Why the MSM keep on slipping up on Gaza/Israel [Threadreader version of Twitter thread]

This is the Threadreader version of a Twitter thread linked at the end of this OP:

John Burn-Murdoch
Oct 18

Some quick thoughts on why large parts of the mainstream media keep slipping up on Gaza/Israel (and why it was the same at times with Covid):

The main reason is a failure to keep pace with modern news gathering techniques, but there’s more.

With the proliferation of photos/footage, satellite imagery and map data, forensic video/image analysis and geolocation (~OSINT) has clearly been a key news gathering technique for several years now. A key news gathering technique *completely absent from most newsrooms*.

Obviously not every journalist should be an OSINT specialist, just as not every journalist is a specialist in combing through financial accounts, or scraping websites, or doing undercover investigations. But any large news org should have *some* OSINT specialists.

Some of the biggest international news orgs now do have OSINT teams (or similar). @washingtonpost calls theirs “visual forensics”, @nytimes and @FT go with “visual investigations”. But most news orgs, even large ones, still don’t.

This means that when you have events unfolding rapidly amid a fog of war, most news orgs are still completely reliant on what they’re told by their sources. This isn’t ideal at the best of times, but especially so when different sources are clearly motivated to mislead.

It was the same during Covid, when everyone was quoting officials talking about things that could easily be checked and sometimes debunked by someone capable of doing their own data analysis. But there weren’t enough of those skills in newsrooms, so unchecked claims abounded.

Even when newsrooms have built up these resources (whether OSINT or data) the newness of those teams means there’s some initial wariness about relying on new people (often young and not from traditional journalism backgrounds, so considered outsiders) for massive news lines.

The result is most mainstream news orgs today are either simply not equipped to determine for themselves what’s happening in some of the world’s biggest stories, or lack the confidence to allow their in-house technical specialists to cast doubt on a star reporter’s trusted source

So you end up with situations where huge, respected news organisations are reporting as fact things that have already been shown by technically adept news gatherers outside newsrooms to be false or at the very least highly uncertain. It’s hugely damaging to trust in journalism.

Even without an in-house OSINT team, organisations like @bellingcat and @airwars have been around for almost a decade now to assist. With a situation like Gaza/Israel, any time you’re getting a comment from an official spokesperson, you should also be getting a comment from OSINT

Of course, news orgs also don’t help themselves by insisting on coming out with definitive takes immediately.

I obviously get the desire to be first, and the instinctive dislike of ambiguity.

But in situations like this, surely it’s better to be second and definitively correct?

Plus, with the sheer amount of footage these days, and the number of OSINT specialists combing through it, we’re often only talking about waiting a few hours.

I’m sure mainstream media will catch up, but it needs to happen fast in order to retain trust and even relevance, or readers will go elsewhere.

“According to a spokesperson” just doesn’t really cut it when the primary evidence is right there.

Beyond OSINT, I think the overarching issue is:

There’s an implicit assumption in most of journalism that the only way to find out what’s happening is to ask someone.

For years now it’s been possible to do better than that, but the industry has not fully taken this on board.

One final thought:

Fact-checks after the fact are inherently limited. “A lie is halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on”.

Forensic, investigative, truth-seeking work should be a proactive part of breaking news coverage, not a reactive add-on afterwards

October 20, 2023

Well, a couple of weeks ago I alerted on a post that called for the torture of Hamas captives.

Another DUer challenged this by pointing out torture had been tried in the past and was not only illegal but unproductive, at which the poster I alerted on expanded on this vehemently by saying what they'd tried wasn't enough, and he meant "truly medieval torture."

Those posts stood for two days before I finally decided to alert on the second one, which I was then glad to see was hidden, or I'd have lost a lot of faith in DU. The first slightly less objectionable post still stood the last time I looked - I left it as I felt the poster, who regularly crops up on threads about Israel/Palestine and is vociferous in support of Israel, should own it. That poster certainly hadn't thought better of the first post, having gotten a hide, and deleted it.

I didn't post about this till now as I generally feel that's against forum etiquette and the jury result is enough and should be the end of the matter, but if we're sharing objectionable material we've found on DU, then why not?

October 19, 2023

A couple of minor (I hope!) changes that would greatly improve my DU4 experience

The main one is that I'd like to see the "Your Posts" button reinstated, separated out from "My Stuff".

On DU3, when it lit up, it was a very useful cue that someone had engaged with one of your posts and you had the option to read and reply.

In the new format, it requires an extra click to access this among a large number of options. An extra click isn't going to kill me, but since you can't centre mouse-click to open "My Stuff" in a new browser tab, checking out why "My Stuff" has lit up and viewing post replies forces me away from whatever I was reading at the time.

There's space available to the right of the header of each whole-forum view, next to "About forum", to neatly accommodate an extra button.

A less crucial change, and maybe more tricky, is that I'd like to be able to customize what sub-forums appear in the upper left column on every screen. Currently, it just lists Latest Breaking News, General Discussion and The DU Lounge. I'd like to be able to add more options without having to subscribe to a subforum. For instance, I liked having Editorials & Other Articles available at a single mouse click on DU3. I've subscribed to that forum on DU4 so it's now easily available, but I don't need constant alerts about posts on it. I know I could have the "Navigate" tab permanently open to let me have one-click access again, but it takes up quite a lot of top-screen real estate and is more cumbersome.

Other than that, I'm pretty happy with the changes, especially using the trainer wheels of Skinner Mode!

October 15, 2023

An afterthought about that "Tartan Tory" thing

If you take a look at the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election results, you'll see they played out like this:

GLORIA ADEBO Scottish Liberal Democrats 895

BILL BONNAR Scottish Socialist Party - Free Public Transport 271



CAMERON EADIE Scottish Green Party 601


NIALL FRASER Scottish Family Party - Fearlessly Speaking Truth 319

EWAN HOYLE Volt UK - The UK in Europe 46

THOMAS JORDAN KERR Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party 1,192

KATY LOUDON Scottish National Party (SNP) 8,399

CHRISTOPHER ANTHONY SERMANNI Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition 178

MICHAEL SHANKS Scottish Labour Party 17,845

DAVID STARK Reform UK - Changing Politics for Good 403

COLETTE WALKER Independence for Scotland Party 207


In 2019, Margaret Ferrier won the seat from Labour with 23,775 votes. Labour's Ged Killen got 18,545 votes. The Tories' Lynne Nailon got 8,054 votes.

In the by-election, the Tory vote collapsed, to the extent that their candidate lost his deposit. Allowing for a reduced turnout, it's not a stretch to see the result reflecting tactical anti-SNP voting, implying that Tory voters held their noses and voted for Michael Shanks. It looks like SNP voters stayed at home - maybe not surprising given the extended period between Margaret Ferrier being convicted for her breach of COVID rules and finally being suspended from parliament and the recall petition that triggered the by-election. (As an aside, her conduct was inexcusable, but she paid a very heavy price compared to various Tory politicians who are still being held to account for their own transgressions.)

The constituency had never been a safe SNP seat anyway, having see-sawed between Labour and the SNP in recent alternate elections.

South Larkshire Council, which includes the constituency, has a party breakdown that looks like this:

Scottish National Party 27

Labour 24

Conservative 7

Liberal Democrats 3

Independent 2

Green 1


Although the SNP is the largest party, the council is run by a Labour-Tory-Lib Dem "partnership" (Labour shy away from calling it a coalition). That's democracy for you.

Elsewhere, Ian Murray, Labour's only Scottish MP until the by-election, has famously repeatedly held his seat in a well-to-do part of Edinburgh South with the help of Tory tactical voters.

With even the current mere sniff of the possibility of taking power, rifts have emerged between Murray, who assumes he will take over from the abominable nob Tory Alister Jack as Secretary of State for Scotland, and Scottish Labour Leader Anas Sarwar. Murray's intention to continue Jack's interpretation of the role as a viceroyship is indicated by his current disagreement with Sarwar over the role and extent of devolution, awkwardly straddling the line between what policies Starmer wants for the UK and what Sarwar, supposedly in lockstep with Starmer, according to Starmer at least, proclaims as Scottish Labour policy:

Both Starmer and Sarwar right over two-child benefit cap, says Murray

Sir Keir Starmer would not pledge to drop the controversial measure – which has been criticised by opposition politicians, including those from his own party, and leading poverty charities – last week.

Within 24 hours, however, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said he and his MSPs would “press” the UK leader to commit to scrapping the cap if he wins the next general election.


Labour Shadow Scottish Secretary rejects case for more powers for Holyrood


Ian Murray said the focus should be on the Scottish Government using their existing powers better.

He also rejected claims MSPs should have the legal right to set a higher minimum wage.


Party insiders have told the Record there are tensions between UK and Scottish Labour on transferring new powers to Holyrood.

The Scottish party backs the devolution of employment law, with leader Anas Sarwar saying it could be ‘phase 2’ of a Keir Starmer Government.


Murray and Sarwar also appear to differ on issues like the Gender Recognition Reform at Holyrood, which had cross-party support until the Tories, and seemingly latterly Labour, chose to use it as a wedge issue.

We've yet to see which version of Michael Shanks MP the electorate have got for their votes, but before coming an MP, he showed signs of being something of a wild card and loose cannon on various issues where Starmer's taken a hard line.

These sorts of tensions will only multiply if Labour do manage to win more Scottish Westminster seats, so they should be careful what they wish for.
October 14, 2023

I don't think the "Tartan Tory" jibe will fly,

given how many councils in Scotland are being run by Labour/Tory coalitions, and how some Labour apparatchiks have even boasted on TV about doing this deliberately to keep the plurality SNP out of power in certain council areas.

In fact, Labour would be just as well keeping its trap shut in Scotland since every time it yaps, it shows its hypocrisy.

It was doing cartwheels over its recent by-election win with a candidate who'd resigned from the party a couple of years ago because of disagreements with party leadership over policies like the EU and the two-child limit for receiving benefits. Even after his hustings, an election campaign that saw many English Labour MPs visit the constituency, probably for the first and quite likely the last time, including Keir Starmer himself, and the result, I don't think anyone's any wiser whether Labour's sparkling new Scottish MP will follow the party whip or not - i.e. will he end up a hypocrite or a pariah?

Anas Sarwar, Labour's leader in Holyrood, himself is an utter hypocrite. He's been vocal in calling for large wage settlements in various recent disputes when he, a millionaire, benefits from shareholdings in his family's wholesale firm which refuses to pay its workers a living wage "because it's voluntary".

Cameron's been out of step with SNP policy for quite some time. She's not been alone in that, but seems to have navigated it very poorly indeed to the point where she was literally just about to be deselected by her local party before she turned coat.

Sunak was supposedly closely involved in coaching/poaching her because her discontent was absolutely no secret. There are even rumours she's been offered a seat in the Lords in the fulness of time. What's verifiable is that by changing party, rather than simply resigning and forcing a by-election as she originally threatened if she was deselected, she'll get a generous ex-MP's payoff when she ultimately loses the seat as a Tory.

Just a week or so ago before this all blew up, she was proclaiming her staunch commitment to Scottish independence, so I think we can be forgiven for taking anything she says with a large pinch of salt.

As for the loons on social media, I almost certainly have them blocked, along with the large and rabid bunch of arch-unionists and rightwingers, and it has to be said, the occasional Labour supporter, who seem to have an alarming amount of time on their hands and absolutely nothing constructive, or indeed truthful, to say, and some of the vilest lines in sinister trolling that anyone is likely to be able to find. Cameron better hope she doesn't fall foul of them or she will indeed have something to complain about.

October 14, 2023

On Twitter, BBC Verify journalist Shayan Sardarizadeh has been doing fantastic work

debunking misattributed videos etc.

His feed is here: https://twitter.com/Shayan86

More about BBC Verify here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-65650822

October 9, 2023


Twitter's never been purely anything.

Some on DU behave as if they've just discovered Twitter since Musk took over, and it and other social media outlets (and mainstream media, come to that) - including DU at times - were pure and unsullied by disinformation and ill-intentioned actors in some halcyon past that never existed.

Those of us who've been using Twitter intensely for some time know this is untrue, have always been wary, and are adapting - not without a great deal of annoyance - to developments.

If liberal voices have been silenced, I must have been hallucinating last night when I spent a good deal of time reading tweets from them about my home country (Scotland), Ukraine and events in Israel, among other things.

If people use Twitter's built-in timelines and feeds, they've always been slaves to the algorithms of the day, as they are on Facebook, YouTube, Threads, BlueSky, etc. etc. It's just more blatant on Twitter now.

There are ways of using Twitter that go a long way towards sidestepping these. Some DUers use that knowledge to try to present other DUers with solid information. It's a thankless task, but I guess they're not doing it for gratitude, which is just as well.

October 9, 2023

Anyone on Twitter who takes advice from Musk -

not just about who to follow, but about anything - is pretty much a lost cause anyway.

Those who've been using Twitter to follow events in Ukraine generally already knew about the two accounts he promoted and either ignored them, muted them or blocked them (and quite likely also had Musk blocked too, so wouldn't have seen his advice unless echoed by accounts they didn't have muted or blocked - I only know about it from DU).

I don't know about the effects of Musk's move to censor headlines - I suspect the results may be mixed. In some cases, it will lessen click-through - his apparent intent - in others, it may mean people have to click through if they want to know what the story's about.

One Scottish newspaper on one of my Twitter lists had long been employing what were basically clickbait tactics, with teasing headlines repeated as text in their Tweet, and the essential details only being revealed if you bothered to click through. This change's effects on that are marginal.

Media outlets could adapt by including the headline information in their tweet text. The fact that few seem to have done this so far makes me wonder about the competence of their social media staff. Some of these tweets are probably automated, so they'll need to change their routines if that's the case.

As for his other move to stop displaying tweet stats unless you click on the tweet itself, I'm not clear what he's trying to do there, and don't really buy his explanation that he just wants a cleaner display. People are used to these stats being there, so they effectively don't clutter up the view anyway because constant elements usually don't stand out. They could give useful information - e.g. if there are replies to a tweet, people might click through to read them, but even before Musk, that stat wasn't reliable anyway, especially if you had a lot of accounts muted or blocked. He'd added a readout of the number of times a tweet had been viewed, mainly of interest to people who wanted a boost from knowing their tweets' visibility or possibly to potential or existing advertisers, so hiding that info behind a click seems counter-productive.

It all reeks of a bored supposed tech tinkering ineffectually with settings to keep himself occupied and look like he's doing something because he has no clue about what do with Twitter faced with the financial showdown it sounds like is imminent. The end results are just to add more annoyance to regular users' experience for no benefits.

October 6, 2023

The Room Next Door - Penny Mordaunt [Twitter video]


Michael Spicer does his usual incomparable turn as a backroom spin doctor responding via radio link to a politician's burblings, this time based on Mordaunt's gobsmacking Tory Party Conference speech. Spicer's input is satirical, Mordaunt was apparently deadly serious.

If you've not seen them before, it's worth checking out his previous sketches, a few of which are gathered here: https://twitter.com/i/events/1162655924353286144

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