Misinformation is easy to find, especially when it’s being spread by published journalists.
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This tweet caught my eye this morning.
Should you be wondering what £3billions of your taxes look like, behold the Queen Elizabeth- one of 2 new aircraft carriers – passing my kitchen window. Pity we can't afford any actual aircraft. pic.twitter.com/HkHix7YQeY
— ruth wishart (@ruth_wishart) March 15, 2021
On the face of it it appears to be nothing more than someone trying to make a political point about ‘carriers with no planes’ but getting it right. On further inspection it appears more concerning.
The tweet has hundreds of likes and over 100 retweets, many of the comments express outrage at the created ‘fact’ and many others contribute to spreading the falsehood. The person publishing this misinformation by the way is a Scottish journalist.
“Journalist and broadcaster Ruth Wishart has won many awards for her columns over the years. She writes mainly about Scottish and UK politics, but also covers American elections, and a diverse range of social issues. Glaswegian born and bred, she currently lives in Argyll.”
The concerning thing here is that the person that published the tweet knows there are aircraft having been informed of this a dozen or so times since 2014.
Let’s have a look.
An aircraft carrier with no usable aircraft. Bit of a metaphor for the coalition!
— ruth wishart (@ruth_wishart) July 5, 2014
Hooray! We have an aircraft carrier but no planes, a start date six years hence, an invoice for £3bn and its twin on the way. #RuleBritannia
— ruth wishart (@ruth_wishart) August 17, 2017
And nae planes!
— ruth wishart (@ruth_wishart) June 21, 2017
Hooray! We have a £3bn aircraft carrier? Pity about having, ahem, no aircraft?
— ruth wishart (@ruth_wishart) December 7, 2017
You get the picture.
Why would this person be so keen to push this, is it for a reaction? Maybe, but it’s also a perfect example of how easy misinformation spreads on social media.
Back in 2019 I spoke to Stuart Crawford, a former SNP spokesperson and previously a regular officer in the Royal Tank Regiment for twenty years, retiring in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1999. Stuart is an expert, he attended both the British and US staff colleges and undertook a Defence Fellowship at Glasgow University. Stuart now works as a political, defence and security consultant.
Stuart warned that disinformation is a weapon we should be aware of – not fall for. He said:
“Two startling examples of deliberate disinformation, though, can be found in matters relating to the Royal Navy. Leaving aside dubious claims from official sources that the RN is ‘growing’, which it manifestly obviously is not, the sagas of the UK’s newest aircraft carriers and the future procurement of three new Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels merits some illustration and comment.
Taking the aircraft carriers, and more specifically HMS Queen Elizabeth, the first of the two, the populist criticism by those who seek to denigrate the RN and/or the Westminster government is that Britain has built at great cost a brand new aircraft carrier but ‘it has no aircraft to operate from it’.
This is patently and obviously a falsehood, as anybody with two minutes of spare time could easily discover.
In addition, the UK has taken delivery of at least 15 of the 48 F-35B Lightning II fifth generation jet aircraft it has on order. These aircraft are currently based at Beaufort, South Carolina in the USA [this was correct at the time the quote was written in 2018, they’re now based at RAF Marham] together with some 200 UK military personnel as the new aircraft is assimilated into UK service. Trials with this aircraft and HMS Queen Elizabeth are expected to start later this year prior to the carrier becoming operational after integration is complete. So it is quite clearly nonsense to state that the UK has an aircraft carrier but no aircraft to operate from it, and those doing so should – and in many cases I suspect do – know better.”
Stuart also said:
“So, where is all this nonsense about the aircraft carrier with no aircraft and the Clyde betrayal coming from, you may wonder. I don’t have a precise answer, I’m afraid, but both instances bear the hallmarks of deliberate campaigns of disinformation, often précised by the phrase “deny, distract, and blame”. Various forms of disinformation are practised by intelligence agencies around the globe, including our very own in the UK.”
With all of that being said, why would a well established journalist seek to repeatedly publish incorrect information? What’s the point?