New media

Since the Brexit referendum on June 23, 2016, or since the David Cameron government decided to leave the referendum in 2015, the UK seems to have fallen into the quagmire of Brexit. Today, the Brexit drama continues to be staged, the Theresa May government’s Brexit agreement was vetoed, the second referendum was rejected, and the absence of an agreement to sever was also vetoed. The Brexit, which was originally scheduled for March 29, 2019, could not be reached, and October 31, 2019 became the new Brexit deadline. But how to get out of Europe in the future, where to go, is still a mess.

In the dilemma of how to deal with the Brexit, it seems that it is increasingly self-evident. The rise of extreme right-wing forces and the popularity of populism have become the core vocabulary for understanding Brexit. In particular, the support of various types of data makes the choice of Brexit as a kind of group ignorance: the referendum data shows that people with high education level and high income tend to stay in Europe, and vice versa tend to leave Europe; [1] Google The search showed that after the outcome of the referendum, the search for “what is the EU” was a surge. So, what happened during the entire referendum? Is this referendum exposed to a new political crisis or a continuation of political crux? How is the public’s emotions motivated into political action? These issues are worthy of scrutiny. This article will start with the political strategy of the two sides in the referendum, analyze the history and current situation of the British linked to the Brexit politics, and try to explore how the power of the new media can be involved in politics, and whether new politics can be born.

Is the new crisis still the old one?

After the referendum ended, Craig Oliver, the head of the European team, reviewed the whole process and reflected on the failure of the European camp. [2] On the one hand, the slogan of the take back control of the Brexit camp, the influx of Turkish immigrants and the cost of the EU, especially the phrase “famous”: “After the Brexit There will be an additional £350 million a week invested in the National Health System (NHS), inciting a large public. On the other hand, for the immigration issue raised by the Brexit camp, Oliver admitted that the European team has not responded effectively. The Cameron government’s policy of tightening immigration benefits has not received the expected support, but it has been considered a concession to the EU because there is no further tightening of immigrants. The team staying in Europe will focus on rational economic analysis, thinking that it can offset the immigration problem, but did not expect that since the 1990s, it has been regarded as the golden rule of the canvassing declaration that “the economy is the key, the idiot” has failed this time.

What is more unexpected than Oliver is that many people who have not participated in any voting since the 1980s have participated in the voting on a large scale. The proportion of the population who participated in the 2016 referendum reached 72.2%, 6 percentage points more than the 2015 general election, about 2.8 million, and these new voters overwhelmingly voted for Brexit. These people put all the problems of worry, anxiety and anger over the years: the impact of immigration, the disappointment of policy, the hopelessness of life, the neglect of being betrayed, and betting on a vote on the referendum. [3] The interview of The Guardian also pointed to these dissatisfaction. Respondents who chose to leave the European Union complained that the bankers did what they wanted, and the working class had long been betrayed. Poverty became a crime. The government did not understand or care about the demands of ordinary people. They have been ignored for too long, and they want politicians to take responsibility and hope that their voices will be heard. [4]

The rejection of immigrants is good, and the betrayal is also good. Are they new crises? In fact, if history is pushed back to the 1970s, these problems have already been staged. Referring to research by people such as Stuart Hall, [5] the welfare state system established by the Labor Party after World War II was a compromise. The foundation of the welfare system is the growth of private capital. At the beginning of the implementation, private capital and social collective interests are pulling on each other. When the economy is stable, the two sides can still be peaceful, and once the economy declines, the consensus will be broken. The post-war economic prosperity of the United Kingdom was related to the post-war recovery of the entire Western world, but the British industrial base was aging, technological innovation was slow, and there was a long-term imperialist legacy, and the economic situation was not favorable. In the 1960s, the British economy began to decline. By the 1970s, the global economic turmoil, coupled with the oil price crisis, the British economy has fallen sharply. The structural weaknesses of industry and the economy have emerged, and the recession is difficult to stop. In the early 1970s, the Conservative Party’s Edward Heath government imposed economic austerity, cut social welfare, and was strongly dissatisfied and united by the working class. In 1974, the Labor Party government led by Harold Wilson came to power and was highly anticipated. However, the Labor Party pursues Fabian reformism. Its social policy has strong petty-bourgeois characteristics, economically subject to private capital, politically subject to parliamentary democracy, and its transformation has always been confined to the traditional framework of capitalism. On the one hand, the Labor Party needs to unite trade unions that represent the interests of the working class; on the other hand, the Labor Party must solve the economic crisis and win capital support under the old system. [6] In fact, the Wilson government continued the Heath government’s strategy of cutting workers’ interests, lowering workers’ wages, transferring the cost of the economic crisis to the working class, and betraying his own supporters. As Hall said: Britain in the 1970s had neither a viable capitalist solution to the crisis nor a political basis for diverting the socialist strategy. [7]

Immigration issues are also not born. In the 1960s, there was the extreme right-wing organization The National Front, and the Farah-like politician Enoch Powell, in keeping with British identity, inciting the people and resisting immigration, especially It was a black immigrant at the time. Powell has won a lot of public support. The reason, on the one hand, the short-term prosperity after the war brought new consumption concepts, hedonism, extreme materialism, laissez-faire, and led to the middle class, which has always been thrifty and self-discipline, especially the lower middle class. The uneasiness and their fear of moral decay. Social problems such as the student movement in the 1960s and the independence movement in Northern Ireland exacerbated their anxiety about social order. But the political discussion is too abstract, and the issue of immigration is concrete, so these concerns of the middle class and the disappointment of the authorities are easily transferred to immigrants. On the other hand, the impact of post-war social changes on traditional lifestyles also affected the culture of the working class, the social status of workers declined, and the organizational nature of the working class itself weakened. With the economic downturn, the working class has suffered a huge price from the economic crisis. The Labor Party and the Conservative Party have failed to achieve their commitment to workers. Instead, through state intervention, they have given much aid to immigrants in a politically correct manner. This has led to the division of ethnicity within the working class, with the split of the white working class and the black working class. These emotions have accumulated, coupled with the large number of black unemployment and black crimes after the economic crisis, it is not surprising that the social panic of black immigrants in the 1970s.

But in fact, the existence of immigrants, or the existence of immigrants as unemployed people, was originally a necessity for capital accumulation in the monopoly capitalist stage. It is precisely because of the existence of the unemployed population that it can guarantee the capital to expand production and the labor reserve needed for capital accumulation, and strengthen the bargaining power of capital and labor. Under the welfare state system, the realization of domestic employment is a political demand, and the unemployed population must be generated from other sources. Immigration is obviously an important source; [8] When capital development is in crisis, the immigrants needed for capital accumulation have become scapegoat.

In a situation where all kinds of social emotions are constantly fermenting, Thatcherism seized the opportunity. Since the mid-1970s, the right-wing forces have begun to reshape ideology through a series of means: abandoning the trade union movement with patriotic slogans to distort the source of the crisis; conspiring to transform social issues such as youth subculture and black immigration, thus indirectly guiding authority and law. The appeal of the economic discourse, emphasizing that the British should be independent and responsible for themselves, should not be “spoofed” in social welfare; equal freedom to the free market; and so on. The Labor Party completely ignores all kinds of contradictions and conflicts, is confined to rigid political discourse, and determines that class identity automatically determines the class position. Finally, the Labor Party became the national machine trapped in the bureaucratic system, and Thatcherism, under the banner of freedom, declared to stand with the people. As Hall analyzed, the people chose her not because the people were stupid, but also believed in her promise, but she successfully captured the panic, anxiety and lost identity, established a dialogue with the daily experience of the people, and resorted to Emotions build consensus in the mixed contradictions. [9]

Now, a Brexit, revealing a series of contradictions that have been concealed, manufactured, and left behind by Thatcherism. Disappointed steel workers, frustrated middle-aged women, dissatisfied immigrants, and complaints are nothing but historical debts, a capitalist crisis that has never been resolved.

Is the new medium a new controller?

Compared to the reflection of the European camp, the Brexit camp attributed its victory to social media and big data. Matthew Elliott, CEO of the official Brexit vote “Vote Leave” [10], stressed, “Our success is that we are more precise and efficient on the Facebook website. Lock up the target population, discover potential ‘de-European supporters, and send our message to them. In the new media era, a successful political campaign leader will be able to find with the help of the best data experts. Correct target audience, send the right information.” [11] Dominic Cummings, the organization’s director of planning, praised the Canadian data analytics company’s Aggregate IQ (AIQ): “Without a joint think tank, we can’t win.”

What kind of data service does the Joint Think Tank provide, and is it so praised by Cummings and Eliot? Recently, the TV movie “Brexit: the Uncivil War”, based on real-life events and interviews with core figures, restored the cooperation between the Brexit camp and the joint think tank, providing us with an entry point. In the film, Zackary Massingham, the chief executive of United Think Tank, explained to Cummings that the design of social platforms can help people find people with similar interests more efficiently, and with social platforms, “we The system is able to locate and target those who have never been the target of canvassing activities, those who never vote.” He further explained, “Internet algorithms will study our behavior, even our psychology, our emotional state. According to the user’s praise, click and share rate, our software can test how different advertisements work for different groups of people. And improve it in real time. Data can help political parties reach out to each voter and send them promotional messages tailored to them by algorithms.” Thus, before the Brexit referendum, the joint think tank launched an advertisement related to the European Championship on Facebook: “Win ​​50 million pounds and predict the outcome of the 2018 European Championship” to attract users to fill out a contract. There are 20 questions in the questionnaire. A questionnaire that seems to be unrelated to politics collects information about the contact details of these users and can better understand the users through the answers. Through the joint intelligence software, these users’ personal Facebook account information is combined with the voter manual, voting prediction and canvassing situation. All information is in a database that can be updated in real time and feedback in real time, so that targeted Brexit can be launched. ad. It was by this that Cummings received nearly 3 million voter data that had never been watched, and put 1 billion off-the-job ads to them before the referendum, which was not done by traditional databases.

The film explains the data technology of the joint think tank, but the company’s story in reality is far more complicated than the film. First, according to the relevant personnel, the organization “for the Brexit vote” paid £625,000 to the joint think tank in the name of donating to another Breguet organization. According to the electoral law, if the two campaign organizations are independent, donations are allowed. But in fact, as a Brexit organization with young people who lack political experience, every step of “leave” is guided by “voting for Brexit”, including the establishment of the articles of association and the establishment of bank accounts. As a result, it is difficult to say that this is two independent organizations, and the total cost of the “off-the-job” organization violates the law’s requirement for the ceiling of the campaign organization’s spending limit. [12]

Second, where does the high amount of data come from? This involves another data analysis company related to the Brexit referendum: Cambridge Analytica. In March 2018, according to Christopher Wylie, an important figure in Cambridge analysis, The Guardian published a series of survey reports, pointing out that Cambridge analysis collected and used information on nearly 50 million users on Facebook. , [13] and the use of these data is not allowed by the user. According to the report, the data collection is mainly through the paid personality test. When the user fills in the test questionnaire, his Facebook information and the Facebook information of the user’s friends can be collected. On average, each “seed” user will bring out 160 other users. User’s information. Based on these data, Cambridge analysis can build algorithms and portray more people’s psychology. Users are unaware of how the data is collected and how it will be used. Facebook is informed, but no effective action is taken. [14] Before the Brexit referendum, billionaire Robert Mercer introduced Cambridge Analytical to another Brexit: Nigel Farage’s “Leaving the European Union” (Leave The EU) organization, which also uses the Facebook data to target the Brexit ads to voters. Mercer is an investor in Cambridge Analytics and the largest contributor to President Trump’s campaign, and the company also provides data services for the Trump campaign. [15]

What’s even more interesting is that on the Cambridge analysis – the website of the British company, the address and phone number of its Canadian office is the joint think tank CEO Zach. According to Warren’s broke, Cambridge’s parent company SCL expanded its business and established a joint think tank in Canada. Therefore, the joint think tank is like a department of Cambridge analysis in Canada, which shares intellectual property and service agreements. The Ripon platform, the technical basis for Cambridge analysis, was developed by the joint think tank. [16] And this information has been verified, because the joint code pool of a large number of code databases is not encrypted, it is easy to download directly. The network security company UpGuard downloaded it and found a close connection between Cambridge analysis and the joint think tank, and found that a large amount of user information in the database can be used at will. [17] In addition, in addition to Cummings’s “voting for Brexit”, the United Think Tank also provided data services such as website construction for many other Brexit organizations, including the Irish Democratic Union Party (Democratic Unionist Party) and “Change the UK” (Change Britain), “Veterans for Britain”, etc. [18] Thus, we are finally able to see such a picture: a wide variety of Brexit organizations are actually connected by two closely connected private data companies. Behind the data control of Brexit, it is a powerful capital force.

The involvement of capital does not stop there. Although the Guardian reported a series of reports on the relationship between the data and the referendum, the data company’s manipulation of public opinion, and its relationship with the consortium behind it, more media did not report this. The results of the referendum on the Brexit have become a reality, and the joint think tank, Cambridge analysis or the relationship between its parent company SCL and Brexit is not in the scope of British politics. [19] Even if the exposed Cambridge Analytical Company went bankrupt, the same database and personnel could change the name of the company as usual, with little change. What makes the material of the whistle-blower more worrying is that he has repeatedly mentioned in various questions he received that Cambridge analysis and joint think tanks are just the tip of the iceberg, and its parent company SCL has been engaged in political elections and defense information for many years. The service is doing the same thing in the world, especially in developing countries, manipulating public opinion and intervening in politics, but those things happening in developing countries have no news value and no one has ever questioned. [20] In February 2019, after 18 months of investigation, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Committee of the United Kingdom issued a final report listing SCL Group and its subsidiaries. The long list of interventions and referendums has covered 28 countries, including Canada, Brazil, the Czech Republic, France, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Guyana, India, and Indonesia. [21] However, the British parliamentary inquiry is mainly focused on the data leakage of Facebook. In the final report of the “Digital, Cultural, Media and Sports Committee”, Facebook and its supervisors were called “digital gangs”, and they believed that their actions did not effectively deal with data leakage, infringed on user privacy, and repeatedly deliberately obstructed the investigation. It is a manipulation of public opinion and a threat to democracy. It is recommended to strengthen government regulation. [22] The data leakage of Facebook is of course a serious problem. The violation of user privacy by network companies needs to be managed, but obviously, the firepower concentrated on Facebook masks more and deeper problems.

Is new politics coming?

In the Brexit referendum, new media and big data show strong political control. Nearly 3 million new voters’ mining and targeted advertising have broken through the traditional media mobilization ability. So, will new media bring new politics?

The new Internet media was highly anticipated in the 1990s. Many scholars, such as Nicholas Negroponte, mentioned in the imagining of the Internet that the Internet can achieve flattening of organizations, globalization of society, decentralization of control, and harmony of human beings. [23] The content production of netizens on the network platform has brought about a new vitality in the concept of “free market of opinions”; rich network information and active interaction of netizens in the network have further expanded Habermas’s proposal. The concept of the public domain has triggered new discussions about civil society; relying on the new media, the social movement has also a new way of organizing, and the “Arab Spring” and “Wall Street Movement” have grown and social media has been in it. A role that cannot be ignored. An equal, free, decentralized social construction picture seems to be just around the corner.

However, in fact, the new media can be used by anyone, and it is still a game process. In 2008, the successful election of US President Barack Obama highlighted the powerful role of social media such as Facebook. Throughout the campaign, the Obama team made full use of blogs, emails, text messages, videos and social media to promote political propaganda and attract voters. The team actively participates in the online platform, interacts with the voters, answers the voters’ questions, understands the voters’ ideas and appeals, and selectively targets the voters’ concerns based on the information filled out by the voters. At the same time, the team encouraged voters to use social platforms to promote Obama’s political views to their friends, so that voters themselves become channels of communication and actively participate in the campaign. [24] Through these strategies, Obama has won a large number of supporters and has become a model for winning social media to win elections. The use of new media during the Obama era was also concentrated on its platform. Today, in Trump’s campaign and the referendum on Brexit, the new media is both a platform and a source of data, and behind the analysis of data is the operation of capital. Behind the possibilities of new media creation, the pull of politics and capital has not changed.

On the other hand, media content that relies on new media for data collection and targeted delivery has no effect on the individual and how much influence the individual can play in the face of media content. In fact, there has always been controversy. The analysis of the power of Cambridge has introduced the principle of relevant data analysis, such as the analysis of the personality of netizens, mainly through the data praised by netizens on Facebook, to find relevance, and thus quantify the personality of people. He cited some of the interesting findings, such as those who praised “I hate Israel” and tend to like Nike shoes and KitKats chocolate. [25] “The relationship between this kind of ‘I hate Israel and ‘like KitKats,” is just to show that politics has been entertaining in these years. These consumers are applauding ‘I hate Israel, it is an identity tag. I am not sure what I am talking about. I can only prove the validity of identity politics, and the real political education and political consciousness completely collapsed.” [26]

Going back to the referendum on the Brexit, the real role of the new media is actually to release the political crux that has existed and has not been solved. Those long-term backlogs in daily life need to be expressed, those who are neglected and forgotten need to voice, and the data analysis based on the new media only captures these people accurately and uses them. But without these long-standing problems, the public sentiment is not so easy. The slogan “Change” (change) in Obama’s campaign, the slogan “Take Back Control” in the referendum on the Brexit, all focused on the psychological demands of people in the social crisis. In this era of technological innovation, the combination of new media, big data and politics is not necessarily a bad thing. The key to the problem is how to use it and who is used it. It is used to solve the exposed political crux or to incite group emotions. Make more problems? Is the data company driven by commercial interests in use, or is it used by public interest? According to Antonio Gramsci, politics is not an independent field, but a productive one, a process of ending and opening up; in which the various forces and relationships in the economy, society and culture interact with each other, Influence, thus generating some form of power and leadership. [27] The new media provides only new platforms and forms, while the new politics is generated by the complex interactions and games of various forces. It requires historical review and its own thinking; it needs to nurture new political subjects, conduct active political discussions, and express all kinds of opinions that are left out; it is necessary to break old and rigid political discourse and seek new consensus.

(Author: University of Essex, UK)


[1] “EU referendum: full results and analysis”

[2] Crag Oliver, Unleashing Demons: The inside story of Brexit, Qurecus, 2016.

[3] Crag Oliver, Unleashing Demons: The inside story of Brexit, Qurecus, 2016, p. 318.

[4] Carmen Fishwick, “Meet 10 Britons who voted to leave the EU”, The Guardian, June 25th, 2016.

[5] Stuart Hall, et al. [1978]. Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the state and law & order, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

[6] Stuart Hall, The Hard Road to Renewal: Thatcherism and crisis of the left, Verso, 1988.

[7] [9] Stuart Hall, The Hard Road to Renewal: Thatcherism and crisis of the left, Verso, 1988, p. 23; p. 167.

[8] Stuart Hall, et al. [1978]. Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the state and law & order, pp. 372-373.

[10] The official canvassing organization of the Brexit camp appointed by the British Electoral Commission.

[11] Jiayue: “Why can the British Brexit camp win? — Interview with Matthew Eliot, former CEO of “Leaving for Brexit”, in Southern Weekend, March 30, 2017.

[12] Carol Cadwalladr, Emma Graham-Harrison and Mark Townsend, “Revealed: Brexit insider claims Vote Leave team may have breached spending limits”, Whistleblower-cambridge-analytica-beleave-vote-leave-shahmir-sanni.

[13] After Facebook acknowledged that it was not information for 50 million users, it was 87 million user information.

[14] [25] Carole Cadwalladr, “’I made Steve Bannons psychological warfare tool: meet the data war whistleblower’, Christopher-wylie-faceook-nix-bannon-trump.

[15] Carole Cadwalladr, “Revealed: how US billionaire helped to back Brexit”,

[16] Carole Cadwalladr, “AggregateIQ: the obscure Canadian tech firm and the Brexit data riddle”, -riddle-cambridge-analytica.

[17] UpGuard, “The Aggregate IQ Files, Part One: How a Political Engineering Firm Exposition Their Code Base”,

[18] UpGuard, “The AggregateIQ Files, Part Two: The Brexit Connection”,

[19] [20] Carole Cadwalladr, “Cambridge Analytica a year on: ‘a lesson in institutional failure”, On-lesson-in-institutional-failure-christopher-wylie.

[21] House of Commons, Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Committee, Disinformation and ‘Fake News: Final report (eighth report of session 2017-2019), 14 Feb. 2019, p78. /pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmcumeds/1791/1791.pdf.

[22] “Disinformation and “fake news”: final report published”, News/fake-news-report-published-17-19/.

[23] Nicholas Negroponte, Being Digital. Knopf, 1995.

[24] Rahaf Harfoush, Yes We Did: An inside look at how social media built the Obama brand, New Riders, 2009.

[26] Interview with Professor Wu Jing from the School of Journalism and Communication, Peking University, March 18, 2018.

[27] Antonio Gramsci, edited and translated by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith, Selections from Prison Notebooks, Lawrence and Wishart, 1971.\