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Boris Johnson uses search terms in interviews to hide negative articles? (twitter.com)
918 points by pflenker 17 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 280 comments



This is actually fascinating (even if it may not be the behavior we expect from our elected leaders). He did the same thing in June where he gave a completely baffling interview [1] about how his hobby was painting models of buses out of used fruit crates.

But people suspected [2] then that it might be a similar strategy, to monopolize the results for "boris johnson bus" searches.

I wonder why nobody else is willing to do this? It seems like it works, and it keeps you in the news...

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLcCZjDoWTQ

[2] https://gizmodo.com/did-boris-johnson-ramble-about-model-bus...


There is a much simpler explanation. It's actually these cheap news websites engineering articles targetting Boris Johnson popular terms (like Model or Bus), in order to generate clicks and advertising revenue.


But Johnson still seems to deliver suitable quotes on cue. As much as I prefer explanations that involve less assumed cooperarion between actors, I don't see how yours can hold up in this case.


These websites have money to gain for writing these articles targetting SEO keywords on things Boris Johnson says or does.

They will pick up on any term for which they can easily write an article and run with it to get ad clicks.

I don't think Boris Johnson even has to do anything to make this happen, even though he obviously has something to gain in terms that these articles turn the public attention from these issues.

I mean this can be applied to literally almost anything he does or says. At worst, he might be intentionally adding to his speech terms that are easier to apply this technique to.


I suspect it's the work of Grant Shapps: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/grant-shapps-..., a known SEO spammer.


>I wonder why nobody else is willing to do this? It seems like it works, and it keeps you in the news...

The gaming of keywords, offline and online, to influence SERP's has been done before and continues to do so ─ the optics on the practice of Google-bombing is a matter of frequency illusion. As an example, 'Santorum' clearly demonstrated the value and the power it holds. The eponymous search engine has a role to play by favouring newer content e.g. news media involving politics, entertainment and culture.

https://www.searchenginejournal.com/google-algorithm-history...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campaign_for_the_neologism_%22...


I think other British politicians do it. What do you think websearching for "Jacob Rees-Moog lying" will get you now?


Searching "boris johnson bus" still comes up with a dozen pictures of the Brexit bus, with the "model bus" rambling not 'til below the fold. So it doesn't work all that well.


Boris Johnson has been painting red busses since before I had is own Brexit bus. The Brexit bus wasn't a secret, it was his campaign vehicle. "red busses" only seem obscure to you because you don't live in the UK which is ... full of red busses.

It's insane that people are obsesses with calling "conspiracy!" on Johnson for making an easily verifiable true statement about himself.


> you don't live in the UK which is ... full of red busses.

Well, London certainly is, the rest of the country tends to be mixed between green (arriva) and white/purple (first) these days.

In the days before deregulation, red was indeed the most common colour country-wide, but even then there were abhorrations such as west yorkshire's green and cream - there's another conversation to be had about 1950s and 1960s liveries composed of 'and cream' combinations that probably started with BR (well, the BTC then, which would have been the parent 'company' for most local bus services) 'crimson and cream' carriage livery - known colloquially as 'Blood and Custard'.


What? I think you're misunderstanding.

The weird part isn't that the bus he describes himself painting is red, or that his campaign bus was red, it's that his hobby is apparently painting buses out of empty wine boxes and it sounds like he's making it up on the spot.


"boris" "johnson" "fruit" hm, was it create or... cake?


Makes me wonder what Jean-Claude Junker, head of the EU, is hiding now when he came out with the bizarre statement "he did not have an erotic relationship with the Irish Backstop".

Anyone know?


Surely this has the ability to backfire tremendously


Maybe they are? Devin Nunes went on a ramble the other day rather than discuss Trump.

It’s to boost the signal of nonsense?

So nation states are pretty much at Orwell level?

“Gobbledygook & toot pickles, primrose!” The idiocracy ejaculated! as they launched the nukes.


> I wonder why nobody else is willing to do this?

Well there was a story on french president Macron who was apparently thinking of renaming the ENA (one if not the most prestigeous uni in France) to "Institut Superieur des Fonctionaires", ISF in short (http://www.lefigaro.fr/politique/le-scan/l-ena-remplacee-par... sorry it's in French).

But ISF is also the short name of the tax on the richest, which he has gotten rid of amid a lot of controversy.

They didn't end up renaming ENA to ISF, but that would have been a great way to play the SEO game so that searching for "Macron ISF" may have in the future returned results on the school rather than the tax.


Describing the ENA as a university is misleading [0]: its does no research and does grant degrees [1]. All "students" are civil servant in training that have been hired through the civil service examinations and will go on to their jobs. They spend more than half of their "studies" working already to learn on the job. It's like saying Parris Island is a university.

[0] In my opinion, this characterization as university stenghtens (a bit) its critics. After all, how come one small university has an almost monopoly on high ranking civil servants and then on top politicians? It should not be the case. But if you see it as a civil servant training program it is obvious how it comes to be - it's like wondering why so many US Army officers come form West Point - well, that's because West Point is there to produce US Army officers.

[1] Well it does in partnership with universities, but not for its main civil servant training program


> it's like wondering why so many US Army officers come form West Point - well, that's because West Point is there to produce US Army officers

US service academies and War Colleges are actually degree-granting institutions, though.


This is indeed a limit of my analogy. A closer equivalent would be bootcamp for enlisted personel.


Typo : it does _not_ grant degrees.


[flagged]


I just learned something because of his post.

I always thought that the ENA was similar to the Ecole de Petrole (a prestigious engineering school) but for economics or something like that.


is Ecole de Petrole translated as School of Petroleum by any chance? 'cause that would be hilarious in our day and age.


Of course!

But the official name is: Ecole National Superieure du Petrole et des Moteurs.


This is only a reply to: "ENA (one if not the most prestigeous uni in France)", and not to the ENA->ISF name change.


That is not the point. The topic of the article is clear.


There is no rule that says you can only reply to the primary point of a comment. Personally I found the clarification interesting, and learned something from it. Why do you think that detracts from the point about the potential motivation behind the rebranding? It's possible to learn more than one thing...


[flagged]


The more in-depth description of ENA is not unrelated, controversial, generic, or a tangent.


The full paragraph in the guidelines is:

> Eschew flamebait. Don't introduce flamewar topics unless you have something genuinely new to say. Avoid unrelated controversies and generic tangents.

In other words, if someone posts a story about the new iPhone, don't comment "Did you hear the rumor that Tim Cook likes killing puppies?"


I'm skeptical.

(a)When I search "Boris Johnson model," I still get the Jennifer Arcuri results and (b) even if working perfectly, this kind of SEO spamming would be pretty marginal.

People are exposed to the "model" story via so many avenues: TV, radio, news sites, FB feed, other search terms... It just doesn't seem worth it. At best it takes like 10% of the heat off him for a day.

Null hypothesis is that Boris just says a lot of random, baffling shit and everything makes the news.


Yeah me too. I've read a fair bit about the story and I didn't even know she was a model. She's mostly mentioned by name, and called an entrepreneur or businesswoman - not a model.


But using the word "model" to mean "a model of good behaviour" which is what it meant in that context is totally normal English. And Boris has been associated with buses for ages, in his time as London mayor a revamp of the buses became known as literally "Boris Buses". The idea he might have an eccentric hobby involving buses is entirely plausible.

I don't think Boris says random baffling shit. I think the null hypothesis is that a whole lot of Brexit-haters have fully immersed themselves in conspiracy theories, to the extent that normal English words used in interviews is now being described as SEO. It looks comparable to how in America a whole lot of Hillary Clinton supporters ended up believing in a conspiracy theory that said their president was a Russian spy. Any even slightly conservative leader seems to bring this out in some people ... it's a need to see evil plots to explain the phenomenon of people who disagree.


The thing is in this case, Boris has been caught red-handed doing very similar sorts of "cunning disguised as idiocy" ploys before. For example, feigning forgetting speeches. It seems plausible that it was intentional.

Both sides of the political aisle are certainly highly susceptible to conspiracy theories about the opposition, but this case seems pretty interesting. It may be a wolf-crying situation, too: since Boris has likely done it before (I disagree with you and think the bus thing was SEO gaming, though this one may not be since the chance of coincidence is likely due to it being common word usage), people are going to start seeing it even when it isn't happening.


> The thing is in this case, Boris has been caught red-handed doing very similar sorts of "cunning disguised as idiocy" ploys before. For example, feigning forgetting speeches.

Seems hard to blame him for this. Compare https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/UnaccustomedAsIA... .


I don't blame him, really. I find it quite clever. But I think it's silly to deny it and act like all apparent instances of it are baseless conspiracy theories.


But you have no evidence for any of this. It's literally a theory about some hidden deeper motive of a government or leader, like all conspiracy theories. There isn't one shred of evidence Boris makes up non existent hobbies to (unsuccessfully) manipulate search results.


It's not that he's being blamed for creating the tactic, it's that he's using the tactic to present a false image, a deceptive topic.


First paragraph is spot on.

Second paragraph goes off the rails.


The problem is that the "model" story faces the same exposure on TV, radio, news sites, FB feed, other search terms...



Plugging a mate's blog or not, this is much more interesting and informative than '<screenshot> omg the world is so corrupt' & some guy tweeting speculation.


At first I read it backwards, I thought he had had sex with a model just to hide a scandal about a "model of restraint" and thought " wow, that guy is really doing all he can to hide the scandal".

And then I remembered it was not France and having an affair could be a scandal, and I'm a little disappointed because I preferred my version.


To be fair, the affair is only the scandal because it may have caused a conflict of interest. Boris has had plenty of them in the past, to the point where nobody knows for certain how many children he has.


Correct. It's the corruption that has his critics seeing blood in the water. Visiting your affair's home during work hours while funneling money into her business and taking her on trips she has no reason to be on to boost her career is what's the problem, not the affair.

The fact that the affair has been admitted matters only because it bolsters corruption allegations.


French here, I second this. - Jacques Chirac had an affair - Francois Holland also had one (quite funny he would sneak out on a motorbike to visit his mistress) - There is growing rumours on Emmanuel Macron being secretly Gay and being married to Brigitte is a cover

On a side note, someone personal life choices has no impact on their work as politicians so that kind of "scandal" are not that big of a deal in France. It only increase the sales of gossip magazines.


> I wonder why nobody else is willing to do this?

Because it makes you look like a fool. Doesn’t mean it won’t work though. Bojo apparently targetting the segment for whom this kind thing goes over their heads


Because empirically, it doesn't work. The front page of google for [Boris Johnson bus] has stories about:

- The failure of a busmaker

- The brexit bus advert

- The suspicion that his 'model bus' answer was this ploy.


It is likely that Google is surfacing the matches it empirically considers more relevant to you.


Possibly, but it's also a timeliness thing. This stuff has a window of opportunity: for like a week after the interview, it'll successfully game the results, but after that they may be crowded out by the reporting on the gaming itself.

If he's trying to spike negative results for just a certain period of time, it's quite an effective tactic. News cycles quickly, so even if each instance is eventually caught, it may successfully push down recent news / current events until they're no longer current, which may result in millions of people missing the reporting.


All this is possible and maybe even probable but not knowing how Google determines relevancy, makes it impossible to reason about.


I've just realised that another example of this was his momentary diversion on building a bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland. This reeks of an attempt to divert attention from his failed garden bridge project as London Major. Googling "boris johnson bridge" is filled with articles about he former for me at least.

The thing is, it doesn't have to be completely successful for it to be worth his while doing. It probably serves multiple purposes, like changing the current news cycle.


This is insane. He's been a politician for many years. What could he possibly say that doesn't have any nouns in common with some other issue? Busses, models, bridges, what else is Johnson now banned from life for mentioning?


I'm not a big believer in conspiracy theories and I'm the first to admit that this could be entirely coincidental.

However, my gut feeling is that that some of these statements were so unusually phrased or just plain strange that I'm leaning more towards this being a deliberate effort to obscure some unfavourable stories.


It would be funny to play him at his own game. Get say “Boris Johnson Feline” into Google Trends and then watch how he mangles it into his speech.


Then I'd argue that we are the greater fools for letting this happen without any consequences. Personally I think this is a genius move by Bojo and something that should be applauded by hackers (this is Hacker News after all). It literally hacks the system, and I think it's beautiful.


It's genius in the same way as crawling over websites looking for a 90s relic to inject "DROP TABLE IF EXISTS x;". Personally I don't deem anything genius simply on the merit that "it works".


>Then I'd argue that we are the greater fools for letting this happen without any consequences.

Letting what exactly happen? Him using a phrase that might or might not have been intended to make a previous story fall in search results?

As if the original story about the model could not still be in the front pages of newspapers and websites, and so on?

That's not even half an accusation...

The public voted for something specific and 3 years down the road it has not happened or been scheduled properly. That should be the bigger democratic scandal (in the real sense of the people's will being followed) than "the PM used a SEO phrase..."....


"The public voted for something specific and 3 years down the road it has not happened or been scheduled properly. That should be the bigger democratic scandal"

The public did not vote for something specific - they voted for something very vague and ill defined, the little information they were provided was incorrect (e.g. "an extra £350m a week for the NHS"), nobody had anything even approaching a plan, the whole thing was a shambolic amateur affair, and that's one of the reasons it has taken so long and cost so much to get nowhere. The only vaguely professional part was the manipulation of the small majority via social media (Cambridge Analytica etc.) That is the bigger democratic scandal - the fact that we can no longer have nice things like democracy thanks to the abuse of technology by arrogant thugs from expensive schools, which is the original point of the parent.


>The public did not vote for something specific - they voted for something very vague and ill defined, the little information they were provided was incorrect (e.g. "an extra £350m a week for the NHS")

Well, you never have full information, even if you're the PM and passing a new law.

As for the "an extra £350m a week for the NHS", I'm pretty sure all the sides had their misinformation at the ready, there was so much scaremongering and hyperbole from the remain side as if the world was going to end if exit was voted.

The "dire consequences" of an exit were repeated constantly by established media, politicians, celebrities, EU figureheads, and the public still voted in favor of exit, period...

Given the available information, the public voted what it did. It didn't see the outcome of that vote yet though, and everybody has been stalling it.


> It didn't see the outcome of that vote yet though

The referendum was very explicitly non-binding. 'The outcome of that vote' was achieved simply by publishing the results.


>nobody had anything even approaching a plan //

Whoever told Cameron to put the referendum in the manifesto (I've a pet theory that the "fucking a pig's head" revelation was a shot across the bows for this one) certainly had a plan, and 2 PMs down the line they're still pushing for it.


> they voted for something very vague and ill defined

Utter tosh. The consequences of a Leave vote were hammered out by Remain-supporting politicians for weeks and weeks before the referendum. The government spent 9 million GBP to publish a leaflet in support of Remain which went to every household in the UK, before the referendum.

Claiming that no one knew what a Leave vote meant, is gaslighting in the extreme.


"The consequences of a Leave vote were hammered out by Remain-supporting politicians for weeks and weeks before the referendum. The government spent 9 million GBP to publish a leaflet in support of Remain which went to every household in the UK, before the referendum. Claiming that no one knew what a Leave vote meant, is gaslighting in the extreme."

You've talked about the Remain side, not the Leave side. The "no change" side doesn't need to provide a plan for how they would execute "no change" - it is the "everything changes" side that needs to define how they would change everything. My point was that the Leave side had nothing, just some vague largely unwritten appeals to emotion. Contrast with, e.g. the Scottish Referendum, when the "Yes" ("everything changes") side had a several hundred page document detailing all the steps that would be taken should they have won. You might agree or disagree with one side or the other, but having a plan gives people more opportunity to make an informed decision, and give people a reasonable degree of confidence that it could be executed relatively smoothly by people who knew roughly what they were doing, rather than have a process dragging on for years and years costing tens of billions with the people responsible still as clueless as they were at the start. If you fail to plan then plan to fail.


So what you are telling us is that the leave side knew what they were voting for because they saw through the lies from the leave side which said that everything the remain side was saying was "project fear". Do you honestly think you can claim that is democracy working as intended?


Both replies have (assuming good faith) misinterpreted what you’ve said, so to flesh out: Vote Leave said that the remain campaign’s claims about the consequences of a vote to leave the EU (and, indeed, its implementation) were “Project Fear”: a campaign of at best exaggerations if not outright lies to scare people into voting for remain.

Having won, the leading members of the leave campaign (who now run the UK Government) now say that people knew what they were voting for because the remain campaign said what the consequences would be. That’s having your cake and eating it.


Of course not. Case in point:

1) One side of a political decision is considered "lies".

2) The people vote, but don't get what they voted for.

3) Only one side's arguments count as "min-information".

4) The people who voted a certain way are sneered at.

5) The situation is presented as remaining is a There Is No Alternative situation.

Apparently the modern elites, and the 10%-20% richer substrates at the population are allergic to democracy and those "deplorable" 80% of their fellow citizens, and don't want anything to disrupt business as usual. And if things go well for the 10%-20%, obviously the rest have absolutely no basis to complain, they are just ignorant/vote against their interests (because the 10-20% know better than them)/etc...

When a "democracy" gets in that stage, and the higher ups loose all touch, you get people like Trump and Johnson. But that's only because you deserve them...


> Apparently the modern elites, and the 10%-20% richer substrates at the population are allergic to democracy and those "deplorable" 80% of their fellow citizens, and don't want anything to disrupt business as usual. And if things go well for the 10%-20%, obviously the rest have absolutely no basis to complain, they are just ignorant/vote against their interests (because the 10-20% know better than them)/etc..

Only 10-20% of voters wanted to Remain? A direct vote on a complicated open-ended question is a horrible way to sample the intentions of the populace.

No one makes decisions like this in their personal life. No one decides that they want to buy a car and then finding out that the only cars available are a millions of dollars decides that they have to pay that price. We make decisions that are bound by a bunch of implicit constraints and tradeoffs.

It would have been much better to vote to have a study for how to exit. And then a follow-up vote on which OPTION to take for an exit.

I'm sure the vote would have been different if it was for "Hard exit even if it means the break up of the UK" instead of a negotiated exit to protect our sovereignty. There are implications in the question.


The common wisdom wrt democracy, for centuries, was that this was basically exactly how it would work, if actually implemented. These aren't unforeseen problems.


Politicians lie, news at 11. Might as well not have elections if you're going to put the bar that high for them to count.


There were multiple Leave campaigns. You can find plenty of leave campaigners saying they were going to keep the UK in the Single Market, for example.


My respect level for Boris actually went up a few notches after reading about this :)


Indeed. The "lovable bumbling fool" image he puts across is a very conscious choice on his part. Despite what you think about his politics (and I'm personally not a fan) you can't deny that Johnson is much smarter than he wants us to think.


> you can't deny that Johnson is much smarter than he wants us to think.

In playing the political game at least, definitely so. Lots of reports from coworkers (especially from the Foreign Office) that he is genuinely as clueless as he comes across when it comes to other elements of his job.


The news story that really made me believe that the bumbling fool shtick is real and not just an act was when he went to a buddhist temple in Myanmar and started reciting a colonial-era Kipling poem about a British soldier reminiscing about a Burmese girl that he kissed - until the ambassador intervened and told him it wasn't appropriate.

If he understood the context of the poem (a lack of sensitivity to the three wars the British fought to suppress Burmese independence) then he would've never recited the poem. But he is a 'well-trained idiot' - he's had an English classical education, so he knows Kipling, but he doesn't understand what it actually _means_ ('oh yeah, I totally was going to shag a girl when we were fighting in Burma') or how it would come across to someone who wasn't also from a classically trained English background.

So I think he is a clueless bumbling idiot. He, and Jacobs Rees-Moggs, are the British equivalent of a Texan politician who wears a cowboy hat and talks about their guns all the time.

The story is available here - https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/sep/30/boris-johns...


Precisely. The Boris Johnson who is acting off the cuff - reciting the myanmar poem or acting like a moron in portugal - is the real Boris Johnson. The Boris Johnson who uses "SEO tactics" has been programmed by advisors.

Portugal: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/boris-johnson...


> If he understood the context of the poem (a lack of sensitivity to the three wars the British fought to suppress Burmese independence) then he would've never recited the poem.

That's exactly why he did it. He's a nasty, vindictive, racist colonialist.


I'm not saying he's not racist/colonialist. You only have to read his article about 'flag-waving piccaninnies... tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief...' https://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/personal-view/3571742/If.... Or his argument that Obama hated the UK because he was Kenyan and had an 'ancestral dislike of the British empire'. Or any of the other dozens examples.

I'm just saying that if he's as smart as people claim, if the whole bumbling idiot is a calculated act, then there's not much to benefit from idiotically reciting that poem, it's not like there's some vast constituency in the British public who love The Road to Mandalay. It's an obscure reference, most British people have never heard of the poem... He seemed genuinely surprised that he shouldn't recite the poem.

I think the bumbling idiot thing is genuine. That doesn't also exclude him from being a nasty vindictive racist colonialist.


I have a weird sort of in on this, in that my grandparents are exactly the kind of people who love The Road to Mandalay. I think the clever thing about reciting a poem like that is it appeals to a broad spectrum of conservative voters: the low-end, who will enjoy the thumb in the eye of 'political correctness', the mid-level, who feel like the british empire was good, then the 'intellectuals' (like my grandparents), who are very fond of poetry and Kipling, and like to think of themselves as more intelligent and refined than their proletariat opposition.

The nice thing about it, is it's a spectrum. If you're in the conservative-intellectual bracket, you still probably enjoy the provocation of the politically correct, and the imperial nostalgia stuff. If you're in the conservative-middle-brow bracket, you still feel good about the fact that your racism is being associated with Great British poetry.

I don't think he's a genius, or that he's playing fifth-dimensional chess, or something. I think it's just an advantage of this whole bumbling persona - that he can go to events like this and basically do what he wants. So when he thinks up some kind of stunt - like reciting a colonialist poem, or getting stuck on a rope, or whatever - he can go ahead with it, because it fits with his image. That gives him a whole range of communicative strategies most politicians don't have. What he actually communicates (the blend of dogwhistle racism and attention-seeking) is actually pretty normal.


Isn't it much the same thing as Trump saying something racist that he can kind of get away with? Johnson can say it, incite some anger in people who won't vote for him anyway, get his name on the news again and appeal to his base. Many of his supporters are the kinds of people that want to "Make Britain Great Again". There isn't a vast constituency in Britain who love the poem, but there is a vast constituency who are mildly racist and look back to the "good old days".


Yes, Churchill said plenty of stuff that was racist/misogamist even back in those days. Bojo models himself after him. Btw I'm a big Churchill fan in spite of all that. The flawed hero.


"A Well-trained Idiot" describes the British Etonian elite so concisely I think it should become a technical term. Well done.


I've borrowed it from someone else (who was actually educated in Oxford, but not Eton), wish it were my own though.


For centuries a posh accent and certainty was enough for the class that ruled the UK.

One thing Brexit has successfully done is illustrate to all sides just how mediocre our leadership actually is.

Mediocre leaders are fine when the ship is sailing in calm waters to a known destination.

At the moment it feels like half of them want to steer into the iceberg and the other half want to abandon ship, with a few lone voices pointing out we could have just turned to port and swerved it.


It'll take an existential threat (war?) to sort the wheat from the chaff. Typically the best and brightest of a country trickle to the top when duty finally calls.

Though, there are opportunists. Like Mao. Or Hitler.


But offending the locals doesn't matter to him. He's playing to the British right-wing audience, who then get to complain about "political correctness".

> British equivalent of a Texan politician who wears a cowboy hat and talks about their guns all the time.

Exactly. Pander to the prejudices of your voters.


"You can't rule out the possibility that beneath the elaborately-constructed veneer of a blithering idiot there lurks a blithering idiot" - Boris Johnson

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoifaIEvC0Q



I've read that story. I understand that his clownish behaviour is a performance - it's more the gaffes that I don't think are calculated.


I always assumed that that was a dog whistle to that large part of British society that wants the empire back.


He got a scholarship to Eton and then one to Oxford. They don’t give those out with the papers, even to rich kids. We can say he is very bright without any qualification.


We can say he leveraged his privilege well, and I think that's different than offering someone blanket praise of being "bright".

And again, I'm not necessarily making judgement on his academic credentials - I made the point about his jobs. Of which a classical education is evidently rather worthless. With the exception of being a player of politics and narratives.


> I made the point about his jobs

The guy who was editor of the Spectator, and a wildly successful columnist and speaker?


Being a gifted student as a kid doesn't necessarily translate into being an intelligent or wise adult. If you don't cultivate it properly then it either goes to waste or gets spent on stupid or petty nonsense, like the attention whoring Boris Johnson seems addicted to.


Indeed, he is completely unproven in any matters of statecraft and has been founding wanting in actual matters of substance on many occasions.


Perhaps you and he disagree about the nature of his job.

He seems to be doing well at his version. He is just not doing what you (and many others, but not enough) wish he were doing.


I'm not even getting into Brexit, if you look at the comments made by senior diplomats when he worked at the Foreign Office (along with the very obvious gaffs including getting a British woman an extended sentence in Iran...) which has a reasonably clear remit.

His front-bench roles even before becoming PM, and his previous roles, where he was fired from being a journalist for lying, for example, show he's just bad at anything other than playing the political game. And even then, you look at the advisers he has around him in order to be adept at even that.


Yes, he does terribly when he doesn't get to define his own job responsibilities. At those, he frequently needed to fall back on his blueblood heritage.

Where he is now, his job (as he or his backers define it) appears to be to distract the voting public from unpleasant facts. He has proven very, very good at changing the public subject.

He has the complicity of the UK news media, much as W had in the US. The long-term takeover of the media by a tiny handful of right-wing extremists is proceeding smoothly worldwide, with concomittent benefits for their chosen spokesmouths.


This means he's also meta-smart. He focuses his limited mental energy on the things that lead to success in the areas he wants (he's been elected PM, that's the peak of success by any measure). The fact that he has gotten away with being "dumb" on some details is a fault of the system.

Same goes for the USA POTUS. At some point you have to say "don't hate the player, hate the game."


the United States of America President of the United States?


When a coworker chooses to negatively gossip to the media about somebody, and the media finds it click-worthy, do you think this is going to be a characteristic and unsampled bias of that person or other's perception of them?


True, if that were a one-off occurrence done under the guise of an anonymous or worthless tip-off from someone with an axe to grind.

When it's dozens of former colleagues, all calling someone out on their BS over the course of years, regarding unrelated incidents, and where a number of those incidents actually occurred in the public eye?

There's data points and a trend line...


Maybe, but he's always been lazy and unwilling to do much actual work, apparently [1] his headmaster wrote to his father in 1982:

  Boris really has adopted a disgracefully cavalier attitude to his classical studies... 
  Boris sometimes seems affronted when criticised for what amounts to a gross failure of 
  responsibility (and surprised at the same time that he was not appointed Captain of the School
  for next half): I think he honestly believes that it is churlish of us not to regard 
  him as an exception, one who should be free of the network of obligation which binds everyone else.

[1]: https://www.thelondoneconomic.com/news/letter-to-boris-johns...


No one gets to be a Telegraph columnist without doing a ton of work, never mind Prime Minster of the UK. Being unwilling to do work purely on other people’s say so is a separate trait from being lazy. He also has a much better command of Ancient Greek than anyone unwilling to apply themselves could acquire however wonderful the teachers the were exposed to.

This is quite apart from the question of whether he’s a buffoon. If anyone but Corbyn was in charge of Labour the Conservatives would be cruising to a large electoral defeat soon but we don’t live in that world.


> No one gets to be a Telegraph columnist without doing a ton of work

I can't speak for the 90s but watching the Daily Telegraph in the last years my impression is that the chief qualifications of their journalists and especially their columnists seems to be how much they mirror the weird political stances of the Barclay brothers, the owners of the DT.


No, but some people get to be Telegraph columnists and into positions of power without having to do as much work and face as much scrutiny as others because of their skin colour, their familial wealth and connections, and because they went an elite school.


I strongly disagree that skin colour has anything to do with it.

In reality the elite school doesn't even help.

It all comes down to wealth and connections.


Those schools help with the connections


They help less than you'd think. In reality the parents of the boys and girls on the inside of the existing networks steer them into in group friendships.

(They help more than nothing but less than you'd hope as a parent - even money can't buy your children entry to the upper classes.)


I think that depends on how you define work/graft.

He has great energy and clearly finds writing and speaking easy, especially if he not constrained by effort required to check the facts ( opinion based columns ).

I suspect he is also very competitive under the bonhomie.

> ancient greek

He didn't get a first at Oxford, while Cameron did - he recently called Cameron a 'girly swot'. Suggests he didn't work as hard as he could have and still hasn't quite got over it.

I suspect for the stuff he doesn't want to do, or doesn't find comes naturally, the real hard graft, he isn't so great.

He has often had multiple jobs, as well as multiple private lives - so great energy, but that's not the same as being able to really graft.

So I'd agree he is not lazy, by any means.

However, would you trust him with a really important task, a task that needed someones undivided attention to succeed?

Like Brexit or being Primer Minister? - I'm not sure he will do the job to his best ability - never quite the focus to be first class.


A Telegraph deputy editor was on the BBC news channel a few days ago reviewing the newspaper headlines, she could barely string sentences together but her accent suggested that she had been to a very good school.


I think Johnson’s distinguishing trait that enables him to do this, is a lack of shame more than anything else.


If his aim is to come across as a lovable bumbling fool then he's failing, he comes across as a malicious pompous ass who will happily wreck his country for minimal personal gain.


The question is not "does this work on you" instead it's "does this work on enough of the population to have a significant effect".

Observing my social groups, Is answer that it does. People often question something like "how does this buffoon get to be PM".


As Ian Hislop put it:

Boris Johnson, people always ask me the same question, they say, 'Is Boris a very very clever man pretending to be an idiot?' And I always say, 'No.'


Boris Johnson is a man of average intelligence pretending that he is an idiot, so in case when something goes wrong and he really looks like an idiot, people wouldn't be able to blame him, since obviously, from the start, he was an idiot!


Much more likely it's a result of Cummings, who appears to be the real power and brain behind the throne.


I don't think these ideas come from Boris himself, more likely some PR firm either he or the Conservative party have hired


Perhaps not, but I don’t think that’s going to help people who, say, live along the Irish border or who will be impacted by drug shortages. This isn’t just some kind of game.


If the problems of the working class are “hypothetical” (as they are to the elite ruling class basically everywhere) then it literally is a game. They see things like this as edge cases to be sort of muddled through later, because they’ve never known anyone who uses the public health system.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2k448JqQyj8

yes, he is much smarter than he looks.


Hopefully anyone that completed a degree in that focused on Ancient Greece/Classics could muster a reasonable performance in a debate like this, even if they couldn't manage a first ;)

If anything his public speaking is above average, and the inflated ego and confidence that goes with attending Eton certainly helps with that.

Nothing here shows any great intelligence, maybe marginally more than he likes to let on though.


i didn't mention a "great intelligence", only "smarter than he looks", aka smarter than he leads us to believe.


I also can’t help thinking that all the dom cummings business is boris lining up someone to take the fall for him when he needs it.

Boris has all the power and he can drop dc on a whim and blame him for anything he has done wrong.



Isn't the most likely case that his advisers told him to do this?


Having an intelligent strategy does not mean you are intelligent, specially in politics. Probably none of this was his idea, but some adviser's.


In this case we don't even know if it was his idea. For all we know he's paying a lot of money to a really good PR company.


He's smart enough to have one and follow their advice, at least in this case.


The problem is BoJo isn't that his smarter than others thinks. It's that he's not as smart as he thinks he is.


The key to choosing smart people for positions of power is that they are predictable, much like car traffic needs to be predictable to be safe. Smart people are consistent and act in a controlled manner when given information to process. However, when someone who should be predictable begins to hide information they become unaccountable and unfit for positions of power.


Perhaps it's just a new thing invented by PR coaches.

Anyway, I hope that Google fixes this kind of SEO.


If Google's first iteration of their search engine had the algorithm it currently has, it wouldn't have become the behemoth that it is today. Today's Google freaking sucks... Dropping keywords to make your search super general, irrelevant results. Early Google wowed, today's Google makes me facepalm...


But not as a politician, I hope! He's clever to a certain extent, and a good talker, but he's only in politics for his 5 minutes of fame, IMHO.


this would be 4.5D smartz


The most worrying for me?

Even after countless updates to their algorithms, breakthrough AI and ML, breaking hundred of thousands of legit website each time, Google is still dumb enough to be tricked by such a simplistic tactics :-(

Or is Google biased toward "official" speech (even from a really-not-trustable source) like Twitter is when it will allow BS from a President (because it's an official account so not subject to moderation) or like FB is when deciding to NOT fact-check President obvious fake-news for the same reason ?

Maybe it's time to clearly distinguish 2 activities: search on one side, that has to be exhaustive, fact-checked, ranked by differences/complementarity (no use to show 10 times the same result, better to show 10 really different result with indication of common consensus) - and news of the day, where truth is much more "volatile" ?


I mean the query "Boris Johnson model" is genuinely ambiguous, it's a property of language rather than Google. There are a lot of queries out there that are truly ambiguous.

Can't reproduce the "wrong" result locally, but I bet the results for the "woman model" interpretation are just below the results for the "model of restraint" interpretation.


The question is whether Google is supposed to be a neutral media or a biased one.

But besides that - most of the time I myself would prefer if Google served more diverse than more popular results.

E.g. seeing several most popular results for a term from every month this year will have way more information than 20 different content copies for the same event popular right now


Was it "tricked" or does it just prioritize recent news articles? If media stop reporting about "model scandal" and start reporting about "model of restraint", and Google assumes you're interested in most recent news stories (seems reasonable to me), then it's doing the correct thing. (Feel free to blame the media instead for dropping an important story, but then I feel the same thing about Epstein scandal...)


> breaking hundred of thousands of legit website each time, Google is still dumb enough to be tricked by such a simplistic tactics

Google wasn't tricked, it's intentional. Their business model is generating money from clicks. It's not showing you best results for what you search for. It's showing latest news, tragedy, and what people talk about. 10h old news? OLD, BORING. New shiny 2h young news? YEA, more clicks, clicks and more click, more ads, more clicks, more revenue. The sponsored content online must be constantly changing and adapting to new information to generate more profits and more clicks and keep people clicking and visiting and searching. Don't forget that it's not only sponsored content, but also targeted content with user tracking, because clicks count, on one day they will show you news to annoy you to generate more searches and clicks, on another day they will show you majority of stuff to calm you down. Keep clicking.


Good point that there can be misaligned incentives between searcher and search engine.

Is it really the case here though?

Most people would be running this search because they heard about the story elsewhere, so they will consider the search engine less useful when they see a completely different (non-)story.

If it was a bizarre tale about a prime minister making bus models, maybe, but "Politician praises himself, more news at 11" in place of a story hours earlier doesn't appear to help Google.


Eh, so you want older news on this one but you probably want newer ones on others? I don't think this rant makes any sense.


This isn't a rant, it's a statement of facts.


Seems like a rant to me. What exactly are you criticizing about the way Google decides which results to show first, in this particular case?


I'm not necessary criticizing, but it's a bit sad that most popular search engine turned to be manipulation and persuasion machine. I no longer thing about it as search engine, more like "what's trendy network", BUT I recognize that Google Search belongs to google and google is a business, and business does what's most profitable! That's good for them, not necessary for us, I personally almost never use google search, but I use android with google account, just because duck duck go is better search engine and google android is really comfortable.


This comes from Google News, which has been a very poor product for a long time. It groups together unrelated articles but still has repetitions, chooses articles with completely uninformative titles, choose articles about a video without the video or a link to it, often shows derivative articles missing important context.


Google cannot figure out which news items are more subjectively relevant for every individual. Any system with rules and emerging behaviour will be game-able by simple analysing what goes in and what comes out. There is no solution to this problem.


Isn't Google supposed to comply with the "right to be forgotten" in the EU? In that case Boris Johnson could have asked to remove the offending articles and, since they are gone, new ones take their place. Just a guess thought, but indeed it's strange that they can be so easily tricked.


I think right to be forgotten doesn't include public figures.


This is just silly. The last thing anyone would know about Arcuri is that she was very briefly a model. It would be like searching for info about (UK supreme court president) Lady Hale by Googling “barmaid”.

Try instead searching for “Boris Johnson technology lessons”, or indeed “Boris Johnson thigh”. Has his team SEO’d that yet?


> The last thing anyone would know about Arcuri is that she was very briefly a model.

Sky News: "Boris Johnson: 'No interest to declare' over links with former model Jennifer Arcuri"

The Mirror: "Boris Johnson 'had affair with ex-model Jennifer Arcuri while London mayor'"

The Sun: "Who is Jennifer Arcuri? Model connected to Boris Johnson"

The Independent: "Jennifer Arcuri: Boris Johnson repeatedly refuses to deny affair with ex-model awarded public funds and access"


Fair point. Looks like I read the wrong newspapers!

Anyway... BREAKING: this particular ex-model's just had her laptop stolen while she was in the UK... containing 6 years of emails, documents, photos and personal who-knows-what from the time when she was reportedly giving technology lessons to our now Prime Minister.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7522877/Jennifer-Ar...


Arguably it should be the last thing anyone would know about Arcuri - treating everything else a woman in tech has done as irrelevant because she once modelled would normally be a fringe and controversial opinion, to put it lightly - but that's not how the press is framing this story.


In tabloid speak "model" has elements of "nudge nudge wink" here.


A story about Lady Hale is currently the top hit for me in Google News if I search for "barmaid".


He can SEO the "thigh" one with some sort of sentence along the lines "nobody ever got sick eating the thigh of a chlorinated American chicken!"


The funnier thing to me is the people in the thread talking about how DuckDuckGo finds the "right" results.

DuckDuckGo is just Yahoo. I think the results are something like 99.9% the same, so whatever is the 0.1% they add, when I did the search, it results in maybe a slight difference in link ordering.

The reason it finds the "right" results is also the same reason its results are such garbage. And this is coming from someone whose default search is DuckDuckGo.


> its results are such garbage

Whenever people complain about DDG's search results I am always a bit baffled. It works 95% of the time for me and that 5% is occurs when I am searching for the answer to some obscure bug. I know this is your word against mine but "garbage" is a bit of an exaggeration.


> 5% is occurs when I am searching for the answer to some obscure bug

I think these are a majority of my searches, hence I had to switch back to google as DDG was almost never finding me any relevant result.


Try Startpage. It uses Google results, but anonymized and without personalization.


For balance, i find around 30% of results to be bad.

One really annoying thing is that python searches keep surfacing the python2 official docs instead of the python3 ones.

Ddg is my main search engine, but I find I fall back to g! queries more and more often.


You don't just use the bangs (g!)? Or is that what you mean by switching back?


5% is quite high.


Yahoo doesn't have its own crawler for years now. Both of them are Bing under the hood: https://help.yahoo.com/kb/SLN2217.html

I still prefer my Bing results without personalization, so I use DDG.


DuckDuckGo is Bing without the tracking. Bing is generally a very good search engine, to be fair.


Does Bing shows better respect to search operators, than Google's attitude - "i already know what you want" ?


Not really (at least, not via DDG). Just like Google, it now frequently ignores or changes key words unless you quote them, and sometimes seems to ignore quoted words, as Google seems to. Both search engines have become quite frustrating (I primarily use DDG, and falling back on Google is hit and miss).


And on top of that it seems "link spam" happens more on DDG

(Not to mention the right side "Answer box" that throws me off a bit since that result is not on the list of links)


and Yahoo is just Bing nowadays.


Not the first time he has been accused of this https://twitter.com/beffernieblack/status/114380892107484364...


I think the case is stronger now. This happening once might just be co-incidence. Twice, not so much.


While fascinating, if this is a deliberate strategy, I wonder what its intended effect is supposed to be. Are people curious enough to google for stories about Johnson's alleged affair with the American woman going to be satisfied with the "model of restraint" quote? Are they going to forget what they have just been searching for, get immediately distracted and go read what this model of restraint business is all about? Do we have any inkling as to whether this works at all?


If I committed murder and wanted to hide the body, I would hide it on Page 2 of the search results. No one goes there.

After all, if the first x results are not what you were looking for, how likely is it that the next x results will provide a match?


There is no page 2 anymore, though.

My page 2 might be your page 1, and vice versa, based on how we've been profiled by the search engine, our location, browser, etc etc


That's totally fair if the user doesn't know what they are searching for (e.g. if the only search criterion is Boris Johnson); but if they already know that there is a body; if they have already heard about the model (or the bus), how likely are they to be put off the scent by irrelevant search results?


If you are already convinced that something is going on, then this will not throw you off, no.

But if you are indifferent to the matter, then you will most likely quickly give up, thinking that it can't be that important if it's not in the top search results.


No, but it makes the alleged affair look a lot less important. If a news story is not even on the first page of google results, is it even that big of a deal ?


The only things that matter are what is on the front page for a vague search term?

If you remove the vague extra word "model", the alleged affair is still on the first page pof results for "Boris johnson".

Also, if you want news, perhaps you could...read a news site, not just stop at whatever Google suggests as 10 headlines related to a three word query


Actually the alleged affair, is not the important bit. The important bit is him appearing to mis-use public funds for a friend ( whether that friend was with benefits or not ).


One one hand some might think that there's no "model case" if top 3 results don't mention anything on the subject. On the other hand, Android and Chrome mobile keeps suggesting articles based on my interest. If I follow brexit then this might pop up more so it could be used for subconscious manipulation even if I don't click just read the headline.


Far from unique to BoJo. This is a wildly successful strategy, which also explains the outrageous and obvious lying (e.g. in front of dozens of press saying "there's no press here"). It's not new. Many of the internet era populists currently so successful have used it. Trump was the first time I saw it, but perhaps it goes back further.

Each and every time he lies, misremembers and drops in a search term he makes it harder to disprove as both sides get reported. The original story and the the reports of the use of the lie. Both in the respected media, not just a random blogspot. Frequently they're both running at the same time.

With Trump the Democrats and media spent to much time "fact checking" to see the strategy. Ours have done no better with BoJo, despite seeing it played out so successfully in the US.

It completely burns the post-war expectation that politicians be honest, and plays all sides as effectively.

I'd love to know where it really originated.



Love tech in general but this new psy ops style of leadership that is becoming popular in the west makes me uneasy. Obviously politicians will spin things as always but the tech leveraged version of that is a little ominous


We should probably pause for a moment and at least consider whether the true manipulator is the guy who originally posted it on Twitter. As far as I can see, no one has been able to duplicate his “results”. I’m not accusing, but would be interested in seeing confirmation from another party.


A smart online newspaper that suddenly sees a lot of hits on their "model bus" article would seize that opportunity.

They could rewrite the URL and show an inbetween page that says something along the lines of "we see you are interested in Boris Johnson & models" you might also like ...

Then they could add another article about SEO poisening.

Now THAT would be great reporting!

Not sure if any of them are keen enough to seize that opportunity..

edit: Of course an even easier way to do so is to edit the model bus article and insert a clickable "news headline"


Hmm, you sure about this? I just googled "boris johnson model" and got nothing but results about affairs and Jennifer Arcuri.


Nobody can be sure about this except google itself, because google gives different results for each user or location. I get all the affairs as well, but I don't matter to BJ as I'm not a UK citizen and won't vote.


Just for fun, I connected through a VPN (private internet access) and googled via a fresh firefox private window and the majority of the results are about his relationship with Jennifer Arcuri. A couple of results at the bottom of the page are about his "model of restraint" quote, that's it!


The level of paranoia in the Twitter thread is worrying...


Welcome to #FBPE Twitter.


i'd say welcome to twitter. the trashcan of our times.


Reminds me of the conspiracy theory that Disney named the movie Frozen so that it would drown out searches about Walt freezing his head.


Once is not a pattern.

Without a pattern this is simply Twitter being Twitter. That is,misguided people - the type that don't understand correlation from cause - are having their free time sucked up, and they like it that way.

Find a pattern. Let's discuss that.


This isn't the first time this has been brought up: https://parall.ax/blog/view/3301/boris-johnson-the-unlikely-...


I think I've heard about this tactic before, where it was used to help victims of revenge porn. It was used to push unwanted search results for their names away from the top in Google.


I made a throwaway suggestion he was doing this a few months back on reddit when he brought "bus" into the conversation [0]

I wish I had started keeping track of things he says to see how his comments impact search results.

[0] https://www.reddit.com/r/unitedkingdom/comments/c59q98/boris...


And this theory was just as absurd last time. Johnson has been talking about buses of various kinds for decades. He doesn't control when his bus claims make news.


I disagree. Calling it “absurd” is synonymous with calling it illogical when in fact it is extremely logical for Boris to use keywords to bury hits in search results.

IMHO it is a smart way to game the system to his advantage.


Wow, that's damn impressive. It makes me consider to start following politics, I wonder what other fantastic moves this guy (or somebody else) routinely uses that I never heard of.


Might explain something. I raised a petition to use Sunday Voting to beat the Tories & DUP (it gives 15-20% bigger turnouts - nearly all left of centre). On the very next week Johnson came up with a change to the election day to a Monday (the first change since 1931) and almost immediately it was rejected for "religious reasons" - That sounds very fishy to me. Fight back and sign: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/263133

Maybe he's trying to hide potential results from "Boris Johnson restraint"

Now get that image out of your mind. ;)


It's important to be skeptical about this, but it's somewhat fun to entertain as a way of neutralising any potential attack lines for upcoming elections.

So far: * Buses * Models * Bridges

3 is a pattern. Maybe we could anticipate future subjects being letter boxes, water cannons, watermelons, Iran, etc.


There should be a word for this, perhaps content or SEO masking, its definitely a thing. I first experienced the practice in regard to an unscrupulous company - whose sales techniques involve misrepresentation (I know as I was briefly trained in them, years ago) - called Marcus Evans. They also run business events, so if you were to look their name up in reference to 'scam' or 'fraud', then details of their 'fraud prevention' event would show up first. Luckily, it looks like someone more skilled in SEO has kicked them down the first page of google, deservedly, or perhaps Google's algorithms have improved since.


So appalled but... So impressed!



As a non-Brit, I'm quite impressed by his ploy. I feel the comparison between him and the POTUS are unfair to him. He's way smarter and more tech savvy than his counterpart across the pond.


It's not him it's his advisors whether independent or part of the civil service PR dept.

If he's clever it's that, like any good manager, he delegates to others.


Boris has always been an expert at saying one thing to the people in the room but something else to people reading about his speech afterwards. Now he’s taking it to the next level. Kudos!


Wouldn't this require him to know how he is going to be quoted in advance?

Should everyone be so readily accepting that this is some genius level of foresight?


It's hardly genius and it's hardly coming from Boris.

His press team will have told him to drop in particular words or phrases repeatedly - if we hear it once, he has probably said it multiple times.


Is there evidence of this happening though?

It just seems like this is a screenshot with some comments on it, and a lot of assumptions.


The evidence is the pattern of behavior. No, it's not conclusive of the fact, the accusation is based on circumstantial evidence, but it is still evidence.


At least in the case of the search, "boris johnson model", the tactic isn't working anymore. "boris johnson bus" on the other hand still shows a bunch of his model-building bus stories. However, if you change it to "boris johnson london bus" then you get some top results that include the controversial red bus.


This was debunked last time it went around. People don't understand coincidences.

Johnson has lived a long life. Buses are common. He's painted buses for a long time, and he used a bus in his Brexit campaign.

Johnson says a lot of things; that's been his job for decades.

This conspiracy is the same as the now that says Facebook was recording everything you say and putting it in ads.


This has never crossed my mind as a possibility. It's ingenious. I wonder if/when this has ever been done before.

On second thought in a broader way this idea, of masking truth by hiding it behind something similar, is quite old. For example the idea that Pagan holidays were turned into Christian ones in an effort to erase them.


They talked about this on John Olliver. They had a bizarre interview where he brought up a story about a bus and people think it is to salt the keywords of Google search to not show a campaign bus that highlighted something like free health care or something like that.

Edit: user "sincerely" has a better description and links



Thing that got me was the bus thing was "spiritually" true.

The UK does send a fortune to the EU, and the EU will not spend it on the NHS.

At best they may use it to resurface a road in the UK in some town no one has ever heard of along with a "eu project" propoganda badge.

But the spirit of the message held water, even if it wasnt technically true during tuesday of the second easter of a red moon.


It is also "spiritually" true that you send a fortune to food producers.

Put that way, you focus on the price but not the benefits.


EU Structural and Investment Fund allocated £8.4bn for UK for 2014-2020, £1000pp in Cornwall & West Wales alone. Similar funds for 2007-2013 are estimated to have created 70k jobs in the north of England, and 80k in Scotland & Wales. [1]

I wish I had your casual nonchalance about how these regions will be affected post-Brexit.

[1] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/01/mapped-where-in-...


Two issues with your statement

1) The claim was rubbish, that amount doesn't leave the treasury

2) The EU does fund NHS projects

However it was a powerful message that kept on being repeated by the incredulous remain side, doing the propaganda work for Leave, it's an interesting "hack" in many ways. 90% of people pay no attention to politics, when all they see is a single policy "vote X and get more money for NHS", that's all they'll remember.

It doesn't matter that it's a lie, repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth. When your enemy is repeating your lie for you, you win.


This is not a Brexit discussion. It just happens to feature Boris Johnson.


350m was the total amount, before rebates. The real figure is a lot lower.


It isn't "spiritually" true. It is factually true to the extent that the High Court ruled 350m was approximately the correct gross figure. Indeed some say that figure is conservative because it was based on projections from an official figure dated from 2014 that put the gross at closer to 450m. I'm guessing 2014 was high because of financial bailouts still being paid into the EU coffers.

From the ruling statement:

“The alleged offence set out in the Application for Summons is that the Claimant “repeatedly made and endorsed false and misleading statements concerning the cost of the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union”. It appears that if the Claimant had said/endorsed a figure of £350m per week gross, or £250m per week net, there would have been no complaint.

https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/2019ewhc... (search in doc for "350" to find the juicy bits)


I could say that as a consumer I used my skill and cunning to buy something for 20% discount compared to everyone else, if I quote the price before VAT, but the fact is that I would have paid the same price as everyone else once VAT was applied. The whole idea of saying "we send £350m to the EU" was based on the same mental gymnastics.


Isn't it strange that any and all seemingly pro-Brexit posts here are being downvoted.

What you posted is factually correct. From observation, HN has turned into just another Slashdot, unfortunately. I came here to escape from Slashdot's obvious liberal-biased bubble, but the infestation has happened here too. No doubt this post will be downvoted into oblivion as well, including the other replie(s) I've made on this topic. :(


No - it isn’t strange. This is Hacker News. We are here to talk about the technical aspects of the alleged search manipulation, not your political beliefs. It’s well known that political opinion isn’t on the table for discussion here. If you want that kind of discourse, check out the politics subreddit, where you will find oodles of children spouting their uninformed political opinions.


It's not nearly that simple.

There have been plenty of non-flagged stories on both UK and US politics where they deviate from the regular, with discussions that haven't descended into flame war and a sea of greyed posts. Not specifically relating to tech, but are exceptional in some way. e.g. Brexit and the various constitutional shenanigans, some surprise USSC or agency ruling etc.

Reasonable discourse has resulted with good points on both sides - along with a minority of both sides playing it like reddit - black/white voting, and absurd easily disproved comments.

The "day-to-day" and regular politics can stay in the reddit cesspit.


As you go down the age scale, and up the education scale, you get higher support for Remain. Freedom of movement is probably much more important to entrepreneurs too -- if you support Brexit you're probably in a small minority on HN. Would make an interesting poll.


I've had some reasonable conversations on the topic here but I do feel it in downvotes (which I'm not interested in anyway)


What is pro-Brexit about my post though? :~)


I can foresee the next step of this, as politicians try and seed the SOE terms for their opposition with their speeches. We could be due an era of complete gibberish from politicians instead of just lies (note: i direct "lies" to all politicians not to JUST Boris )


“The medium is the message.” — Marshall McLuhan

As an aside, these are the kinds of things that people worry about, when they worry about (ML) algorithms “overfitting” to a particular proxy target/metric.


The media could probably recognise this tactic and refuse to support it, by paraphrasing that part of his quote, e.g.

  PM emphasises his "restraint" amid Parliament language row


That's actually pretty clever. Credit where it's due.


Yet another reason we need synonym-aware search. Google should do nlp to find which "model" is being used in the page and then ask you which one you meant.


Just a reminder that Boris Johnson is not an elected leader.


You're simply "reminding" people of how a parliamentary democracy works.

Plus it is inaccurate, he was elected, against Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, and other candidates in the Conservative Party Leadership race. Voted on by MPs who the public themselves feel were qualified to represent them in a representative democracy.

I have no love for Boris Johnson (nor the Conservative Party itself). But this kind of "not a democratic leader!" line is simply spreading misinformation about how the UK's system of government works. You vote for MPs, MPs vote for stuff on your behalf, and in this case they voted for the leader of their party (and now the government).

It should also be noted that the UK doesn't have a ruling king and it doesn't have a president. The PMs power is a lot more curtailed than some other countries that do, and they need to go back to Parliament to accomplish much of their agenda (and are equally subject to the law). If they lose their voting majority, they're hugely neutered.


However, he's lost his majority due to throwing about 20 MPs out of the party. This is a really, really odd situation; Schroedinger's PM. At some point, probably very soon, the confidence vote is going to be held and we find out whether he has a majority or not.

He's also trying to talk up whether he's really subject to the law or not, specifically in regard to the Benn Act against no-deal.


A large proprotion of people vote for the parties or the leaders of parties, not the individual who happens to be the MP in the circumscription. I certainly do put more weigh on the party's program than on a choice of a local shmuck among multiple local smucks.


I think he commented that only because the OP said "even if it may not be the behavior we expect from our elected leaders".


This really raises the question of what news story involving 'bowling' and 'green' was around in early 2017.


This is an interesting idea but is it possible that in this case the reason the top story has changed is because it’s newer?


the conservatives seem to be way ahead of the others when it comes to modern technology/media. we've seen physicists being hired to plan where to knock on doors [0], very targeted social media ads based on proper data analysis, and now apparently SEO hacking.

not sure that these are good developments; but they seem irreversible and labour/the libdems want to catch up asap if they want to stay relevant.

[0] as mentioned by Cummings here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDbRxH9Kiy4


Finally, a politician who understands tech


Not that much of an idiot as I thought.

On hiding criminal behavior at least. Normally it means a lot of experience in that.


An idiot wouldn't get to be tory leader. He wants to be portrayed as a lovable idiot but it doesn't mean he is one. I doubt we ever see any part of his real personality in public.

Doesn't mean he can be a good prime minister though, being good at politics isn't the only thing that matters for the job.


Another good reason to stop using Google and use alternative search engines.


Human SEO. What a clever tactic. This is essentially adding noise to signal--what Trump does to the media, just a little more tech-savvy.

The steps: -An issue comes out that makes you look bad -You take a question and respond in a boring, non-memorable way -Then you go off on wild, ridiculous tangents that everyone guffaws at until the next news cycle.


This is up there with "I was talking about X with my friend, and half an hour later I saw a Google ad for X. Ergo, Google are listening in on my phone's microphone."


Apparently, rational HN readers don't require any actual evidence before going with the assertion that "Boris Johnson uses search terms in interviews". Crazy times.


I've had this happen before, and it was just a little bit very creepy indeed, and did make me wonder.


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