Football fakery and a new style of Twitter disinformation?

Football fans are in a frenzy. The transfer window is about to shut and many observers of the so-called beautiful game are attached to their phones, TV screens and desktops – eagerly awaiting updates of new arrivals at their favourite teams.

As a Liverpool supporter, my team is supposedly in the market for some big name transfers. One of our top players is angling for a move away and the team has left it late in securing players for this season’s squad.

Usually I take football gossip with a pinch of salt. It’s a bit of fun. Something to make small talk over at lunch.

However, in the past few days I’ve noticed a somewhat alarming pattern that could have wider negative implications for Twitter as a “public sphere”.

If we believe, as many do, that Twitter is a force for democratic good – giving voice to the voiceless and allowing everyone equal access to information – then this could prove to be a sinister development.

Journalists use Twitter as a platform for engaging with their readers. They share their stories and those of other trusted journalists and sources. In the past Twitter had a verification tick but that seems to have lost its meaning with many being able to apply for account verification.

While Twitter may have brought football fans close to the gatekeepers of information, the journalists, it has also given rise to an army of b**ls*itters.

Again this is nothing new. We saw during the US presidential elections last year how fake news influenced if not the result then at least the debate.

But the latest ploy being used is rather nefarious. Several of these fake news football related streams have come up with a new tactic, that may in the future be used for political purposes.

They are pretending to be journalists from reputable news organisations. It is quite a convincing tactic.

The way they do this is by using the news organisation’s web address and Twitter handle in their profiles.

It doesn’t stop there. They then get a few friends, who have similarly trumped up profiles, to push the accounts to their followers. Take a look at the following example:

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A quick Google search will tell you there is no Declan Carey at the BBC. There’s nothing, that I have observed anyway, carrying his byline on the BBC Sport website. Yet on the face of it his account looks very convincing. He even Retweets genuine football journalists and several BBC Sport tweets, making him seem like a genuine part of the Twittersphere.

The pièce de résistance though is this other account, which is convincing Twitter users that this account is genuine.

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This Greg Twomey account is convincing others that this Declan Carey is working for BBC Sport. When you Google ‘Greg Twomey’ it actually shows that this guy’s account also showed @BBCSport in the bio at some point. Quite clearly the two are working hand in hand.

The other fact is earlier on this account was peddling another supposed journalist called Gareth Cambridge, this time claiming to be from ESPN. Once again looking to hoodwink gullible fans.

The common theme that links all these accounts is that they all seem to originate from Ireland. A few people have cottoned on to this confidence trick and seen Cork listed as the location in some of these bios. In fact the first account I flagged up even talks about going to Cork City football matches.

My initial reaction was to pass this off as just ‘banter’. However, during an election is there anything stopping people from pulling similar tricks, impersonating political journalists and commentators to disseminate fake news amongst followers?

We’ve had convincing looking fake news sites. It seems as if the phase of fake news social media accounts claiming to be genuine journalists is now upon us.

More needs to be done by social media companies to stop the spread of fake news. They acknowledge this fact time and time again. Maybe they could start by stopping fantasists from pretending to be journalists working for reputable news organisations.

 

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La La Land review: Triumphant celebration not just of the musical but Hollywood

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La La Land tap dance scene. Pic: Dale Robinette/Lionsgate

It’s easy to see why La La Land is being touted as an Academy Awards frontrunner. Damien Chazelle’s film is upbeat yet grounded, fantastical but authentic.

At the heart of La La Land is a simple romance narrative where creative ambitions strain the seams of the two main protagonist’s relationship.

Emma Stone plays Mia, an aspiring actor looking to get her big break in the cartoon world of Hollywood. While Ryan Gosling’s Sebastian harbours dreams of owning his own jazz club.

La La Land opens with an audacious song and dance sequence in the middle of a traffic jam on a bridge in Los Angeles. In what seems to be one continuous shot, a large cast breaks out into an impromptu rendition of Another Day of Sun – a central number of the film.

The truly breath-taking opening bolts audiences to their seats for the next two hours.

However, it does feel as if Chazelle is trying to justify this as a musical by cramming in three sequences in the first 15 minutes. That said, all the song and dance sequences strike the right tone – they are variably extravagant, mystical and reflective.

The bright colours and rapid but smooth transitions keep your eyes glued to the screen.

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There’s an absence of a Singin’ In The Rain-esque sing-along ditty. Though it is packed with infectious numbers.

La La Land is a celebration not just of the musical but Hollywood. There’s obvious references to Casablanca and the main characters visit the historic Rialto Theatre for a viewing of Rebel Without a Cause.

In Stone and Gosling Hollywood has the modern day Bergman and Bogart. It’s hard to think of another ‘Hollywood couple’ capable of pulling off a performance with such pizzazz.

The tap dance sequence above the hills of Los Angeles will be remembered for generations to come.

There’s also the part where Mia, in the middle of a casting session, is interrupted. The raw emotion Stone puts into the scene is mesmerising.

Gosling’s performance is effortless. His ability to balance goofiness, as seen in Shane Black’s The Nice Guys, while being sincere makes his turn as Seb a success.

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Emma Stone as Mia in La La Land. Pic: Lionsgate

A central theme of the narrative is that creativity cliché of staying true to your dreams versus compromise. However, there is a tasteful conclusion to the story. Once again brilliantly pulled off by Stone and Gosling in the final scene, where simple facial expressions tie-up the bittersweet narrative.

In interviews Ryan Gosling has stated that he wanted to make a musical that everyone would enjoy and La La Land is certainly a film that transcends the genre.

The musical never went away. La La Land though will have done for the genre what The Artist did for the silent movie. Don’t be surprised if this becomes a staple of the bank holiday TV schedule in the future.

Much like it’s portrayal of the imperfect glitz of Hollywood, “They worship everything and they value nothing” Seb decries, La La Land has a few rough edges. But the rough edges are what makes this such a loveable film. It’s triumphant but sincere.

10/10

Jamie xx – In Colour review

THE XX has become synonymous with low key, smoke filled, atmosphere soaked indie pop. One feature of the band is the interplay between Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim. Both interject with one another in a conversational to and fro on the majority of the trio’s songs.

Squint long and hard enough and you’ll see on stage, amidst the dry ice, a third Londoner, bopping and keying away. Now, Jamie Smith has decided to break from the shadows of his band – whose first two albums he produced, and release his first solo album.

GOING SOLO: Jamie xx has been working on In Colour over six years.

GOING SOLO: Jamie xx has been working on In Colour over six years.

Deeply engrossed in underground club culture, In Colour is a culmination of six years of scraps that Jamie has collected. A rhythm here, a bassline there, a loop over here. Read the rest of this entry »

A yellow splattered bloodbath – General Election 2015 results leave many questions

As the final ballot papers are counted, it’s clear that the 2015 General Election has panned out like no one had expected or predicted.

For Labour it has been a bloodbath North of the border where SNP has decimated it. They’ve also fallen short in England, missing out on key marginals and castrated by the defeat of Ed Balls.

Ukip failed to live up to tipsters prdictions – in fact they lost an MP in Mark Reckless, the Greens are where they were in 2010 and the Lib Dems have been butchered across the UK – they could end up with less than ten MPs, down from 57.

High profile casualties

Ed Balls wasn’t the only high profile casualty. Every General Election, since Tony Blair’s victory in 1997, the commentators are on the lookout for that Michael Portillo moment. Well, such is the unique nature of this election that there have been several.

Ed Balls was joined by Douglas Alexander and Jim Murphy, both who fell on the sharp nationalist sword of Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP.

Then there are the Lib Dems. Vince Cable, former Business Secretary, Danny Alexander, former chief secretary to the treasury and Ed Davey, former secretary of state for energy and climate change all perished.

More questions

But while the Conservatives look more and more certain of winning a majority, the aftermath, both immediate and long-term, is shrouded in uncertainty.

First and foremost, the Tory majority is a slender one and they will find it difficult to simply plough through policies over the next parliament.

The fact that we have a Tory majority throws up questions over the UK’s membership of the EU with David Cameron promising a referendum over the EU. An exit could be disastrous for the UK economy, with Europe being a major trading partner for the UK and also offering us strength as part of a superpower at a time when China is growing exponentially.

Labour pains

Where to for Labour from here? Ed Miliband is supposedly preparing his resignation speech. They’ve lost stalwarts like Murphy, Alexander and Balls. They’ve lost Scotland.

Many were likening this to the 1992 election but some have begun to comapre it to Labour’s defeat in 1983. Either way there will need to be some major soul searching within their ranks.

Do they lean to the left to claw back some of the seats lost to the SNP. They’ve probabaly taken all they can of the left leaning Lib Dem vote, if there was much of it judging by the way their seats fell. Do they go the other way and fight the Tories on their own terms?

Whoever leads Labour into the next election will need to play a fine balancing act.

Scots law

The message from Scotland is clear. They want at best independence at worst a great dollop of devolution. Could this be the end of the union? We may not have another referendum, but the Scots have figured out how to disrupt the Westminster establishment. The question of independence is not dead yet.

Death of the coalition

Yes it maybe that we return to a two-party system with Labour and Conservatives trading majorities, but it is evident from the rise of smaller parties like Ukip and Greens, coupled with the demise of the Lib Dems – this could be unlikely.

But a question that needs to be asked is will any small party join a coalition as a junior party, like the Lib Dems did, following the humiliation the Lib Dems have suffered?

You could argue that they should have fought harder for their own policies but with the way the seats have fallen – Lib Dem seats have been absorbed by a cross section of parties.

Can you blame a small party for running for the hills next time we have a hung parliament? Would anyone in their right minds risk losing 4/5 of their MPs?

My vote didn’t count. Why bother?

Finally we have the question of electoral reform. Once again the number of seats don’t reflect the propotion of votes that have been won by parties. Many voters will once again trudge away from this election disillusioned.

An electoral system designed for two-party politics is simply not fit for purpose in the age of plural politics.

Aiding apathy, it won’t be suprising if turnout falls or remains stagnant, barring any major jarring political events, at the next election.

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Against the backdrop of disconnect in football, there’s something of a fairy tale to the Rickie Lambert story

When Rickie Lambert was unveiled yesterday as a Liverpool FC player, it felt as if something that had gone missing had returned.

FULL CIRCLE: Lambert back at Liverpool. Where he was released from 17 years ago.

FULL CIRCLE: Lambert back at Liverpool. Where he was released from 17 years ago.

The joy on the 32-year-old’s face had taken years off him. He looked like a kid at Christmas who had been given the ultimate Xbox-Play-Nintendo-Atari-Station as a present.

He had that same look of a child who believed in Santa Claus, and if there

ALL SMILES: Lambert holding his new strip.

ALL SMILES: Lambert holding his new strip.

was 32-year-old who had reason to believe that an obese white bearded man, who squeezes his ample rear down people’s chimneys so that he could gobble cookies and gulp milk, whilst leaving presents behind for the children – then Lambert is that person.

After all, Lambert was released at the age of 15 by his boyhood club

Liverpool and found himself working in a beetroot factory and playing at the bottom of the football pyramid.

Fast forward 17 years he has scored for the national team, landed a place in the world cup squad and now re-joined his beloved hometown club, having worked his way up the football pyramid.

THE FAIRY TALE: Lambert at LFC training ground Melwood.

THE FAIRY TALE: Lambert at LFC training ground Melwood.

Every time a fairy tale comes along, there’s the big bad wolf of reality that comes and blows that fairy tale away. You need not look further than Atletico v Real Madrid or Liverpool’s quest for Premier League glory this season.

But while Lambert has himself said there is no room for sentimentality in football. For those remaining working-class football fans who crave a release from the banality of their jobs, seeing a boy from a beetroot factory make his dream a reality is sentimental.

Sachin Tendulkar, a roar inducing lion, timeless Indian icon

Sports writers have a habit of spewing out hyperbole and clichés at the rate of a Mahendra Singh Dhoni innings. Forever in search of the next best thing after sliced bread, nauseas enough to leave you sick as a parrot. Read the rest of this entry »

Only certain directors can – Only God Forgives reviewed

SELDOM has a film ever relied upon just framing to create and project characters but that is exactly what Nicholas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives does. Read the rest of this entry »