Fake news and polarisation in the 1828 US presidential election

Thought fake news and polarisation in the 2016 US Presidential election was bad? 1828 was worse… much, much worse.

The 1828 US Presidential election between Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams is notable for its mudslinging – much of which was completely made up.

Jackson, particularly, became the butt of several scandals. Perhaps most prominent was the apparent immorality’ of his marriage to a divorcee, who was not officially divorced at the time of their wedding. He also came under attack for trading in slaves and putting militiamen to death during his time in the military.

But Adams did not survive unscathed – a rumour was spread that during his time as a Minister to Russia, he arranged an American servant girl to satisfy the sexual desires of the Tsar. Also that he was using public money to fund a gambling habit, even though he merely purchased a pool table and a chess set.

In the event of Jackson’s eventual victory, a drunken mob invaded the incumbent Adams’ White House and trashed it.

Saying that, millions of people did take to the streets to protest Donald Trump’s victory in 2016. Maybe it was even more polarised – just slightly more civil.

Dieting, calorie counting and fat loss – some details after my Telegraph article

The key to all fat loss while not turning into a shrew is to be in a calorie deficit while hitting the right protein levels for your weight. To get your exact levels, use a calorie calculator.

I aimed to get 1,800 during the week during the cut, but would normally hit 2-4k calories of booze on top of that. This inhibits progress, but it doesn’t mean you won’t lose weight. With a food intake that low, you will be in deficit for the week anyway.

The easiest way to get the protein levels is to eat fish at every meal. I pretty much just eat mackarel, salmon (which are both high fat fish) and then cod if I’m losing weight. I’d also say you can only afford to eat red meat once a week. I used to eat beef all the time and thought I’d miss it, but I don’t really any more. Birds are pretty lean really so you can eat those.

The article for this is here.

I recommend weighing in kg – it’s much easier to track. If you weigh 80kg, that’s approximately 170lb – you then need to consume 170g of protein a day to maintain muscle. I also aim to get very low carbs, which can lead to a thing called ‘ketosis’… best Google that of read this article. I don’t really think the carb thing makes a huge difference, particularly on your workout days.

Macro tracking

My macros will go something like this:

  • 50g carbs
  • 80g fat
  • 170g protein

There are 4 calories in each gram of carbs or protein, so that would work out

  • 200 carb calories
  • 720 fat calories
  • 680 protein calories
  • = 1,600 calories overall

That’s a low target – but the reality is it’ll give you a bit of leeway and there are lots of hidden calories (e.g cooking oil / butter / milk in coffee) that seem largely pointless to track. Either use the calories in this sheet, or use your own by finding what they are from MyFitnessPal.

Seared tuna on a bag of stir fry vegetables. High protein, low carbs: the kind of thing you need for dinner. Also takes about ten minutes to make.

The enemies of weight loss

  • Cakes and donuts
  • Lager… craft beer is often much worse
  • Kebabs
  • Curry
  • Pasta with creamy sauce

If you don’t want to cut this radically, up your carbs. It’s acceptable to do more like:

  • 200g carbs
  • 85kg fat
  • 170g protein

Which is 2,200 calories a day. You won’t be hungry, and will still be able to eat pasta / rice. Best carb is sweet potato, I believe. Note: these are calories for men – women is lower, use a calorie calculator to work it out.

The calories counting is a pain in the arse to begin with, but download this sheet and just copy entries from the nutrition bit. Each ingredient = a portion in a meal. If you don’t know what to cook, it’s worth getting Joe Wicks’ Lean in 15 – The Shift Plan: 15 Minute Meals and Workouts to Keep You Lean and Healthy, as the recipes are simple and taste pretty nice.

A workout should either be cardio (say 20-30 minutes jogging = 450 calories burned) or based around 2-3 compound lifting exercises (which are the top six on the weights sheet). It’s important to track what you’re doing and if you want to lift heavier, go up very slowly by 2.5kg increments (this progress becomes more difficult the less you eat though). I’m assuming your goal is not to turn into Arnie, so I wouldn’t worry about this.

With cardio, you just need to do something intensely for 20-30 minutes. Trying to beat your 5km PB every time is an easy way to do it.

One really good cardio method is to get on a rower, get to 150m as fast as you can. Have 30 seconds rest then 10x. I try and do this after every weights session… it’s not easy.

I highly recommend buying some Huel, a 5kg bag of whey protein from MyProtein (3-4 scoops a day = 60-80g protein) and some creatine (you only need 1 scoop a day). This will cost about £100 to start with.

If you follow this, you will lose fat and get stronger. I’d assume about 0.5kg a week is a steady target.

The emotionally driven dogma of Bitcoin means it cannot be properly debated

I have written a few articles on my personal views of the Bitcoin phenomenon on The Telegraph. These articles did not specifically address the merits of the technology, or the long term viability of Bitcoin – they did address my own personal anxieties created by its volatility. Yet comment threads always point out the former as if I am unaware of these things, and fundamentally wrong about them. Strange, given those views are not really covered in detail.

Views on Bitcoin are an interesting example of extreme polarisation, largely measured by two opposing camps:

  • Coiners: people who have been invested in coins before the 2017-2018 mania and have made good amounts of money – they may have even become rich. They may also be referred to as ‘Hodlers‘.
  • No coiners: people who dismiss Bitcoin and say it is a fad, or the very definition of a bubble and people involved are speculators.

I am an unusual case in that I have elements of both. I fundamentally believe in the technology, but I believe it is in an extreme type of bubble which is going to end badly, and will take a long time correcting. I haven’t met many other people who share that mix of views. Of course, the vast majority of people have no view on Bitcoin either way. Like most things, they are not involved and do not care.

The 7 dogmas of Bitcoiners

What is interesting about the first group is that their arguments are the same the world over. They often consist of the following:

  1. Cryptocurrency is the future – therefore its value will go up.
  2. Fiat / the banking systems is fundamentally flawed/corrupt, so this new technology will replace it.
  3. The price has crashed, this is a buying opportunity.
  4. How can you possibly know that the market is going down? No one can predict the future.
  5. People need to stop spreading Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt – positivity is always the best way.
  6. It’s a new asset class, it’s different this time, we can’t compare it to the past.
  7. You should just hodl, it’s for the long term. At the heart of it this all is a denial that parabolic movement in 2017/2018 is just another cycle of Bitcoin’s volatility. The phenomenon of sharing graphs where the Y axis has been warped became common in January 2018 – see this fantasy below:

Because I believe in the nuances of points of view, there is some merit in all of these positions. I do, however, believe the following points are worth exploring:

  1. This may be true, but to believe specific cryptocurrencies will hold value from their current elastic state is folly.
  2. This maybe true, and blockchain’s integration into financial systems will happen, but Bitcoin or any other existing cryptocurrency may not actually make this change.
  3. This might be true, but given Bitcoin is shaping up to be exactly the same as every other asset mania, which means that further capitulation is actually more probable.
  4. I don’t and I can’t, but you might take note that the overall trend is downwards from a peak.
  5. People are entitled to their opinion, and are entitled to warn people of the risk. The world does not revolve around endless positivity.
  6. ‘It’s different this time’ is the title of a well known book on the subject of monetary manias.
  7. It seems very possible that a parabola of this extremity may be Bitcoin’s last. This does not mean I hate it or that I don’t believe in the underlying technology.

When I have written articles about Bitcoin, coiners drive into the comment sections with strident versions of the first seven points. Sometimes it’s patently obvious they have not read the content of the article. This makes online debates fruitless and irritating, because they will not back down. The other common outcome is ‘debates’ go wildly off from the real point of the article.

Everyone has had enough of experts

Warren Buffet is the most successful investor in modern history. His view of cryptocurrency is summed up: “I can say with almost certainty that it is going to end badly.” The reaction from the coining community is that he’s someone who invests in stocks and doesn’t know anything about crypto. Fine, but he certainly knows a lot about asset classes and their bubbles. He is the most complete expert on investing alive today. To dismiss him is the same sentiment as dismissing all experts. The kind of thinking that is continued to be pushed by ultra conservatives the world over: global warming is a scam, economic forecasts are always wrong, pulling out of the EU will solve our immigration problems, the measles jab causes autism.

I use Bitcoin as an example because I’ve been looking at the price several times a day for months and have observed the sentiment of the crowd. It fascinates me that people can have such a dogmatic view about anything. But it’s the same the world over in any type of online debate where there can be tribes of fandom: sports, politics, even video gaming communities are much the same. The dogma of the opposition being perpetually wrong prevails, and with it a deep sense of entitlement.

How claims of bias and sensationalism show the contradictions within alternative media

A common narrative of the new alternative media is that ‘the mainstream media’ (MSM) is not telling anywhere near the whole truth as a consequence of ulterior motives, stimulating a righteous belief that ‘the truth must be told’. The editor of left-wing website Skwawkbox, only sharing his name as ‘Steve’, told BuzzFeed on his approach to Jeremy Corbyn, “It’s about being positive rather than being unbalanced. You’re trying to let people see that what they’re being told isn’t necessarily the whole truth.”

After Barnsley East Labour MP Michael Dugher derided both Jeremy Corbyn and the new left websites in an interview with the New Statesman in April 2017, a post on Skwawkbox announced his criticism was ‘a badge of honour’. That the website was mentioned elsewhere also cued a need to state why the site existed, ‘The information is the key thing – making sure it’s good and then getting it out there to balance what’s in public circulation against the filtered and skewed version often pushed by the BBC and others.’

Claiming BBC News is biased is a regular claim throughout the media, according to whatever side you’re on. The Daily Mail long criticised the BBC for bias towards Labour during the Blair years. It also complained when Huw Edwards didn’t wear a black tie when the Queen mother died. After the EU referendum, The Telegraph sided with Eurosceptic MPs in pointing out that the BBC was biased about Brexit, writing a leader on the issue. The alt-left British media, meanwhile, passionately believe that the BBC is biased against Labour, and particularly Jeremy Corbyn. Laura Kuenssberg, the political editor, is singled out for this.

The Canary’s most shared posts in 2017 that mention Laura Kuenssberg make it clear. At over 16,000 Facebook shares, there is ‘Laura Kuenssberg’s response to the Labour manifesto shows the BBC is moving from bias to naked self-interest’.

This article suggests that as a high earner, Kuenssberg is motivated to be negative about the 2017 Labour manifesto’s proposed £48.6 billion in tax rises. Given she ‘is said to be earning over £150,000 a year’ she would be affected by the pledge on income tax to be 50p on salaries on more than £123,000. The headline to Kuenssberg’s BBC video/article which The Canary is referring to could be construed as negative to a Labour supporter – it does put rather bluntly, ‘Labour manifesto vision: More spending, more tax, more borrowing’.

But while The Canary attempts to dissect the text of the article as if Kuenssberg has a thinly veiled agenda, all she is essentially saying is that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour are moving ‘away from the recent consensus that the UK should be moving to lower borrowing, and lower taxation.’ Writer Emily Apple was particularly furious that Kuenssberg failed to point out that 95% of people will be unnaffected and that the rises will come from corporation tax and the richest few.

But the anger is in what she didn’t say, rather than what she actually did. Still, there’s time to sign off with conspiratorial suspicion, ‘So when journalists don’t give the full facts about these issues, it’s important to remember that they too are sometimes part of the wealthy elite.’

Looking further down the list of Kuenssberg’s crimes against Labour include ‘The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg does the unthinkable trying to defend the Tories’ shambolic manifesto’ (4.8k Facebook shares) and ‘If this doesn’t get the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg fired, nothing will’ (11.9k Facebook shares).

Perhaps most desperate from The Canary in their dissection of Kuenssberg’s work was ‘We need to talk about Laura Kuenssberg. She’s listed as an ‘invited’ speaker at the Tory Party conference.’ I came across this article via BuzzFeed political editor Jim Waterson, who tweeted an intriguing, ‘It took me two mins to call the event organiser and find out this is bollocks. She’s not speaking at Tory conference. Already going viral regardless.’

The Canary’s embedded tweet gathered over 800 retweets and over 590 likes, while the article surged to nearly 16,000 total social shares. Indeed, Kuenssberg wasn’t speaking at the Tory Party conference at all; she was merely listed as an ‘invited’ speaker for a fringe event. The Canary did update the article after the BBC informed them Kuenssberg would not be speaking, but as Waterson said, it had already gone viral regardless. The article was condemned by political journalists, with Helen Lewis writing in The New Statesman, ‘The Canary is running a sexist hate campaign against Laura Kuenssberg for clicks.’ Give the people what they want, of course, and one search of Twitter for ‘kuenssberg’ will return strong doses of misogyny and conspiracy about her bias. Back in the real world, the threats to her safety were so apparent that she had to be accompanied by bodyguards to the Labour Party conference.

We are absolutely biased,’ said Kerry-Anne Mendoza, editor of The Canary, when talking to BuzzFeed. ‘We’re biased in favour of social justice, equal rights – those are non-negotiable things. We’re in this as an issue-driven organisation.’ The certainly sounds worthy, but the economic model does not. While writers are paid a flat sum, they also receive a portion of the ad revenue that their articles draw in. The Canary’s ‘Values’ page states:

‘Each writer and section editor is paid in two ways. Firstly, each and every article receives a flat-rate equal payment from our monthly income from supporters. So with each new supporter, the pay per article goes up for everyone every month. Secondly, each article receives a top-up payment based directly on the percentage of web traffic, and therefore advertising income, that articles generate during a given calendar month. It’s as simple as that.’

This blurs the standard church and state divide of editorial and advertising that exists in many media companies, and is largely successful at stopping journalism surrendering to advertisers. Given how well hyperbole travels on social media – especially Facebook – it also means that writers are incentivised to be all the more sensationalist and divisive in their quest for traffic, which ultimately equals payment. In short, to fund online only journalism these days, things are pretty desperate.

It’s the yellow press all over again. Sensationalism and support for the underdog abound, but then it’s moved on from the 1900s with social media and the pervading smell of victimhood. The far-left, particularly Jeremy Corbyn, play the role of victim, with his policies and views being unfairly reported by the MSM. The Tory supporting press, which apparently includes the BBC, are in league with the rich and powerful to further an oppressive agenda, which keeps the weak weak and the poor poor.

Who’s more biased? The BBC, or The Canary? The answer is obvious.