Encoding and Decoding: Social media political movements- Britain First

With more young people using the internet for their news (Wakefield, 2016) the way in which political propaganda encodes itself, and presents itself is in need of thorough observation and decoding. Britain First describes itself as a “patriotic political party”. It has reached a fair level of prominence in recent times on the social media platform: Facebook. Reaching over one million and a half likes on the site. It is important to understand how this group reached the level it has, if other- far more progressive – political parties are to defeat it. The answer to ‘Britain Firsts’ success, lies in how they encode the content, they release.

It is important to note, that different pieces of material are clearly designed to achieve a specific reading from the audience. The group, will post material that decent people will more or less agree with now and then. However, typically, their actual agenda will also be encoded in the content, leading to an audience- who may not be aware of the group- to make a negotiated interpretation of the material. An example of this can be seen here:

Here we an image of an of old person. Their head is down and their face is covered. The old person takes up two thirds, of the image and the person appears to be somewhat upset. Below we have a caption, reading: “PUT THE ELDERLY BEFORE MIGRANTS!” in white capital letters, strongly contrasted against a black background. The message of the content seems to be that, the elderly are in trouble- or under alot of stress- with the encoded message within being that migrants are somehow involved, or at fault for this. The reason Britain first are so successful is the vagueness of their more despicable messages. It’s never specified how the elderly are in trouble or struggling, it’s simply assumed. The role in which migrants play a role, in the- supposed – strife of he elderly, is also never mentioned, it’s simply left in the air. Now assuming that most everyday people, are somewhat decent and capable of compassion, it’s highly doubtful that they would take a oppositional reading of the content. Regardless of their views on immigration. Thus a negotiated interpretation of the content of the material is reached.

Another example of this purposefully designed negotiated reading tactic can be seen here, in an excerpt from their ‘about’ page on Facebook.

Do you share our vision of Britain where pensioners don’t freeze in winter, where billions of our money doesn’t get sent abroad in foreign aid, where crime is stamped out, where British history and discipline is taught in schools, where sexual degeneracy is not the norm but the exception, where jobs go to British workers and where the United Kingdom is united and strong?”

Here- just like in the previous example- we have elements that reasonable people, would find no contention with. It’s no coincidence that this list of “values” begins, with it’s more reasonable stances. I would argue the first four positions, are defined enough to the point where somebody could potentially, reasonably have arguments in favor of said positions. Then, in the middle of the paragraph, an incredibly vague statement on “sexual degeneracy”. Now it isn’t made clear what is meant by “sexual degeneracy”. In order to achieve maximum negotiated reading, it would seem that the message is left vague enough for Britain First to have a level of plausible deniability as to what they mean, when they use certain phrases and words in their advertising. This example is a little more substantial then the image, however, more people are likely to see the image as, it’s easier to find and much quicker to read.

Below is another piece of material that Britain First material:

This piece of content, establishes that, in order to get attention, Britain First will post material, that most audiences would submit to the dominant message of- and thus unwittingly aid the overall message and goals of Britain First. Now this material, has almost nothing to do with their politics. It is simply a cynical attempt to take advantage of peoples goodwill, in order to court more people to their cause.

To conclude, Britain First have risen to such a level that they can be called a legitimate party with social media campaigning, due to crafty encoded marketing of their ideas. Now to someone, unfamiliar with Britain First, a great deal of negotiated reading will be had. However to someone who knows of Britain First, their materials can be easily decoded and the true message beneath the material understood.

References:

Britain First About Page(Online). Available at:https://www.facebook.com/pg/OfficialBritainFirst/about/?ref=page_internal [Assessed on 8/3/2017]

Image of an old person from the Britain First Facebook Page. Britain First Facebook Homepage. (Online) Available at: https://scontent.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/17201132_1276346015843990_8252872519073037243_n.jpg?oh=2b9baae5c7a73c150f431ec1cfed77fb&oe=59698AFB [Assessed on 8/3/2017]

Image of a Squiral from the Britain First Facebook Page. Britain First Facebook Homepage. (Online) Available at: https://scontent.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/17155944_1276574225821169_6095740317506746469_n.jpg?oh=0c06c05b7c0f8ab9479dfd6b6e6808bd&oe=5972BFAF [Assessed on 8/3/2017]

Wakefield, Jane. (2016). Social Media ‘Outstrips TV’ as news source for young people. (Online). Available at:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-36528256 [Assessed on 8/3/2017]

 

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