With Channel 4 News revealing that staff of controversial spin doctor Lynton Crosby had deleted criticism from his Wikipedia page, it’s worth having a look at exactly what:
On 9 December 2012 references to Crosby’s dog-whistling tactics were removed:
In the 2005 British general election, in what Robert E. Goodin calls “the classic case” of dog-whistling, Crosby commissioned the creation of a campaign for the UK Conservatives with the slogan “Are you thinking what we’re thinking?”: a series of posters, billboards, TV commercials and direct mail pieces with messages like “It’s not racist to impose limits on immigration” and “how would you feel if a bloke on early release attacked your daughter?” focused on hot-button issues like dirty hospitals, landgrabs by “gypsies” and restraints on police behaviour.
On 15 July 2013 the following was deleted from Lynton Crosby’s page with the edit description reading “An untrue, unsubstantiated statement”:
During the 2001 Australian federal elections, Howard government ministers falsely claimed that seafaring asylum seekers had thrown children overboard in a presumed ploy to secure rescue and passage to Australia, and Howard, in the final days of the campaign, launched a slogan that later grew notorious: “We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come”.
On the same day, the following was also deleted, with the edit description reading: “Unsubstantiated reports. Inaccurate and misleading information”.
In July 2013, following the government’s rejection of a plan to remove branding from cigarette packets, British prime minister David Cameron was urged by Liberal Democrat members of the governing Coalition to sack Crosby as his chief election strategist because of Crosby’s connection to the tobacco industry. Liberal Democrat MP Paul Burstow was quoted as saying: “Lynton Crosby cannot remain at the heart of government while he is also serving the interests of the tobacco industry. If he does not go the prime minister should sack him.”
References to Crosby’s work — under the radar — for the New Zealand PM were removed at the same time:
According to investigative journalist Nicky Hager, Crosby is also an adviser to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key.
Crosby is described as favouring what is called a wedge strategy, whereby the party he advises introduces a divisive or controversial social issue into a campaign, aligning its own stance with the dissenting faction of its opponent party, with the goal of causing vitriolic debate inside the opposing party, defection of its supporters, and the legitimising of sentiment which had previously been considered inappropriate. This is also described as “below the radar” campaigning, with the targeting of marginal constituencies with highly localised campaigning, latching on to local issues and personalities. To find such issues, Crosby’s business partner Mark Textor runs focus groups to find which groups to target with what questions. Crosby is said to run a tight ship, focus on simple messages, target marginal constituencies and use lots of polls.
Hilariously, the operators of the rogue accounts even had the temerity to lecture other editors:
“How can it be considered balanced to repeatedly select information to insert into a post for purpose of painting a negative picture of an individual. Wikipedia is supposed to be a community based portal of information not a forum for smear campaigning. Selecting sources to fit a personal opinion is not encyclopaedic content, its bias and it has no place on Wikipedia. Either balance your views for the integrity of this digital encyclopaedia or remove them. Forcing your opinion on the wider community further damages the reputation and purpose behind Wikipedia.”
Did someone say ‘damaged reputation’?