First, there was a genuine story. A small child was left on the ground in a hospital in Leeds. Nobody disputes this fact. This is the same pattern that has happened throughout the Campaign: some verifiable fact becomes the anchor for a huge press story about the fact. The fact is never denied. But the story around the story becomes the story and obscures the fact. The fact is that a small child was left on the ground in a hospital in Leeds.
The fact is that Matt Hancock lives in his West Suffolk parliamentary constituency. Sheree Jenner, the Secretary of Doctor Alistair NL Hepburn exists. Doctor Hepburn has a Private Practice and has appeared in press release with Theresa May in Suffolk. The same Suffolk as Matt Hancock is a Member of Parliament for. Again these are facts. They do not explain how Sheree Jenner-Hepburn was invented.
Sheree Hepburn was given an award alongside with Doctor Hepburn, in 2013, by The National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society. They appeared in the Worthing Herald with Theresa May. Sheree Hepburn exists. Sheree Hepburn, Phlebotomist, The Barn Surgery, Ferring exists. Alongside Doctor Clare Farrer – GP, the Barn Surgery. This, still, does not bring anybody any closer to knowing how Sheree Jenner-Hepburn was invented.
It is possible that the Secretary of Doctor Hepburn and the Phlebotomist are the same person. It is also possible that the names were put together. A fake identity. Which is the kind of thing that Leveson heard about from Facebook Director Lord Allan in 2012. It was the kind of thing that the then Culture Secretary Matt Hancock was exposed to on a daily basis.
Matt Hancock quoted a 2016 report by Sir Joseph Pilling that concluded IPSO had “largely complied with Leveson’s recommendations and that was part of the case for no Leveson Two. Hancock declared the Government-led public inquiry into press regulation found two thirds of direct respondents were against reopening the Leveson Inquiry versus one eighth who were in favour. The inquiry received some 174,000 respondents – both direct and indirect – on the matter of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act. Section 40 would have forced newspapers not signed up to a Royal Charter regulator to pay both sides’ legal fees in privacy and libel battles, win or lose. Matt Hancock said commencing it would “exacerbate the problems the press face rather than solve them”. The Government decided not to commence Section 40 – despite having passed the law.
What relevance does that have to Sheree Jenner-Hepburn? Quite simply, Sheree Jenner-Hepburn would have been liable for the story told. Here comes the genius part: Matt Hancock was at the centre of the process. Matt Hancock understands the implications and processes around the existence of faked identities such as Sheree Jenner-Hepburn. The concerning process of two real identities being merged and used for Journalistic ends amounts to digital identity fraud. Like a deepfake image but with people.
Matt Hancock is no stranger to the possibilities of digital wrongdoing. In 2018 Matt Hancock he, apparently, endorsed a mobile phone health app marketed by subscription health service company Babylon. Justin Madders wrote to Theresa May accusing Hancock of repeatedly endorsing Babylon’s digital products contrary to ministerial guidelines: that ministers should not “normally accept invitations to act as patrons of, or otherwise offer support to, pressure groups or organisations dependent in whole or in part on government funding”. Matt Hancock also launched his own smartphone app in 2018. Privacy rights group Big Brother Watch found the app collect its users’ photographs, friend details, check-ins, and contact information. While he had previously said the NHS would face “no privatisation on my watch”, Matt Hancock criticised in April 2019 for allowing 21 NHS contracts worth £127m to be tendered before supporting the illegal prorogation of Parliament as Cabinet Minister to Boris Johnson.
None of this explains how Sheree Jenner-Hepburn was invented. To understand that, you simply need to read the message communicated. First, Sheree Jenner-Hepburn is ambiguous and nebulous. She is a senior nurse, a Urology Nurse, a Phlebotomist, in Leeds or in perhaps Suffolk. She is, it seems everywhere and nowhere, somebody and nobody. Which is a significant problem with online identities: knowing what they are for.
Identity online has a purely functional aspect that does not exist in real life. Some people will create a user identity for, say, a discount offers site. They give a unique email that they never use, because they do not want to deal with the endless spam from the discount offers site. This is a purely functional user identity. A throwaway. Once it has achieved the objective it is discarded. Which is the kind of behaviour of Sheree Jenner-Hepburn.
When you see the use of Sheree Jenner-Hepburn, you see that the sole purpose is to give authenticity to a single story. It gives a node in the social graph of Facebook to hang a story onto. Which then allows the story to be rapidly shared. The story is a well composed piece of text:
“Very interesting. A good friend of mine is a senior nursing sister at Leeds Hospital- the boy shown on the floor by the media was in fact put there by his mother who then took photos on her mobile phone and uploaded it to media outlets before he climbed back into his trolley. He was on a hospital trolley in the paediatric A&E having been seen within 20 minutes. I am a nurse myself and am so pissed off with fake news, yes the NHS is a mess mainly caused by people misusing it and lack of elderly care. Think of the nurses and Doctors who are doing their jobs instead of constantly slagging them off. another Momentum Propaganda story. Disgraceful.”
Interestingly, a Deep Learning Algorithm was used to check the text. It is characterised as 24.5% Lawsuit. Which firmly places it into the kind of language Conservative Party and Brexit Party Activists have been using. It has a sentence structure that classifies as 30% Press Release. Which suggests it is a text designed for reuse and remixing. It has a sentiment of 90.5% negativity. Which suggests it is a criticism of someone or other. The Deep Learning Algorithm also points out that every sentence is an “opinion unit”. Which means this was not a casual post but the posting of someone literate enough to edit carefully. A Journalist or English Graduate. The analysis also suggests this is 100% not urgent – which seems at odds with the Lawsuit characterisation. The Keywords extracted from the text are also revealing:
“good friend”, “friend of mine”, “senior nursing sister”, “mobile phone”, “media outlet”, “paediatric a&e”, “nurse”, “fake news”, “elderly care”, “momentum propaganda story”
The keywords are not about the fact that first, there was a genuine story. A small child was left on the ground in a hospital in Leeds. The keywords are about “friendship”,
“nurses”, “media”, “fake news”, and “propaganda”. As if someone needed to create a story.
The Deep Learning Algorithm classified it as 74% Bad Movie with 38.4% profanity. Which is not to say swearing – just that the language is so negative as to be abusive. The Deep Learning Algorithm did one final trick: it summarised the text as follows:
“A good friend of mine is a senior nursing sister at Leeds Hospital. The boy shown on the floor by the media was in fact put there by his mother who then took photos on her mobile phone and uploaded it to media outlets before he climbed back into his trolley.”
Which is the story that Sheree Jenner-Hepburn was invented to tell. Perhaps not that exact story, necessarily. But, like Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey, or Bella Swan in Twilight, the purely functional user identity serves the purpose of allowing someone to project themselves into the character. To fill out the gaps with their own sympathies and experiences. Which reflects in the way it is shared. People are sharing it to women.
Which achieves something miraculous for the Brexit Party and the Conservative Party. The characteristics of Sheree Jenner-Hepburn being everywhere and nowhere facilitates projection and empathy from the reader. Which reinforces and emphasises the final message of the story: ” another Momentum Propaganda story. Disgraceful.
It is the kind of propaganda that Big Data facilitates. There are several definite facts. There was a small child left on the floor in a Leeds Hospital. The story – the post by Sheree Jenner-Hepburn – leads away from that fact. It creates a little friend of a friend story that can be rapidly propagated. Even if it is debunked by someone saying that the Sheree Jenner-Hepburn social media account was hacked, the well crafted little novel will be shared by networks of “low follower” accounts. The actual story becomes a rumour. The tail end of the story is that Labour faked the story.
Which is exactly what the Conservative Party claimed. That Matt Hancock arrived at the Leeds Hospital only to be met by hundreds of Labour Activists who had been taken there by Taxi and who then assaulted a Special Adviser. This was the amplification of the story that follows on. Having got the Attention of the Audience the next step is to get the Interest. The Interest being in hundreds of Labour Supporters – Momentum according to the friend of a friend story – protesting at a Hospital. Which largely ignores the fact that hundreds of people arriving in Taxis would require at least forty taxis. You can only get five people in a Taxi and hundreds implies at least two hundred people which suggests forty taxis. That would have blocked up the entrance to the Hospital in a very visible way. There are 4946 Private Hire and Taxi Cabs in Leeds according to Leeds Council Website. So the number of taxis is not implausible just not practical. Where were they: Matt Hancock would have been delayed by that number of vehicles at a hospital. It is a simple logistical conclusion. The events would have been physically different if the story were to hold up.
Which is where the story unfolded. Because the video images from the Hospital did not show a gridlocked road. It showed a Ministerial Car and a Protection Officer who walked into a loudly shouting man on a bicycle. Which begs a question: did the Protection Officer not hear the loudly shouting man or were they simply to busy making sure the Minister was safely driving away. The story descends into farce. The Protection Officer was portrayed as a Special Adviser – and there is no reason to believe either description – who was assaulted. That would have taken the Interest and transformed it into Desire. The simple story progression from Attention to Interest to Desire to Action being a narrative driven marketing funnel. The problem was, that after all the investment of time someone pointed out this was not true. Which meant that Desire suddenly became discovering the underlying story. At which point Sheree Jenner-Hepburn needed to cease to exist.
Obligingly Sheree Jenner-Hepburn deleted her social media accounts almost immediately. Which does not end the identity. Now it is possible for Sheree Jenner-Hepburn to claim the account was hacked and that they were not responsible for the story. Which is a way to revitalise the authenticity of the identity. Now the Attention to Interest to Desire to Action funnel can be used to demand a crack down on vague malevolent entities who are attacking Conservatives. The alleged Assault at the Hospital, the Hacking, the whole story allows people – women in particular – to feel vulnerable and threatened because of a child. Which is a dog whistle technique: fear for children. Fear Assault. Fear Hackers. Fear.
All of this is “common sense”. Sheree Jenner-Hepburn appeals to “common sense”. Even if she does not exist. She is a marketing funnel which directs you towards the one impulse: to Act. To ask yourself “What would Sheree Jenner-Hepburn do?”. It might be more productive to ask what your mother would have done. Which would give you a much more grounded answer. One rooted in your own experience. An answer that is not about “Attention, Interest, Desire, Action” Marketing funnels but about what you know the world wants: Leveson Two and the continuation of the investigation into faking news for power and profit.
Picture: Yer Ma Votes Labour. Mikey Gannon.
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