The Israeli embassy comes to Buzzfeed

"Threats Facing Israel, Explained In One (sort Of Terrifying) Map".

The Israeli Embassy in the US is a community contributor to Buzzfeed, publishing a piece on the site headlined "Threats Facing Israel, Explained In One (sort Of Terrifying) Map".

The map presents what could charitably be described as a very one sided view of the Israel Palestine conflict, referring to the West Bank as having a "culture of conflict" and glossing over the continued illegal occupations in the area. "Some may say the map is alarmist," the embassy writes. "Undeniably, the map is our geopolitical reality, and we will be vigilant in protecting our people and our borders."

The piece is the latest example of the Iraeli state's impressive online PR operation. During the conflict in Gaza late last year, the IDF, Israel's army, took to Twitter sharing infographics about terror attacks on civilians and tweeting threats to "Hamas operatives". Meanwhile, the country's footsoldiers were allowed to use Instagram on deployment, as an official account collated the best pictures.

But while the Buzzfeed post isn't too unexpected for Israel, it's more problematic for the site itself. Unlike Instagram and Twitter, Buzzfeed produces editorial itself; and while the site allows "community contributors" to make posts with little oversight, to many users those pieces are indistinguishable from actual Buzzfeed content. Indeed, some of them are promoted to the front page by the site's editors, as "12 People Who Stuck Their Tongues Out Better Than Miley" was this morning. As a result, there's a risk that it will look like Buzzfeed endorses the message, and that's certainly what a fair few of the site's commenters seem to think.

Of course, there's another risk for the site: famously, its business model is based around creating sponsored content which blends seamlessly in with actual editorial. In more traditional media, the Israeli embassy would have had to pay for an advert to get their message across. But by offering the chance to post for free, are Buzzfeed undercutting themselves?

I'm a mole, innit.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Theresa May's U-Turn may have just traded one problem for another

The problems of the policy have been moved, not eradicated. 

That didn’t take long. Theresa May has U-Turned on her plan to make people personally liable for the costs of social care until they have just £100,000 worth of assets, including property, left.

As the average home is valued at £317,000, in practice, that meant that most property owners would have to remortgage their house in order to pay for the cost of their social care. That upwards of 75 per cent of baby boomers – the largest group in the UK, both in terms of raw numbers and their higher tendency to vote – own their homes made the proposal politically toxic.

(The political pain is more acute when you remember that, on the whole, the properties owned by the elderly are worth more than those owned by the young. Why? Because most first-time buyers purchase small flats and most retirees are in large family homes.)

The proposal would have meant that while people who in old age fall foul of long-term degenerative illnesses like Alzheimers would in practice face an inheritance tax threshold of £100,000, people who die suddenly would face one of £1m, ten times higher than that paid by those requiring longer-term care. Small wonder the proposal was swiftly dubbed a “dementia tax”.

The Conservatives are now proposing “an absolute limit on the amount people have to pay for their care costs”. The actual amount is TBD, and will be the subject of a consultation should the Tories win the election. May went further, laying out the following guarantees:

“We are proposing the right funding model for social care.  We will make sure nobody has to sell their family home to pay for care.  We will make sure there’s an absolute limit on what people need to pay. And you will never have to go below £100,000 of your savings, so you will always have something to pass on to your family.”

There are a couple of problems here. The proposed policy already had a cap of sorts –on the amount you were allowed to have left over from meeting your own care costs, ie, under £100,000. Although the system – effectively an inheritance tax by lottery – displeased practically everyone and spooked elderly voters, it was at least progressive, in that the lottery was paid by people with assets above £100,000.

Under the new proposal, the lottery remains in place – if you die quickly or don’t require expensive social care, you get to keep all your assets, large or small – but the losers are the poorest pensioners. (Put simply, if there is a cap on costs at £25,000, then people with assets below that in value will see them swallowed up, but people with assets above that value will have them protected.)  That is compounded still further if home-owners are allowed to retain their homes.

So it’s still a dementia tax – it’s just a regressive dementia tax.

It also means that the Conservatives have traded going into the election’s final weeks facing accusations that they will force people to sell their own homes for going into the election facing questions over what a “reasonable” cap on care costs is, and you don’t have to be very imaginative to see how that could cause them trouble.

They’ve U-Turned alright, but they may simply have swerved away from one collision into another.  

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

0800 7318496