How the Blackberry mobile bought down politicians!

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With the release of the excellent new film ‘Blackberry’ that takes a look at the rise and catastrophic fall of a device that changed the way we communicated we thought we’d take a look at how the Blackberry mobile bought down politicians!

So is it possible a small plastic device that looked like a sophisticated kids’ toy could change the course of history? Arguably, the BLACKBERRY mobile did.  Not only that, the BlackBerry was favoured by politicians, ever wary of the possibility of hacking and the leaking of confidential information, and drawn to its encrypted ‘BBM’ messaging service. But did this BlackBerry mania amongst the political class end up swaying an election…?

HILARY HAMMERS THE MESSAGE HOME 

Was BlackBerry – or rather, this iconic image of Hillary Clinton using her BlackBerry on a military plane – responsible for giving us Donald Trump as the 42nd President of the United States, rather than the first Female POTUS? An official, upon seeing the 2011 photo, wanted to know if the then secretary of state Clinton was using a state email address, which led to an investigation into her emails. According to an FBI report presidential hopeful Clinton (a fan of the BlackBerry Curve) would get staffers to smash the old handsets to pieces with a hammer when secretary of state, to ensure that confidential info wouldn’t fall into the wrong hands. These revelations – suggesting Clinton might be careless with state secrets – were seized upon by her opponents in the 2016 Presidential race, and we all know the result of that. There’s no doubt that the Blackberry mobile bought her down

A TRULY DEMOCRATIC DEVICE

Despite Hillary Clinton’s upset with a BlackBerry, it still remained a favourite of heavy hitter Democrats, with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Leader of the Senate Chuck Schumer tweeting from BlackBerry phones back in the day. As Pelosi pointed out in 2009, talking about Obama’s BlackBerry, having the phone meant it was easy for people to get in touch.

OBAMA GETS A GRIP

Iconic, groundbreaking, revolutionary. No, not the BlackBerry, 41st US president Barack Obama!  “I was the first President to have a BlackBerry,” he told Jimmy Kimmel in 2016. “I’ve still got the clip on the belt.” Even though BBM was encrypted, it still gave the National Security Service the jitters, but Obama was allowed to keep his BlackBerry, provided it was made secure. Eventually though, he relinquished his beloved BlackBerry as the phone’s popularity plunged, and grumbled that he ended up with a less sophisticated phone.

CAMERON’S CONSTANT CORNISH COMPANION

His UK counterpart, Prime Minister David Cameron, managed the UK on his whilst he was at Number 10 – or rather, when he was on holiday and away from Downing Street. “Wherever I am in the world I am always within a few feet of a BlackBerry,” he said,  “and an ability to manage things should they need to be managed.” Some weren’t wild about the idea of Cameron discussing matters of state over a mobile, suggesting it might endanger national security.

MERKEL GETS CHIPPED

The then German Chancellor used a Blackberry Z10 for state affairs, after whistleblower Edward Snowden alleged the US National Security Agency had been intercepting her calls. To be extra sure this couldn’t happen again, the phone was fitted with an encryption chip by a German company and BlackBerry subsidiary Secusmart. The company claimed the chip would keep the phone safe from hackers, and marketed it as the “Kanzler-handy”, which translates as “Chancellor phone”.

THE LADY’S NOT FOR SWITCHING

UK Prime Minister Theresa May hung on to her BlackBerry even as the popularity of the handset was diminishing and people (including her Downing Street staffers) were moving to iPhones. Soon her phone would be replaced. As would she by something even more useless….Boris Johnson. If only he had had a Blackberry mobile it might have stopped his hands wandering over his mistresses.

related feature: Blackberry – film review

related feature: The Dumb Money movie flips the bird to London’s top 1% in the financial district

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