Friday, 21 February 2014

Lies, Deception and Propaganda

What on earth could these few words – lies, deception and propaganda – have to do with Scotland’s independence?
Nothing!    Where have you been?
“We have the BBC.  They’re impartial aren’t they?”
Few now believe this.  I doubt any supporter of independence sees them as such.  Their bias has been reported many times previously on sites such as Newsnet Scotland and Wings Over Scotland.

Mark Curtis, in his excellent 2003 book on the deceit inherent in British foreign policy, “Web of Deceit”, devotes a chapter to “The Media’s Propaganda Role”.  Curtis refers primarily to the way in which our media deals with British foreign policy but his words apply to policy at home too.  He writes,
Even though it is possible to express almost any view somewhere in a very diverse variety of media, there is a strong tendency to favour certain views over others, and on most issues there is a consensus within the mainstream.  There is only a small space in the mainstream for alternative views that fall outside this consensus.
and he quotes Edward Said who described how the ideological system and consensus worked in the US. 
The simplest and, I think, the most accurate way of characterising it is to say that it sets limits and maintains pressures.  It does not dictate content, and it does not mechanically reflect a certain class or economic group’s interests.  We must think of it as drawing invisible lines beyond which a reporter or commentator does not feel it necessary to go.  Thus the notion that American military power might be used for malevolent purposes is relatively impossible within the consensus, just as the idea that America is a force for good in the world is routine and normal. [Edward Said, “Covering Islam: How the media and the experts determine how we see the rest of the world”, Vintage, London, 1977, pp54-5]
Returning to Curtis we find a description with which we are only too familiar,
The media also has an important function in labelling opponents and categorising behaviour as ‘deviant’, including by scapegoating vulnerable groups in society for social or political crises, like refugees and asylum seekers.
Curtis’ and Said’s words apply here to the reporting of Scottish independence.

More than 6 years ago John Pilger delivered a speech in Chicago titled “Propaganda Disguised as Journalism”.  He said this about the BBC,
The BBC began in 1922, just before the corporate press began in America. Its founder was Lord John Reith, who believed that impartiality and objectivity were the essence of professionalism. In the same year the British establishment was under siege. The unions had called a general strike and the Tories were terrified that a revolution was on the way. The new BBC came to their rescue. In high secrecy, Lord Reith wrote anti-union speeches for the Tory Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and broadcast them to the nation, while refusing to allow the labor leaders to put their side until the strike was over.
So, a pattern was set. Impartiality was a principle certainly: a principle to be suspended whenever the establishment was under threat. And that principle has been upheld ever since. [John Pilger, 2007]

Let’s look at his last two sentences again,
Impartiality was a principle certainly: a principle to be suspended whenever the establishment was under threat. And that principle has been upheld ever since.
We Scots – those eligible to vote – threaten the establishment. 
Impartiality has been suspended!

Wherever we look in the MSM we find unionist views accepted, almost unquestioningly, but the views of those who support independence are subject not only to intense scrutiny but almost to ridicule.

Clearly I’m paranoid.  There is balance in the media.

The Guardian’s Martin Kettle was correctly taken to task by many, see for example Derek Bateman here, for a piece of …..  Well, you can try to get through Kettle’s article here.  The title, “Alex Salmond and co are acting like spoilt Children” rather gives the game away.  Kettle has blinkers in his mind which prevent any view, which is not of the mainstream unionist, from penetrating.

In an  article from early January, “Modern Britain can survive – if we all have the will for it”, Kettle almost gets it but he falls at the last.  He says, “
To many, these unusual storm and flood reports must feel as though they come from a faraway country of which they know little. In doing so they speak to one of Britain's less well-understood but important deep fractures. We mostly understand, even if governments struggle to do much about it, that Britain is a country of massive inequalities of wealth and power. But there is an inequality of awareness and sensibility as well. Both of them need redressing.
To me, as a native northerner, London and the south-east today feel less aware of the rest of the country than ever in my lifetime. In Scotland, nationalists can stir an audience against London, yet London barely gives a moment's thought to Scotland, even in the year of the independence vote. There is a similar disjunction between London and the north of England, and London and Wales. Much of this is caused, and maintained, by the centralised narrative from the London-based media. The indifference is unmissable.

Unfortunately, for one so close, Kettle falls blinded by his blinkers.
Modern Britain can survive. But it will do so best if we believe that we are or can be all in it together, that we have enough common experiences and needs to overcome the temptation of emphasising other differences.
He cannot go beyond Said’s invisible lines.  He cannot see that modern Britain need not survive and so he is blind to the injustices which then flow from his pen.

And Kettle is but one among many.
The Establishment is threatened and impartiality will remain suspended.


  1. Frankly I am confused by the whole thing, because we don't know what a "Yes" would be a vote for, as we can't get honest clarity on the EU situation, given that it suits some people to avoid that clarity; and the SNP have rather messed up their currency stance, in my opinion. I am currently sitting on the fence alongside Mr Higham, and what a fine pair of fence-sitters we make, but I expect I will jump down to one side or another come September.

  2. What does Aileen say about this?

    Is she with us (those who desire independence)?

  3. Aileen would not dream of interfering, other than the occasional abduction.

  4. Does she abduct to order? I mean to my order.

  5. No

    (not a word you like these days, but still...)