The BBC won’t change

Good to see the SNP taking a more robust position on the British media. It won’t make any difference, of course. The BBC is part of the British establishment. It is the voice of the ruling elite. It would be folly to imagine that voice might serve anything other than the interests of the ruling elite.

Even if there is an Ofcom investigation, and even if the BBC is found to have breached any law, regulation or code of conduct, it will not change. Even if it is ruled that the BBC has been wilfully dishonest, it will not change. It will not change because it cannot change. It cannot change because it is part of the British establishment. The BBC can change only if and to the extent that the British establishment changes.

Right now, the entire British state is in full defensive mode. Other, perhaps, than in time of war, the British establishment has never been more resistant to change. At such times, the tendency is to look backwards. To cling to the past. To hold to a standard based on a mythical golden age. Any more realistic standard is just too much of a challenge. The British establishment is not going to change. So the British media are not going to change.

In truth, the fundamental nature of the British state has not changed in more than three centuries. There has been no revolution such as is required to destroy and replace the ruling elite. All that has changed are the methods by which that ruling elite maintains its structures of power, privilege and patronage. And even that boils down to the one thing – manipulation. The British establishment has grown more efficient at manipulating people. It has improved the apparatus by which public perceptions are managed. The British propaganda machine is second to none. And better than most because it has had such a long period of uninterrupted development serving the same purpose. Serving the same ruling elite.

This machinery of manipulation is now so deeply entrenched and woven into British society as to have become all but invisible and undetectable. The disinformation, distortion and dishonesty of the British media tend not to be seen as such by those who identify as British because it is so much part of the culture in which they have been embedded all their lives and generation after generation.

Even those who operate this machinery of manipulation are not necessarily fully aware that what they are doing is propaganda. It is entirely possible that the people responsible for BBC Question Time genuinely believe they are doing an excellent job. They believe they are presenting the truth because they have never questioned the truth they are presenting. They have never learned to question it. Their capacity for questioning has been excised. The manipulators are effective because they themselves are products of the machinery of manipulation.

The BBC will not change. The British media will not change. Only we can change. People can recover the capacity to question. They can become aware of the machinery of manipulation and its methods. And, being aware, they can be resistant to its effects. They may even break the machinery.

So, it’s good that Keith Brown is publicly denouncing the BBC. Not because it will bring about change in the corporation, but because it may prompt a few more people to question the version of the truth that is being fed to them.


If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence campaign.

donate with paypal

donate with pingit

The British media are lying to you!

Question Time does not bar people from its audience because they have held elected office or are political activists.

There is a selection process to ensure a range of views are heard and last night’s QT audience included supporters of different political parties, including the SNP.

BBC spokesperson

The truth. The partial truth. And anything but the truth.

The British establishment long since mastered the art of prevarication, obfuscation, equivocation and falsification. Its broadcasting arm deploys these as casually as you and I blink. and almost as frequently. The BBC’s response to those protesting the blatant padding of the Question Time audience stands as an object lesson in how to tell a lie without actually saying anything that is untrue.

It is almost certainly true that the makers of the programme do not deliberately exclude from the audience people who have “held elected office or are political activists”. But this is not the substance of the complaint. The purpose of the denial is to create the impression of wild allegations having been made.

Nobody, to the best of my knowledge, has accused the BBC or its agents of barring people on the grounds of their political activism or past political office. The charge is, rather that people seem to have been selected on the basis of their known British Nationalist affiliation. How else to explain the extraordinary number of prominent hard-line Unionists who find their way into the studio?

While the claim that there is no process actively barring people of a certain political persuasion, it is rather noticeable that precious few former or serving SNP politicians are selected.

It is undoubtedly true that there is a “selection process”. And that this process serves to “ensure a range of views are heard”. Again, the denials and assurances divert from the complaint. Yes, it is possible for pro-Independence views to be heard. But they rarely are. Just as it possible for pro-independence politicians and activists to be selected. But they rarely are.

It is not a matter of absolutes, but of balance. The BBC (or its agents) can disprove accusations of exclusion simply by pointing to a lone SNP Councillor in the audience – regardless of whether that individual has been allowed to speak. They can refute allegations that a range of views are not being aired by referring to a solitary pro-independence comment. The question is, how accurately does the programme as a whole reflect the political reality? And the answer has to be, not well. In fact, not at all.

BBC Question Time is propaganda. What it presents to the viewing audience is, not a reflection of the way things actually are, but a contrived impression of the way the British establishment thinks things should be. The way British Nationalists desperately want things to be. And the way an uber-parochial, curiosity deficient, intellectually indolent London-centric media elite suppose things to be.

This grotesque fairground-mirror portrayal of politics is particularly, painfully evident when Question Time ventures into Scotland precisely because the political reality here departs so markedly from the British standard. A contrast that the people of Scotland have much cause to celebrate, even as they deplore the BBC’s evident inability to be honest with them.


If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence campaign.

donate with paypal

donate with pingit

Lies and liars of every sort

David Mundell

There are many different types of lie. Human beings don’t want for ways of being dishonest. Lies can, for example, be artful or clumsy, They may be cleverly contrived and fully detailed accounts lacking only the element of veracity. Or they may be obvious untruths lacking all credibility.

As well as being differentiated by the skill of the person telling them, lies are often assessed on the degree of harm caused or intended. White lies are supposed to be at least relatively harmless. These are lies purportedly told to avoid giving offence or causing hurt. The repulsive Christmas gift is received with effusive, but entirely false, gratitude. The prior engagement excuse for non-attendance is deployed in preference to the more honest, but rather hurtful, explanation that the individual concerned is a crashing bore whose company you would avoid even at risk of serious injury or death.

White lies are lies that we forgive ourselves for. The term is a euphemism for what, were we more honest, we would call insincerity. A character flaw we tend to deplore in others and are reluctant to admit to.

Exaggeration is another form of dishonesty which, depending on context, can be considered quite forgivable. Who doesn’t embellish a story that would otherwise be too mundane to be worth retelling? Who doesn’t put a light coat of varnish on their CV? Who among us doesn’t take a futile stab at trying to convince the doctor that we’re more abstemious than is actually the case?

Of course, there is a line to be crossed. The line between deducting a few pints from your weekly alcohol consumption in the forlorn hope of impressing a doctor who has heard it all before and adding a few zeros to your annual income in an attempt to secure a loan. Or between polishing an otherwise factual anecdote to make it funnier and trying to pass off a total fiction as an honest account.

Broken promises are rarely, if ever forgivable. Perhaps, if there is good reason to believe the commitment was made in good faith and/or there is a genuine excuse for failure to deliver, the culpability may be lessened. But this very seldom applies in the case of political promises. Few politicians are felt to have earned a presumption of good faith. And the authenticity of a political excuse is, for good reason, deeply suspect.

Fabrication and deception are forms of lying which commonly accompany one another. Fabrication involves imparting information which is known to be false. Or, at the very least, information which is unverified. This becomes deception when the purpose is to cause others to believe something which is untrue. Invariably, with malign intent.

The political smear story is an example of a lie which usually adds distortion to exaggeration, fabrication and deception in order to mislead the public about the conduct and character of a particular individual. By the manner in which they are presented, details which are, in themselves, entirely true can be made to serve a narrative which is totally dishonest.

There are exceptions – which we shall come to in a moment – but, generally speaking, senior politicians prefer not to lie. Direct lies can be difficult to sustain when one is constantly in the public eye. It’s all too easy for an inept prevaricator to become the fly in the tangled web they weave when first they practise to deceive. Politicians would much rather that others lie on their behalf. Which is where the media come in.

The skilled political actor will keep themselves at one remove from the smear. Character assassination is best left to the professionals. The politician merely provides the ammunition. They studiously avoid making allegations. But will happily comment in such a way as to lend currency to innuendo and insinuation. Masters of the art of the smear can seem to be defending the target while actually directing the dagger and giving it an extra thrust. The best liars lie with complete conviction and casual ease.

And so to the penultimate type of lie in a catalogue which may not be comprehensive. The audacious lie. Otherwise known as bare-faced, bold-faced, bald-faced or brazen.

Instances of such insolent dishonesty are not difficult to find. One need only listen to pretty much any British politician. David Mundell, for example, is a man known for little else besides his capacity for treating truth as an inessential adornment to his increasingly bilious British Nationalist rhetoric. Absolutely nobody, I hazard, would have been genuinely shocked to see a Wings Over Scotland headline declaring, ‘David Mundell is a liar‘. Evidently, Stu Campbell considered this too much of a commonplace to warrant an exclamation mark.

The article beneath the headline is a characteristically forensic excoriation of a particular instance of Mundell’s mendacity. Namely, his audacious assertion, in an interview with the BBC’s Brian Taylor, that the people of Scotland voted in the 2014 independence referendum knowing that there was to be a referendum on the UK’s EU membership. To put it another way. Mundell flatly denied that, throughout the 2014 referendum campaign, the British propaganda machine repeatedly and explicitly claimed that a No vote was necessary to ensure continued EU membership. He did so knowing this to be completely untrue. It was a lie as brazen as it might be without actually being cast in brass.

I have nothing to add to Stu Campbell’s scathing condemnation of Mundell’s shameless dishonesty. But, out of curiosity, I decided to find out what the BBC’s North British political editor had to say about the episode. Holding my nose against the stench, I ventured into the mire of prejudice and partiality that is the BBC Scotland website and read Brian Taylor’s column for the relevant date. Despite – or maybe because of – the magnitude of David Mundell’s lie, it wasn’t considered deserving of so much as a passing mention.

Which neatly brings us to the last in our list of different types of lie. Lies of omission.


If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence campaign.

donate with paypal

donate with pingit

It is what it is

So, the BBC is as much a part of the British establishment as the monarchy, the City of London and the Palace of Westminster. What’s new?

So, being part of the British establishment, the BBC operates on the assumption that there is no act or conduct or policy, however heinous it might be considered in any other context, which cannot be justified in the name of defending or advancing the interests of the British state. This is no more a revelation than the fact that Andrew Neil is a self-regarding, self-important, self-serving bladder who nonchalantly admits to giving free rein to the personal prejudices which bid him afford the status of truth to anything negative about those who challenge his notions of British exceptionalism.

The things Andrew Neil says on air about the SNP and the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament and Scotland in general don’t have to pass some test of accuracy or veracity. They simply have to be “credible” to someone who regards all these things with sneering contempt. And Neil is hardly unique. The BBC is stuffed with his ilk.

So Ofcom, itself yet another tentacle of the British establishment, has been confronted with an example of the BBC’s dishonesty and partiality too egregious to be ignored. Shit happens!

Nothing will be changed by this damning indictment of the BBC and one of its pet celebrities. The ethos of complacent superiority which suffuses the corporation’s management will not be affected. The habitual incompetence and unprofessional conduct of the ‘talent’ will go unchecked. The BBC will still be the BBC. Andrew Neil will still typify the close-minded pomposity of London-centric British journalists with their cosy consensus about the way things are and should be.

Which is not intended to imply that we shouldn’t be outraged and disgusted by the casual misrepresentation of facts and the contrived manipulation of information to fit a British nationalist narrative. Only that we should realise this is a commonplace. A constant. A fact of life.

There is actually nothing at all extraordinary about what Andrew Neil did. It is happening all the time even if it is very rarely officially acknowledged – and even more rarely officially condemned. The British media serve only the British establishment. In doing so, they are subject to ethical constraints loose enough to be effectively non-existent. There is nothing we can do to alter this. And we can’t be angry all the time.


If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence campaign.

donate with paypal

donate with pingit

Another symptom of Union sickness

Scottish BBC viewers send £100m licence fee ‘subsidy’ to London HQ

bbc_north_britainIt’s all very well for the BBC to claim that they’re doing better. It may even be true – at least insofar as it’s possible to tell from their artfully juggled figures. But this still leaves the question of why the situation arose in the first place and why it is taking so long to get it sorted. And here we come back, yet again, to the nature of Scotland’s constitutional arrangements.

The fundamental problem is that Scotland’s interests cannot be adequately represented within the Union. Inevitably so, given that the Union’s purpose was always to ensure Scotland’s subordinate status within ‘Greater England’ – or the British state, as we now know it.

It is no surprise at all to find that Scotland is disadvantaged in terms of public service broadcasting provision as this is precisely what the Union is meant to do. Not specifically, of course. But as an unavoidable consequence of a constitutional settlement which is purposefully contrived to deny the people of Scotland full and effective exercise of their sovereignty. If we were able to vote for what we wanted; and if we actually got something approximating what we voted for, it is simply not credible that a situation would have arisen in which we so massively subsidise a public service broadcaster which serves the people of Scotland so poorly. A functioning democracy does not produce such grotesque anomalies.

The most glaring of these anomalies is Brexit. The fact that Scotland is being dragged out of the EU against the democratically expressed will of its people proves beyond question that the UK is systemically incapable of representing Scotland’s interests. What the situation with the BBC does is remind us that this is, not a one-off failure in an otherwise satisfactory constitutional arrangement, but an inherent function of the Union.


If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence campaign.

donate with paypal

donate with pingit

 

The SNP needs a jolt of Yes energy

nicolaThat was all going swimmingly… until the final paragraph. Lesley Riddoch’s analysis of the BBC’s “problem of properly representing Scotland” is, as we would expect, accurate and insightful. Although I would suggest that, given the corporation’s remit to preserve the integrity of the UK, the question is, not so much whether senior BBC managers can personally accept the possibility of Scottish independence, but whether they can allow this possibility to be publicly acknowledged.

It is slightly curious, too, that Ms Riddoch neglects to mention the extent to which British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) is embedded in BBC Scotland. Perhaps she thought that, since her focus was the constitutional issue, it was acceptable and appropriate to gloss over the party political aspects of the BBC’s “problem of properly representing Scotland”. Or maybe she just considered it redundant to remind us of BBC Scotland’s tendency to look and sound like the broadcasting arm of BLiS.

These quibbles aside , Lesley Riddoch has it about right with regard to what I have referred to as the “jarring disconnect” between the BBC and Scotland’s politics.

In Scotland, the concept of independence has been normalised. In the BBC, it never can be. The big question, therefore, is this – how can the BBC possibly serve an audience in Scotland when it is so evidently inherently incapable of relating to that audience?

She’s not far off the mark in her criticism of the SNP either. Even someone like myself, who is often accused of ‘blind partisan loyalty’, can readily agree with Ms Riddoch’s conclusion that the party is failing to provide the leadership that the independence movement requires – and requires rather urgently.

Two things need further explanation hear. Firstly, the concept of leadership has to be understood in this context, not as the movement being led by the SNP, but as the movement taking its lead from the SNP. This is very much in keeping with what Lesley Riddoch sees as a “miss by the SNP”.

At the start of 2018, Nicola Sturgeon famously called for “a new spirit of Scottish assertiveness“. It has to be said that, while the “emboldened, more confident and more assertive nation” that she envisaged emerging in the course of this year has been increasingly evident on the streets and on the web, it has been noticeably less evident in the SNP’s rhetoric on the constitutional issue.

There is no doubt that the SNP could have done a great deal more to reflect the growing assertiveness of the grassroots independence campaign and help convey to a wider public the sense of anger and urgency which is now as much part of the spirit of the Yes movement as hope and determination.

Whether this would have influenced the output of BBC Scotland in any way is questionable. But the effort should be made – and be seen to be made.

The second thing that needs to be expanded upon is the facile accusation of ‘blind partisan loyalty’ levelled against those who are willing to run the gauntlet of such vacuous vilification in order to emphasise the crucial role that the SNP plays – as a party and as an administration – in providing the focus for the coming referendum campaign and the effective political power which that campaign requires. Stating that the SNP is essential to the independence cause is not evidence of blinkered loyalty to the party, but of commitment to the cause of restoring Scotland’s independence combined with a pragmatic appreciation of how this will be achieved.

Which brings us to where Lesley Riddoch goes wrong. The suggestion that even a “properly organised and funded Scottish Independence Convention” might be some kind of alternative to the SNP is fallacious. I wrote the following a year ago, and have found no reason to change my view since then.

I have great difficulty seeing how SIC can credibly speak for the grass-roots Yes movement when it is so predominantly given over to a relatively small but inordinately assertive faction founded on a simplistic belief that ‘radical’ is synonymous with ‘righteous’.

Most of all, I worry that SIC has no popular mandate; nor any means of acquiring one. I worry, too, that the SIC – and thereby the aforementioned faction of ‘righteous radicals’ – intends to ‘piggy-back’ on the electoral mandate of the SNP in a way that will be found unacceptable by the party’s membership and considered inappropriate by the general public.

In order to succeed, the independence movement needs effective political power. In order to be effective, that political power must have democratic legitimacy. It is not obvious how SIC might achieve this. It’s not even clear that the importance of democratic legitimacy is recognised by those in charge of SIC.

All of this remains true no matter how much the SNP is seen as failing – or inadequately serving – the cause of independence at any given moment. The party may occasionally disappoint. But that cannot be a justification for giving up on it and directing our energies elsewhere. Rather, when we feel that the SNP is flagging, we should be motivated to redouble our efforts to get it back on track.


If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence campaign.

donate with paypal

donate with pingit

 

Conspiracy as an emergent property of organisations

The following is adapted from an article titled Unconscious bias
which was originally published by Indyref2 on 15 August 2016.

bbc_north_britainWhen assessing the BBC’s coverage of Scottish politics and the now undeniable bias in favour of the British establishment it would be a mistake to think in terms of a formal conspiracy. If you’re imagining a cabal of managers, producers, directors, journalists and presenters secretly conniving together to do down the SNP and the independence movement, you are entertaining a fantasy. There is no organised plot. Nor is there any need for such a thing. What, with hindsight, has all the appearance of having been carefully contrived is, in fact, no more than the incidental outcome of an ‘organic’ process with no purpose or direction.

Just as ‘misreporting’ may be indistinguishable from deliberate dishonesty, so what looks like a conspiracy may be only a mirage. It may be no more than the impression left on history by lots of unconnected, or only loosely connected, events. It may be a pattern without a plan. It may be conspiracy as an emergent property of an organisation which, not being effectively managed towards its true purpose, tends towards the dominant agenda within its own structures.

All that is required for the appearance of conspiracy to emerge is that there should be a sufficient number of people; with a sufficient amount of influence; and a sufficient commonality of interest.

This is what has happened in the BBC. And most particularly in BBC Scotland. It is not wholly accurate to say that either is institutionally biased; although the BBC is undoubtedly the broadcasting arm of the British establishment and can be expected to behave accordingly. It would be more apt to describe BBC Scotland as organisationally, or structurally, biased. Over time, a self-perpetuating and self-reinforcing process has led to the organisation being populated with people drawn from, or with intimate connections to, a Scottish political establishment that was, for a formative period of decades, the almost exclusive province of British Labour in Scotland (BLiS). BBC Scotland is stuffed with people who still regard what they like to call “Scottish Labour” as rightfully the dominant force in Scottish politics. Many are inclined to treat it as if it still is. They genuinely see nothing wrong in packing every studio panel with BLiS worthies because they cannot accept how irrelevant the pretendy wee party has become.

The inevitable corollary to this collective and largely unconscious (or unthinking?) pro-British/pro-union/pro-BLiS bias is antipathy to the SNP. After all, the SNP has not only supplanted BLiS as the primary force in Scottish party politics, but also represents a threat to the British state, which the BBC is institutionally inclined to regard as the ‘natural order’.

Obviously, this is a problem. For the public service broadcaster to have succumbed to organisational bias is a very serious issue for the functioning of democracy in Scotland. But in order to properly address a problem it is first necessary to understand it. To think in terms of conspiratorial plotting is to miss the point. This is a management problem. Or, more precisely, a problem of management failure.

I have no background in broadcasting. But the basics of good management are pretty much universal. They apply to every organisation. And it is glaringly obvious to me that BBC management has failed abysmally. I firmly believe that the BBC is institutionally sound. Moreover, I regard it as a crucial bastion of public service broadcasting. I have to recognise, however, that the BBC is in danger of being delivered into the hands of those who, for political or commercial motives or both, would see it destroyed. It is being betrayed by a generalised failure of management.

It’s unlikely that there are any high-level meetings of BBC executives at which a propaganda strategy against Scotland’s independence movement is discussed and formulated. It is improbable that instructions go out from senior managers to be acted upon by the lower echelons. It’s actually worse than that. BBC management have, by their incompetence, permitted the development of an environment – an ethos – in which these things, quite literally, just happen.


If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence campaign.

donate with paypal

donate with pingit