The media filter

What a killjoy Ian Blackford is! The British media went to all the trouble of concocting a controversy around his ‘coronation’ as SNP Depute Leader, and he goes and spoils it all by announcing that he won’t be attending the ceremony. Almost from the moment Angus Robertson resigned, the story was of a party in turmoil with anonymous ‘sources’ telling tales of intrigue at the top and revolt everywhere else. Plots were supposedly afoot to usher Blackford into the post without the tedious formality of a democratic process as set out in the party’s rules.

Quite how this was to be contrived was, like the identity of those allegedly ‘voicing concerns’, never revealed. It always seemed odd to me that these ‘sources’ could be both close enough to the inner circles of the SNP to be regarded as reliable informants yet be totally unaware of the party’s constitution and the rules governing the nomination and election of the Depute Leader. But, of course, the story didn’t have to be credible. It only had to be titillating. What does it matter if a story is questionable when nobody is going to question it?

The spin now will be that the devious schemes of the party leadership have been thwarted. The glare of the media spotlight has forced them to back off. Blackford has been ordered to abdicate before he even got to wear the crown. It won’t matter that there was never any substance to the story of his ‘coronation’ in the first place. A new truth has been manufactured. It is now part of the cosy consensus informing the media narrative. George Orwell imagined an army of Winston Smiths beavering away in the Ministry of Truth physically rewriting old newspaper articles so that they didn’t contradict whatever was decreed to be the new Truth. The intrusive ubiquity of broadcast mass media and the infinite palimpsest of rolling news have made Winston and his colleagues redundant. why bother rewriting the past on paper when it can be revised in the public consciousness.

If the practical impossibility of a proposition is inconvenient to the desired narrative, then simply ignore it. The public only know what they are told. If nobody tells them this ‘coronation’ of Ian Blackford couldn’t actually happen, there’s no problem. In their minds, it is true. Manipulation by the media is not only a matter of what is reported and the way a story is framed. Things that aren’t reported and questions that aren’t asked also play a part in the deception. Manufactured truth thrives best in an environment where all potential competing information has been filtered out.


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

 

It’s just a game

It is a regrettable fact of life that before commenting on anything in the British media one must first check for accuracy. Standards of journalism are so abysmally low that factual errors are common. This article in the Sunday Herald, for example, refers to Kirsty Blackman MP as “the SNP’s deputy leader”. She is, in fact the SNP Deputy Westminster Leader. That is to say, the Deputy Leader of the SNP Group at Westminster. Considering the article is about the contest for the post of SNP Depute (not ‘deputy’) Leader, this seems like a particularly clumsy mistake.

Having put the record straight on that, what else might be said about an article trumpeting Tommy Sheppard as the favourite in a race which hasn’t yet started? Nominations haven’t even opened. It seems a little premature to be speculating about who might win a race when we don’t even know who the runners are. Tommy Sheppard hasn’t even declared his candidacy yet. He is being pronounced the leader on the basis of absolutely nothing more than the need for a sensational headline.

That’s if Tommy Sheppard really is the favourite. The headline says so. But by the second paragraph we’re being told that “Ian Blackford had been tipped as the favourite”. Confused? The Sunday Herald doesn’t care.

I have to say that I rather resent the media trivialising the issue in this way. But I don’t suppose there’s any more point in complaining about that than there is in objecting to the errors. That’s just the way it is. Everything is reduced to the level of some tacky TV talent contest. For those of us who aspire to a better politics, it’s all a bit depressing.

It’s not only the disregard for accuracy and cheapening of politics that grate on the sensibilities of anybody who takes their politics seriously. I’ve written elsewhere about how the media manufactures truth. The way they generate ‘fakts’ that have no necessary connection to reality, but which fit nicely into the common narrative – the cosy consensus. Such a fakt is the myth of concern within the SNP that there may be a ‘coronation’ of Westminster Group Leader Ian Blackford MP. This myth is now firmly established in the mainstream media regardless of the fact that the party’s procedures make such a ‘coronation’ quite impossible.

I don’t suppose many people will find this sort of thing annoying. And that is part of the problem. As a society, we’ve become inured to the poverty of political journalism. We’ve grown accustomed to the mistakes and the distortions and the dishonesty. For the most part, people just don’t expect any better. They make no great demands of the media. So they get the media they deserve.

I’m one of the oddballs who does take it seriously. I happen to think it matters. It matters because, for the majority of people the mainstream media is their window onto the world of politics. They see the democratic process through the lens of newspapers and radio and TV. I’m going to be hard to convince that there is no correlation between the way politics is portrayed in the print and broadcast media and levels of disengagement from the democratic process.

But maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps the way to restore the connection between people and politics is, not to have the media take it all more seriously, but to go even further down the road of mass appeal. How about we dispense with all that tedious stuff about policies and party organisation and have the SNP Depute Leader contest decided in the style of ‘It’s a Knockout’? Mind you, Tommy would probably still be the favourite.


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