A jarring disconnect

bbc_union_at_any_costI realise that Alex Salmond is being politic when he says that the situation has “seemingly been resolved“. But, of course, it hasn’t. The Wings Over Scotland YouTube channel may have been restored but, at the time of writing, Peter Curran’s channel has not. To the very limited extent that the process by which these channels were targeted has been explained, it appears that it was the same in both both cases. So, why has one been restored and the other not?

Could it have anything to do with the fact that Wings Over Scotland has a higher public profile? Or is it just another instance of incompetence on the part of BBC management? Did they think, by backing down on Wings Over Scotland, they’d done the minimum necessary to placate an extremely irate public? Or did the just forget about the other channel they’d targeted?

All of which amounts to no more than a wee sampling of the questions that remain to be answered by the BBC. From where I’m standing – and I suspect I’m far from alone in this – two possible explanations present themselves. Either this was a politically motivated action launched by the BBC on its own initiative; or it was a politically motivated action launched by the BBC at the behest of some third party. The circumstances make it impossible to plausibly deny the political motivation. To even attempt such a denial would only further damage what little credibility the BBC retains in Scotland.

The key questions here relate to who within the BBC makes these decisions and on what authority. It is important not to get carried away with conspiracy theories. It seems highly unlikely that there is, within the ranks of BBC bureaucracy, a coordinated and continuing plot to undermine Scotland’s independence campaign. Not least because there is so little reason to believe that there is, within the ranks of BBC bureaucracy, anybody capable of managing such a complex long-term project.

It is, in fact, easier to believe that it is all an accident. At least in the sense that there is no planning of particulars or consideration of consequences. No great conspiracy is necessary to explain the BBC’s behaviour in what we must bear in mind is merely a highly visible example of the kind of political bias that has been so much part of the media landscape in Scotland for so long that the general public had ceased to notice it. It is precisely because people such as Peter Curran and Stu Campbell throw a spotlight on the bias that they have been targeted. And, make no mistake, more would have followed if the BBC and/or the ‘third party’ had got away with it.

This political bias is not – or, at least, is not necessarily – a sign of some carefully orchestrated plan to counter Scotland’s independence movement. Rather, it is a symptom of an ethos in which the structures, systems and processes of the British state are unquestioningly assumed to be the norm. ‘British’ is the standard by which all things are judged. Anything perceived as challenging this unexamined assumption of British superiority is automatically and unthinkingly regarded as being outwith the realm of ‘normal’ politics. The customary rules don’t apply. There is a pervasive attitude that it’s only those uppity Jocks, so it doesn’t matter.

This attitude isn’t confined to the BBC. It infects the entire British establishment. It can be seen in the treatment of SNP MPs at Westminster. It can be seen in the contempt shown by the British political elite for the Scottish Parliament. It can be seen in the way the British parties squatting in the Scottish Parliament constantly seek to denigrate Scotland.

It can be seen in the behaviour of the British media – and the BBC in particular.

Who made the decision to have those two YouTube channels taken down? Almost certainly some anonymous and insignificant BBC functionary. On what authority? None was needed. These sites being something to do with Scottish (non-British) politics, it was simply taken for granted that it would be acceptable, if not expected. Normal constraints and considerations didn’t apply. Such is the ethos that prevails within the BBC.

There is a massive and jarring disconnect here. 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?

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Media wars

Wings Over ScotlandThe stuff about the BBC targeting accounts “irrespective of the political views of the infringing YouTube channels” is obvious drivel. But if it’s true that they act on complaints then it would be interesting to know whether the actions against Stu Campbell and Peter Curran were prompted by specific complaints. And even more interesting to discover the source of those complaints.

There is no doubt that the British political elite is seriously concerned about the Yes movement’s continuing dominance in alternative media. A dominance which may even be increasing as production standards improve and as patterns of media consumption change. New technologies are coming online; technical and presentational skills are being developed; funding streams are becoming more reliable, all as the audience for alternative news, analysis and commentary is growing.

As alternative media outlets get better, they get more authoritative. They carry more weight – even as trust in traditional media plummets.

No wonder the British establishment is worried. The old media have long been both its armour and its armoury. They have been the shield protecting the chosen from scrutiny and guilty from accountability. They have been they sword wielded against any who presume to challenge established power. That armour is corroded and cracked. That sword is dull and damaged. The old media simply isn’t as effective as it once was. And the skills required to repair it have been lost to the ravages of corporate ‘rationalisation’.

Power being relative, it stands to reason that, lacking the means to recover the potency of its own propaganda machine, the British establishment will have no choice but to try and diminish the influence of alternative media. The attacks on Stu Campbell and Peter Curran should be viewed in the light of the British state’s imperative to control the flow of information and maintain it’s capacity for manipulating public perceptions.

Shutting down the Wings Over Scotland and Moridura YouTube channels is just the British establishment testing its strength. Once a process is verified and precedents are established, more will follow. As the old media forces falter and fall to the new media guerrillas, the British state mobilises a mercenary army of lawyers.

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