Sunday, 1 April 2012

No decency in the name of the union

Jocky Wilson - Scottish sporting legend
I seem to find myself writing far more often than I would like on the subject of distortion, disinformation and downright dishonesty in the "Scottish" mainstream media. This is not so surprising, really, as the increasingly scurrilous behaviour of the anti-independence effort as conducted in the press is becoming a major feature of the independence referendum campaign. So I make no apologies for returning to the subject yet again.

What has irked me on this particular occasion is a couple of items which between them illustrate the sewer-bound direction of the "no" campaign. We start with a quite distasteful piece in The Guardian by that well-known anti-SNP obsessive, Kevin McKenna. (Don't let the prudes loose on Jocky Wilson). At first glance this appears to be another tribute to one of Scotland's great sporting characters, Jocky Wilson, who died recently at the relatively early age of 62. All is well until we reach the third paragraph, at which point McKenna abandons all pretence of simple human decency as he contrives to use the sad death of a man held in some affection across Scotland as a stick with which to beat the SNP.

Let us draw a discreet veil over the worst excesses of McKenna's deplorable little diatribe and note only the central claim that he uses as a launch-pad for his attack.

It's just a shame that, among the garlands and tributes that greeted Jocky's untimely death at the age of 62, there was nothing from the SNP,

It comes as no surprise at all to discover that this is a blatant lie. The reality is that Alex Salmond was among the first to pay tribute to the deceased dartsman.

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond said: "Jocky was a great champion and his passing is a sad loss, so my sympathies go to his family and friends

"I particularly remember watching Jocky's epic world championship final win over Eric Bristow in 1989, which was marked not just by great play from both men but by the great sportsmanship for which Jocky was so well known." - Darts legend Jocky Wilson dies, 62
This quote accompanied just about every report of Jocky Wilson's passing. So there can be no hiding behind any excuse that McKenna was unaware and that he is guilty merely of "inaccuracy". Besides, as he tries to pass himself off as a responsible journalist the onus was on him to check the facts before going into print.

The lie itself is despicable enough, but it is not so much the lie that grates as the fact that this attempt to deceive the public is perpetrated in such a casual manner. It is not only truth and journalistic integrity that are held in contempt but McKenna's audience as well. All in the name of preserving the union.

Which brings me to the other piece which caught my eye. And it will come as no surprise to anyone that it is an offering from that bastion of British nationalist propaganda, The Scotsman. Under a headline proclaiming, SNP’s consultation on independence open to rigging, Tom Peterkin seeks to portray the Scottish Government's independence referendum consultation as "meaningless".

Alex Salmond’s referendum plans were dubbed “utterly meaningless” last night after it emerged his government’s consultation on the independence poll was open to multiple, anonymous responses.
Your Scotland. Your referendum.
Leaving aside the matter of whether the claims have any basis in fact, let's take a look at the logic. What has happened here is that Peterkin has set out to write yet another anti-SNP article at the behest of his employers. He has reached the point where his remit is fulfilled, and has simply stopped thinking. The whole "rigging" premise is founded on the assumption that multiple responses will be submitted exclusively or predominantly by those seeking to "weight" the consultation in a particular way. But what rational reason is there to suppose that this might be so? None!

Peterkin is led to assume that the process will be abused exclusively by "cybernats", not because there is evidence or reasoned argument to support such a conclusion, but because of his own British nationalist prejudices. Or because he has been instructed to work backwards from that conclusion. As the British Labour & Unionist Party demonstrated by the use of pre-filled submissions on their North Britain branch website, it is they who are most eager to try and distort the outcome of the consultation. The reality which so woefully eludes Mr Peterkin and his employers is that attempts to "rig" the consultation will almost inevitably cancel each other out. The ultimate effect will be no effect at all.

And there's another thing that underlines the foolishness of this fuss about the consultation. With well over 20,000 members and a superbly efficient campaign organisation, why would the SNP need to resort to multiple anonymous submissions? Even supposing there was some advantage to be gained from this, what would be the point? Only one perfectly legitimate submission from as little as a third of the party's members would still result in more than double the number of responses that the UK government's effort managed to attract.

Why didn't Peterkin think of that?

What connects these two examples is the apparent absence of any reflective thought. There is all too obviously no consideration given to such trivial matters as truth and reason. But neither is there any sign that the authors have given so much as a moment's thought to the impact that their respective writings will have on an audience wider than the clique of committed British nationalists to which they belong.

Yet again we find the anti-independence campaign failing the debate about Scotland's constitutional future by its refusal to engage with that debate in any meaningful way. They are not even speaking to the people of Scotland. Could this be because they have nothing of worth to say?

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