Friday 23 October 2015

Kenneth Roy is a f***ing bladder!

It is relevant to note that the Scottish Review provides no facility for comment on its articles. Something that will surely sit well with journalists who suppose themselves to have a divinely-ordained right to pontificate with impunity.
Perhaps if Mr Roy were not so preoccupied with wallowing in his contrived sense of grievance he would be able to see the media-generated hysteria about "cybernat abuse" for what it truly is - a form of intimidation. The endless flaunting of theatrically righteous indignation and the deluge of partial, pious condemnation is no more than the British media using its power as a tool of the British establishment to bludgeon into silence those who challenge the inaccuracies, distortions and downright lies which they promulgate.
It's possible that if Mr Roy were not so intent upon casting himself in the role of heroic victim of unjust persecution he might just see that the wilfully one-sided railing against online abuse is a kind of censorship. The British media assumes the role of sole arbiter of what is permissible for the purpose of narrowing the debate to the extent that even fully justified criticism of the media is excluded.
At the very least, it is hoped that the threat of being labelled a "cybernat" will make people prone to self-censorship. The threat of a week-long tirade of vilification in the Daily Record might make any but the most determined champion of truth shy away from condemning some blatant lie or vicious smear that the paper has published.
If Mr Roy was not content to sit proud and prideful in his citadel of self-regard, he might get close enough to reality to discover that this "cybernat abuse" about which he obsesses is almost entirely mythical. It is no more than a noxious fog generated by British nationalists to disguise and distract from their inability to honestly counter the arguments of the independence movement.
When someone of Kenneth Roy's undoubted intellectual acumen descends to inanities such as "Miss Sturgeon's one-party state" then he forfeits any right to demand respect. By his own choice, he puts himself among the ranks of the mindless British nationalist fanatics who lack the capacity to see the idiocy of such remarks.
Kenneth Roy will, of course, insist that anybody so much as referring to this abysmal stupidity is guilty of "vile abuse". He will seek to divert attention from his own prejudice-driven foolishness by bawling piteously about how awful it is of some "cybernat" to draw attention to his gaffe. In doing so, he will provide the perfect example of the true nefarious purpose behind the media's "cybernat abuse" hysteria.
I am not given to self-censorship. I will not be intimidated by the media bullies. I'll not shrink from telling it like it is.

Monday 19 October 2015

Should we be nice to No voters?

I guess it depends on what is meant by being nice. If the question is whether we should maintain reasonable levels of civility in our exchanges with those who voted No in last year's referendum, then the answer is clearly in the affirmative. We should absolutely eschew petty insults and epithets which call into question the No voter's desire to do what is best for Scotland.

Which is not to say that there were not those who urged a No vote knowing full well that it would be to Scotland's detriment. Or that there were not those whose fervent pursuit of a No vote led them to do and say things which were quite purposefully intended to be harmful to Scotland's interests - as in seeking to deter inward investment, for example. But such people were few in number and confined almost entirely to the ranks of the political, economic and social elites who see their own interests as being served by keeping Scotland thirled to the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state.

Amongst what, for want of a better term, we shall call "ordinary No voters", there were no "traitors". There were only people overwhelmed by a veritable deluge of British nationalist propaganda which left them confused and fearful.

But does "being nice" to No voters mean that we should give them succour? Does it entail reassuring them that their choice was perfectly legitimate? Should we be telling them that they weren't wrong in any sense of that term?

Or should we be pointing out, forcefully but with all the courtesy we can muster, that they voted No on the basis of a false prospectus?

As continuing independence campaigners, we are by necessary implication telling No voters that they made a bad choice. Should we be wrapping this message in the cotton wool of prevarication and mealy-mouthed euphemism? Or should we give No voters the respect due to rational human beings and consider them capable of handling the fact that they made a mistake? Especially since we may shortly be urging them to rectify that mistake.

Surely we can, without unseemly gloating, point out to past No voters that the information needed to make a better choice was readily available. When they voted No, it was already known that Gordon Brown had lied about pensions, blood transfusions and transplant services.

When they voted No, it was already known that Alistair Darling had lied persistently about the bank bail-out.

When they voted No, it was already known that the UK government had lied about mobile roaming charges, treaties and start-up costs for independent Scotland's infrastructure, amongst countless other things.

When they voted No, it was already known that Better Together had lied about scientific research funding etc. and even about the referendum itself. When the anti-independence Labour/Tory/Lib/Dem alliance was launched, Alistair Darling stated categorically that they would be campaigning on the basis of a choice between independence and the status quo. That lasted only as long as it took to realise that next to nobody was prepared to vote for the status quo.

In fact, it is difficult to find anything that the British establishment didn't lie about - defence, oil, Europe, currency and all else besides.

The important point here is that the sheer dishonesty of the anti-independence campaign on all these topics was either already known or could justifiably be assumed. The UK Government's position on Scotland's EU membership was plainly nonsensical. Their position on the currency union amounted to knee-jerk economic vandalism.

The infamous "Vow" was as blatant a piece of inept politicking in a blind panic as has ever been witnessed.

All of this was known. It was no secret. It may not have been splashed across the papers or trumpeted on the radio and TV. But the information needed to make an informed choice was easily accessible online from a multitude of different sources. It was available in just about every format there is and, in many instances, in a wide range of languages.

Is it not reasonable to conclude, therefore, that No voters made a choice that was definitively irrational, in that it was predicated on information they could hardly have avoided being aware was, at the very least, highly suspect?

Should we be nice to No voters? The answer is a not entirely unequivocal, Yes. But not at the cost of conceding the legitimacy of the anti-independence campaign's tactics of lies, smears, scare stories and empty promises.

Nobody relishes admitting that they were duped. Nobody particularly likes owning up to a mistake. But there is a grating illogicality in allowing past No voters to believe that their choice was perfectly legitimate whilst strenuously pointing out all the things that served to undermine that legitimacy.

A shorter version of this article first appeared in The Grist #5

Wednesday 14 October 2015

A question of trust

One of the most despicable aspects of the anti-independence campaign was the targeting of older people in Scotland with scare stories about pensions and benefits. Gordon Brown was particularly guilty of this, as he plumbed new depths of lying depravity in his determination to defend the ruling elites of the British state against the threat of democratic dissent.

And they're still at it!

By the simple expedient of pretending that Alex Neil said something that he did not, the British parties at Holyrood seek to cause fear and alarm among what they regard as a vulnerable section of Scotland's population. There never was any suggestion of means-testing of Winter Fuel Payments in the consultation document on Social Security. And none of the ideas set out in the paper has been adopted as policy, so the notion of a "U-turn" is nonsensical.

Most of us would see in this consultation document a perfectly reasonable, perhaps even laudable, effort to explore ways of ensuring that Winter Fuel Payments work effectively as part of a wider strategy to tackle the scourge fuel poverty. Contemptible mischief-makers like Alex Johnstone and Willie Rennie see only an opportunity to frighten the elderly in the hope of scoring some points against their hated political rivals. For these bold defenders of the British state, wantonly scaring older people is regarded as a legitimate tactic. Gordon Brown would doubtless approve. Decent people might see it differently.

I wonder, too, if the people Rennie and his Tory chums are trying to alarm are quite as vulnerable as they suppose. They may not be the easy target they suppose them to be. Analysis of the referendum has revealed that older people overwhelmingly voted No. It is reasonable to suppose that this is because they were considered fair game by Project Fear and subject to some of the most intense propaganda.

Pensioners were the target of some of the most appalling scare-mongering during the referendum campaign, with British nationalist activists - often bussed in from England - going to their homes to threaten that payments would stop should they dare to vote Yes. But the deluge of propaganda to which older people were subjected by the totally unprincipled alliance of British parties included some of the most brazen lies and baseless scares of the entire anti-independence effort. And it is these lies and scares which have unravelled most spectacularly in the months following the vote.

These people are not stupid, whatever Willie Rennie may imagine. They know they were lied to. They know who lied to them. They know very well that it is Rennie and his odious ilk who callously abused their trust during the referendum campaign. They won't get fooled again.

Monday 12 October 2015

An urgent warning

Mundell is so proud of the fiscal traps that the UK Government is laying for the Scottish Government that he can't help boasting about them. What he is talking about is an effective transfer of Scottish tax revenue back to the British Treasury's coffers. We first saw this with the Bedroom Tax. I, and many others, asked then how long it would be before we saw Son of Bedroom Tax, Bedroom Tax 2 and Bedroom Tax: The Sequel. As it turns out, we're getting all of these and more rolled up together in the latest round of inept constitutional tinkering.
It's actually a very simple scam. Although there will inevitably be a fog of complexity intended to conceal the true purpose of the supposed "new powers". Basically, Westminter delves into the benefits paid to people in Scotland leaving a big hole which the Scottish Government has to fill from a budget which is constantly being reduced on the grounds that the Scottish Government is being granted the "power" to fill holes left by Westminster's delving.
The obvious question is, where does it end? The Scottish Government has to take money from other areas in order to fill these holes. Effectively handing that money to the British Treasury. There is a limit to the resources that the Scottish Government has for hole filling. But there is no limit imposed on Westminster's power to dig ever deeper.
The entire purpose of the measures is to tighten the British state's stranglehold on Scotland's budget so as to leave the Scottish Government (presumed to be an SNP administration) with only three choices -
  • Emulate UK Government policies in Scotland
  • Impose their own cuts to public services
  • Increase taxation - but under constraints that make it impossible to avoid hitting the poorest
These are NOT powers. They are political and economic weapons being deployed against Scotland.

And don't imagine British Labour are innocent in all of this. They stand ready to work with their Tory allies just as they did during the referendum campaign. Just as with the Bedroom Tax, they will campaign vigorously, with the aid of the media, to force the Scottish Government into these fiscal traps. They will make ever more ridiculous demands for "mitigation" knowing full well that there is no way of funding this.
Make no mistake. The British establishment is out to destroy the SNP, which is regarded as a threat to the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state. And they don't care what damage is done to our parliament, our institutions, our economy and our people in the process. They are determined to put Scotland back in its box. And the only truly effective means we have to resist them is to bolster the democratic mandate that we afford the SNP.
The British establishment recognises that the SNP is the de facto political arm of the independence movement and the most potent anti-austerity force in the UK. They know that the SNP is the agency through which the people of Scotland will express their dissent from an anachronistic political union and neo-liberal economic orthodoxies. They will stop at nothing to neutralise the SNP.
The various groups and parties hoping to use the Yes movement as a springboard to electoral success at the expense of the SNP should take heed. For if the British state can destroy a political force such as the people of Scotland have created in the SNP, then these others will represent nothing more than a mopping-up exercise.
Forget the policy agendas. They are meaningless without independence. We must fight with the best weapon at our disposal. Like it or loathe it, that weapon is the SNP.

Manufactured truth

We all probably expect better from Kevin McKenna than this dreary regurgitation of the currently fashionable anti-SNP narrative. His analysis is flawed, not because it is critical of the SNP, but because it ignores or denies any role for the media in creating the impression of scandal and serial failure that McKenna dutifully passes on.
He is far from alone in this. A piece by Ian Dunt on Yahoo News a week ago went even further by portraying the media as the victims, unjustly reviled and castigated by the general public. The trouble is that, as I pointed out, even as he tried to drum up sympathy for his beleaguered profession, he provided a perfect example of precisely the kind of dishonesty which has provoked the public ire about which he complains so pathetically.
Journalists like to think of themselves as apart from, and for the most part above, the rest of us. They imagine themselves as looking down on the world inhabited by lesser beings, commenting on our various doings in the detached and dispassionate manner of scientific observers - or minor gods. By their own lights, they are not participants in the game of politics. Their role, as they imagine it, is to inform and educate us about what is going on. They impart truth. It is truth because they have imparted it.
The reality, of course, is that the media are very much embroiled in the game of politics. They have an agenda. And, because the media is part of the British establishment, that agenda is very much attuned to the interests of the British establishment. Journalists are, for the most part and however artfully they conceal it, the paid mouthpieces of the ruling elites.
McKenna opines on the T in The Park and the Michelle Thomson affairs as if they are things which just happened. As if the "scandals" arose spontaneously as a result of things done by other people. There is a failure to acknowledge the part played by the media in manufacturing these "scandals" which borders on a blank denial of the reality of the media's role as the servant of established power.
Similarly, he "reports" on the supposed serial flaws, failings and failures of the SNP administration as if this was his direct and unbiased observation rather than the world as seen through a fog of distortion, disinformation and downright dishonesty generated by the media. It is as if McKenna is unaware of the practices and methods of his profession in the same way that we are all unaware of the internal structure of our eyes.
From outside the media bubble these practices and methods are clearly visible to those who trouble to look. An example would be the way McKenna's colleagues take something very mundane and spin it into a tale of woeful failure or terrifying crisis. Take, for example, the "scandal" of the Scottish Government's "underspend" which, according countless stories littering the media, is an instance of financial incompetence which deprives public services of desperately needed resources. The truth is that the budget surplus, as it is properly called, is a totally unremarkable artefact of the way in which the Scottish Government is funded. It is unavoidable. It happens every year. It represents around 1% of the total budget. And it has absolutely no implications for public services.
The media's representation of the budget surplus is a lie. A deliberate, calculated, wilful falsehood promulgated for the purpose of creating a negative impression of the Scottish Government.
I could cite countless similar examples relating to NHS Scotland, Police Scotland and any institution, organisation or process which is distinctively Scottish. The people of Scotland have been subjected to a deluge of such propaganda, for that is unquestionably what it is, over a period of time so long that seems it was never otherwise.
Kevin McKenna is undoubtedly capable of analysing the situation. He evidently just hasn't bothered. The British establishment sees the SNP as a threat to the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state, serving and sustaining the ruling elites. The surprise would be if it wasn't bringing the full weight of its servant media to bear in an effort to undermine the Scottish Government; weaken the Scottish Parliament; and discredit the SNP. Every message conveyed by the mainstream media has to be assessed in the light of this imperative.
This is not some wild conspiracy theory. This is just ordinary politics. Many people who doubted the media's role as an agent of the British state in Scotland had their eyes opened when the very practices and methods referred to above were turned on Jeremy Corbyn.
But McKenna acknowledges none of this. The "scandals" relating to T in The Park and Michelle Thomson are real. Somehow, they are the exception to the now ubiquitous and very well-documented media practice of distorting the facts in stories relating to Scotland in ways which are disturbingly reminiscent of wartime propaganda.
The real scandal here is the behaviour of the British print and broadcast media. At his best, that is what Kevin McKenna would be writing about.
NOTE: This comment was censored by The Guardian. Feel free to speculate on their reasons.

Friday 9 October 2015

Toxic media?

There is a delicious irony in the fact that, while Ian Dunt dismisses growing antipathy towards the mainstream media as "paranoia", he provides a perfect instance of the kind of "journalism" which has provoked so much public ire. The paragraph about Nick Robinson is a text-book example of the agenda-serving distortion of facts and downright dishonesty that is increasingly commonplace in the British media, and increasingly resented by audiences.

In that paragraph, Robinson is portrayed as the innocent victim of an aggressive witch-hunt. In Ian Dunt's account, Robinson did no more than report a bit of news about "a possible relocation of RBS if Scotland voted Yes". There is no mention of the fact this this report was partial and inaccurate. As RBS themselves found it necessary to point out afterwards, they had made no such threat and had merely given notice of the fact that when Scotland became independent they would need a registered office in London. There was absolutely no intention to relocate. The report was, in the language of non-journalists, a lie.

But that's far from the worst of it. Because, as Ian Dunt must know perfectly well, this was not what provoked the demonstration and the criticism of Robinson. The protests related to an incident in which Robinson told a brazen lie about Alex Salmond on-air. Talking over a video clip purposefully edited to support the lie, Robinson claimed that Alex Salmond had refused to answer his questions at a press conference. The truth is that Salmond responded to Robinson's questions comprehensively and at unusual length.

When he brought up the whole affair again for the purpose of promoting a book Robinson admitted the lie... sort of... and with an ill-grace born of the same arrogance which prompts Ian Dunt to presume the right to deal with a conflict between his narrative and facts by concocting a "new truth" in which it was Salmond, and not Robinson, who was "still going on about it this August".

I do not approve of spitting at reporters, any more than I condone egging of politicians or any other acts of low-level violence which are always just awaiting escalation. But I can certainly understand the resentment, frustration and anger which causes people to express themselves in this way. Political violence is the language of those who have no voice. Perhaps naively, people hope that the media will be their voice - speaking truth unto power. When they instead find the media telling lies in the service of power, they inevitably feel betrayed - and react accordingly.