Monday 12 October 2015

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.

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