A humanity under attack
The British press, their hacks and minions, are doing their level best to defame and demean Scotland by outrageous accusation and scurrilous association. Quite frankly, if I list the defamation published this week alone I’d feel tarnished.
Denigrating and ridiculing Scottish politics and the independence movement is nothing new. For some it’s a life’s hobby. Lying and exaggerating – an exaggeration is a lie – is part and parcel of today’s press, working for the status quo to manufacture consent, backed by some of the wealthiest people in the land … who live abroad to avoid tax.
I have a story to tell
Many years ago my cousin worked for the Scottish Daily Mail when it was based in Scotland’s capital. Back in the day when it was a real newspaper it was a good training ground for apprentice journalists before it became what it is today, proto-fascist, racist, peddling stereotypes, hatred, and chasing vacuous celebrities.
My cousin went on to be a respected correspondent for the Times and Reuters.
Eventually he found himself covering Portugal’s retreat from Mozambique, a withdrawal ransacking the country as it left, slashing, burning. As I write, years after that struggle, the country still very poor, gold has been found giving some hope of limited prosperity. But that’s another story. Mozambique is independent again and proud to be so.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man
Back in the day the liberation movement, Frelimo, was led by a smart, handsome, charismatic military commander called Samora Machel. (He proved himself a bonnie fighter too against the evils of apartheid.) After a long, arduous and dangerous struggle, Samora won his country’s independence to become its first president before the South African assassination squads downed his plane in 1988. Graca his widow went on to become the second wife of Nelson Mandela, one supposes the first woman to be First Lady of two countries.
Machel was a revolutionary socialist, but one Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, was happy to invite to dinner at Buckingham Palace a good few times. He was, after all, a democrat. Machel was welcomed by many another head of state.
In time my cousin decided he liked the country so much he wanted to live there.
He accepted Machel’s offer to head the establishment of Mozambique’s broadcasting service, a considerable challenge. Mozambique was and still is a very poor country. He settled there with his wife, and his son was born and educated there. Occasionally my cousin broadcast some subjects to the UK, usually detailing the murders and destruction caused by the brutality of the Portuguese colonialists.
This is where the story gets dirty.
Still working for the Times and Reuters, though now freelance, broadcasting to Mozambique’s population with listener access programmes and the occasional report to the BBC, the Times decided to dub my cousin ‘Lord Haw-Haw’ of Africa. Naturally, he was stunned, shocked and insulted. British newspapers were playing a double game.
For those short on second world war history Lord Haw-Haw was the nickname given to one particular journalist, William Joyce, who broadcast Hitler and Goebbels propaganda from their “Germany Calling” in the Reichssender Hamburg radio station, Bremen
The vilification of my cousin’s reputation went on unabated. The Daily Mail joined the fray. There was a derogatory story almost every day. Remember, this was the newspaper that had trained him, and knew him to be an excellent, assiduously honest journalist.
It did not take long for hacks to discover where my cousin was born – a quick call to the Mail was enough – a working class estate in Edinburgh. They tracked down his house and elderly mother who lived alone.
His mother, inexperienced in the wily ways of journalists and interviews was bombarded with doorstop belligerence, but she was happy to talk of her son with pride, how he was a passionate cyclist, posters of the Tour de France on his bedroom walls, and a mad keen jazz fan.
The next day his mother opened the newspapers to find the front pages emblazoned with the headline: “Lord Haw-Haw a Communist!” The BBC followed suit, never questioning a single allegation or assertion.
The Scotsman, then a reasonably respected national daily with a good circulation, was last at his mother’s door, Jimmy-come-lately, you might say. The reporter found my cousin’s mother in tears, predictably confused and bewildered.
“I never ever said he was a communist,” she said. “Why are they telling lies?”
The plot twist
After listening to her tales of shock the Scotsman’s reporter, conscience duly pricked, closed his notebook and said, “If my editor calls, tell him you were out when I arrived at your door.” And he left.
He never printed a word about my cousin.
But the accusation of Edinburgh harbouring a commie subversive stuck. When my cousin died of cancer in his early fifties, an habitual pipe smoker, he was given a state funeral in Mozambique – a hero of the nation, another industrious, loyal and dedicated Scot garlanded and lauded abroad, not in his homeland.
The Scotsman obituary repeated the claim he was a communist.
The moral of the story
Here is my point germane to the way Scotland’s hopes are derided by a hostile press: It would have been supremely better if the reluctant Scotsman reporter had written a column denouncing all his press “colleagues” who had libelled and defamed my cousin.
That was the honest thing to do. That was the courageous thing to do.
Will a single journalist denounce the outrageous attacks on Scotland and its people?
Can pigs fly?