The Shame of the Press


Mozambique gold miners

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?


In memory of Iain Christie (right) and Samora Machel (left)

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7 Responses to The Shame of the Press

  1. bjsalba says:

    Moridura has just written an item about Alaistair Cooke. I sent him an e-mail on the subject along these lines:

    One of the reasons US Citizens have little understanding of the rest of the world is the lack of coverage of international affairs in any medium that is available to the general public – but is the UK any better these days? Once upon a time, the BBC was an exception with programs like Letter from America. No longer. Journalism at the BBC seems to be a thing of the past. Indeed, far from being prescient or insightful it is sloppy and inaccurate in basic facts.

    I lived for many years in the USA. I was so irritated by bad reporting done repeatedly (asserting that Obama had recalled congress) that I was driven to write an e-mail to an acquaintance who works for the BBC in a desperate effort to get them to stop. The separation of powers is a basic tenet of the US constitution. It is politics USA 101. Apparently the BBC office in Washington does not know that the President of the USA has no authority over Congress – he cannot recall it!

    Where are the likes of AIistair Cooke today? Certainly not working for the BBC.

  2. Grouse Beater says:

    Aye, I still mourn the loss of our own James Cameron.

  3. click here says:

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  4. Grouse Beater says:

    You’re very welcome, Mr Washington Post. How’s Watergate these days?

    At times you’ll spot my barely supressed fury at the way Scotland and its people are treated …. but rest assured I’ll channel it into the sharpest polemic I can muster. I’d like to see the occasional essay published in a US newspaper – as antidote to Obama and Clinton’s loose remarks.

  5. Ken MacColl says:

    Interesting article but the Daily Mail has been a poisonous publication for far more than thirty years

  6. Grouse Beater says:

    You wonder why owners and editors assume they can keep publishing a newspaper that briefs against the very people it’s purports serve.

  7. Phil says:

    I think by now we realise that the “very people” the news outlets “purport to serve” are board members of global corporations and hedge fund shareholders who ultimately own them. I guess all you can do is to keep on writing and all we can do is keep on supporting you. Brought here by THIS.

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