BBC’s James Cook lost me at hello.
When the BBC and Fraser Nelson editor of the Spectator gang up on the common man’s voice expressed in social media you know the British Establishment is truly rattled.
It all began with a bogus memorandum allegedly ‘leaked’ from the Scottish office slyly implying Nicola Sturgeon was actually head-over-heels in love with the Conservative party all the while she was romancing the Labour party. The strumpet! The wench!
The French ambassador was cast as pimp, introducing the two by word of mouth, a terrible social disease in itself.
Brat Boy, caped crusader
In leapt BBC Scotland’s redoubtable reporter at large, James Cook, the new boy on the block, the rash, brash, print in a flash Mike Savage of investigative literature, no relation to Captain Cook but just as daring, ready to circumnavigate the woman who had caught the affection of the British people simply by behaving in an uncomplicated, straight-forward honest manner.
Sensing the scoop of his BBC tenure if not his career he shot off to George Square in Glasgow to confront Sturgeon as she was about to give a speech to a few thousand people who think nuclear war might end civilisation as we know it. Had she been about to enter her kitchen to peel some tatties for dinner or about to enter the toilet, Cook was determinedly capable of popping his head out the pan (in both cases) microphone in hand, demanding an interview ‘in the national interest’.
The interrogative interview
Cook was balls high. You could imagine him dragging his flustered cameraman on the end of a microphone cable from a roving broadcaster’s truck, screaming down the line to his producer at BBC Pacific Quay headquarters to ‘get the furgin’ item on the main news now! Now! This is hot, hot, hot!” Like the over-ambitious, ruthless reporter in Bruce Willis action movie Diehard who pushes his way through the crowd past the police barrier, Cook was determined to place himself front and centre of the issue.
With smirk of a man who had just pinched somebody’s winning lottery ticket he confronted Sturgeon. “Was it true she had slept with the French consul general?” actually sounded like, “Is it true you’d rather the Tory party stayed in power?” Sturgeon denied it outright, pointed out the memorandum was an obvious fake, and mentioned the French ambassador and the French consul general also denied its contents were true.
But Cook was not taking ‘bug off, stupid bampot’ for an answer. He had after all, elbowed people aside to reach Sturgeon, forgotten his obligatory reporter’s pencil behind an ear, and forgone breakfast to get the story onto the front page. “But I have heard senior SNP executives say they would prefer the Tories get back in power! Does that not suit the SNP’s wider purpose?” he asked, refusing to name names when challenged.
After the umpteenth question, and a fast wearying Sturgeon unsure if Cook understood the term, ‘It’s a fit up, fat face,’ Cook resorted to his trump card. He claimed he had seen the memorandum. Well, I have seen the moon but cannot claim it is made of cheese.
Cook was suggesting Sturgeon might just be guilty by association.
A worldwide scoop – NOT
The interview was broadcast all over the planet. Loudly. Repeated every ten minutes. Cook’s face, his insistent questioning, was fed into every household that held a flat screen logged onto a news channel. Down-and-outs on Skid Row watched it on the television store across the street from their cardboard box, a bored dog asleep by their side, the fading Referendum ‘No Thanks’ sticker on its forehead probably the reason for an empty begging bowl.
The day before Nicola Sturgeon was the doyen of the British public, a refreshing drink in comparison to all those stale male ales. Today she was an apple charlotte, a harlot in Cockney parlance.
Supporters of Scotland’s separation from the toffs of Pinstripe Palace, City of London, were furious. The British Establishment had given Sturgeon less than twenty-four hours fame. It was beyond endurance to countenance the thought an SNP politician might attract anything close to goodwill from the British public. She had to be felled, and in double-quick time.
Plans formulated prior to the General Election for use in extremis were brought forward in a hurry, plans to be activated only in the event of Alex Salmond declaring Unilateral Declaration of Independence, or Mel Gibson announcing his next production was to be Mad Mac – Son of Braveheart.
The file marked ‘Bludgeon Sturgeon’ jumped to the front of the list, marshalled into action with undue haste. Those who thought Scotland still a country with its own history and some dignity kicked their television sets and collapsed on the floor chewing carpet at the sight of innocent sweet ‘Nicola’ harassed by a podgy-faced man in the street. Social websites swelled with fury, rebuke, and fierce denunciation. Unionists saw a giant capercaillie about to explode filled with a million maggots.
James Cook mortified
His exclusive downgraded, Cook spat out his BBC canteen bacon roll and tweeted:
“What an extraordinary level of vicious abuse I have received today for simply reporting the news. Is this the country we want folks? Is it?”
At least he acknowledged Scotland was a country.
Touchy reporter shows hurt but no evidence
No abusive comments were quoted and none could be found. If one had appeared some moderator somewhere had zapped it before it saw the oxygen of publicity. Like the glaring absence of any evidence authenticating the ‘leaked’ memorandum, Cook produced no evidence to support his claim of unwarranted ego bruising.
Fine for a BBC reporter to confront his First Minster al fresco with a fabrication and then insinuate there might be some truth in it, not good for Scots to tell him to take a hike. The real news Cook missed was Scotland asserting itself.
The flaw in Cook’s response was to describe what he brought back to base as ‘news.’
It was scurrilous innuendo and smear. Had he begun his questioning of Sturgeon with, “What have you to say in answer to the bogus memorandum everybody is talking about?” it might have constituted reporting from sound research and intelligence. But he did not. He pushed a non-story received third-hand. Ambition and hubris is his name.
His disappointment not to have attracted the same affection as Sturgeon was ameliorated somewhat by many a mention in the press, where the truth was stuck in the waste bin in preference to printing a lie. The Right-wing Telegraph was the first to print the smear and the last to keep it on its front page. No apology was forthcoming. A job awaits Cook at the Torygraph should he ever tire of BBC badinage and baggage.
The ugly face of Unionist leaders
Internet protest at the way Sturgeon was handled spilled over into the press. ‘This is the ugly face of Scottish nationalism’ they averred, oblivious that they were promulgating the horrific face of English nationalism that stifles dissent and steps on progressive ideals.
To lingering disgrace Cameron talked of the smear as fact, Miliband too. If a smear suits a politician’s ambitions it is not a smear. It is legitimate criticism. The British government, like many another authoritarian administration worldwide, hates protest in any form. If it could pass a bill outlawing the congregation of more than three aphids per rose it would enact the Bill.
Establishment lickers get scribbling.
First out the gate was that more English than the English, Scottish-born hack, Fraser Nelson, editor of the sniffy Spectator, a thin monthly magazine of mainly Right is always right articles, plus a few decent art reviews. It is wholly English in orientation.
A pupil of Dollar Academy (how apt) with a ‘Scots’ accent that pronounces ‘parliament‘ as if a seventeenth century fop sucking a gob stopper – power-lay-a-mint – Nelson has a long history of belittling Scotland’s aspirations and its political parties, as a dowager might scorn a butler for serving jam on toast rather than jam with toast. The Jocks are uneducated. They do not know their place. He feels he can teach them to sit and beg.
As Cook is unrelated to Captain Cook, so Fraser Nelson is unrelated to Lord Nelson. But in his love for the English class system he is a kind of Half-Nelson.
Filled with righteous colonial nationalism Half-Nelson got into his stride in a leader:
“To nationalist zealots, a BBC journalist asking challenging questions of the Dear Leader is inherently reprehensible and demonstrates a collapse of journalistic standards.”
Note use of the combination of ‘nationalist’ with ‘zealot, and the word ‘challenging’ dispersed as if a friendly game of tennis.
“Today, even serious SNP-sympathising commentators have been demanding that the Telegraph apologises for revealing a leaked memo, the temperature does rise during elections, but things get ugliest when nationalism is involved.”
The fact that the dishonest editor of the Telegraph did not check if the memorandum was genuine, or bother to call Nicola Sturgeon to state her case before he published it, is utterly reprehensible, but for Half-Nelson he was merely doing his job – telling lies. Next came a slur on two communities.
“Last week, I met a journalist who had worked in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and he told me it was polite and civilised compared to his experience with the Scottish nationalists.”
‘Polite and courteous’ in the Irish Troubles is the equivalent of saying Nagasaki was humanitarian aid dispensed by the Pentagon. The Northern Ireland journalist is not named, nothing of his supposed remarks quoted; all we get is Half-Nelson’s disgust. Having insulted the Irish and the SNP he changes gear to make a patronising aside.
” The SNP leadership are, in my experience, refreshingly open-minded, good-humoured and intelligent. But…”
Where there’s a ‘but’ there’s a bombshell
“The problem with nationalisms [sic] as a creed is that it attracts, as its followers, an angry mob – in the SNP’s case, a digital lynch mob. I suspect we’ll hear a lot more from them before this campaign is out.“
Comparison with the Klu Klux Clan is Half-Nelson’s idea of calm and collected reason. No mention of Westminster’s angry mob of nationalists, nor Treasury nationalists, nor does he allude to his own vehement adoration of England’s neo-nationalist power. If I was Half-Nelson believing his very life in jeopardy I’d be boarding up the Spectator’s office windows and doors, hiring G4S security, and taking a long holiday abroad. He might use the time to assess why the quality of Spectator articles has plummeted in his tenure, columnists departed in disgust.
BBC Scotland bares its teeth
It was a BBC Scotland News executive’s turn to twist the knife, betraying what it really feels about Scotland’s mass movement for social change. An executive remonstrated with internet commentators to leave his reporters in peace. He repeated the calumny and smear iterated by Half-Nelson. Readers will be familiar with the tired tactic without repetition here. What the BBC was saying is, when it comes to referendum and elections they must be allowed to get on with the job of undermining the result.
An obvious attempt to tarnish the reputation and popularity of Scotland’s First Minster threw up all the usual suspects. The fiasco was summed up by Westminster’s Secretary of State Without Entitlement, Alistair Carmichael: “These things happen.”
Carmichael gives rise to a new sort of contradiction, the carefully planned ‘accident’.
Had supporters of Scotland’s destiny not taken to the internet in thousands that smear might have stuck. In Diehard the vainglorious reporter confronts Bruce Willis in the movie’s coda to ask him a stupid question … and promptly gets slugged. Cook got a smile.
We live in a climate devoid of irony.