Scotland’s press is chronically unable to raise its intellectual capacity above click-bait politics. They are so bad, so blatantly clumsy at their job they classify whistle-blowers as conspiracy theorists to be ignored while warning us of Russian conspiracies all around us. Scotland must remain ‘owned’, politically immature, any movement to greater democracy belittled and undermined. And yet we need journalists. They expose corruption, liars and charlatans. The press can achieve a great deal more than any blogger’s site.
We need the best to follow our fine literary heritage, instead we get the dull, the lazy, the fat, the boozer and the guy who takes MI5’s shilling.
If the press was neutral and fair-minded it would exhort opposition parties to stop playing silly buggers, and join forces with the elected administration to create a just society. They won’t, of course, because anything that makes Scotland a better place puts another nail in the coffin of a mortally disunited United Kingdom and so many see London as the career prize. Scotland is a province, its mentality provincial.
Mark Twain said that “it is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them.” That maxim sums up Scotland’s right-wing newspapers, with the exception of the small-circulation National, the only one to support self-governance thought not without caveat.
The price of integrity
Scotland’s journalists argue they are only doing their job. But whose job is it they are doing? Scotland’s press speaks on behalf of Westminster orthodoxy, invariably conformist, authoritarian, and neo-liberal.
Subordination to the prevailing orthodoxy has consequences. It means you turn a blind eye to injustice. For example, the press condones brutal changes in Britain’s “over-stressed” welfare system. Meanwhile, people are committing suicide, the basis of their support withdrawn.
Scotland’s NHS is in a decent state but the Scottish press won’t draw attention to it in case it is seen praising the SNP. Instead, it publishes Tory and Labour press releases full of phony wailing and gnashing of teeth over a phantom SHS ‘crisis’.
In spite of all their claims to the contrary, the Scottish press do not hold to account Westminster’s unacceptable interventionism in Scotland’s affairs. They encourage colonialism. They are quick to belittle SNP’s attempts to halt that interference, or alleviate excessive policies unwanted by the people of Scotland.
A free press
A free press is an independent press. Scotland’s press is not independent.
That alone determines how it can respond to rights and wrongs. A truly independent press isn’t subordinate to power and authority. And that includes BBC Scotland’s news department, filled with ex-Scottish newspaper journalists and governed by BBC London.
Commentators who think the BBC is a hotbed of radicals and anarchists are havering. The corporation is charged with serving the United Kingdom as a single entity. How sad to learn the BBC was shaped by a Scotsman on the make, John Reith, later Lord Reith, a man desperately keen to be invited to high office by Churchill. Like Gordon Brown also a son of the manse, Reith found it difficult to relate to people. He moulded the BBC in his own image, aloof, authoritarian and pro-establishment. It remains that way with only a shake up of its moral ethics in these last years.
The corporation decided in the late Eighties news was a bigger seller than drama and shifted its budgets to accommodate that policy. The BBC, the repository of ‘proven’ journalists, is obliged to serve the UK as a single entity. It says so in its Charter. You don’t have to read it, you need only read what John Reith said: “If the BBC is for the people, and the government is for the people, it follows that the BBC is for the government”.
BBC Scotland recruits its reporters and its daily news from UK-sympathetic newspapers. Hard to see how the average Scot can get to the truth when so much is a hurdle to it.
If the Scottish press and its broadcasting outlets BBC and STV had any real integrity, any scruples, beyond keeping an eye on their contracts and salaries and advertisers happy, they would jettison Westminster power.
If Scotland’s press want to help create a free, democratic society it better begin participating now before their newspapers collapse for lack of readers, held in contempt, by the populace, and ultimately supplanted by the Internet.
Time and tolerance are running out.
NOTE This is a short companion piece to ‘The Shame of the Press’: https://wp.me/p4fd9j-dC