With the General Election only a month away, expect a failing fourth estate that’s entirely reliant on sustaining the British electorate’s loyalty to Westminster’s conventions and structures, to throw copious amounts of shit at her and the SNP.
The recent UK leader’s debate went as many expected, in that it was only mildly unwatchable.
Nicola Sturgeon certainly sounded coherent as her message has been consistent. Also performing well was Natalie Bennett. Mind you, she’s a member of the Green party, who are so nice they’re impossible to dislike, and better yet she was placed next to Nick Clegg, so she couldn’t fail. Once you had gotten over how braw the Welsh woman’s accent was and how Welsh she was, most of what she said seemed very sensible, and she earned bonus points for having immaculately coiffed hair.
Unsurprisingly the blokes were all totally fucking shite. Ed Miliband assumed the transfixed Alex DeLarge stare of terror, like he was watching a puppy being castrated with a hatchet. Disco Call-Me-Dave Cameron did the opposite. He avoided eye contact with everyone and everything, reminding you of a used car salesman who suddenly becomes evasive when customers ask too many questions about reliability. Nick Clegg, surrounded by his more relevant ideologues and superior public speakers, managed to wear an expression that vacillated between suicidal and condemned (pun intended), and last and by every measure least Nigel Farage, who, appropriately, has a mouth like a pair of arse cheeks compressed together. Inappropriately and disdainfully he used it to fire out a stinking heavy turd, plopping HIV stigmatisation into the already festering toilet bowl that is the ‘debate’ on immigration. Not even trying too hard and subsequently failing to be ‘a lad’ could polish that one.
The reaction to Sturgeon’s performance on Twitter was as expected too; those who dislike the SNP looked to discredit what she said, those who plan to vote SNP and or support Scottish independence lauded her performance, and many of those who cannot vote SNP wished they could vote for her and her party, or a UK wide equivalent.
This last point is critical as the SNP offer a centre left curriculum of no austerity, increased public spending, to protect the NHS from free market vultures, nationalisation of rail transport, free university education and an end to the grossly expensive and obsolete trident missile system. The SNP aren’t popular in Scotland just for wanting independence – let’s not forget 55% of Scots voted No – most folk tend to be attracted to the policies of free health care, education, a growing economy (a euphemism for jobs, essentially), a reduction of wasting public money and their votes equalling more of a say over their own future.
Sadly the English don’t have a recognised party that stands for many of these things. They could vote for Labour’s promise to ‘deliver social justice’ which is a euphemism for a slightly diluted version of the draconian Tory austerity plan, or they could vote for the Green kind of austerity which isn’t branded as such, or they might consider voting for the Lib Dems, but then they’ll start pissing themselves laughing. Oh, sorry, I nearly forgot, they could vote for UKIP’s cocktail of watered down fascism mixed with unfettered Thatcherism and obnoxious xenophobia, but you have to be a total cunt to do that, and thankfully most folk aren’t drunk 24/7.
That leaves quite a number of people in England without affiliation, or to put it another way – a political party that aligns with many of their political beliefs. To paraphrase the writer and documentarian Terence Davies ‘fossil monarchies justify their existences solely through tradition’, so we should expect other traditional centres of power and wealth to attempt to do the same by taking advantage of the electorate’s willingness to compromise on their beliefs when voting. That brings us to the media, and the role they’ve played in creating this vacuum in the centre left of UK politics, and the role they’ll play in deciding the upcoming election result.
One of their vested interests, well, their main one actually, is maintaining their status and therefore their access to money. As Thatcherism is essentially a form of grotesque opportunism, it suits politicians and the mainstream media to agree to push minor variations of a set economic and political narrative, say austerity for example, that benefits them and those that can continue to enable them. Once established other policies can be introduced, preferably surreptitiously, that further exploit the populace to benefit the lobbyists, politicians and the media corporations.
Many print journalists rightly recognise that, as corporate lackeys, their relevance (and jobs) is tied to ensuring the electorate adhere to the traditional Unionist voting conventions that uphold this monopoly. For the mainstream media that requires pushing the narrative that for your vote to truly count you must vote for the Tories or Labour, and painting a vote placed outside the middle right section of the electoral spectrum as ‘a waste’. There are exceptions however, in the case of UKIP it’s indulged with a vulgar fascination of what the UK would be like for the elite if a party even further right of Thatcherism was in power.
But the SNP now pose a threat to this misconception of necessary voter compromise. Those in power know that if the SNP succeed in May, and force Labour towards the centre left on certain issues in a confidence and supply arrangement, then the illusion of choice and how Westminster and its co-dependents have disingenuously wielded it to their advantage will start to come under serious scrutiny. Questions will continue to be asked throughout the UK as to whether the idea of maintaining a Union of four countries under the umbrella of a centralised government is desirable, viable, or democratic, “Broken Britain”, anyone? Most worryingly for the Unionists that will likely involve those in England asking how and why Nationalist parties, who only stand candidates in one of the UK’s four countries, have come to be the only ones that offer a manifesto of predominantly centre left policies.
Irrespective of this the panic among journalists and national media outlets is understandable. Circulation of all the national broadsheets and red tops is rapidly declining and better yet they’ve taken a precipitous dip, particularly in the last five years. What does this mean? To survive, they need to maintain revenue streams through advertising, and with each passing day more of their revenue is generated through online hits, rather than copy sales.
The internet is where most people choose to consume the news, as it allows them to do so entirely on their terms, and the way news is spread and disseminated has unalterably changed since the introduction of social media. Papers have been forced to fight on a terrain, or rather a platform, in which they’re no longer guaranteed to be the first or well sourced. The net’s also awash with independent political blogs (okay, mine doesn’t count, as nobody reads it), and some of these blogs focus on media incompetence, inaccuracies and unravelling their fabrications.
So, under threat from all sides, desperate times call for desperate lies.
Smears are nothing new. The Hillsborough disaster was used to smear Liverpool fans as hooligans, partly you suspect as the city of Liverpool vehemently opposed Thatcher’s managed decline. Most papers printed the ghastly accusations but retracted the story the following day, except The Sun newspaper, then ran by uber cunt and Nigel Farage antecedent Kelvin McKenzie, who stood by ‘The Truth’ story. It’s taken twenty-five years of campaigning by the victim’s families, and two government enquires for the original allegations to be completely disproven, and even then, there are still those who believe the original headline. Years later The Sun newspaper, again, opted for the headline ‘Bonkers Bruno’, after former boxer Frank Bruno was sectioned. Unlike ‘The Truth’ The Sun quickly retracted the headline, but like ‘The Truth’ the damage had been done, they’d stigmatised mental health problems in the minds of many of their impressionable readers.
A more relevant and contemporary example was the Daily Mail’s attack on Ed Miliband’s dad, which was very similar in style and substance (or lack of) to the one inflicted upon Nicola Sturgeon. It was claimed Ralph Miliband was a commie who ‘hated Britain’, and why not? Despite being in opposition to a deeply unpopular coalition government, Labour still can’t get a projected majority or anything more than a marginal lead in the polls this close to an election. The Westminster conglomerate, now under duress, is only as strong as its opposition is electable. The Labour party leadership has sold out, relinquishing any ethical and progressive advantages the party once stood for, purely for self-interest. That makes it easier for the right wing media to run a campaign in an effort to secure a Tory majority, which would lock the SNP out of directly dictating policy. That’ll ensure the status-quo, in the short term at least. And failing that, in the likely event that neither Labour nor the Tories win enough seats to form a majority, in the constitutional vacuum that occurs post-election, the idea of the Labour party working with the SNP to form a working government will have been thoroughly demonised as an undemocratic concession that’s a ‘threat to (Thatcherite) Britain’, a process which is outlined in more detail here.
Ed Miliband was rightly outraged when his father’s name was besmirched, and unable to ratify the claim, a retraction was printed. Yet, in the ultimate hypocrisy, Miliband was all too happy to use the Telegraph’s smear on Sturgeon when it suited his political interests. When the chips are really down, and the Westminster oligarchy is to be protected, birds of a feather will, you know, shit on you from a great height.
The incessant media scrum and its interference with the investigation into the Soham murders, phone hacking, rife in many papers, including that of a murder victim that perverted an active police investigation, and the recent HSBC scandal, are highlights that confirm integrity and thoroughness are no longer necessary requirements at the pinnacle of professional journalism.
I’ve never liked Peter Oborne’s politics, but he deserves immense credit for taking a hard line in quitting the Telegraph, and then publicly exposing the dishonest machinations that caused the philosophical changes to its editorial direction. It confirmed what we all suspected, that faced with their new reality of diminished importance, a national newspaper chose to suppress the HSBC story to placate and protect the image of its ‘business partners’ who would’ve been implicated, rather than maintain its journalistic duty to faithfully report its findings to its readership and the public.
Up here in Scotland we know the score, the game is up, and the circulations of the Scottish Nationals have plummeted after the mudslinging used by the Unionist supporting papers to discredit the case for independence. The case for Independence had its strengths and its flaws, but very little attention was paid to analysing them, and for good reason.
Corporate media organisations still have one last advantage in their favour – all stories from the mainstream media are instantly reported by other news outlets, and in between the time the claims within them are refuted or proven, the initial report can still be presented as possibly true. The skill in executing a successful smear is evading the release of evidence when challenged, keeping the artifice of the original fabrication intact for as long as possible. Simon Johnson of the Daily Telegraph had a story he wanted to share, and decided to follow this formula, so, how did it go?
The initial article was light on detail, or source material, and contravenes what the headline implicitly states, but that doesn’t make for a good SNP trashing headline, does it? ‘Nicola Sturgeon may or may have said something along the lines of’ wouldn’t be a convincing or memorable headline. You also have to question the immaculately coincidental timing of the article. The meeting between Nicola Sturgeon and the French ambassador took place in February, yet the story was only released into the public domain the day after Nicola Sturgeon did well in a national televised debate which saw the popularity of her and her party rise.
Sturgeon denied the quotes attributed to her publicly, and through Twitter no less, and why not? It allows her to respond directly to her accuser:
So, at this point, we ask, who’s telling the truth? Putting aside any political preferences, given the Telegraphs past form and current reputation you’d say Sturgeon, but it’s not certain. Is it? The evidence still hadn’t been presented.
And because it hadn’t, the mainstream media outlets, knowing it’s come from one of their own, could run the headline without checking. It lays the foundations for articles like this to be written and it provided an opportunity for members of the Westminster conglomerate to pile on:
When the French consol-general and the French ambassador confirm Nicola Sturgeon’s version of events, it no longer seems to matter. The initial story is out there, and in the news cycle, what’s reported first tends to resonate. It’s not until James Cook of the BBC and a few others actually ask for direct quotes, and denials, that the focus shifts from what Sturgeon may have said, to why this memo was leaked, who leaked it, and whether it even exists at all:
Instead of offering a retraction, Simon Johnson adds the relevant excerpts of the memo to his article. This breeds new life into the fiction, with the pretence of revelation. The content is banal and the author of it even doubts the accuracy of what Sturgeon is alleged to have said. Those entrenched in their dislike for the SNP, and the threat they represent, continue to believe it, as it still isn’t definitive proof of anything. It’s basically still one person’s word, or interpretation, against the word of those who deny it.
So, just to recap, we had a journalist running a headline smear based on a document which is nothing more than an indirect highly speculative fourth hand account. Before publishing Johnson didn’t bother to ask those in attendance to corroborate whether it may or may not be true, perhaps he could’ve gotten conflicting reports had he done so and strengthened the story? Perhaps all the denials would’ve forced him to re-think its veracity? Yet the Telegraph ploughed ahead and published the piece and several follow up opinion pieces presuming its content to be factual despite no concrete evidence to suggest that it was. It screams of an orchestrated effort to create news to suit the paper’s overarching agenda, that being maintaining the political landscape of union, which likely benefits the Telegraph’s financial backers and possibly some of its dwindling core readership.
Even better was to come. It turns out the leak came from the Scottish Office, which is unsurprising given the idiot in charge, and here he is whining like a little bitch because he’s getting his arse kicked by one Nicola Sturgeon in a one-on-one debate…mmmmm…the plot thickens:
Nicola Sturgeon asked for an enquiry, which was immediately granted – hardly the actions of someone who’s guilty – and called for the original article to be updated, with hers and the French denials included. Here we have a politician telling a newspaper how it should operate:
And people wonder why newspapers are dying? It’s for this very reason. They’re lying and or at best not corroborating stories. In this case the story was refuted within hours by all those involved and in Nicola Sturgeon’s case through Twitter, and many of the platform’s users also instantaneously asked for evidence of the claim. Think about that, this couldn’t have happened even ten years ago. When strong evidence wasn’t forthcoming, well, you could understand the mass scepticism and cynicism of the Telegraph’s motives. And when the source evidence was presented very few were impressed with it.
While those in the grip of ideology will believe what suits them, most of us like honesty and fair play, and we don’t like to be made to feel like mugs. Due to their contemptuous behaviour and the increasing desperation that drives it, most no longer have any confidence in print journalism or journalists.
Thankfully social media gives people a level playing field to refute and challenge claims in real time, and to figure out which sources of news are trustworthy and which aren’t. It castrates an essential ingredient of the smear journalism and lazy journalism of the past, the inability to contest a story. Even so, getting your message out first, true or otherwise, is still better than nothing. And with a month still to go, expect to see more of it.
Compounding matters is that, whatever you believe, this story has very little value. Anyone with even a passing interest in politics could conceive that in the event Labour aren’t willing to do any deal with the SNP, either in a coalition or by confidence and supply, being in opposition to a Tory government, likely another centre right coalition, could be good for the SNP’s long term aim of gaining independence. The Tories are only marginally more popular in Scotland than Adolf Hitler is in Jerusalem, or Nick Griffin is anywhere.
Thing is, there are better ways of the SNP achieving independence. Blunting Tory austerity with devolved powers from Holyrood will still hurt Scotland more than a Westminster pact with Labour would. Finding a positive to a Tory win a month from now would be making the best out of a bad situation, anyone who believes it to be the party’s preference is a loon or a fantasist like Alan Cochrane.
It’s funny, it seems like eons ago, but the Union was saved last September. After their defeat in the referendum, instead of moping, the SNP moved on to the next target, meanwhile the No campaign’s Unionist conglomerate continue to be panicked. Why? It’s not just about Scottish independence any more. The motivation for change wasn’t defeated, it was emboldened and it’s spreading, and the main Unionist medium for attacking that movement is fast becoming obsolete and has moved into a realm where its message will be perpetually challenged. More people are politically engaged and they now have the tools to be properly informed, and there’s nothing that can change that.
And when people look, they see that the lying, lazy and unethical journalism that pervades the commercial media offers nothing to the democratic process or the reasoned debate that should surround it. And as a result these ‘institutions’ are dying a slow and deservedly painful death. So the question is – what now? Well, I’ll leave you with this piece of emphatic advice from Captain Kirk: