I don’t usually bother reading David Torrance’s articles these days. I can’t recall him ever saying anything particularly insightful or even witty. If I was to choose a word to describe his writing it would probably be ‘insipid’. He is, of course, a British nationalist. But he doesn’t even manage to achieve the offensiveness – the puerile nastiness – that makes other British nationalist scribblers stand out from the crowd.
In this instance, my customary aversion to the by-line was overcome by mention of the media – a topic which has been increasingly contentious and which seems likely to continue in that vein. Not that I was expecting any surprises from Torrance. We don’t look to him for any questioning of the cosy consensus. This is a man utterly convinced that professional, mainstream, establishment journalists are a special breed. Those outside this exclusive club are mere impertinent upstarts. Those who presume to challenge the pontifications of ‘proper’ journalists are totally beyond the pale. Those who actually do question the cosy consensus are condemned by their non-conformity to be held in profound contempt.
Not that Torrance troubles to make any kind of case. He offers no examples of what he dismisses as, at best, pseudo-journalism. With an arrogance which is all too typical, he simply assumes that we will accept his word that the bias of the mainstream media is only “perceived” while the alternative media is “stridently partisan”. He provides no evidence for the latter. And he blithely ignores all evidence contradicting the former.
Rather than try to make his case with facts and reasoned argument, Torrance resorts to argumentum ad absurdum. Regarding criticism of the BBC in particular, he reduces the debate to two camps – those who “want to make the BBC better resourced and more impartial” and a quite ludicrous caricature which portrays anyone who questions the BBC’s impartiality as some kind of nutjob with a head full of conspiracy theories who wants the BBC to be the broadcasting arm of Scottish nationalism.
To be fair, there is probably no way Torrance might be able to appreciate that critics of the BBC merely want it to stop being the broadcasting arm of British nationalism. Within the cosy consensus of the mainstream media, favouring and promoting the British establishment cannot be ‘bias’. The British state is, from this perspective, as much part of the natural order as the tides. The structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state are no more to be questioned than the cycle of day and night.
Torrance is correct about one thing. There are people who want to destroy the BBC. But he fails to ask the essential question. He doesn’t bother to ask why people in Scotland feel that way about the BBC. He doesn’t ask because he has already decided the answer is that these people are crazy. As they must be. Because they want to destroy the BBC. The circle of his argument is complete. No further thinking required. No deeper analysis.
Not for Mr Torrance the complicating facts and details. Facts such as the documented proof of what can only be called the bias of the BBC during (and since) the first independence referendum campaign. Details such as the many people on the pro-independence side of the constitutional debate who, while being fiercely critical of its conduct, do not wish to see the BBC destroyed but, rather, want to see it restored to its status as a trusted public service broadcaster. A status that has been squandered by the corporation’s management.
Bias is not disproved simply by sneering comments about people referring to instances of bias. Nor is an ethos of partiality discounted simply by labelling accounts of it ‘conspiracy theories’.
I’m pretty sure David Torrance intended his piece to be a stout defence of the British journalist clique he’s part of. It quickly and effortlessly descended into bitter, groundless railing against those he considers unworthy outsiders. It is telling that the only members of this out-group who qualify for some measure of grudging acceptance are individuals who can be relied upon to take their cues from the mainstream media and adopt the narrative of the cosy consensus.
Personally, I am heartened by the whole thing. So long as the likes of David Torrance are attacking the alternative media – however ineffectually – I reckon it is doing its job.Views: 4551
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