Never mind the bias, feel the betrayal

Kevin McKenna writes eloquently and passionately in defence of the “old industry which shone a light on apartheid”. He urges us to accept the inherent pro-British establishment bias of the mainstream press as a price worth paying for the “public service” the print media provides in affording a platform to carefully vetted dissident voices such as his own.

He points to the economic contribution of this “old industry” in a plea regrettably reminiscent of the ‘threat to jobs and economic stability’ line used to fend off challenges to the established economic and political order.

But it’s not really bias that’s the problem. People on the pro-independence side of the issue do complain about bias. But what Kevin McKenna misses is the fact that, in the context the constitutional debate, the word “bias” has come to be a form of shorthand, a catch-all term that is handy for those reaching for ways of expressing their disappointment and anger.

During the first referendum campaign, and since, what turned people against the mainstream media was not the bias that they had become accustomed to over decades. What irked people was the fact that the press failed in the very role that Kevin McKenna insists we should most value it for.

Where was the valiant vanguard of fearless journalists who “exposed the thalidomide scandal continues to bring down dodgy governments, expose corrupt police forces and name corporate tax avoiders”? In the first referendum campaign, they were nowhere to be found.

Where was the challenge to established power? Where was the questioning of authority? Where in the mainstream media were the deceits, distortions and downright dishonesty of the anti-independence campaign being exposed? Where was the castigation of Project Fear?

Where was the scrutiny of the claims and assertions being made by the British establishment? Where was the light being shone on the falsehoods and fearmongering?

Kevin McKenna has it wrong. The mainstream press is not reviled for its bias. It is despised for its failure. It can be biased and still serve democracy. But it cannot fail in its duty to inform and analyse and explain and still claim respect as a valuable adjunct to the democratic process.

Newspapers can favour a particular political agenda within the democratic process without significant detriment to that process. But when the mainstream media sets itself against the democratic process by becoming complicit in an effort to deceive and intimidate voters, as opposed to holding to account those making this effort, then it has not only failed in the role in which Kevin McKenna takes such pride, it has utterly betrayed that role.

The British media is widely detested in Scotland, not because it is biased, but because it turned its back on its own principles, its own purpose, and its own professional codes – not to mention turning its back on the people of Scotland. We are not particularly bothered by bias. We are justifiably angered by betrayal.

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7 thoughts on “Never mind the bias, feel the betrayal

  1. nick

    The media were there in the Indy ref doing their job. But the fact that the pro Indy side were the ones who, by the nature of the referendum, had to argue against the status quo so it was they who made the most assertions that required scrutiny. Scrutiny is something the SNP have never liked to be on the receiving end of. So the reason the pro Indy side hate the media is that the media seemed to be constantly scrutinising and picking apart the pro Indy claims and assertions, which we have seen since the referendum they were quite correct to do, think Indy dividend for example. So in short, get over yourself!

    1. Peter A Bell

      Sadly, this comment merely confirms my point. Not only was there a total failure to scrutinise the “arguments” being put forward by the campaign to deny the sovereignty of Scotland’s people, British nationalist dogma maintains that this was precisely as it should be. Apparently, it is quite ridiculous to so much as suggest that claims made by the British state might should be questioned.

      The British media failed us. Of that there is no doubt. in terms of public responsibility and professional standards, the press failed abysmally. But in terms of service to the ruling elites of the British state, they did their duty. And for the British nationalist, that trumps everything.

      1. nick

        No where in my comment did I say claims and assertions by the pro UK side should not be scrutinised.

        Your comment highlights my point perfectly, you don’t like criticism.

        All comments and assertions from any political party should be scrutinised, I was satisfied during the indyref that there was independent scrutiny and not just by mainstream media, as I don’t generally rely on mainstream media for in-depth or detailed information about anything.

        Your thinking is a classic trait of nationalism, you polarise every argument into extremes that suit your current beliefs.

        If I were a British nationalist I would be anti-EU wouldn’t I? Maybe the most accurate label you could give me, although I don’t like labels, is pro union, I’m pro the UK union and I’m pro European Union. What label best suits you? Are you supporting the EU, which would make you a unionist?

  2. Kevin

    Brilliant, Peter; elegant, eloquent and worthy of many more comments both good and, well (keep taking the pills,’nick’)…

    Keep this stuff coming, Peter.

  3. Connor McEwen

    Nick???
    Sitting on the same tank as First Minister Ruthie who got less votes than that Nicola Sturgeon lassie

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