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.Views: 4941
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