By Alan Knight
The allegations of sexual misconduct levelled against Alex Salmond have spawned eight consecutive days of coverage. The lynch-mob has yet to disperse as we enter the second weekend since the story broke.
It began with a Daily Record tweet …
We were first told Salmond had been accused of sexual assault. That became sexual abuse, before being downgraded to harrassment and finally misconduct. To be honest it doesn’t really matter what Salmond has been accused of, the media has decided his character is to be assassinated anyway. BBC Scotland has even compared the former First Minister to Harvey Weinstein. Harvey Weinstein for goodness sake!
“The case against Alex Salmond …” says Glenn Campbell. Case? what case? All we have are unspecified allegations.
Having established there was a ‘case’, there then came the ‘evidence’. Lurid headlines have peppered the front pages of newspapers. Equally lurid news reports have appeared on broadcast media. Reporting Scotland ran the same graphic of a Daily Record front page three days running. That’s not a public service, that’s a public prosecution.
If you didn’t know better you’d think Alex Salmond had already been found guilty such has been the hysterical nature of the coverage. If Scotland’s media was a courtroom, there would only be the prosecution … lengthy diatribes against the accused would be briefly interrupted by a judge reminding the jury that said accused denied the charges … then it would be back to the prosecution. It’s been relentless.
Some people appear to have momentarily lost their grip on reality. Respected pundits opine on the issue with little or no regard for the known facts. There’s a very clear political-tribalism in much of the output. Old grudges are being settled. Some of it is borderline defamatory.
We’ve now moved from the allegations themselves to … well whatever mud Unionist politicians want to throw. Sturgeon should throw Salmond out of the party, they demand … so it’s headlined.
Sturgeon is covering something up, they claim … so it too is promoted.
Even the decision by Alex Salmond to seek help to fund his request for a Judicial Review has been presented as something improper. Listen to the bizarre question from Nick Eardley to Nicola Sturgeon then ask yourself what Salmond’s apparent ‘seniority’ has to do with his crowdfunding appeal?
According to one SNP MP, some hacks have been phoning up colleagues and other members asking if they had contributed to Salmond’s funding appeal. It’s smacks of McCarthyism … “Did you donate or have you ever donated to a Nat Crowdfunding appeal?”
The resource invested in its coverage of the Salmond allegations by BBC Scotland has been huge. Last week they despatched Glenn Campbel to Arran to ask Nicola Sturgeon if she was conducting a witchhunt against her former mentor. The trip was a ruse to run the story again on Reporting Scotland that evening. ‘Sturgeon denies witchhunt’ … yelped the manipulative weasel Campbell.
This is a station that has steadfastly refused to confront Ruth Davidson on a string of controversial issues including xenophobia, racism and bigotry.
Her contradictory statements on tax rises and her broken shipbuilding pledges are deemed equally unimportant by the British state broadcaster.
By Wedneaday the Salmond narrative had moved on again. The SNP were apparently engaged in a civil war.
Watch the clip below and marvel at the way David Clegg is invited to agree with the BBC presenter who asks if the is now “open warfare” between Salmond and Sturgeon.
Even worse was this short recording broadcast on Friday’s Good Morning Scotland. This, believe it or not, is what passes for impartial news coverage.
And here again we see the difference in the way the ‘Scottish’ media treats its most senior British Nationalist politician compared with the most senior Scottish Nationalist politician. Only last month some of Ruth Davidson’s own MPs were ridiculing the idea she had authority over them. Two of them appeard on Good Morning Scotland and basically laughed at the suggestion they had to seek approval from Ruth before voting on Brexit.
That’s a genuine, bona-fide split. When her own MPs literally laughed at suggestions she has any influence on them, Ruth Davidson’s lack of authorty was laid bare. Yet there were no sensational headlines in Scotland’s papers. BBC Scotland didn’t despatch a reporter to confront Davidson nor was Scotland’s print media pushing headlines proclaiming a Civil War.
Media coverage of the Salmond allegations is character assassination masquerading as news. It’s politically motivated hackery of the worst kind. It’s polished up to look like genuine ethical journalism by the slick actors at BBC Scotland.
But what if the police deem there is no case to pursue? Then what? Salmond’s character is already stained. There’s hardly a person in Scotland who hasn’t encountered an aspect of this sustained ‘trial by media’ coverage. Alex Salmond has already been sentenced in the court of Scottish journalism – and there’s no appeal.
On Newsdrive on Thursday I overheard BBC Scotland presenter Bill Whiteford refer to the Michelle Thomson episode. Whiteford raised it again on Saturday’s Good Morning Scotland in order to imply Salmond had taken a swipe at Nicola Sturgeon. What Whiteford failed to mention was that the kangeroo court that had passed sentence on an innocent Michelle Thomson’s career was headed by BBC Scotland. It was Whiteford and his colleagues that targeted an innocent woman.
And they’ve done it again. Newspapers, for all their shrill headlines, don’t have the influence and penetration they once enjoyed. If the public is to be steered then only the BBC has the authority and reach to do it.
It’s led from the front since the Daily Record broke the story. And there’s every indication that it won’t let up. It’s all but guaranteed the Salmond story will feature on Good Morning Sctland this weekend and guest pundits will be chosen from the same media sector that’s now claiming an SNP civil war.
As they jibber and jabber, pontificate and judge, suggest and imply … just remember in the middle of this, lost in a toxic soup seasoned with innuendo, is a man who is – as yet – guilty of nothing at all.
Complaints have been lodged by two women, details of which have been passed to the police. That’s all anybody knows. But the frothing kangeroo court rabidly bounces along.
Alan Knight is a filmmaker who produced the documentary film ‘London Calling’ which examined the BBC’s coverage of the 2014 independence referendum. You can watch the documentary here.
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