It is almost worth wading through Alex Massie’s woeful rehashing of threadbare Better Together/Project Fear propaganda to find this one dull glint of insight.
“Last time, the burden of proof lay heavily upon the nationalists; in a second referendum Britain will have to make an argument for its future too.”
Much as this might suggest that Mr Massie has enjoyed some sort of low-level epiphany regarding the nature of the constitutional debate in Scotland, even this statement of the barely less than obvious serves only to remind us of how the British media and those who suck at its teat so abysmally failed Scotland during the first referendum campaign. And how, being incapable of acknowledging that failure, they continue to let us down. They persist in past failings with no more than the occasional hint that they might be touched by some fleeting discomfort prompted by the unwelcome intrusion of a new political reality into their mercenary musings around a cosy consensus that hasn’t changed noticeably in a decade.
The past and continuing failure of the media is amply illustrated by the fact that it doesn’t even occur to Alex Massie to question the assertion that “the burden of proof lay heavily upon the nationalists”. He, and the vast majority of colleagues, failed to question that assertion during the first independence referendum campaign. With precious few exceptions, they still don’t question it.
Even Massie’s choice of words is mealy-mouthed and self-serving. It would be more true to say that, as far as the British media was concerned, the burden of proof lay, not just “heavily” on those arguing for the restoration of Scotland’s rightful constitutional status, but exclusively on them. There was absolutely no meaningful scrutiny of the anti-independence case. None!
It was, of course, entirely proper that the arguments advanced by the SNP and others should be be properly examined. But there were two sides to the debate. There were two choices being put to the people of Scotland. There were two prospectuses being offered. Only one of these was ever examined. While it would be audacious to pretend that the examination of the Yes prospectus was in any sense “proper”, it would be downright disingenuous to claim that there was any serious examination whatever of the prospectus being proffered by the British sate. Given what we now know about the utter worthlessness of that prospectus and the despicably dishonest manner in which it was sold, the scale of the media’s failure to challenge established power remains the Serengeti’s-worth of elephants trampling through the living-room of Scottish politics.
By uncritically accepting the Union as the entirely satisfactory standard against which all other options had to be measured, journalists were not doing their job. By misrepresenting those other options, whether through malice or indolence, they were colluding in the British establishment’s propaganda campaign. Simply by dint of their asymmetric approach to examining the issue, journalists were, wittingly or otherwise, aiding and abetting the effort to manipulate perceptions of the choices. By taking as a given the fundamental assumptions of the ‘Better Together’ slogan, they were facilitating Project Fear.
It is no exaggeration whatever to say that the British media has been guilty of doing a serious disservice to a democratic system which relies for its proper functioning on the ability of the electorate to make informed choices.
Alex Massie belatedly – and, one suspects, rather grudgingly – allows that “Britain will have to make an argument for its future too”. Is there any reason to suppose that those who so appallingly failed us in the first referendum campaign can be relied upon to rigorously scrutinise that argument any more than we can depend on them to offer an honest representation and/or a fair assessment of the case for independence?
Alex Massie gives us no cause for hope.Views: 2006
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