by Paul Kavanagh
Although in Scotland children have returned to school from their summer holidays, in the remainder of Europe the holiday season remains in full swing. Oblivious to the impending disaster of financial collapse, news that the world is about to end (again) or the complete loss of what little faith most of us had left in British institutions, our political masters and their friends in the media establishment are all off sunning themselves somewhere.
Probably somewhere facing impending financial ruin, but that’s never got in the way of enjoying a lovely glass of chianti with some homemade bread and olive oil. Riots just add to the rustic charm when you’re a Middle Class Metropolitan on your hols. “Darling I bought some absolutely exquisite sun dried tomatoes, hand looted by an old peasant woman from a supermarket just down from the piazza.”
With a shortage of what are politely termed ‘hard news stories’ – that’s some politician’s office issuing a press release to you and me – it’s what the media call the silly season, although the rest of us would be hard pressed to tell the difference.
This week we’ve had the news that ‘scientists’ tell us that aliens might wipe out humanity because we’re responsible for global warming and climate change. After all if you’d booked a package holiday in Tenerife and traipsed there all the way from the Andromeda Galaxy only to find that the weather was lousy and the tour guide didn’t speak Klingon then you’d probably feel like blowing up the planet too.
In fact, ‘scientists’ were telling us no such thing. It was just the papers trying to fill space during the silly season. ‘Scientists’ are human too, only they’re humans with a higher than average liking for science fiction (no one is perfect). In the dry style of a scientific paper, these scientists, graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania, were simply speculating about a whole range of possible contact scenarios between humans and extraterrestrials. Sci-fi lovers like reading about that sort of thing. Who knew? You can read the original paper here if you like reading about that sort of thing too.
In the Scottish media it’s back to flogging that horse that’s not dead yet, the al-Megrahi release. It is a little known fact that Reporting Scotland and the Scotsman are cited in medical journals, and cancer specialists the world over look upon them in awe for their expertise in determining the life expectancy of patients with terminal prostate cancer.
Short of ordering a Scottish medical hit squad to Libya bent on replacing al-Megrahi’s drug regime with intravenous Irn-Bru and Buckie and making sure he consumes nothing but bridies and sausage suppers, in the hope that the alcohol, sugar and cholesterol get him before the cancer does, it’s difficult to know what the media expect of the Scottish Government at this juncture.
However since it’s inconveniently the silly season and there’s currently a shortage of rent-a-quote Unionist politicians to find something new to be outraged about, what with them all being off on their hols still, who needs a new outrage when you can just use an old one? It’s recycling, and probably reduces carbon emissions or something. Just not any emissions of any other kind of noxious gases.
However our indefatigable Unionists politicos did still manage to find something perfectly innocuous to be outraged about. Recently the Scottish Government announced plans to introduce Scottish Studies as an optional school subject. In normal countries it’s considered normal that schoolchildren get the chance to learn about that country’s history, literature, language and culture in school. (In fact in most countries it’s compulsory.) And according to a survey conducted by the Scottish Government, the vast majority of Scots agree with the perfectly modest proposal to allow Scottish schoolchildren the opportunity to learn about Scotland if they want to, and only if they want to.
In Scotland it becomes blown up into a major controversy. The Dundee Courier carried the headline “SNP plan for Scottish school studies course sparks ‘indoctrination’ row”. But if you actually read the article, then you discovered that there really isn’t much of a row at all.
Conservative MSP Liz Smith said, “There are also people worried about the pseudo-nationalist undertones of the whole thing. I would have concerns about that especially if it is going to be a compulsory subject.”
But it’s not going to be compulsory Liz love, you weren’t listening were you dear. Tsk-tsk. Listening skills are so important, and should be taught in schools.
Liz is the Tory education spokesperson, so she’ll be able to do something about that because Conservatives are so influential in forming Scottish public opinion. At least they think they’re influential because they’ve not been listening to the repeated message of rejection we’ve been giving them at the polls for decades.
Unfortunately the Courier did not press Ms Smith on what she meant exactly by “pseudo-nationalist”. Would Liz be quite happy with a “real nationalist” interpretation of Scottish history? In the classic Tory view this would presumably be one that involved a lot of red white and blue, valiant RAF pilots at the Battle of Britain, and just about any history programme on the BBC.
It must be just the pretendy wee interpretations she’s got an issue with – like those that claim we’re all descended from aliens who built the pyramids while in Egypt on a package holiday, or that Scotland is actually a different nation from England with its own distinctive history and culture.
Meanwhile the Lib Dem’s education spokesbod Liam McArthur said: “We cannot afford for nationalists to play politics with our children’s education.”
The Lib Dems have an impeccable record on the not playing politics with education front. We all remember how impeccably they promised not to introduce tuition fees in England and then went ahead and did precisely that in order to get into bed with the Tories. No playing politics with education there then.
Not to be outdone in the I’m more outraged than you stakes, Labour Education spokesman Ken MacIntosh earnestly told BBC Scotland: “The SNP is trying to brainwash children into their political view.”
Brainwashing is a form of psychological mind control which was most infamously developed by the North Koreans and used on American and Western servicemen captured during the Korean War. Called ‘re-education’, it involved sensory deprivation, torture, sleep deprivation and mind bending drugs, and it was on the whole unsuccessful.
Now we’re presented with a Labour education spokesman who apparently doesn’t know the difference between an educational proposal and mind bending drugs and torture. That’s a bit of a worry really, as it brings back personal memories of a 1970s Catholic state schooling which was indeed torture in many respects. Like North Korean brainwashing, it was singularly unsuccessful in washing my brain of non-approved ideologies.
Calling the recent educational proposal “brainwashing” is an utterance of such profound stupidity that party bosses should send their education spokesman off for re-education immediately. Yet the Scottish media cheerfully gives this inanity respectful airtime, attempting to brainwash us into thinking that Mr MacIntosh’s idiotic hysteria is actually deserving of consideration and respect.
The brainwashing meme is a favourite of Labour politicians. Back in 2008 His High-heid-yin-ness Lord Foulkes of Irrelevant Questions stated that painting trains blue and white was brainwashing and “independence by creep”. This was a more astute observation than His Bumptiousness was given credit for, what with Unionist creeps being amongst the prime causes of making people want independence.
The following year he solemnly informed the Scotsman that Scottish Government proposals to hold a Homecoming event in 2014 on the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn was “all part of the SNP’s agenda to brainwash people into supporting independence”. And again the Scottish media dutifully reported it like it was an intelligent thing to say which exhibited joined-up thinking.
Real brainwashing is all about hidden messages. When a Unionist politician tells us that a nationalist proposal is brainwashing, the hidden message is: “This proposal will influence stupid Scottish people in a way I disapprove of. But it won’t influence me because I’m clever enough to see through it.”
Given the average intelligence displayed by the average Scottish Unionist politician in their public utterances, and the average intelligence displayed by those who believe these comments are worthy of broadcasting time or newsprint, we must consider ourselves safe. If they’re bright enough to see through nationalist brainwashing attempts, then the rest of us have nothing to worry about.