Occupied and occupier – The media in Scotland

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  By G.A.Ponsonby
 
So the campaign to discredit the Labour for Independence movement gathers pace with another ‘revelation’ in a Sunday newspaper adding to photographs and statements from the Labour party and Better Together.
 
The referendum debate sits in a corner shaking its head as Scotland’s media does what it does best, riding to the aid of the Labour party in Scotland, chucking mud at anything that gets in its way.

  By G.A.Ponsonby
 
So the campaign to discredit the Labour for Independence movement gathers pace with another ‘revelation’ in a Sunday newspaper adding to photographs and statements from the Labour party and Better Together.
 
The referendum debate sits in a corner shaking its head as Scotland’s media does what it does best, riding to the aid of the Labour party in Scotland, chucking mud at anything that gets in its way.

The smear story is the ‘Weapon of Mass Distraction’ that is launched at those times of Labour distress.  Not so much a deterrent as a means of obliterating the threat and ending meaningful debate.

In 2012 before the local authority elections it was used in order to paint Alex Salmond as a Rupert Murdoch groupie ready and willing to lobby on behalf of the Sun owner.

Other smears include ‘Dinner gate’, which was the ridiculous attempt at suggesting Holyrood’s restaurant was being offered up as a prize to SNP backers at a fundraising dinner in an Indian Restaurant.

We’ve also witnessed the Trump stories and the release of Megrahi – both being manipulated in order to blacken the name of the First Minister.  Those two stories have now merged with Trump making more bizarre claims about Mr Salmond.

This latest smear campaign aims to get two birds with the one stone – Labour for Independence is apparently an SNP front.  The additional ‘evidence’ now being offered up is news that an LFI administrator is apparently a former member of the SNP.

Celia Fitzgerald has committed the heinous crime of leaving Labour to join the SNP only to return to Labour in order to help the LFI campaign.

Fitzgerald joins the Unite union in the court of the kangaroo that decrees nobody outside Labour’s National Executive can influence party policy … unless you happen to be a prominent party donor in which case you’ll be offered a seat in the House of Lords.

But what of Celia Fitzgerald’s decision to re-join Labour.  For the Scottish media machine there is only one interpretation – she is part of a nationalist plot to undermine the Scottish Labour party.
 
This spin being placed on this ‘outing’ of Fitzgerald – who is described by Herald reporter Tom Gordon as “An Alex Salmond fan” – fails utterly to comprehend exactly what Labour for Independence is, namely an attempt to drag the Labour party in Scotland away from the Right Wing Tory led agenda that is eating at the London controlled party’s soul.

Indeed, speaking to the Sunday Herald Celia Fitzgerald says: “I left Labour ages ago and joined the SNP to work for independence, then rejoined the Labour Party after I heard about Allan Grogan and Labour for Independence.

“I rejoined the Labour Party in November.

“It’s about reclaiming the Labour Party for its members and its supporters and the people, and taking it away from this ghastly leadership.”

She added: “New Labour is not real Labour at all. It’s a Westminster party.  It’s not presenting the people of Scotland.  We see it as a Scottish party, and we want to bring it back to Scotland, dust it down, return it to its proper values and then re-export it to England.  We can’t do that unless Scotland is independent.”

People moving from the Labour party in Scotland to join the SNP has been happening regularly since before 2007.  The Iraq war was a watershed moment for many.  That some now see Labour for Independence as an opportunity to ‘reclaim’ their party from the London right wing power brokers is unsurprising.

That SNP members, including MSPs and councillors, are openly trying to encourage Labour’s pro-Yes supporters to join up to the LFI Yes campaign is something that should have surprised no-one.  Indeed one could argue that the SNP and indeed Yes Scotland would be derelict in their duties if they weren’t trying to highlight that voters can be Labour party backers and also support the Yes campaign.

The LFI campaign is beginning to attract attention which is potentially embarrassing for the Labour party in Scotland, keen to downplay any suggestion that a significant number of its members are supporters of independence.

But this is Scotland and everyone knows a weak Labour party weakens the Union.  In order to dissuade potential new members from joining LFI, the media have to paint it as an SNP vehicle.  How many grass roots Labour party members will consider joining a body that has been created by the Great Satan Alex Salmond?

LFI has to be portrayed as an SNP led Trojan-horse.

It’s a well-worn trick, to paint something quite understandable and logical as somehow corrupt and tainted.  Hold a LFI banner with ‘Yes’ proudly displayed and you are masquerading as a Labour member, rejoin Labour from the SNP and you are an infiltrator.

Project Fear is now also Project Smear.  Recent polls showing Labour falling back from their 2011 humiliation was bad enough but there are also signs that the No campaign is running out of steam.

But as we on this site have mentioned before – no smear will gain traction unless it has the backing of the BBC.  Newspapers have nowhere near the influence they once had, thus the state broadcaster’s role in breathing life into a smear campaign is crucial if the smear is to be effective.

That’s why the broadcaster ran with the Better Together inspired story last week.

This was the second such Better Together driven story promoted by BBC Scotland and followed on from Raymond Buchanan’s blatant piece of propaganda which was the ‘leaked’ report.  That report was also supplied by Better Together.

The ‘BBC against LFI’ initially appeared in a BBC Scotland online article which was itself based on an image released by Better Together of three SNP councillors holding a banner proclaiming ‘Yes is the Future!’.  The image, with the words ‘SNP Cllr’ helpfully superimposed over the three individuals, featured on the BBC site.

The banner had been created by Labour for Independence and the campaign’s logo was prominent beneath the Yes message.

The photo was evidence of nothing, save that SNP councillors supported the Yes campaign and, we can surmise, were also supportive of the LFI campaign.  Nothing really controversial unless you apply some anti-SNP spin, and this was duly applied by BBC Scotland.

It’s fine for journalists working for private newspapers to apply this kind of spin to a story – they are not bound by charters and do not compel the public to pay them to do so.  However it is not acceptable for a so-called impartial broadcaster to aid and assist one side in the constitutional debate in this manner.

Whoever obtained the Better Together image at BBC Scotland should have applied some journalistic rigour to the claims being made by the No campaign.  But this did not happen, instead the smear was run exactly as the anti-independence campaigners hoped it would.

The story wasn’t aimed at educating the licence payer or even an attempt at stimulating mature debate.  It’s sole aim was to plant the seed in the heads of the masses that this organisation – Labour for Independence – was not to be trusted and was a nationalist plot.

In keeping with BBC Scotland’s growing pro-Union agenda it featured in news bulletins.  TV and Radio programmes were again provided in order to promote the story to as wide an audience as possible.  Allan Grogan was grilled by BBC Scotland’s lead interogator Gary Robertson, the man who seems to conveniently forget to ask difficult questions when faced with leading Labour party figures – think Ian Taylor donation and Healey oil admission.

Allan Grogan being questioned by Gary Robertson

Newsnight Scotland even highlighted a pro-Union website called ‘Think Scotland’ which contained another image doing the rounds and had appeared on the official Better Together website.  That particular image – it has now emerged – was cropped by the pro-Union campaign group in order to remove a caption which undermined claims that the people in the picture were trying to pass themselves off as members of Labour for Independence.

Crucially, BBC Scotland airbrushed this important and relevant fact out of their coverage.

So yet again we had the state broadcaster appearing to collude with the Better Together campaign in an attempt at harming the Yes campaign.  Facts were selectively reported.

It is no great surprise that the pro-Union BBC has helped promote this attack on Labour For Independence, they all but ignored the group until it held its inaugural policy conference last weekend.

The pattern for the referendum debate is now effectively set.  Scare stories will dominate the headlines and the Yes campaign will find itself pressed for answers to a nebulous stream of questions.  The negativity will be peppered by the odd Better Together inspired smear story which will seek to undermine key elements of the pro-independence campaign.

The BBC will continue to dumb down its coverage whilst selectively reporting referendum issues.  Its headline news reports will rely heavily on ‘reports’ from London based institutions such as the OBR, CBI, IFS, House of Commons and House of Lords as well as pro-Union establishment figures and will, as a result, be heavily weighted against independence.

The media in Scotland, controlled from outwith, will continue to behave in a manner that gains the approval of its non-Scottish pro-Union masters.  At its head is the now widely discredited BBC Scotland – the broadcaster is institutionally warped and is probably guilty of breaching the human rights of its licence payers in Scotland by forcing them to pay for its political output.

The Scottish media is an occupied entity which itself is an occupying force and cannot behave any other way.  There’s even another ridiculous story doing the rounds today suggesting that Alex Salmond bullied the BBC over a Nicolas Witchell interview relating to the Queen.

Newsnet Scotland covered the BBC broadcast in question at the time and you can read what we had to say then.  For those wishing to see the interview here it is – complete with Witchell’s heavily partisan pro-Union language.

Yes supporters know what they are up against and will adapt accordingly.  The BBC in Scotland has no idea the backlash that awaits it in the months to come.  It is Scotland’s Berlin Wall.  If it doesn’t sort itself out, then I suspect ordinary Scots will tire of it and force their own change.