Scottish Unionism, British Nationalism and their creeping fascist tendencies

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By G.A.Ponsonby

On Wednesday Night at the end of Newsnight Scotland, host Andrew Kerr presented the front page of the Scotsman newspaper to camera.  Moments later he did the same thing, this time using the following day’s front page from the Telegraph.

Both newspapers are vociferously pro-Union, the Scotsman is best described as fundamentalist in its editorial stance, the Telegraph on the other hand is rabidly Unionist.

By G.A.Ponsonby

On Wednesday Night at the end of Newsnight Scotland, host Andrew Kerr presented the front page of the Scotsman newspaper to camera.  Moments later he did the same thing, this time using the following day’s front page from the Telegraph.

Both newspapers are vociferously pro-Union, the Scotsman is best described as fundamentalist in its editorial stance, the Telegraph on the other hand is rabidly Unionist.

The banner headline in the Telegraph was read out by Kerr; ‘Cybernats target Hoy with wave of abuse’.

It was a gratuitous decision on the part of Kerr or his producer, and further proof of the decline in standards at BBC Scotland.  However the headline itself is indicative of a growing intolerance of opponents of the Union that is evident within the heart of the Scottish Unionist establishment.

The Hoy story centred on comments made by multiple Olympic gold medallist who apparently suggested independence would cause a problem for future Scottish athletes.  Hoy had claimed not to want to enter the ‘hornet’s nest’ that is the independence debate, but bizarrely decided to waggle a stick inside it anyway.

According to the Telegraph and several other newspapers, Hoy was subsequently attacked for his troubles by so called cybernats.  According to these newspapers Hoy was called a ‘traitor’.

However, the example presented as evidence of nationalist abuse was peculiar in that it quite clearly didn’t come from a nationalist.

“Oh dear Chris you have just went from being a Scottish hero in the eyes of the Bravehearts to being a traitor, how dare you?”

The word ‘Bravehearts’ is the giveaway and no self-respecting independence supporter uses the term.  Almost immediately one began to question whether Hoy was called a traitor by any nationalists at all.

But regardless of whether a man who makes millions out of his own personal ‘Brand Britain’ corporate identity, and thus has a vested interest in maintaining the Union, was ‘abused’ or not, the more worrying trend is this continued demonisation of non-Unionists by elements of the Scottish Unionist establishment.

The derogatory term ‘Cybernat’ has entered the political lexicon ever since it was coined by Labour peer George Foulkes.  The reason for its invention was the evolution of the internet and the growth in articulate argument in favour of Scottish independence.

This coincided with the emergence of the SNP as a serious opposition to Labour, and with it a possible end to Labour-Unionist hegemony.  The Scottish media reacted to the growing SNP popularity by becoming ever more shrill in their attacks on nationalism.

This in turn led to an emergence of a second string of online contributors who began to challenge pro-Union journalism directly.  Mostly through online messages on forums and beneath articles, but also through direct contact through email with perceived pro-Union journalists themselves.

It created a perfect storm which Scottish Unionism/media has struggled to deal with and some within the traditional Scottish media machine have baulked at.

The response ought to have been an improvement in quality of journalistic output and a move towards plurality.  But what has instead happened is that quality journalism has been rejected in favour of ever more defiant pro-Union inspired rhetoric.  Unionist media has retreated into itself.

Unionists control all aspects of the media with the exception of the internet.  Their historic all-encompassing control has led to an inability to accept that which they cannot control.  Never having experienced any form of challenge, they are unable to respond in any constructive way.

The reaction to this relatively insignificant loss of power is out of proportion and, I would argue, evidence of an almost fascistic regard towards those who disagree with them.

Fascism is difficult to define absolutely, but there is growing evidence to suggest that what we are witnessing is the unhealthy seed of just such a trend within British Nationalism and Scottish Unionism, political cousins but with subtle differences.

Fascist movements tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans and other symbolism.  Currently Union Flags are seen everywhere within the Unionist dominated media, as is the word ‘British’.  These references are not a description of the geographical island but a cultural statement aimed at reinforcing an out of date anglo-centric view of what being British means.

The Great British Bake-off, Great British Train Journey, Great British Drama and The Great British Knitting Bee [honest] are examples of this.  The Union flag and ‘Brand Britain’ even adorn numerous food and other consumable products from Walkers crisps to – believe it or not – Ayrshire Bacon.

In 2014 we will witness, if David Cameron has his way, an Olympic style Union Flag jamboree set against the backdrop of the centenary of the start of World War One – the first time the world witnessed the industrialised slaughter of human beings.

Dead soldiers are to be used as posthumous cannon-fodder by those in power.  It’s uncomfortable and extreme.  The Scottish government must play along with the charade or risk being attacked by the ‘patriotic’ Scottish media.

Challenge any of this and you will face the same kind of headlines Chris Hoy and Susan Calman generated.  These headlines are intended not to inform, but to demonise, to close down and to silence.

Fascism historically needs to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities, terrorists, etc.

In England the ‘victim’ is English nationality and English culture, the ‘enemy’ is Johnny Foreigner, the immigrant and Islam.  The rise of the English Defence League, which is bringing together all kinds of disparate groups, is a testimony to the success of the narrative being promoted by the ruling class and their increasingly intolerant media puppets.

Witness the thousands who gathered around the English Defence League banner, with its slogan “No Surrender” lifted from the sectarian troubles in Northern Ireland, in the aftermath of the brutal killing of a young soldier in Woolwich.  Witness the growth in support for far right groups and the almost celebrity cult of Nigel Farage.

Witness also the raft of new powers for the security forces that will allow them to monitor personal emails and other social media messages.

In Scotland the enemy of course is ‘Scottish nationalism’ and the SNP – the 2014 referendum is the biggest threat to Westminster control since Ireland gained independence in 1921.  The civic nature of Scottish nationalism is ignored as Unionists maliciously conflate the word ‘nationalism’ with extreme regimes throughout history.

Control over mass media is key when such a threat appears.  It is the role of the media to ‘bind’ the ‘one true nation’, and bring people together as one against the common foe.

Sometimes the media are directly controlled by the government as in the case of the BBC, but in other cases the media are controlled by sympathetic media spokespeople, executives and yes … even journalists.

Censorship of news, as witnessed by the almost complete blackout by the BBC of Denis Healey’s admissions that Labour misled Scots over the true worth of North Sea oil, is very common.

Any threat to this control must be eliminated or suppressed, and this is exactly what we are witnessing with online activists who challenge the pro-Union narrative.

That there are a few inarticulate and intemperate goons is no surprise.  Such individuals are to be found in every corner of the globe.  Abuse has been around ever since man learned to communicate and it affects both the Yes camp and the No camp as this facebook page image demonstrates.

What serious and honest journalists ought not to do is to deliberately conflate these people with the very movements and campaigns they clearly do not represent.  Hoy’s detractors were no more representative of the pro-independence campaign than people who post abusive messages about Sean Connery are considered representative of Unionism.

That newspapers indulge in this misrepresentation in order to demonise whole swathes of the Scottish population is reckless, but in keeping with the emerging extreme Unionism we are seeing across the UK.

British Nationalism, Scottish Unionism and elements of fascism are all beginning to merge.

The demonisation is not restricted to claims of online abuse of course.  It takes other, more subtle forms as we saw with comedienne Susan Calman.  ‘Jokes’ are another form of this intolerant currency which sees partisan ridicule presented as satire.

These establishment comedians are of course embraced by the mainstream media, for their comedy contributes to the undermining of the foe.  The give-away is that the ridicule is reserved for only one group of people.  It’s a tool that has been used throughout history to good effect, the ‘thick’ Irish, the ‘lazy’ Blacks and the ‘money grabbing’ Jews.

bell-fuckYou will rarely if ever hear these celebrities lampoon Unionism or the advocates of Unionism, for their very career relies on a maintenance of the status quo.  If Salmond and Sturgeon cannot be despised then they can be laughed at, and everything they say is tainted.

For demonisation read dehumanisation.  In any ‘war’, the enemy must be stripped of humanity and soul.  To leave its humanity intact is to invite empathy, even sympathy.  Thus we see SNP leader Alex Salmond continually presented to the wider electorate not as their democratically elected First Minister, but as a demagogue or dictator unworthy of respect.

Even Scottish symbols and institutions even the nation itself, if felt helpful to this demonisation, are deemed legitimate targets.  The defacing of the Scottish flag by the Scotland on Sunday newspaper stands out as one of the worst examples as was the depiction of Scotland as ‘Skintland’ by the Economist – defended as ‘satire’ by BBC Scotland’s Douglas Fraser, who took a swipe at ‘humourless’ nationalists.

It isn’t necessarily co-ordinated but the populating of the Scottish media with people who have pro-Union leanings means that this is the end result.

It’s also why the use of derogatory terms by reporters and journalists are never challenged.  Witness BBC Scotland’s Gordon Brewer casually refer to online supporters of independence as ‘cybernats’ and we see the effects of a hermetically sealed pro-Union media environment.

This stereotyping of opponents of independence as somehow sub-human ‘prowlers of the internet’ is institutionalised.  It’s why Mr Brewer’s BBC Scotland colleague Andrew Kerr saw nothing wrong when he read out a headline containing the same highly insulting and discriminatory term.

Thus, journalists portray their critics as abusers whilst others, such as the Telegraph’s Alan Cochrane routinely sneer at and insult pro-independence political leaders.

The SNP are also carefully presented as somehow undemocratic and not representative of today’s Scotland.  How many times have we witnessed debates and discussions where three Unionist MSPs will be pitched against one solitary SNP MSP?

Despite the Scottish Parliament having a majority SNP, Green and Independent makeup, the media somehow manage to present pro-Union parties as the dominant force and the SNP as a glorified ‘fringe group’.

On Friday’s Big Debate on Radio Scotland, the Green candidate in the Aberdeen Donside by-election campaign was reduced to a single sentence comment alongside an obscure religious candidate, the BNP candidate and UKIP.  Meanwhile the Lib Dem candidate – whose party have the same representation as the Scottish Greens and Independents combined – was allowed a seat as one of the ‘main parties’ on the by-election debate panel.

Under-representation, demonisation of activists, ritual ridiculing of political heads and the swamping of the media with pro-Union symbolism are all symptoms of an unhealthy trend in Scottish political coverage.

Of course not all criticism is an attack and not all challenge is a threat.  Journalists in Scotland must begin to see that this ‘win at all costs’ approach that seeks to silence opponents and defend poor quality reporting is not healthy.

To continue in the same vein will breed resentment.  If, in order to achieve a No vote in 2014, critics of pro-Union media voices have been silenced then what kind of Scotland will we be left with especially if we are left at the mercy of an increasingly intolerant and right wing neighbour?

In an essay titled “Fascism Anyone?,” Dr Lawrence Britt (no pun), a political scientist, identified what he believed were social and political agendas common to fascist regimes.  Have a read through his fourteen “identifying characteristics of fascism.” and marvel at the similarities between Dr Britt’s list and contemporary UK/Unionist Scotland.

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights
Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military
Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism
The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.

6. Controlled Mass Media
Sometimes the media are directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media are indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in wartime, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security
Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined
Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected
The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labour/union Power is Suppressed
Because the organizing power of labour is the only real threat to a fascist government, labour unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment
Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections
Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.