Untamed lawns

Ian Jack writes like he’s a character in the movie Alien, who knows that at any moment an evil monster is going to burst out of their stomach, slaughtering them in a gruesome explosion of intestines and gore, and unleashing havoc on the world. In the meantime he’s going to reminisce about how much better everything was in the sixties when people still trusted the Labour party and the mainstream media. It’s the Guardian’s version of Francis Gay going seven days hard with largactil.

On Friday, feeling quite cheery after successfully de-minging the toilet – although that may have been in part due to the fumes – I chanced upon Ian’s musings upon the woe that awaits Scotland if its media continues to decline. It was my own fault for clicking on the link. It’s like inviting someone to your birthday party because you’d feel guilty if you didn’t, even though you know they’re only going to bend your ear for hours with graphic details of their last hospital visit. One that involved toenails.

Ian was worried about the dire state of the Scottish media. It’s become so enfeebled that it’s no longer capable of holding the powers that be to account. Ian thinks this could be a terrible problem in an independent Scotland, and we’d be at risk of turning into a one party state with a media that cowers in terror before an all-powerful Alicsammin.

Mind you, it’s a terrible problem just now, where we have a media – including a state broadcaster we are legally obliged to pay for – which willingly swallows Better Together’s line along with its hook and sinker, all with the aim of crapping all over the yes campaign from a great height. You only have to look at the aclarity with which the nodding doos of the Scottish media gobbled up the claims of the Vote Nob Orders non-campaign like a flock of rats with wings, without undertaking even the most cursory investigation of whether this new grassroots movement did what it said on its box of expensive Eezy-Lawn genetically modified seeds. Ian’s own paper is one of the most enthusiastic Better Together seed peckers, and he doesn’t appear averse to a bit of ornamental insta-lawn himself.

Print newspapers everywhere are in crisis. Sales are falling as the traditional media struggle to evolve a business model to keep them afloat in an era of mass digital communication where people are decreasingly likely to pay for their information. The problems of the Scottish media are not unique. However the media crisis is more acute in Scotland, the disconnect between the traditional media and public opinion has been exposed by a referendum campaign which has highlighted the media’s role in the manipulation of information for the benefit of the established order.

As a direct response to this unsustainable state of affairs, Scotland has developed a flourishing new digital media. In fact, we have the BBC to thank for it. The unknown BBC executive who took the decision to clamp down on public commenting on the broadcaster’s Scottish webpages inadvertently set off a chain of events which have destroyed the BBC’s reputation north of the border. The BBC, and the rest of the Scottish media, are now reaping the long grass of the law of unintended consequences.

Once upon a time, there was a wee corner of the interwebbies called Blether with Brian, although it was always more “A blether while Brian’s away getting the messages”. There were a number of regular below the line commentators, many of whom were far more entertaining and informative than the vast majority of the BBC’s output – and who often grassed up truths that the BBC was reluctant to broadcast. I was one of that merry little band of part time opinionators.

Then there was the Steven Purcell scandal. The leader of Glasgow Cooncil resigned amidst allegations of drug taking, inappropriate contacts with some seriously dodgy people, the bullying and intimidation of council staff and councillors, with even more serious allegations floating around in the background. It was well known at the time that an important part of Stevie boy’s modus operandi was regular meetings in one of Glasgow’s posher restaurants with the movers and shakers of the Scottish media, including, allegedly, executives from Pacific Quay.

Stevie poured a bottle of paraquat all over his carefully cultivated gardens and his cooncil leadership imploded in a shower of cocaine fueled insanity. The BBC’s reponse, along with that of the rest of the Scottish media, was to invite the public to feel sorry for poor wee Stevie’s battle with mental health issues. There was no attempt to investigate the murky goings on which lead to his self-destruction, because that would only have exposed his close contacts with the very people who claim to be the watchdogs of standards in public office. Not least of whom were the executives at Pacific Quay.

Over on Blether with Brian there was a bonfire of the commentary, the BBC’s moderators zealously removed any remark which portrayed the disgraced leader of the cooncil in a less than sympathetic light. The story was clamped down on, and clamped down hard.

In response, a person who used to comment on Blether with Brian woke up one fine morning and decided that if no one else was going to challenge the inadequacies of the Scottish media, he’d do it himself. And so Newsnet Scotland was born. It was the beginnings of Scotland finding a different voice, one that wasn’t controlled and directed by the powers that be. That unsung hero of the Scottish independence campaign was not me, but I offered to help out.

As ma mammy always said, if you want something done you need to do it yourself. We were going to do it ourselves. Without money, without resources. All we had were words.

And look what happened. Newsnet was not alone. Bella Caledonia, and a host of new Scottish bloggers were also sowing the seeds of dissent. The grass started to sprout up beyond the control of BBC gardening. Untamed words fell on the fertile Scottish soil, and it grew a carpet of wildflowers. Now it’s a dense undergrowth of leafy growth, with tall trees and a diverse ecosystem of voices and opinions. Information in the wild, and no amount of mainstream mowing can keep it under control. How’s that for grassroots Acanchi?

I’ve been immensely privileged to witness the contributions that hundreds of ordinary everyday folk have made to the Scottish digital revolution. Ordinary everyday folk with extraordinary and incredible talents, who have passion, skill and a firm belief that Scotland cannot sit back and expect its problems to be solved by those who have created them and fostered their continuation.

It was noticeable that Ian Jack suggested that state funding of newspapers might be the only answer to the shortcomings of the Scottish media. A measure he hinted might lead to a neutered and careful press that is not willing to challenge the establishment – like that’s not what we had before.

However he’s missed the point. Ian’s trapped in the managerial solutions of the Labour party and their press pals. But the Scottish people are doing it for themselves, we no longer need it to be done for us. We have informed and educated ourselves. We’ve built up a huge movement without central control. We’re everywhere. This movement is not going to go away. It’s changed Scotland forever. The days of deference are dead, and the only ones mourning its passing are Jim Murphy and the rest of those who feel threatened by the new Scotland’s confidence.

And that is why I have every confidence that an independent Scotland will be a successful and prosperous nation. We don’t need the self-appointed self-described big boys and girls to do our gardening for us. When we do things ourselves, we can do anything.

And we do it with style.

Update 10pm

I’ve just heard that the Sunday Herald tomorrow is to come out as a Yes supporting paper.  The dam has burst.


0 thoughts on “Untamed lawns

  1. Nicely said.
    The BBC’s reporting in Scotland (and probably other places) has been ridiculous. I used to trust them, but no more.

  2. Thank you Paul. I have followed your blog for several months and never felt the need to post. Thank you.

  3. Ian Jack and his ilk, as the rest of us, are on one of those conveyor belt machines you get in the long corridors in airports. We are all being swept along towards each in September and beyond. The difference is that some of us are engaged with the journey and looking forward to our planned destination – the Ian Jacks of this world are trying to stand still, and having to walk backwards to stay in the same place. Thanks for the wee ginger dug.

  4. Mistake – using voice text – ‘each in’ should read 18 – must remember to proof read

  5. Pingback: Untamed lawns | Scottish Independence | Scoop.it

  6. It’s been truly enlightening, Paul, to firstly realise what a crude propaganda machine the MSM has become and to then watch tbe birth of a truly free alternative media over the last 30 months since I first became aware of the independence debate. That said, I’d largely even stopped buying newspapers three years before, having despaired of ever again seeing adult reporting of any issue or indeed any kind of content relevant to my non-London life.
    It’s truly like breaking the window in a room you’ve been locked in with a load of flatulent old jaikies!

  7. “Untamed words fell on the fertile Scottish soil, and it grew a carpet of wildflowers.” Wonderful stuff Paul. Thanks to you and all the other sites and bloggers, the people will never be hoodwinked again.

  8. Brilliantly said. On the issue of state funding – there was a discussion about this in the Saturday GMS (I think) which pointed out that Norway does this because of the importance of ensuring that, in a democracy, citizens get information and a state organisation needs to provide it. Of course, you might be forgiven for thinking that that was the role of the BBC but I suppose the clue is in the name. The question is – which state?

  9. As I said on another site – specifically about the quality of writing which is being produced on independence sites such as this – I think we can be proud of this movement. Thanks Paul.

  10. And that carpet of wildflowers has bloomed, and shed seed to spread the words far and wide, in fertile ground and in derelict areas where little has grown previously. Hopefully there will be a great flourishing on 18th September, with Scotland awash with optimistic blooms.

  11. It still amazes me how many alternatives to the sclerotic old MSM there are, and how high their quality is; Wee Ginger being a prime example. Glad you’re back from the domestic chores.

  12. This site has very quickly become a ” must read/comment on ” site along with Rev’s Wings, Derek Batman’s, and a few others, well done, and well written Paul.

    • that wasnt a mistake was it albaman? “Derek Batman”
      na na na na na na na nat nat
      he shall hence forth be known as BATMAN.

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  14. There is a sentence in the current piece in Bella Caledonia that sums up what Scotland thinks of the how the press is doing. I had one wee question and added the info in brackets.

    The Scotsman has shed 80% of its readers since the Johnston Press bought it [in 2006], and the Johnston share price has collapsed from 450p to 24p.

    So we are not exactly impressed are we?

  15. I’ve just heard that the Sunday Herald tomorrow is to come out as a Yes supporting paper. The dam has burst.

    YES!!! They have been leaning that way for a while. As a reader of Scotland on Sunday since it’s conception I stopped buying it earlier this year, and told the editor why. Not that he cared. Get the message across to other papers by buying the Herald tomorrow. Buy two. That will still be cheaper than most Sundays.

    • I just bought my First Sunday Herald at the local co-op in Bridge of Allan. When I saw the Front Page I could not believe it. Well done Sunday Herald.

  16. And we did it our way… Scotland breaks out of the shackles of a worn out regime.. Great stuff wee Ginger dug.

  17. Brilliant commentary as always, If your info is right about The Herald coming out in favour of YES then thanks to you,and the other “alternative” media,Wings Over Scotland, Bella Caledonia, Newsnet Scotland etc because We Scots trust you and have been inspired by your journalism, co-ordination and perspective on events over the last few months…….and even more so over the last week ! Perhaps it’s fitting that The Herald has come to this conclusion because they have given a home to the best two Journalists in Scotland, Ian MacWhirter and Ian Bell.

    • YES it is true! Where will this take the rest of the “Scottish” media? I can’t wait!! Slainte!

  18. I have backed the Sunday Herald from the beginning, deserting Scotland on Sunday in the process. I have watched it harden its stance against the Unionists even to the point of ridicule.

    No doubt there will still be some wrinkles from the likes of Tom Gordon and Paul Hutcheon, but we can live with that.

    Let every Independista support it in full. This is a major event in the Indyref debate.

  19. The Dam has indeed burst , and you were one of the wee boys that took their fingers out of the dyke to start it happening ( mixing metaphors rocks ) thanks 🙂

  20. Terrific piece. How’s about the online community get behind a petition in support of National Collective’s official complaint against BBC Scotland.
    Unfortunately I’ve had no success complaining to Chris Patten about the complete lack of oversight by the ‘tartan’ Governor.
    With these shady dealings of No Borders what are we waiting for?

  21. Paul, the Wee Ginger Dug is a banquet for the mind and the imagination. I’ve been eating it since you began and I’m not full yet.

    Please sir, I want some more!

  22. Hi Paul, been following your blog for a long time know and this is the first time I’ve commented. Just to say thanks for your brilliant commentary and work for independence. You’re 100% right – Newsnet, Wings, Bella, Bateman, you have totally changed Scottish journalism for ever. Sunday Herald announcement is great news!

  23. “Untamed words fell on the fertile Scottish soil, and it grew a carpet of wildflowers. Now it’s a dense undergrowth of leafy growth, with tall trees and a diverse ecosystem of voices and opinions. ”

    Bringing to mind the comment I made on nob orders the other day (which probably, along with the others brought comments to a close within 48 hours of the launch of this ahem real grassroots campaign) when I suggested there were quite a few dandelions poking through their lovely green sward.

  24. Paul, thank you for bringing your style and comment to the new age of Scottish Journalism.
    With you, Newsnet , Bella, of course the Rev you have stirred a nation into questioning what they have been fed for so long. This is the Year of Yes.

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  26. After Indy, I hope that sites like this, Bella, WoS, newsnet will continue to keep the spotlight on our new government, of whatever shade and help us untangle and understand what they are up to.

  27. It is great news that the Sunday Herald has come out for YES but it does say everything about the MSM that we are overjoyed that one Scottish paper has declared its support. I do like the new campaign called Vote Nob Orders – has anyone grabbed the domain yet?

  28. You’re a very welcome part of a wave of insightful, observant, intelligent commentators – helping to steer us through the mud slinging and obfuscation. I really appreciate your role in our referendum debates; you are inspirational to me, and I’m sure very many others. Cheers Pal!

  29. Thanks for your blog from a frequent reader but seldom commenter.
    A Yes declaration on the Herald front page AND an Alasdair Gray illustration – now THAT”S what I call the Early Days of a Better Nation!
    re Nob Orders – try votenoborders.com – somebody’s been having fun!

  30. Did you notice how the B.B.C. reported the news that the Sunday Herald had come out for Independance?, they showed a hand taking a Sunday Herald being takened from a newsstand while a voice in the background gave out the news of the Sunday Herald stand for Independance, and low and behold,before the voice over finishes, the hand replaces the Sunday Herald!, and Derek Bateman maintains the B.B.C. is not biased!!, to me that was a blatant indication to dismiss the Sunday Herald’s new direction of political view.

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