A guest post by Samuel Miller
A few questions on a disturbing phenomenon which only the reader can answer in the privacy of their own thoughts.
How has it come to this? What curse do ordinary people live under that we have to put up with the metric tonnes of what seems to be utter bullshit, fed to us by toxic politics and an ever more toxic media?
When did it become acceptable to hound and hunt people as a political strategy? To ‘claim scalps’ (is that the term?), make their lives and by extension ours, a living nightmare of sound bite statements, cherry picked factoids, half-truths, manipulation and misdirection?
When did we allow politicians and the media to talk to us in the way that they do? Is it possible we became so lazy, so apathetic, so disenfranchised that we allowed others to do our thinking for us? To make decisions for us? And when things go wrong, or even when they haven’t, to tell us who to blame?
That does make it easier though, doesn’t it? Having a finger pointed for us so that we know who to hate, or punish. Takes away that whole responsibility for individual thought thing. Worse, or perhaps better depending on your point of view, it takes away the public’s collective responsibility. Makes us feel a bit better about hating the stranger, the other tribe, the benefit scrounger, the immigrant, the furriner, the sweaty whinger in Holyrood.
I’m sure most readers of this site are only too familiar with media campaign rhetoric generated in last year’s general election. Who could forget ‘Tartan Stalinists’, ‘What a McMess’ or ‘The most dangerous woman in Britain’? Clearly we all identify with Stalinism, dangerous wummin and political carnage in Scotland (sigh). My own personal favourite and possibly the most classic/infamous example of media and political attempts to influence opinion (which happily went totally south), remains ‘Frenchgate’.
I mean, if you’re struggling for examples of the phenomenon, simply Google this: ‘Sturgeon slapped down’ (kicked, hammered, blasted works equally well), or perhaps this ‘Fury over SNP’, or simply even ‘Salmond’ (pretty much anything Salmond). If you really want to have sleepless nights, try these – Benefits Scrounger or Hard on Immigration.
As a more recent example – Scottish Transport Minister Humza Yousaf’s current political and media woes, are apparently the latest in a very long and very tiresome line of such antics. Again, a simple search for Mr Yousaf under ‘News’ (steady now), and the blaring headlines which will greet your search, will tell you all you need to know about the sheer amount of column space which can be dedicated to a subject when both political opponents and the meeja get the bit between their teeth. Fair enough as far as it goes. He is, after all, a public figure in a position of responsibility.
To be honest, I have no idea about rail services in the Uk today and its been a long time since I’ve used them t’boot. It may even be the case that some criticism is warranted (shrugs), but blanket coverage for weeks on end? Seriously? Has the entire structure of Scotland’s rail network collapsed? From the coverage given you’d think so. I can however confirm (by looking oot the windae), that no major extinction level meteors have struck Scotland in, ooooh, at least the past several months and that our transport infrastructure still appears reasonably intact.
If I were the average reader at this point, or perhaps a journalist (shudders), I’d maybe research an expert or two and ascertain their opinion. If I were interested enough that is. Also as an engaged reader, and in absence of such information, I’d maybe cast my eyes about for other stories on the subject matter to try to provide some comparison, perspective, context or balance.
For instance, I hear that rail services in England are currently having their own woes and yet I see a somewhat skewed percentage of titles being hyper critical of PM May’s Transport Minister, Chris Grayling. That’s pretty much a ‘red flag’ moment right there you’d think?
It appears however, that some in the new media arena are willing to ask the questions we should all be seeking answers to and even provide some of that sourced evidence stuff. Which seems to me, to be a fairly sensible and logical way to go about things and how perhaps this whole informing and enlightening the public should work.
Back to the general thrust of the subject in hand though. Another question or two may occur to the reader at this point. Just how many scalps have been gathered and how many careers have been made or ruined on the back of this fairly savage political and media environment over the years? How many justly and more importantly, how many needlessly? Quite scary stuff really, when you do start to think about it.
Before the finger-pointing, before the hounding, before calling for resignations, there should be the questions. There should be critical analysis and there should be a weighing of evidence gathered. It should be a lorry load of information with context and possible extenuating circumstances present and/or accounted for. It should be innocent till proven guilty. It should be,…but apparently it’s not.
If you were a bit leery of some folks motives in the meeja, and it’s a safe bet that supporters of an independent Scottish parliament have some reason to be, you could say it’s perhaps needlessly inflammatory headlines. It’s the barely and oft-times, completely unsubstantiated sound bite (see under Frenchgate). It’s politics and it’s agenda. It’s innuendo and character assassination. It’s calculation and strategy. It’s the self-interested and deliberate directing and management of public opinion. If you were leery like.
More depressingly though, it’s seems to be always hunting season. There is always some scalp that someone wants for whatever reason and whatever the cost.
A never-ending hunting season where political and vested media interest do the hunting and the public are perennially used as their hounds.
You can start having those private thoughts now.