A guest post by Samuel Miller
So basically First Minister Nicola Sturgeon whilst attending an Edinburgh Festival event said that the word “national” could be “problematic” and that with a bit of twenty twenty hindsight, naming her party differently ninety years ago might have been a good idea. Anyone associated with the SNP, indeed anyone with any connection to the independence movement, can understand the sentiment and logic behind this response. It’s a question I’m sure I’ve heard asked of the First Minister before and her response was, I’m pretty sure, little different to the one proferred. I’d guess word association, false equivalence and conflation are pretty much part of the furniture for the Scottish National Party.
You know, it’s almost a year ago exactly since I posted a piece on the nature and influence of the written word and the responsibility the media has to use that influence with care. Mind you, it’s never just been the media though. The political class have also shown an epic disregard for responsibility over the years when pursuing their agenda du jour. Say anything, do anything and just win. Worry about the consequences of ill thought statements, pledges, accusations and smears later. Whatever does the job, apparently the S.O.P.
Quick reminder and link to the piece: “The written word is powerful. People can be moved to acts of great kindness and humanitarian aid, or they can be moved to acts of intolerance and great inhumanity. They can be motivated to feel true empathy, humour, regret, hope, aspiration even. Or they can be made to feel doubt, uncertainty, anger, fear and hatred. In the hands of a true wordsmith it is a tool or a weapon that can influence the emotions and opinions of individuals and populations alike for good or ill”
Well, I hate to say I told you so… etc.
A year on and both our politicians and our media still appear hell bent on playing word games. They still want you to play a game of ‘join the dots’ to their narratives and of course, come to find the image they want you to see. They apparently still want to drive those narratives, and write and rewrite history, make reality and democracy over to what they want it to be and not how the former is and how the latter should be.
You’d think the never ending stream of ‘Brexit shambles‘ style headlines may have been a bit of a heads up as to what happens when a narrative runs away from its creators. You may also have thought that emotive right wing media rhetoric possibly having some effect in stoking the fires of intolerance to the point where hate crime has risen across the board wasn’t such a cunning plan either. When people, who have been contributors to the UKs economy and culture for years, are actively looking to leave for more tolerant and peaceful shores that would reasonably constitute a heads up moment?
But no! No, none of these things have prevented the march of politics as it is practised. The political class still try to undermine trust in their opposition with cheap point scoring exercises. They still want to attain the positions and the power of course, but without the awkward details of policy or the responsibility attached. The media today still try to drive narratives and sales with emotionally charged copy. Both use their soapboxes to manipulate the emotions, opinion and votes of their followers and readerships to their own gain and if some ‘eggs’ get broken? Well, it’s just politics or it’s a bottom line and a few more quid in the coffers… right?
So far as our own societal and political situation in Scotland is concerned, you might also have thought that a never ending stream of labeling, demonisation, fear and uncertainty would not be a clever way to win back votes or trust either. Maybe just me, but the whole insulting and antagonising at least half of your population, whilst denigrating the whole as being somehow, sub standard, second best and singularly incapable doesn’t strike me as a particularly unifying or positive strategy. Constant conflation, (subtle or overt), of your political opposition and their support with historic forces of intolerance, hatred and bigotry can do that. You can see where it could get a bit tiresome after a while to be sure.
Apparently you put the word ‘national’ into just about anything and the less scrupulous, honest or ethical of individuals will have a field day drawing false equivalence for their own advantage. Though how they get round the likes of National Health Service, National Museums, National anthem, National Trust and so very many more titles without having fits of foaming outrage is beyond me, because y’know, National bad – Patriot good. Perhaps renaming most of these islands institutions is in order?
Or more likely, it seems the criteria for triggering conflation and false equivalence is mainly to be in opposition to them, but then that would make their actions shabby and massively irresponsible, yes?
Deeply insulting as it is to those who support self determination in Scotland, the true insult is to those who have suffered at the hands of the real thing all through that dark chapter in human history. In fact to those who suffer even today at the hands of the racist, the bigot, the politically and societally intolerant.
‘Course, not satisfied with the possible societal fallout from all of the above, less mindful elements of the political class and the media can heedlessly and needlessly undermine trust in our national (there’s that word again) institutions, our services and our achievements. Their words potentially put jobs at risk and people in harms way, but apparently all’s fair in love and war …etc. How must that seem to the outside world I wonder? Happily some can know the truth of a thing when they see it.
The true cost of politics as it is practised? All it takes is for one person not to call an emergency service through an instilled lack of trust. All it will take is for one person to raise their hand to another, because their ‘go to’ title’s dog whistle rhetoric has informed them to mistrust or alienate. The true cost is borne by people. Your actual human beings.
To put not too fine a point on it, we’re not collateral damage. We’re not electoral coinage either. Our lives matter. So for the less well informed, let’s keep it simple.
What You See Is What You Get.
So far as I am aware, the Scottish National Party/Scottish Government and those like minded folk who make up the larger, wider YES/Independence movement, have not invaded anyone. They haven’t oppressed any populations. They haven’t crashed economies or enacted legislation which has drawn international condemnation. They haven’t unleashed a hostile media assault on their own citizens. Oh, and unless public record has changed of recent times, they haven’t forced their nation partners into any acts against their will and they haven’t dropped an economic and constitutional galactostooshie into said partner’s lap either.
Can the same be said for Westminster government? Could the same be said for successive Westminster governments? Maybe worth thinking about the next time you reach for a title from your local news stand or listen to a couch load of metrosplaining political punditry. It’s maybe time to give the news stand a miss for a while and look around yourself. Don’t allow yourself to be led to a conclusion. Don’t join the dots others lay down for you.
It’s not about what you’re told, it’s about what you see and what you experience for yourself.