The Daily Mail has today published an apology for its front page screech that Nicola Sturgeon was personally going about the country and ripping Union flegs out of the hands of poor wee sowels whose only crime is to oppose independence, because she hates the English. Or something like that. We’re still waiting for apologies from The Telegraph and The Express, which also indulged themselves in the attempt to strangle Thatessempee with the fleg. What we can sure of, is that when or if those apologies come, just like the apology in The Daily HateMail they’ll be buried somewhere inside the newspaper and won’t receive anything like the same prominence as the original lie itself. All those people who were outraged and angered by the false news plastered all over the front pages will remain outraged and angered.
I’m looking forward to seeing the BBC hunt down Murdo Fraser and the other Conservative politicians to whom it gave airtime in order to spout how angry they were about a story that turned out to be a fake news story that was propagated by their own party, and holding them to account for it and giving their retractions equal prominence with their allegations. It’s maybe just as well I have no plans to go holding my breath. Yet there is a real story here, a story about an anti-independence party which governs the UK, a party which in the very week released a blatantly false story which fits every definition of fake news, also announced a new initiative to help prevent fake news. It’s reasonable to ask exactly how a party which is happy to indulge in the promotion of fake news is in any position to protect the public from fake news. It must only be fake news that the British nationalist parties don’t like that counts as fake news.
The British nationalist media in Scotland haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory this week. You might think that when a political party publishes a press release accusing another political party of something, that it’s basic journalistic practice to contact the party which is being accused to ask them for a comment, to ask them whether there is any truth in the allegations. The British nationalist media in Scotland is so eager to publish SNPbad stories that they don’t always do that. If this story about the supposed policy change by Nicola Sturgeon to prevent Union flags flying from Scottish government buildings was the only instance of the British nationalist press in Scotland not bothering to check their facts before rushing into print, a simple apology might be enough to overlook the matter and to put it behind us. But this isn’t an isolated instance.
There’s a definite pattern to SNPbad stories in the British media in Scotland. The same papers which didn’t bother to check the veracity of the flag story didn’t bother to check the truth of the story in 2015 about Nicola Sturgeon supposedly wanting a Conservative government. They just printed the story and to hell with the consequences. The same papers which are eager to contrast the performance of the Scottish government in running some public service with the equivalent public services elsewhere in the UK when Scotland is performing more poorly than elsewhere in the UK are strangely silent about performance measures elsewhere in the UK when they attack the Scottish government for perceived failures in a public service even though Scotland is performing better than elsewhere in the UK. The default assumption of the British media in Scotland is that if there’s a story then there must be an anti-SNP and anti-independence angle to it, and if they’re given a story by the British nationalist parties which attacks independence and the SNP, then they’re going to run with it irrespective of the truth.
David Mundell isn’t for apologising though. His cheerleaders in the Daily Mail have apologised, but David is still banging on about flags and demanding that the SNP stop banging on about flags. There isn’t a hole in Scotland that David won’t stop digging for himself. It’s not like he’s got a great deal else to do. This is what passes for a day job for David Mundell. His day job is to distract attention from the fact that his party is disrespecting the results of the 2014 and 1997 referendums by undermining the principles of the devolution settlement. Anyway, it’s unreasonable to expect an apology from David Mundell because that would imply that he has some functioning self-awareness, but the only reason he can continue in his post is because he makes Murdo Fraser seem like a beacon of reason and common sense.
Here’s hoping that the Scottish government is learning the lesson that the rest of us have known for too long. The media in Scotland is overwhelmingly biased against independence and it’s not a tinfoil hat conspiracy theory to point that out. It’s a simple objective fact. Only two newspapers in Scotland support independence, even though that’s a constitutional view shared by half the population. The vast majority of the press, and the broadcasters which take their news agenda from the anti-indy press, is determined to do all it can to paint independence in a negative light, and its default instinct is to run with any story that is bad for independence or the SNP even if that story turns out not to be true.
It’s good that the Scottish Government went on the offensive with this piece of British nationalist fake news. For too long the SNP leadership has played softball with a media which does not have the slightest intention of playing fair with them. Being conciliatory with the media only encourages them in their reprehensible behaviour. They know that there are no consequences. It’s time to get loud. It’s time to go on the offensive against the offensive.
This isn’t about intimidating or silencing the media. Quite the reverse. It’s about ensuring that they do their job properly. Maybe the next time they get a press release from the press office of a British nationalist party accusing the SNP or the Scottish government of something, they will check the facts before rushing into print, and won’t just take the Tories’ or Labour’s or the Lib Dems’ word for it. It’s not just Thatessempee which needs to be held to account. But as the old saying goes, one swallow does not a summer make, and it’s going to take persistence and consistency in strong responses from the SNP in order to stop the right wing press in Scotland swallowing Tory press releases without chewing them over first.
The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.
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