Countering the Narrative
Posted on January 5th, 2018
by Rab Bruce’s Spider
When IndyRef2 does eventually come along, the Yes movement faces to major sets of opponents who will work hand in hand to keep Scotland part of the Union.
The first group is the unionist politicians. The mendacity of Colonel Davidson and her fellow Tories is pretty well documented, and we can expect a lot more of the same from this source, but the Colonel has a new rival in the contest to be the most disingenuous politician in Scotland.
Step forward Richard Leonard, latest leader of UK Labour’s Scottish Branch Office. In recent weeks, Mr Leonard has made a number of statements which have been highly misleading, leading to many people denouncing him as so stupid that he does not know which areas of responsibility are devolved and which are reserved to Westminster. However, more and more of us are coming round to the view that nobody can be that stupid and that, in fact, he is deliberately confusing the issue simply to create an image of Scotland which fits the #SNPBad narrative. By constantly denigrating the state of the economy, wage disparity, privatised railways, Scottish Water or anything else he can think of while refusing to acknowledge that these areas are controlled by Westminster, he seeks to persuade voters that the SNP is to blame and that the only way to solve the problems is to return to the bad old days of two-Party dominance at Westminster with the role of the Scottish Parliament being reduced to a mere adjunct of that administration.
Both Davidson and Leonard are only too well aware that they will not be challenged by the mainstream media. All they need do is issue a Press Release and it will be parroted by the TV News and the newspapers, especially if it is based on information from a Freedom of Information request which can be spun to show the SNP in a bad light.
Which brings us to the second major group who oppose independence. Yes, it’s the media.
The media attacks on Scotland have been relentless for months now and this will only ramp up as pressure to call IndyRef2 mounts. As with yesterday’s Scottish Ambulance non-story, the media are very happy to take any sort of statistic and turn it into an attack on the Scottish Government. Having ten thousand ambulances despatched with only a single crew member sounds really bad, doesn’t it? That’s the headline we were hit with yesterday. Yet anyone who took the time to read the actual information quickly realised that, in fact, the stats were pretty positive, with that figure of ten thousand representing only 0.3% of the total callouts over a four year period. Some people have also pointed out that this figure likely includes Rapid Response Units which are single-crewed by design. Look at it this way; would you rather have a Paramedic arrive quickly on his or her own than wait what could be a life-threatening few minutes for a twin-crewed ambulance?
But what can we do about the media? In truth, not much. During the first IndyRef campaign, I attended a public meeting at which Nicola sturgeon was asked this question. Her response was, “The media is what the media is."
This rather disappointed me at the time, but I’ve come to recognise the truth of it. In recent weeks, I have seen countless comments on Twitter refuting statements by Richard Leonard, highlighting the falsity of newspaper headlines and pointing out the bias of TV and Radio news reporting. These comments are very useful in helping other Yessers to frame their arguments when confronted with such bias, but the truth is that they do not prevent the politicians and media doing the same sort of thing the very next day.
Some have called for an independent Scottish television channel, but that is not going to happen as long as Westminster retains control over broadcasting. There have been, and continue to be, many admirable efforts to establish small news programmes online but several have failed due to lack of funding and the others face a constant battle to remain viable. The main problem remains that, no matter how good the content of these channels, the audience they reach is small in comparison to the numbers reached by the BBC and STV every day, not to mention the reinforcing views of the printed Press.
Let’s face it, even if Nicola Sturgeon called a Press Conference every week and spent time debunking all the spin and misinformation of the preceding week, the chances are that most of what she said would either not be reported at all or would be edited in such a way as to show her being challenged by Unionist journalists. You can imagine the headlines on Distorting Scotland after any such conference; “Sturgeon on the defensive over …" or “First Minister forced to defend …" or “SNP accused of …"
Which really leaves us with only one option. We need to challenge the media narrative with our friends and family. This can be difficult, and I know my own political comments on Facebook annoy some of my friends. In fact, I’ve had at least three people unfriend me either because I argued with them over comments they had made supporting Tory policies or even simply because I posted pro-Indy comments. That is rather sad, but it goes to show that some people will never be persuaded and it needs to be set against the counter argument that a similar number of people have admitted to me that my comments persuaded them to Yes.
We face an uphill battle here, but the best way to convince people is to take the arguments we find among the Yes community and use them to convince those who are open to persuasion. It won’t be easy, but if everyone who voted Yes last time round was able to convince only one person that remaining part of Brexit Britain will be a disaster for Scotland and that independence, with all the uncertainties and challenges that presents, is the best, the normal and the only way to go, we’ll win with a resounding majority. It won’t be easy, because people don’t like changing their minds and the media still holds a significant influence over many people’s opinions, but we need to use the tools we have, and personal interaction remains the most powerful of those tools. Let’s make sure we keep using it to counteract the mainstream narrative at every opportunity.