The BBC Effect
Posted on March 30th, 2017
by Rab Bruce’s Spider
A few days ago, I had a long and very worrying conversation with a chap who insisted he would be voting No in the next Scottish IndyRef. He claimed he had voted Yes last time, although I have a strong suspicion he only said that in order to establish some credentials as a floating voter who would be persuaded by arguments.
Let’s call this chap Jim. Jim is in his fifties, is well educated and has a good job. He lives in a nice house in a pleasant suburb, has a wife and three kids, two cars and a decent standard of living. Jim insisted that, for him, the economic and financial case for an independent Scotland had not been made. He was concerned by the collapse in the oil price, the £15bn Deficit, the fact that Scotland is the highest taxed region in the UK, the threat of even higher taxes which would be necessary to cope with the enormous deficit, and the fact that the inevitable hard border between Scotland and England would increase prices.
Where have you heard all that before?
Naturally, I did my best to explain things to him. That was even more alarming for me because he made a number of very revealing statements. He did not know, for example, that the NHS in England is being privatised; he had never heard that Theresa May had implied that foreign doctors would be deported as soon as British doctors were able to replace them; and he did not know that Norway had managed to earn billions of dollars from oil revenue while the UK had barely managed to scrape in a few odd coins.
All in all, the level of Jim’s ignorance was quite astounding. Yet he firmly believes he is well informed on political issues. So I asked him where he got his information from. His response probably won’t surprise you. He listens to BBC Radio Scotland, he watches BBC Question Time and he reads The Scotsman.
Now, it is easy for Yessers to mock the naivety of someone of Jim’s mature years who still genuinely believes that the BBC is completely impartial, but we shouldn’t forget that his generation grew up being constantly told that the BBC was unbiased and impartial. The scales have fallen off the eyes of many, but Jim’s absolute faith in the BBC shows that the message has not reached everyone.
I must admit I was worried for his sanity when he informed me that he thought The Scotsman was fair and balanced in its reporting of Scottish politics, and even more worried by his incredulity when I explained that every mainstream newspaper apart from The National and The Sunday Herald is against Indy.
But, as I say, our task is not to mock the ignorance of people like Jim. I now have a mission to pass on some alternative views to him, and that has already begun. Whether he will be able to shake off a lifetime of indoctrination by the UK State remains uncertain, and there is a risk he will either dismiss or even not read any of the information I send him, but I’ll keep plugging away.
But this little episode should serve as a reminder for all Yessers. We may think the arguments are on our side, and we may deride those politicians who spout half-truths, misrepresentations and downright lies without being challenged by the media, and we may laugh at that same media’s ridiculous attempts to distort the facts in order to promote the UK’s agenda, but we really must recognise that there is a very good reason these politicians and media outlets do what they do. It may seem pathetic and ridiculous to us, but it works. It works because many people like Jim have no idea that there are alternative sources of information available to them. They have spent their lives trusting the BBC without knowing they are being fed propaganda.
I know the bookies are giving a Yes vote good odds this time, but my discussion with Jim left me feeling that we have an awful lot of work to do.