2007 - 2022

Trump, the Scottish Media and Yes2

ManWatchingPrintingPress_8Richard Walker’s presentation to the SIC Build Yes conference is a challenging argument that many readers may struggle with. His idea is that we as a movement need to change the way we are doing things – or face losing again.

Here’s an extract. You can read the full speech over at Commonspace here:

“We need to adopt a new approach to journalists, particularly those we disagree with. And I could stand here today and list a litany of their ‘sins’ and some of you would cheer and we would all feel self-righteous, but I’ve been asked to speak today on what we can do about the media when the starting whistle is blown on indyref 2.”

“So let’s stop berating journalists, whether in print, radio and television, for tough questioning of government ministers, or pro-independence spokespeople – that’s their job.”

“If the next independence campaign is all about changing No supporters to Yes then in media terms it’s about changing hostile, suspicious journalists into ones who want to give the case for independence a fair crack of the whip. If “holding power to account” sometimes means stupid stories about non-existent so-called scandals, that’s the price of being in power. It’s still a price worth paying.

Being pleasant and respectful won’t guarantee we’ll create an improved relationship and less attacking coverage, but remaining hostile will guarantee that we won’t.

I’m all too aware that I’m advocating incredible self restraint, an almost superhuman level of empathy and respect – and what for? Is mainstream media still important at all?

Let’s face it, anything that wins converts to the Yes argument is worth it. Mainstream media still matters, even in an age of pro-indy bloggers and websites and of social media. It matters because it’s a way of reaching those not already onside. It matters because it still, to a large degree, dictates the agenda on TV and radio. It’s a way of changing minds, and changing allegiances.”


Richard Walker is The National founding editor and former Sunday Herald editor.

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Comments (9)

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  1. Jo says:

    An interesting appeal this one although having now read the full thing I would disagree utterly with the writer’s view that we should stand “side by side” with Meryl Streep following her performance at the Golden Globe awards last week. Ms Streep is an actor, not a politician and, in my view, actors who try to turn awards ceremonies into political rallies exaggerate their own importance. In Ms Streep’s case she also chose to ignore the outcome of a democratic election because it didn’t suit her own political loyalties. My own view is that Trump won that election because the candidate he was up against was HIllary Clinton and many of those who would normally vote for the Democrats simply didn’t have the stomach to vote for Clinton. Perhaps Ms Streep, along with the MSM, felt willing to overlook Mrs Clinton’s many major flaws. Others clearly were not.

    The MSM has shown a side to itself that I’ve never seen before in recent months following the win, by Trump, in the US election. On both sides of the pond we’ve seen mass hysteria in both the broadcasting and print media as they went into meltdown over a result which, clearly, didn’t suit many people out here but, even so, a meltdown it was. We saw, piling in with the media, so-called “celebrities” like Ms Streep. We heard appeals go out urging “protest”. And we saw claims that the Russians had “fixed” the election, had hacked everyone and their granny – once the “intelligence” agencies got into it too. Such a response to a US election result is unprecedented as far as my memory can recall and at times I actually felt like those who were not best pleased would not have been heartbroken to see people in the US going on the streets, with or without guns, to disrupt public order and, indeed, start some sort of civil war to prevent Trump from actually taking office! The really disturbing part of the process was that these “intelligence” agencies provided not one shred of proof to support the allegations being made about Trump’s “relationship” with Russia yet the media, as a body, was prepared to run with rumour and present it as fact right across the globe. It is too easy to coin phrases like “fake news” but fake news is indeed what has been repeatedly peddled for months now. (In publications like the Guardian we see articles which normally would be comment enabled closed to comments. Or we see articles that are comment enabled to begin with then closed down once posters start to challenge the articles! Free speech anyone? Has the Guardian forgotten that quote they carry about “Comment is free, facts are sacred?”) The consequences for all of us with such an irresponsible media leading such crusades could be worrying indeed, particularly when that media keeps banging on about “democracy” in the midst of practically demanding that a legitimate election result should be ignored and defied. If Ms Streep sees such broadcasters/newspapers as “the principled press” then we should be alarmed indeed. If Mr Walker sees Streep as “inspirational” then I am even more alarmed!

    It has all made for unpleasant viewing and reading. Personally I’ve found it ghastly. If I digress I apologise but it’s all part of the same problem in that today we don’t get news, as such, we get whatever version of news the writer/publication wishes to put out. That isn’t just the case in Scotland. It’s a disease that is global. The truth is conspicuous by its absence in any media report on any significant matter from Syria, the Middle East in general, Russia, Israel, Palestine……..choose your subject, as well as independence for Scotland.

    On the independence debate we’ve seen the same sort of thing. Call me old fashioned but I used to think papers were there to report the news but now we have the same sort of thing where versions of news are spun according to political loyalties and there are precious few journalists, who also like to be known as political commentators, who actually do the job in an objective way. If I must, I need to mention one in particular: David Torrance. Every contribution Mr Torrance makes invariably includes some nasty dig at the SNP or at independence supporters. He is undoubtedly a very good writer but taints his work by that bias which runs through every piece he produces and which makes it difficult to take him seriously.

    On ordinary forums too we see the same sort of thing only on those forums it’s on both sides. The Herald used to have one of the best sites for debate and was well run and well moderated too. Today it has gone to the dogs with the same culprits indulging in plain nasty stuff which has led many to leave the site and abandon it to its fate. There are a few decent contributors left but it is definitely not the site it once was. Ever since the 2014 referendum I’ve seen awful examples on some forums where rage reigned supreme and people just hurled insults at each other. (This even applied to YES folk who chose to question particular SNP policies at Holyrood. They were often targeted too.) The casualty, obviously, was the debate itself.

    At such times I wondered how on earth NO voters were meant to be “won over” while they were being blamed not just for the result but for everything in general including climate change! The most damaging stuff was thrown at “oldies” who had denied Scotland her freedom by voting NO and not YES. They were often portrayed as rich pensioners who didn’t care for the future of the young. They were mocked and told, “You’ll be dead soon anyway and then your vote won’t count!” I detested such posts. They were grossly offensive and overlooked the fact that we all had the right to vote how we saw fit. Also, as a YES, I knew people in my own circle of all age groups some who had voted YES, others who had voted NO and I found it impossible to locate one single category for either. It was split pretty much evenly across age groups. While feeling disappointed with the outcome I didn’t feel obliged to hurl abuse at those in my circle who didn’t vote as I had.

    I didn’t feel the need to throw around terms like “self-loathers”, “yoons” or to question the “Scottishness” of anyone who had voted NO or to see them as “less Scottish” than myself. I think the tone of the debate is everything and I believe that, if anything, it has worsened and continues to worsen since the 2014 vote. I really don’t think that will help to bring NO voters over to YES. I don’t believe it takes “incredible self restraint” to remain calm during such debates or to refrain from hurling insults. The sad thing, incidentally, is that every insult thrown reflects on the only Party which advocates independence for Scotland even if those hurling the insults are not members of that Party. For they are called “cybernats” anyway. Maybe they should think about that for they don’t just discourage NO voters, they also switch off a lot of YES voters who want nothing to do with such deplorable conduct.

    Perhaps Mr Walker needs to suggest that if we want a cleaner debate it should start by cleaning up our own act. That will help in Scotland. As for the MSM in general, from what I’ve seen in recent months, I’m not sure there is a cure so terminal is the condition.

    Sorry if this post is overlong.

    1. gordoz says:

      I respect Mr Walker and know the point he’s trying to make but …. its just hard on the evidence available from all sources to see why the people should give in to such an organised, educated, complicit cabal as Scotlands MSM
      They know what they’re doing and getting well paid for it.
      It might help if we knew that there were some genuine impartials, but the editorial lines suggest otherwise.
      Sorry but would rather have no press at all than the status quo.

      1. I’m pretty sure he’s not advocating ‘giving in’ to anything. I think he’s arguing that being abusive is counterproductive.

    2. Thanks for your thoughts Jo.

  2. Gaga Glasgow says:

    The mainstream media, generally speaking, all sing from the same hymn sheet; Independence is an unrealistic and stupid idea and so anyone who supports it must be unrealistic and stupid.

    It’s hard to be optimistic about the prospects of reasoned debate with a group of hired hands who approach everything from the starting point that you are a stupid, vile nationalist.

    Over the last few years many of us have tried to be reasonable and respectful towards mainstream journalists and pundits, giving them the benefit of the doubt, taking account of institutional bias, accepting that they were “just doing their jobs”, etc. It does not work and it cannot work.

    The mainstream media in Scotland is like ‘the boy who cried wolf’ on crack cocaine. They scream it constantly — “Wolf! Wolf, I tell you! The SNP are Wolves!” — day and night. If you let them, they will keep you awake at night with this lunacy.

    You simply cannot be reasonable with people who behave like this. They are hired and instructed to behave like this towards the SNP and Indy movement. They don’t want a civilised discussion, they want to shout “Wolf” and other insults — that’s their job.

    Rather than trying to be respectful and reasoned, it makes more sense to call them out for what they are; lying, treasonous, self-serving scum (generally speaking).

  3. w.b.robertson says:

    well worth studying the full version of his speech in Commonspace. Agree that there is no mileage in venting anger at the press. Successful editors rely on sniffing the political wind and drifting accordingly… and I notice that the Daily Record, that pillar of Labour, has now signed up Nicola as a columnist. This is an insurance policy in advance of the May elections/and a probable cleanout of Glasgow City Chambers. If that happens, watch a more “sympathetic” approach to the SNP creeping in from the Scottish mainstream media. You read it here first. (Remember …The tone is set by editors, the successful journalist simply tunes in to what the paper wants.)

  4. Monty says:

    For a bit of perspective you only have to look at the absolute hammering Henry McLeish got from the press when he was first minister. A myth has developed that the SNP government are treated with unique disdain. McLeish and to a slightly lesser extent the then Scottish Executive were arguably treated worse than the SNP govt who get criticised but get a little more respect from the press. it’s what the press do scrutinise power and what they should do.

    1. Gaga Glasgow says:

      Things were very different back then, before the independence movement and the SNP had emerged as a dominant force. If the press were critical back then, they were critical on the basis and assumption that it would have no real impact on the game of musical chairs that liberal and labour politicians had happily played until 2007 in the Scottish Parliament.

      Mcleish presented no discernible threat to the status quo of U.K. Politics and attacking him or supporting him in the media was the everyday sport and hobby of journalists who had nothing to gain or lose either way.

      Now those journalist’s very jobs are on the line, along with the whole cosy system of privilege and patronage that they depend on for a living. Sounds melodramatic, but if independence is achieved BBC Scotland and a bunch of other agencies would be expected to make (more) dramatic changes to the way they operate up here.

  5. Justin Kenrick says:

    Although I completely agree that being anusive is always counter productive, the real abuse of the truth came day in day out from the media No.

    And, as far as I’m concerned, that abuse of truth is why Yes won the argument and won the future. We didn’t win that vote but we clearly set the direction of travel, and will clearly win the next.

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