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By Jason Michael
Be it dummy experts or planted opinions, the unionist media in Scotland is skewing the information being presented to the Scottish people as “news.” We have to keep calling this out and showing them to be liars.
Last week, on January 3, STV News treated Scotland to yet another “expert opinion” painting a grim picture of the Scottish NHS. Professor Hugh Pennington was brought on to the evening bulletin in the aftermath of headlines in the English media about a so-called “NHS meltdown” in England to effectively convince viewers in Scotland that the same dismal reality applied to Scotland. The impression that he gave was that the NHS in Scotland was in chaos, and that this was of course the fault of the Scottish government.
STV News can claim to be balanced and fair because it afforded the Scottish government a right of reply, but we know that in reality this is not how it works. Government ministers of any country and party allegiance can say what they want, but when faced with expert opinion to the contrary we know both the position of the outlet and what the viewing audience is expected to take from this news. Expert opinion trumps “political waffle.”
No national health service is perfect and without its flaws and shortcomings. Looking after and managing the health of an entire nation is an astronomically difficult and complex task. In Scotland health is devolved and the SNP Scottish government has responsibility for health spending, but this is far from being as simple as it sounds. Scotland does not have full control over the money it can spend. We are in a position where of all the wealth produced in our country the London government gives us only a fraction of this as spending money, and from this cut of our wealth the Scottish government is expected to ensure the faultless running of the Scottish NHS. Any failure will be headlined by the unionist establishment media as an example not of the Scottish government’s incompetence per se, but that of the Scottish National Party.
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) January 03, 2018
Tonight we were given a glimpse from the BBC at how petty this need in the British media can be when it comes to its focus on the NHS in Scotland and when it comes to attacking the party in government in Scotland. It gave us the example of one Allan Browne, a chap who on Boxing Day slipped on the ice and hurt his ankle. He did the sensible thing and went to A&E. According to Allan the receptionist – not a triage nurse, but a receptionist – told him that there would be a long wait. Bearing in mind that hospitals aren’t exactly in the business of hiring temporary seasonal staff, Allen took the hump and went home – because of what a receptionist told him.
A week later – a week later – after not being able to sleep due to the pain, Allen re-presented at A&E and was seen by a nurse within the target time of four hours. He was told that he had indeed suffered a fracture and that he should not have been walking on it. Really, he should not have been walking on it and he shouldn’t be taking medical advice from receptionists. In fairness, it is highly doubtful an A&E receptionist would be in the habit of giving out such advice, but we will give poor wounded Allen the benefit of the doubt.
It is interesting that Allen takes this opportunity to politicise his experience rather than to reflect on his own stupidity. Somehow it is the fault of the hospital, the Scottish NHS, and – by extension – the Scottish government that Allen took an unqualified person’s advice and worsened his own injury by leaving the hospital and not returning for a week.
These two experts – one an expert in his field and the other an expert in his own experience – have something fascinating in common; they are both unionist activists. Hugh Pennington is an outspoken British nationalist who is a member of Scotland in Union and makes regular written contributions to its website. As a bacteriologist he is an “expert,” but not in the field of general hospital practice on which he was invited to make comment. His opinion on the state of the NHS is of no more value than that of a professor of history. Yet having “Prof” before his name on the news does have a certain effect – it leads the public to believe he knows what he’s talking about.
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) January 09, 2018
Allen Browne – or “@AllyBrowne101” on Twitter and “ally.browne.18” on Facebook is no less a unionist diehard, regularly tweeting and posting personal attacks on the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and “#SNPout” memes. Isn’t it just incredible that these are the people who appear on the television news in Scotland to provide evidence of how bad a job the SNP are doing of running the country. This is part of a trend, and there are countless examples of media in Scotland doing precisely this, ensuring that the overwhelming impression given to the public suits one particular agenda.
No one is suggesting that these people should not be given airtime on the news. They have their opinions and everyone’s opinion is of some value. The problem we have is that their personal political agendas are hidden from viewers as they are presented as neutral actors when they are anything but politically neutral. This problem is compounded by the fact that pro-SNP or pro-independence voices are not given the same platform. When experts give information that does not fit with the unionist narrative, as was the case with one structural engineer recently, they are asked – in a frighteningly McCarthyist fashion – if they are members of the SNP.
Accumulatively, this is having a terrible impact across Scotland. This clear manipulation of information by the mainstream media is distorting Scottish political discourse, thus inflicting untold damage on the health of our democracy. People simply cannot make informed decisions when the information they are being presented is politically and ideologically skewed, and this skewing of the news is now routine and to be expected in Scotland.
It also means that the value of expert opinion is seriously devalued. On the one hand the mainstream media is bemoaning the role the devaluation of expert opinion has played in the rise of Donald Trump and European and British right-wing populism, while on the other hand it is the mainstream media itself that is devaluing this opinion by cynically using dummy “experts” to manufacture the public consent requested by its political and corporate masters.
Why the unionist media persists in doing this is becoming increasingly hard to fathom. This is the age of the internet, social media, and instantaneous news. Fewer people every year rely on the mainstream for their news – as a result of shifting age demographics and by a growing lack of trust in how it sources and presents the news. The moment Hugh and Allen’s faces appeared on our screens social media recognised them and outed them, further damaging the credibility of STV and the BBC. It is almost as though they have a formula – which they so obviously do – that they are incapable of changing. Yet they are still getting away with it because those who watch their shows watch their shows because they are not online. Sadly for them this reliance on the older voter has a shelf-life. When those viewers/voters are gone so too are they.
Professor John Robertson on the Manipulation of the Media in Scotland