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By Jason Michael

Mike Small at Bella Caledonia has joined the cool kids of Scotland’s new pretendy media in calling us all narrow minded idiots for focusing our analysis of the media in Scotland to its bias. But Mr Small has all the ideas and none of the money.

There is absolutely no denying the fact that, as far as the media is concerned, we have a serious problem in Scotland. In every healthy democratic society the purpose of the media is to reflect the broad spectrum of public opinion in the country, but here in Scotland we have an establishment media that doesn’t even bother anymore to hide its British nationalist position. Pro-independence media – the political position of about half the population – is limited almost entirely to the so-called alternative media; to social media, blogs, YouTube and what have you. There are a small number of exceptions in the form of The National and iScot Magazine, but by and large our national media is anything but representative of the broader opinions of our country.

We’re right to be proud of the small mainstream pro-independence media we have built since 2014, but we can’t afford to be uncritical of it either. The National, the only openly pro-independence daily newspaper, isn’t owned in Scotland and – as a sister paper of The Herald – can be seen as a corporate attempt by this overtly unionist rag to recover sales lost during and after the 2014 independence campaign. For its part iScot isn’t “pro-independence,” and for good reason. The editorial decision at iScot ensures that it remains a platform for voices of all political persuasions in Scotland – something that cannot be said for the rest of the mainstream media.

What we are left with then are those in the independent or alternative media, and we can’t underestimate the impact these writers and producers have had on the politics of Scotland. Looking at what this blog has been saying, at what others like Wee Ginger Dug, Wings Over Scotland, Indy Ref Two, Inform Scotland, and others have been saying, it is clear that our main line of criticism of the establishment media is that it is unionist and unrepresentative. Well, it is.

Then we have guys like Mike Small – editor of the Bella Caledonia blog – taking it upon himself at yet another Radical Independence conference to launch another scathing criticism of our critique. Apparently our criticism of the establishment media is one dimensional, and we must go beyond what he clearly sees as a puerile and naïve attempt at doing independent thinking. Mr Small in his own words:

In Scotland we have a one dimensional critique of the media; we talk about it being “unionist,” and we constantly go on about the bias in the BBC and in the media and it being unionist. Of course it is unionist. That is its role and its purpose, but it is also structurally misogynist and corporate. It represents corporate interests, and we need to go beyond this one dimensional analysis of our media. But more than that, it is infantilist; it treats us as children.

No one’s going to argue with him in this assessment. The purpose of the British media is to safeguard the union, and is therefore deeply biased in its representation of Scottish politics. It is unarguably misogynistic in its structural makeup and highly corporate; representing the interests of big business over and above the concerns of ordinary people, and it does infantilise us – but then so too does Mike Small.

It’s no secret that Mike and I have had the odd set-to on social media. Assuming for himself the role of father of the independence movement, he has frequently derided the popular display of flags and banners and independence rallies, a sort of flag waving nationalism – as he sees it – that causes him no small feeling of embarrassment. Ignoring the reality that this is the platform of ordinary activists and more than once declaring his intellectual superiority over them and much of the rest of the Scottish pro-independence community, he presumes to be the only chap with the answers.

Of course there is so much more we ought to be doing in the alternative media. But he, I will argue, and others like him are the ones approaching this as children. Mike Small seems to think that we have infinite resources; much like the child who thinks mum and dad’s wallet is a bottomless pit of cash. Off the top of my head I can think of ten pro-independence blogs and vlogs, all produced by private individuals working away on their own buck in their own homes. Each of them will gladly tell Mike how difficult this is. There’s no money in it, and they all have to eat and pay their rent.

Fewer people every month are paying for The National, and iScot makes no secret of how difficult it has become for it to make ends meet. Scotland in Union will always get huge financial support from a few extremely wealthy British nationalists with a vested interest in keeping Scotland under the thumb, and – given the nature of the establishment media – independence supporters spend more money every month funding the unionist media than they do pro-independence media. The cold hard truth is that pro-independence media is being daily starved to death.

So Mike thinks we’re being terribly childish in our “one dimensional” critique of the establishment media. Bully for him. Right now it is just a statement of fact that we can’t do everything. It’s not, as Angry Scotland once suggested on Twitter, that we independence-first types want to put all other issues – as pressing as they are – to the “back of the bus.” As grown-ups we just know that nothing will be achieved at all if we do not first win the most urgent front in the media war – independence from Britain and a proper Scottish media.

Of course we are being narrow in our criticism of the British media, and this is by no means a statement of our lack of interest in all the other injustices. It is simply a reflection of all we have the resources and the time and the manpower to do. Mike is living in a fantasy world if he thinks we can dovetail and become a media like any other until we are an independent state, but then this fantasy fits well with the fact that he is just playing a game – pretending to “be the media.”

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Mike Small – #RIC2016 1st October


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18 thoughts on “Thinking Small: Critiquing the Media in Scotland

  1. Stopped reading Bella yonks ago.Can’t be doing with Mike Small. I tend to judge people by their actions.

    I wrote to Stuart Campbell at Wings Over Scotland once to apologise for not being able to contribute to a fundraiser as I’m skint (earn less now than I did in 1987) – he assured me that he would rather I looked after myself & spent what little I had on necessities. He was understanding & assuaged my guilt.

    When Bella were looking for books by Scottish authors I emailed a few times before even getting a reply then agreed to take a copy of my book to Mike Small’s house. I walked the 3 miles (couldn’t afford the bus) and handed a copy to his (I presume) wife. I received neither a ‘thank you’, an acknowledgement nor a review (not even an ‘it was shite’).

    Funnily enough, I sent a few copies to newspapers for review, handed one in to the office of my local MSP David Torrance (I was at school with his brother & knew him through him and the Scouts), one to Fred McAuley (BBC Radio Scotland?) and one to the First Minister, Alex Salmond.

    Alex Salmond was the only one to reply.

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    1. I am so sorry to hear that. The whole point of blogging is to win independence, to make Scotland better off. It defeats the purpose if by doing this we make people poorer. So, Wings was right. Look after number one. If and when you can afford it give. But only then. Your needs come first.

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  2. I think its time we had a large scale pro-independence pot of cash crowd funded so that the pro-indy writers could do what they do with more ease and better resourced. The British side will have access to plenty of cash under the counter and that’s before we get to paper and TV news and political commentary. I give to three organisations every month all pro-Independence. I’m willing to find another 10er month for this type of fund.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mike Small is no small reason (pun intended) for me no longer reading Bella Caledonia. He is not alone but his small minded (damn it, there I go again) approach to defining Scottish independence in his terms and his alone has attracted similarly minded individuals to write for his blog. The fact that many of these same writers feature regularly in The National also contributes to the reasons why I don’t by that paper.

    I have neither the time nor patience to fight my own side when the unionist forces against us are so powerful.

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  4. I’ve been reading Bella for about 7 years and although I cannot afford to at present, I have also donated to them in the past. Bella has always provided opportunities for young and established Scottish talent. Lots of new voices pre & post Indyref have Bella to thank for getting a leg up and a platform to express themselves. this article just spunds like you are jealous. You sound like a petty fool. What have you done For emerging Scottish artists & writers? Oh that’s right, nothing.

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    1. I think you mean ‘envious.’ But, no. I am not at all envious of what Bella Caledonia is doing. It does its thing and in many ways does it well. My issue is not with Bella, but with this one opinion of its editor Mr Mike Small. Perhaps if you had bothered to read what I have written your silly ad hominem would have made more sense. Thanks for the comment though.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Considering Mike Small is Bella, you just contradicted yourself. I just read your article about the clearances. Ethnic cleansing of course. Maybe even a war crime but GENOCIDE? what a sensationalist and innacurate term. Genocide is generally understood to be systematic murder. That did not happen in the clearances, they were bad enough as a stain on the British Eatablishment but your need for attention by using the term genocide is embarrassing. You are asking for ridicule from unionists and belittling the actual reality of the clearances, my late father was a professor of Scottish History and spoke globally about the clearances, he was passionate about the crimes against the Scots, he NEVER used the term genocide and I dare say he would have been highly critical of its use in tgis context.

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    1. David, Mike Small is not Bella Caledonia. Certainly no more than I am this blog. He is the creator and editor of Bella. But my issue with him – again, I’ll ask you to read it – is his own personal opinion on the scope of pro-independence media.

      Now regarding the Clearances, perhaps if you took the time to read (this appears to be a recurring problem of yours) the United Nations’ definition of genocide, Article 2 of the ‘Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,’ you would see that the Clearances do indeed meet the criteria for genocide. This is not a matter of your obviously ill-informed opinion. Here’s a wee link to help you (I’m good like that): https://treaties.un.org/doc/publication/unts/volume%2078/volume-78-i-1021-english.pdf

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Your issue with Mike Small seems personal and petty
    The vast majority of people would not be comfortable using the term genocide, it may well be ‘technically’ covered by the UN article, that does not however mean it is an appropriate or applicable term to use. No respected academic or writings on the clearances that I have read ( believe me I have read a lot) have ever used the term. You appear to be severely lacking in intelligence.

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    1. “‘Technically’ covered by the UN article” but not “appropriate?” David, are you smoking crack? My “issue” with Mike Small is not personal. He’s a nice guy. On this, however, he is entirely wrong and I am voicing my opinion. So what is your problem with this?

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  7. Ok mr smart arse, I have now asked 8 people (5 of whom are academics) whether they consider ‘genocide’ an appropriate term to describe the clearances. I gave no context other than that question, every single person has replied ‘no’ they have all then elaborated why it does not seem appropriate from their readers knowledge of the clearances, aside from this , my father would have certainly dismissed the use of the term and his lifetimes dedication to the study of Highland people’s almost certainly holds more weight than your amateur blog.. you are quite obviously a bit dim.

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    1. Name your academics and please include their fields of expertise. It is interesting that you gave these unnamed persons “no context,” no reference to the UN definition and no details on the murderous events of the Clearances. You have now made a number of comments to this blog post – which isn’t even about the Clearances – and they have all included personal insults. I refuse to get into such infantile discussions. From now on comments from you will be deleted – except for the next wherein you name your sources. Thanks for your trolling comments.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. For God’s sake, Jason, will you please delete this offensive character from further comments? He’s used this comments facility for his personal tirade of cheap-talk and insult. I think you’ve given him quite long enough.
    Tell you what, JM? if you don’t delete this chappy quick I’ll bloody-well insult you myself!

    Incidentally, got it right re Bella.
    I’ve been reading indy blogs since start of 2014 and, whilst being grateful for most all of them, I have my personal favourites. My personal favourites having a combination of good writing, a clear pro-indy slant and essential information – especially that information we’ve zero chance of obtaining from the MSM/BBC. I enjoy sites and individual blogs that expose and criticise msm/BBC. I also have a personal ‘radar’ for those sites and those individuals – very few – that don’t sit-right with me. Unfortunately, Bella is a site that no longer sits-right with me. Bella, around June-Sept ’14 was ‘hot’ – exciting, vibrant, informative and – importantly – likable. I fell out with the site around their RISE stance and they’ve meant nothing to me since. I mean, what the hell are they doing, ‘defending’ the msm? It’s a stone-cold fact the Union and their mouth-pieces play dirty, always, and they could care a tuppenny-damn for Scottish bleeding-hearts who would defend them.
    Bella seem to be evolving into everything we’re up against. What a shame. I miss Bella.

    Liked by 1 person

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