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By Jason Michael
THERE’S A CERTAIN MISCONCEPTION that by giving interviews to and appearing on the BBC the political representatives of the Scottish independence movement have a platform from which they can explain their positions and advance the cause of independence. This belief reveals a deep and fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of the British state broadcaster. Rather than being a neutral news media outlet, the purpose of the BBC – as is stated explicitly in its own charter – is to create and strengthen a common sense of shared national identity across all the nations and regions of the United Kingdom. Under the heading of “Public Purposes (6.4)” the charter reads:
The BBC should bring people together for shared experiences and help contribute to the social cohesion and wellbeing of the United Kingdom.
Ensuring the “wellbeing of the United Kingdom” – not the wellbeing of the people it brings together and the social cohesion it hopes to build, but the wellbeing of the union state as a state polity – is what the BBC is all about. Creating a shared sense of Britishness as a societal means of ensuring the survival of the state is why the BBC exists. It was founded in October 1922 in the aftermath of Ireland’s successful war of independence – at a time when national identity and difference had proved its ability to break London’s control over Ireland, a national member of the union.
Gavin Duffy (@GavinDuffy) October 18, 2017
In late 1921, with the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, the need for a soft power – non-violent – alternative to the brute force that had failed so spectacularly in Ireland had become obvious to the British establishment. Radio afforded people and governments a new means of reaching a mass audience, and the British Empire – not one to miss an opportunity to shore up its power base – leapt on this new form of communication in an effort to make better, more loyal subjects within its realm. So, following the doctrine of its first General Manager, John Reith, the BBC has been on a mission to “inform, educate, and entertain” to this day.
Of course, and more especially when it comes from the state, there is nothing benign about information, education, and entertainment. The act of informing is not, as many might think, the simple, politically neutral act of passing on news and other important facts. “Information,” from the Latin informare, is the process whereby information is used to shape, to fashion – to give form to, and the form Britain had in mind was the ideal and obedient subject. Education’s purpose is much the same; taken from the industrial-professional model of education, the intention was to instil in its recipients a uniformity of thought – Britishthink. Likewise, entertainment – like the brain numbing mass entertainment of today – was all about keeping people distracted.
Dangerous ideas, or ideas inimical to imperialism, were all the rage when the BBC was formed. These were not far-off distant thoughts. Karl Marx, a German immigrant, lived and worked in London. Jim Larkin, the trade unionist behind the revolutionary Lockout in Dublin in 1913, was born in Liverpool, and James Connolly – also involved in the Lockout, one of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland, came to Dublin from Edinburgh. During the great celebration of industrialism – also known as World War I – these ideas deposed the Tsar in the Russian Revolution. It would be no exaggeration to say that by 1922 the mass formation, indoctrination, and distraction of Britain had become an urgent and pressing concern of the imperial government.
Everything said by the SNP to the BBC is twisted into pro-union propaganda. There's no sense in continuing to appear on the BBC.—
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) August 01, 2018
After almost a hundred years the mission of the BBC; to “help contribute to the social cohesion and wellbeing of the United Kingdom,” has not changed. If anything, the battle for hearts and minds in the UK has become more – not less – important to the British project. The clash of European and British identity is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to considering the factors and forces tearing the UK apart. A century on and the struggle for full Irish independence, with the reunification of the island of Ireland, is not over. The Scottish and Welsh independence movements have become a real threat to the English state’s hegemonic dominance over the united [?] union state.
Attending these existential threats is the blowback from historical international imperialism and recent British foreign policy adventures. Windrush is the perfect symbol of the failure of the British project to stamp a homogeneous sense of ethnic, cultural, and national Britishness on the people of these islands. Much the same can be said of Salman Abedi – the Manchester Arena bomber. In its efforts to control other nations by destabilising them through terrorism the UK has been bitten on the bum, further fracturing the societal support and consent the state needs to exist.
It is strange, then, to see and hear Scottish National Party politicians platformed by the BBC. Seeing this, we get the impression – naturally – that this is media balance; that by giving interviews and by making appearances on the BBC the SNP and other pro-independence parties have access to a media which helps them make their case and build support for independence. Yet, if this were true the BBC would not be being true to its own charter and imperial ethos. It would be undermining its own stated mission and objectives. But this isn’t what the BBC is doing when it deigns to include these people in its news bulletins and other broadcasts.
2016: We'll win back trust says BBC! | 2018: We'll use an american lawyer to take down fully lawful use of material… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Martin J Keatings (@MJKIndependent) July 30, 2018
The counter-voice – such as the political voice of the SNP, Sinn Féin, or Plaid Cymru – is the modern equivalent of the pillory or the stocks. This is where the enemy is presented, carefully framed and expertly mitigated, so as to make it serve the purposes of the state. We may hear the voice and see the face of Nicola Sturgeon, for example, but the narrative – the most important element of “the news” – is always that of the British state. No BBC broadcast featuring a counter-voice will leave the audience in any doubt as to dangerous nature of that voice. Speaking to the state broadcaster as a counter-voice is always tantamount to surrendering ammunition to the enemy.
How do we get round this? Well, to some extent we can’t. Insofar as the state broadcaster and the unionist political and media establishment dominate the propagation of news in Scotland we are always at a loss. But any meaningful response to this must begin with an outright refusal on the part of counter-voices to be the monkey on the street organ. We must refuse to speak to and appear on anything framed by the state broadcaster and the unionist media. We must find an alternative. In the age of the internet and satellite television there is really no excuse for not having an alternative. There are other platforms we can use and more effective means of building support for independence.
John Pilger: “BBC is one of world’s most refined propaganda services”