Noam Chomsky wrote extensively and perceptively about the “manufacture of consent”. It’s a process whereby an idea which can have little basis in reality, is not subjected to serious analysis, or has little popular support, is then seized upon and repeated mantra-like by media and political elites until it becomes received wisdom.
The filter down process has the idea gradually mutate like a rogue meme into a new perverse truth. The 45 minute WMD warning in 2003 which was used to justify the attack on Iraq was probably the most infamous example of recent years.
Over the last few days the increasingly toxic deranged newsroom of the Scotsman Publications has been hard at work playing the anti-English race card as they attempt to drag Scottish political life down to the gutter.
The current stooshie which began in the Scotland on Sunday (above) with the smear story: “Gray attacks the English for ‘colonising arts” has grown legs. That Alasdair Gray wrote a thoughtful historical essay questioning Scottish representation at the highest level in the arts is neither here nor there. For the SoS the most important thing was to be able to use the words “attacks the English” in their fictional headline. This is described in propaganda manuals as “framing” a debate along lines in which you want to it to continue.
What inevitably follows is a rapid distancing from any rational debate or questioning of the original source, and fuelling the process through co-option. This isn’t exactly rocket science, nor particularly difficult, especially when every newspaper in the country sings from a single Unionist hymn sheet. Journalists phone around, putting unsuspecting people on the spot for soundbite responses. Anyone who is willing continue the frame is co-opted with relish.
Today the increasingly toxic Scotsman went for a double whammy, co-opting writer Allan Massie and composer James MacMillan to comment on the rise of “anti-Englishness”. That it has been firmly established that Alasdair Gray doesn’t have an anti-English bone in his body is well known, but for the Unionist media this is neither here nor there. The individuals don’t matter when framing a poisonous meme. The objective is all about getting the words “anti-English” into common currency and equating them with the Independence movement. In this respect, by playing the race card, Scotsman Publications and their Politburo of dishonest editors and journalists have stepped deep down into the gutter. Sycophancy and careerism keeps potential dissenters on message.
The Unionist media are having a wee dig at myself today for defending Alasdair Gray. It wasn’t exactly unexpected and is a bit like getting tickled by Ken Dodd and his Diddymen. As a writer and not a politician I have no intention of backing away from asking difficult questions. I’ll take the attacks as a back-handed compliment.
Where this will end it is difficult to say. But what the Unionist media won’t do is discuss serious ideas related to Scotland’s future. For them its simply enough to fan the flames of non-existent anti-Englishness in the hope enough mud sticks. It’s poisonous stuff, and they know it, but truth, as always, has been sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.
If you think its bad now just wait until the referendum of 2014 draws closer. The attack dogs of the Unionist press will be foaming at the mouth should a surge in support for Independence put them in panic mode. The least we can do is refuse to buy the worst of their newspapers in the here and now. That, and develop a media of our own which patiently tries to counter disinformation.
SPREADING A RACE HATE MEME:
Anti-English artists are fanning the flames of bigotry (Scotsman, 19 Dec)
Allan Massie: Outburst exposes author as cultural nationalist (Scotsman, 19 Dec)
Anti-English bullies left me unable to do my job (Daily Telegraph, 19 Dec)
Toxic ‘cyber nats’ give the Scots a bad name (Daily Telegraph, 19 Dec)
Tell Us Who Is Running Our Country (Daily Express, 19 Dec)