Spreading a despicable anti-English meme: The dirty war continues…

Scotsman Publications play the despicable race card

Scotsman Publications disregard truth to play the despicable race card

by Kevin Williamson

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)

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18 replies

  1. Plaudits for admirable content and the mixed metaphor of the day!

  2. As I’ve said in a comment on the previous article, this is just the same debate as those who (rightly) complain about the Americanisation of western cultures – the difference being that it’s still socially acceptable to be accused of being “anti-American”.

    The truth is, those complaining about anti-Englishness in Scotland just sound like men complaining of sexism because of the existence of female-only insurance companies like Sheila’s Wheels, despite living in what is still a male-dominated world. It’s preposterous.

    “If you think its bad now just wait until the referendum of 2014 draws closer.”

    I’m slightly worried about this. I knew the unionist side would get into “anti-Englishness”, but I thought it would happen in 2014, not 2012, and even then, I thought it would be politicians rather than artists getting accused of it.

    Here’s their problem though – they’ve picked the wrong target. If you choose a politician and say “oooh, they’re just anti-English”, you can get a bit of traction behind that, particularly as politicians then have to try damage limitation. But when you pick popular cultural icons, people are inclined to say “haud on, that doesn’t sound right at all.” In truth, I’ve seen comedians like Limmy, Frankie Boyle and Robert Florence saying stuff on Twitter that could far more easily be misinterpreted as “anti-Englishness”, and I wonder if that’s still to come in this great purge of supposedly anti-English cultural icons that appears to be starting. I hope they try, because that’s the point where people will really understand the agenda the newspapers are embarking upon. More importantly, such figures will simply tell the newspapers to fuck off.

    This is a dangerous game the media are playing. It is not beyond the realms of imagination that shit-stirring about anti-Englishness will actually create a chip on the shoulder of many Scots – and in some cases, simply reinvigorate one that folk have spent years, if not decades, trying to deny exists (except during sport, perhaps). There’s a very good chance this will backfire spectacularly on them, and turn the independence debate into something darker it has steered clear from for decades…

  3. “The Unionist media are having a wee dig at myself today . . ” “Myself” is reflexive. The only person who can have a dig “at yourself” is you.. I think you meant to say “The Unionist media are having “a wee dig at me”. !

  4. As I commented on The Scotsman website:

    It is at the very least unfortunate that Alan Massie didn’t see fit to read the essay in question before launching this attack on Alasdair Gray. He lets himself down badly by descending to the level of those of his journalistic colleagues who, seeing in this no more than an opportunity to propagandise on behalf of the British nationalist cause, seize upon two admittedly provocative terms and blithely disregard everything else that Gray said.

    This kind of frenzied and fundamentally dishonest demonisation of a man on the basis of a profoundly shallow, biased and partial analysis is, regrettably, what we have come to expect from the likes of Tom Peterkin. I would have expected better of Alan Massie.

  5. Then there is Monday’s Herald front page headline on the other story – which the Gray story is bolted to – The Herald did the original interview and seem to have set the tone for the rest …..

    NTS Chief: I suffered anti-English bullying…

    It’s not only the Scotsman stable. And the Telegraph article is pretty much the Herald interview story the day after, majoring on Featherstone with a bit about Gray.

  6. “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.”

    That is very true and goes hand in hand with a deeply seated belief the unionists hold about the SNP. The unionists believe against all evidence that the core of the SNP’s drive for independence is based on xenophobic anti-English racism.

    Lallands Peat Worrier mentioned it in a post on his blog in relation to the Labour party a while ago:

    http://lallandspeatworrier.blogspot.co.uk/2010/04/how-innocuous-is-phrase-london-parties.html

    The unionists want the independence movement and the SNP to be racist because they believe it to be true and because evidence of racism would make it easy to attack the Yes campaign. Anything which can be twisted into racism will be used as evidence to bolster their belief in a racist independence movement.

    The unionists have been trying to hang the racist tag on the SNP for years and now they’ve moved onto the Yes campaign. Nothing new here. An old tactic, but anyone who asks if Scottish culture is currently dominated by England is going to be called racist on the spot. They don’t have to claim it’s true but just asking the question is enough to earn them the label racist from the unionist press.

    Because the unionists couldn’t and can’t hang a racist tag on the SNP they invented the cybernat myth. A horde of anti-English trolls and flamers who descend on any decent unionist’s blog in hordes. Now that myth is quietly dying due a dearth of actual cybernats it’s defenders of Scottish culture who are in frame now.

  7. In light of James MacMillan’s response to Alasdair Gray, this article is worth keeping in mind (courtesy of Andy Wightman on Twitter), where MacMillan defends a writer who tried to claim the Highland Clearances were exaggerated:

    http://www.scotsman.com/news/scottish-news/top-stories/composer-defends-clearances-historian-1-1390298

  8. I like the idea that there is nothing to worry about from Allan Massie because:

    a) “The ethos of that most remarkable of organisations, the BBC, was established by a son of the manse, its first Director-General John Reith, and that ethos was informed by Scots Presbyterianism.”
    b) “Did anyone, for instance, ever do more for music in the north-east of Scotland than June Boissier, born in the Isle of Wight and daughter of the headmaster of Harrow School. Marrying David Gordon, the future Marquess of Aberdeen, she made Haddo House an outstanding cultural centre.”
    c) During the time Vicky Fetherstone was in Scotland “one of the two principal theatres in England – the Royal Shakespeare – was being directed with great success and to general acclaim by Sir Michael Boyd who, though born in Northern Ireland, was educated at Daniel Stewart’s.”

    With this kind of logic who could possibly argue that there’s any issue at all?!

    • Gray’s essay: funded by Creative Scotland (last line http://www.word-power.co.uk/viewPlatform.php?id=610). With this kind of twisted logic, one could argue that there’s no issue with Gray’s piece (not his greatest ever) other than a poor choice of words (not polemical; just wrong) and proof-reading. And of course, the absence of numerical evidence, substituted instead by a few choice anecdotes; a method that Gray seeks to defend with a quote by Fitzgerald (from a settler family and a superb writer of fiction).

  9. Anyone who wants to get their head around the mind-set of the people we’re dealing with here has only to look at the mien of the BBC heid-yins who sat while Pollard delivered a summary of his report earlier today – see much contrition or genuine remorse on show? Chris Pompous-Prick Patten getting his boxers in a fankle when a ‘real’ journalist has the temerity to ask a question?

    These characters have the gall to appear in public knowing that not ONE of their buddies has been sacked over this scandal?

    If we don’t make a serious effort to understand how these people think, how they view themselves (and how they truly view their ‘friends in the north’), why they feel ‘entitled’ to behave as they do, we will not be prepared to fight them when the going gets really tough.

  10. Kevin, I think you are right to set this within the context of the impending vote on scottish independence and the press’s pathological desire to sell copy based on a whipped up stushie. I went through one by daring to suggest Robert Burns was a radical egalitarian republican who published additional radical works under pen names! We had a Burns that suited the Unionist camp and was painted as even pro-Tory in his dying years by the late biographer J Mackay. For years and even now plenty of people defend the plagiarism of his Saltire winning biography and most of them who do so elevate Walter Scott with their own unionist agenda. They have smeared my research as ‘discredited’ and accused me of falsifying evidence in abusive personal attacks. I laughed at it all for a few years but the net effect was pretty nasty: to ensure I got no more work in our Universities and was kicked to the sidelines. Yet my biography is cited by many international experts and sets Burns properly within the radical culture of his era for the first time. I didnt follow the right pack, nor suck up to the right people to be accepted within the Scottish establishment of Burnsiana and yet shed more light and understanding on the national bard than any other biographer, esp in his last years. The dying throws of the Unionist camp will seek to denigrate any and all authnetic Scottish voices that do not accept their canonical views of Scotland’s place within the Union. I certainly do not see Alistair Gray as a racist. His use of some language is sadly unfortunate and laid him wide open to the nasty attacks that have ensued. Regarding the Burns related attacks on myself – watch this space as I will reply to and deal with the disgraceful and nasty vitriolic attacks I have personally suffered over the last decade.

    • “The dying throws of the Unionist camp will seek to denigrate any and all authnetic Scottish voices that do not accept their canonical views of Scotland’s place within the Union.” This is as true for architecture, music, threatre, painting, dance, sculpture and all art forms as it is for poetry. How do we change it? Certainly not by relying on the art critics in the Scotsman – but change it we somehow must.

  11. Your biography of Burns, Paddy, is a credit to the man, his life and his work, not least because of the new information related to his last few years. It was a very useful text for me when researching my Burns show last year. Alongside Robert Crawford’s would highly recommend it.

    KW

  12. Just to say that as an English artist living and working in Scotland on Scottish themes, working in local communities here and collaborating with pro-independence Scots, I have received no anti-English comments or prejudice whatever.

  13. Dear Kevin Williamson,

    During the close to almost twenty years I lived in Spain, in Madrid, I took the time to get to know a foreign language and culture.

    By that I mean I read the canonical texts of Spanish literature – certainly Castillian literature – familiarizing myself with “Don Quixote”, “The Verses composed on the death of his father” by Manrique, plays be Lope and poetry by Quijote, as well as some of the works of Ramón de Vallé-Inclan, and many contemporary writers dear to my heart, such as Javier Marías, Enrique Vila-Matas, Eduardo Menodoza, Javier Cercas and Quim Monzó.

    I also lived some time in Portugal, where I was fascinated by the work of Fernando Pessoa and the Fado traditional music.

    I have also seen most of Spanish cinema, in fact I even made a film there, and know in some depth the work of Spain’s greatest painters and musicians. I speak Castillian Spanish like I speak my own language and can get by in Catalan and Portuguese tolerably well.

    All of this is my good fortune, and was not done with any lucre in mind; I am interested in culture per se, like you and Alisdair Gray are, and so many other people too. I am not an arts-administrator, nor will I ever be; but even if I were, I would have thought the idea that I might be the chief cultural administrator in Spain an unlikely scenario – to say the least. However, had somebody offered me such a job without any self-confessed knowledge of Spanish culture, I would have taken them for insane people….

    In Scotland it seems, that to know nothing about Scottish Culture does not just preclude you from working as an arts administrator, but is in fact a prerequisite for the job.

    For Scottish culture to exist, it must be run by people who know Scottish culture intimately; where they are born is irrelevant. But even papers like The Herald believe that somehow a knowledge of Scottish culture is not a prerequisite for a job in Scottish Culture, that there are other matters which make you more eligible.

    These other questions are the other half of any evaluation, but it cannot be taken as unreasonable that Scottish theatre adminitstrators know Scottish theatre, nor that the CEO of Creative Scotland knows where “the muckle toon” is…

    Alisadair Gray, a noble man, has been vilified and where not si, unfairly criticized; I add my name to his defense.

    Slainte

    Douglas Wilson

  14. He’s a writer, he knew what loaded terms “settler” and “colonist” were. As Orwell said, you guys run on the assumption you are spiritually superior to the Saxon (simpler, more creative, less vulgar, less snobbish, etc). Sure, the bigotry runs both ways, there is a hell of a lot of anti-English sentiment in Scotland, and the reverseis doubtless true down here, and as has been recently statistically shown. The level of bile directed online and otherwise at your neighbours to the south is surely a good thing because there is no reason to be in a political union with a nation that openly detests you? Surely you should be encouraging it rather than, laughably and contrary to most available evidence, denying it exists? Yes it’s often coded so as to provide for plausable denyability, like saying “Westminster” for “England” but it exists.

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