2007 - 2022

The Russians Are Coming!

imageSimone Charlesworth looks at the reaction to the founding of Sputnik’s UK office in Scotland and what it says about how we judge and value media.

This weekend much of our media seem to have been impersonating a gaggle of elderly aunts as they clutched their pearls and proceeded to have fits of the vapours.

And what caused such histrionics?

Are we talking about submarines sneaking their way up the Clyde as prophesied by Brian Donohoe (ex-MP for central Ayrshire) as he desperately tried to justify Trident in January 2015. Seriously, how is effective a deterrent is Trident if Russian submarines are in danger of entering central Glasgow? If they are the only thing between us and the Russian navy taking Buchanon Street shouldn’t we have nukes on every estuary? A year later and that level of stupidity still rankles.

Was it about actual incursions into British territory; for example when in July this year there were reports of a submarine off the Scottish coast just days after two of their aircraft were spotted in “a British area of interest” (not actually our airspace, but close enough to get an RAF escort.)

No it wasn’t.

The cause of dismay was that Sputnik – an online news and radio service – has set up in Edinburgh as part of its aim to produce international news in 34 countries. Numerous articles have already been written proclaiming it is a Kremlin mouthpiece designed to spread dissent in the west. This paragraph in the Evening Times seemed to me to be a prime example of the level of reporting.

“It’s insulting when the media treats its readers and viewers like uninformed children. I’m pretty sure that most people will have a good idea of what slant Sputnik will be running and take that into consideration.”

“Sputnik, they believe, is a crude attempt to act as apologist for Kremlin policies on gay rights and Ukraine while cynically encouraging alternative views of Western powers, such as those of some Scottish nationalists.”


It’s insulting when the media treats its readers and viewers like uninformed children. You must listen to us, we know best. I’m pretty sure that most people will have a good idea of what slant Sputnik will be running and take that into consideration.

Can anyone point to a news agency that isn’t pushing some sort of agenda? And don’t say the BBC. It defends the establishment whoever is in power.

The BBC’s World Service is the world’s largest international broadcaster – it is broadcast in 31 languages and believed to reach an audience of around 210 million people a week. It was funded until 2014 by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office which I’m sure they did purely out of the goodness of their hearts and not to promote British interests at all.

Sputnik is a baby compared to that level of influence.

“Seriously, how is effective a deterrent is Trident if Russian submarines are in danger of entering central Glasgow? If they are the only thing between us and the Russian navy taking Buchanon Street shouldn’t we have nukes on every estuary?”

Followed on from this was what I believe to be an atrocious article in the Sunday Herald. It attempted to smear Sputnik’s presenters Jack Foster and Carolyn Scott over their funding of an alternative Scottish early evening news show last year.

What this has to do with rent-a-gob MSP James Kelly, I cannot say as no public funds were used. His opinion was totally unnecessary. It was a crowdfunder and people gave because they wanted an alternative to what is currently produced. Unfortunately the project failed. These things happen. I guess it’s because we in Scotland find equipment such as cameras far too complicated to operate.

There has been no outcry from those who donated to the crowdfunder. As far as I’m concerned the two of them could have spent the money bathing in prosecco, they did what was set out in the crowdfunder and that’s all that was asked of them. I would imagine they both would be happier running an alternative Scottish news outlet than fronting someone else’s operation.

As I am not a journalist and I wouldn’t want to be, there was comforting news as according to Ipsos MORI the only groups that trusted less are estate agents, Government ministers and politicians.

“All media has bias – ALL. Those that deny it seem to be the ones that don’t understand why they are losing influence.”

When I ramble away you get all my prejudices, I’m not going to hide them. I’m a female English, left-wing, pro-Indy, SNP member who grew up in the middle of nowhere (Lincolnshire) and you get all the baggage that comes with that. This is cheaper than therapy.

I believe if you have an opinion you have a bias. You’ve already chosen which sources of information you trust.

All media has bias – ALL. Those that deny it seem to be the ones that don’t understand why they are losing influence.

People are omnivorous as they accessing many different sources for their news, maybe it’s time certain Scottish journalists asked themselves why don’t people trust them anymore?

Comments (30)

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  1. Bryan Weir says:

    Good points here.

  2. Diogenes says:

    The British Establishment do NOT like loss of control of the narrative and theres a definite Russian threat Narrative the Establishment like to peddle, its great for justifying defense spending
    The Russian view of brexit may be guaged here http://www.spravedlivo.ru/5_77796.html
    …There is no need to look for guilty among the British, and much less is it necessary to use the “Mythical Russian Threat.”its EU and NATO expansion which has riled Russia by trying to make inroads in Russian sphere of influence

  3. Darby O'Gill says:

    Shouldn’t we wait until we’ve read/heard what Sputnik has to say we before we pass judgment?

    1. Diogenes says:

      fair comment, RT is undoubtedly biased, my quick research shows ‘Sputnik is an online news and radio broadcast service established by the Russian government-controlled news agency Rossiya Segodnya’ I dont mind independent news, the British MSM can be lousy at times

      1. c rober says:

        Even for all its bias , RT and many of the other news outlets can and do avoid the running lists of our current suppliers , Sky , BBC , and even STV.

        For example , SKy will run on a rolling news day about a fatal stabbing in London , an area with double the population of Scotland , yet on Scottish streets it barely makes the news at all , normalcy or complacency?

  4. Paul Carline says:

    This is very good news. There’s a crying need for something to counterbalance the appalling bias of the mainstream media – radio, TV and print media – which have been lying to us to years by both commission and omission, with the result that many have been convinced of the non-existent “Russian aggression” in eastern Europe. Unlike the US, UK, France and others, Russia has remained behind its borders – while offering justified support to the incredibly brave people of Donbas, who are still being shelled by order of the illegitimate Kiev junta who are simply puppets of the US (which financed the coup to the tune of $5 billion).
    Although we know that it was Ukrainian air traffic control (specifically that located in the region controlled by dual-nationality – Ukrainian and Israeli – oligarch Kolomoisky) that instructed the pilot a) to descend to 3o,000 feet (i.e. in range of a ground-to-air missile); and b) alter its course to pass right over the conflict area, media attention has focussed on where the alleged BUK missile was launched. The Dutch Safety Board claimed it could not say whether the launch was from Ukraine or from the territory controlled by the so-called ‘separatists’ (the Kiev government refers to them as “terrorists”, although all the terror is coming from the UAF and the fascist militaries). Despite this, our media still imply that Russia was to blame, directly or indirectly.
    The result is that the clear NATO aggression – in massing forces and equipment close to the Russian border and stoking wholly baseless fear in the border countries – which threatens to escalate into a deadly live conflict, has been whitewashed and the old Cold War anti-Russian rhetoric rekindled.
    People who are tired of being fed lies will welcome this new station which will provide a welcome boost to the excellent work being done by Russia Today (RT) – my news feed of choice for some time.

    1. c rober says:

      As long as everyone knows its propaganda based , then wheres the problem?

      The Western media does the opposite of propaganda most of the time , mushroom news , the complete avoidance of any real news. Censorship by agreement , then where it fails ramp up the propaganda element.

      For example Brexit. The media fed the machine on the causes of the UK today because of EU membership , for immigration , housing , nhs and so on. This while avoiding the real causes of electorate disharmony , 30 years of lack of Westminster investment. Mushroom news backfired , big time.

      The same was said of AJ compared to RT when it started up , yet without it the western world is subject only to news when “certain bombs hit certain hospitals or schools” , but not when its other bombs through the the state contolled beeb and privately owned sky news.

      Main stream media is dying , no one is buying print , circulation is down , so any new kid on the block needs smacking down for the old boy network to keep their income and or control of the masses , failing that Murdoch just like microsoft historically – Simply buy them up and dismantle. Murdochs signature is on the chq , its only the numbers that need writing if Whitehall fails.

  5. Roger gillies says:

    Who would I trust more,
    RTE or the BBC… Hmm let me put it this way I buy the national not the herald (I know) nor the any other msm outlet in Scotland.
    These days I check information from original source rather than accepting the head line banners of the daily rags that invariably have nothing to do with the truth.

  6. w.b.robertson says:

    all media outlets are biased/slanted (in somebody`s view!). but acknowledge that, however bad, it is the only watchdog we have. and we should recognise that.

  7. bringiton says:

    We haven’t had “freedom” of the press in UKOK for a very very long time.
    HM press close ranks and sing from the same sheet when required.
    A voice,not in thrall to the London establishment,will be a step in the right direction,or should that be left?

  8. F McRae says:

    “O wad some Power the giftie gie us, to see oursels as ithers see us! It wad frae’……

    uk state broadcaster or media don’t provide the above gift, they provide a distorted view based on their view of what is required to scare us into their way of thinking and keep us enslaved.

    I would accept Russian flattery over british lies any day of the week!

  9. Jezza says:

    the problem is that “russia” (under Putin) and “journalism” sadly lead to “Anna Politkovskaya (deceased/murdered; and many others)” and that is why all decent folk should have some degree of concern or skepticism about the expansion of russian state sponsored media outlets here whether in Scotland or rUK, regardless of the deficiencies or lies of our own MSM

  10. Angus Skye says:

    Are all the critics of Sputnik of the belief that this is a one-way street; that there are no western news agencies based in Russia?

    The BBC alone announced back in 2003 that it was opening a new office/media centre in Moscow, employing 100 people.


    That’s fine, cos “that’s different”.

  11. Bryan Weir says:

    Concerns about the Russian’s disregard for the law with regard to the murder of critical journalists and opponents are real. However they must be counterbalanced by the willingness of the UK establishment to kill many thousands of civilians in illegal wars over the years. It could also be argued that there have been several cases where people critical of our government or privy to sensitive information on certain issues have died in mysterious circumstances here in the UK. The UK establishment often claims the moral high ground but are we any better than them?

    C Rober I am not sure if everyone knows that this be propaganda based. What we have to be careful of are the Indy fanatics who, without validation, seize on anything they read as fact if it suits their agenda – confirmation bias – before spreading it widely through social media. This could turn out to be a rich source for them so we have to be wary.

    1. Bryan Weir says:

      Sorry. “is propaganda based”.

  12. Ludmilla says:

    ‘I believe if you have an opinion you have a bias.’

    This is precisely the kind of parochial self regarding guff that puts people off the independence movement and frankly makes my blood boil with its cloying self pitying whinging. If the author (who has the kind of privilege to write publicly against the state she lives in – without fear of torture, arrest or persecution – that many in the world DO actually give their lives for) really thinks that the situation in the UK is remotely comparable with Russia or any other genuinely despotic and repressive regime then she really needs to travel beyond Scotland and Lincolnshire a bit more and experience these countries in some depth (more than just a weeks holiday). It really really isn’t simply a case of bias or slant, it’s a case of using the press by the state to completely deny existence, history, of thought, religion, sexuality; a complete suppression and denial of the individual and identity – it is genuinely ‘Orwellian’. Having lived in a few of such countries due to my job I will give you a single example. 1) Saudi Arabia – where the author would get publicly flogged for such an article – gay friend/ colleague of mine imprisoned by religious court for 5 years after caught holding hands with his boyfriend at a private party – was informed on and with photographic evidence of ‘the crime’. Silence in the state run press of course and any mention of it in western press (was published in an Italian newspaper (boyfriend was Italian) was banned, the internet censored as it regularly is.

    And in these countries, Russia, Belarus, China, Middle East, Burma, and many others, the radio station those who are oppressed listen to overwhelmingly is the World Service (has the author ever actually listened to it?) as it features some of the best international and liberal thought/ discussion not just from the UK but the world entire. Although I am an indy supporter, I maintain that if ‘British Bias’ is a commitment to plurality and inclusive liberal values in the spirit of Reith then good for Britain.

    1. Iain says:

      That’ll be the same BBC that broadcast black propaganda against the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mossadeq in Iran, as a precursor to the CIA directed coup that ousted him in 1953. I’m sure that you’re absolutely right in thinking that the “oppressed” people in some countries listen overwhelmingly to the BBC World Service – regarded in some quarters in Washington as the best propaganda tool they have – just as I am looking forward to hearing from news outlets that stick it to the government that I didn’t vote for in this country. By your own argument, that seems to be the enough justification for Sputnik, RT et al. to say whatever they like as long as it chimes with my own hatred of the political establishment in the UK. Fair enough.

      1. Haideng says:

        The poster has a valid point. Being an apologist for State controlled anti liberal, anti gay, anti human rights, anti democratic, anti individual thought media like Spunik, simply because it ‘supports’ Independence and making facile comparisons with the BBC (who may well be bias against Independence, but who are still never the less grounded in liberalism regardless) makes the Independence movement look petty, parochial, very unworldly and plain foolish. It alienates many.

  13. Haideng says:

    Also, it doesn’t follow that if the BBC is corrupt and has an agenda that other media outlets like Spunik should therefore be excused and supported. It’s what is called a false binary. Just because you don’t like paul doesn’t mean to say you have to like John etc.

    1. Iain says:

      Thank you for that you patronising person you, but you’ve completely missed my point and gone rattling off on your high horse at such a rate that I think the lack of oxygen has given you delusions of grandeur.

      1. Haideng says:

        And what exactly is the point then. Feel free to enlighten…silence. And don’t blame me for your sense of inferiority.

  14. J Galt says:

    nobody is saying the BBC’s international propaganda with it’s “liberal thought/discussion” useful idiots isn’t subtle – it is.

    However it’s still propaganda in favour of US hegemony and the US’s “right” to wage countless wars and regime changes and to conduct economic terrorism to maintain the position of the Anglo-Saxon Oil/Banking nexus that has ruined this world.

    And moaning about Saudi Arabia (as an argument in favour of the BBC) when that grotesque regime has been maintained and backed to the hilt by the very people ultimately behind the BBC is rich.

    1. Haideng says:

      You seem to be missing the point. The point is even if you disagree with all of the above, it is in no way a justification of supporting another even worse system – Sputnik and Putin. Also, the point being made by in the Saudi post is that Liberal new (although it has an agenda and is therefore bias – e.g – liberal in the sense that it allows self criticism, opposing views, plurality of identity – sexuality, race, religion etc, of criticism of the government of being subject to scrutiny like Bella does, of being subject to external and independent media watchdogs (international NGOs with no political partisan agenda – except liberalism and freedom of thought/ speech, as well as UK ones) who legally have access to collate actual empirical data and who publish and force the BBC to publish, is not the same as the media in Saudi Arabia or Russia or China, where the government actually writes it, editorialises it, bans any other outlets, bans any criticism, ignores any international watchdogs, refuses to publicly publish data relating to the media and sources of media, the viewing demographics, the collating of bias data in the form of balanced coverage of view points, that allows for all ideas to be presented (including indy even if against it – there was no white washing as there is in other countries where media silence is a powerful tool – most people in Russia didn’t know they had invaded the Crimea until they heard it elsewhere etc etc.

      Yes Liberalism is an agenda, that’s the whole point, it is political and deliberately and justifiably so. And to conflate a liberal press with ‘hegemonic US Anglo Saxon Oil Banking Nexus’ is absurd and I have to agree with the poster, if you think that the BBC in any way resembles media in China or Russia or Saudi then you really need to spend a bit more time elsewhere. Go look for yourself on iplayer – try the world service or radio 4 and count how many programmes and documentaries scrutinise, criticise power structures, including our own governments.

    2. Haideng says:

      Are you seriously trying to claim that the BBC didn’t scrutinise the Iraq war, that there is no criticism of big business, of the banks, of US and British foreign policy, of government???? All you have to do is go and check on iplayer for a shed load of actual empirical evidence to refute such a claim. Liberal bias is good bias.

      1. Haideng says:

        Also the point being made was that this polemical style alienates many who would otherwise support independence.

        1. J Galt says:

          Goodness what a lot of stuff to get through!

          I like to keep it simple.

          Deaths of innocent people caused by wars/regime changes caused by US/UK etc since 2001 = X

          Deaths of innocent people caused by wars/regime changes caused by Putin since 2001 = Y

          Which is larger Haideng, X or Y?

          Mass Murder is still Mass Murder no matter how it’s dressed up.

          1. Haideng says:

            And? why are you ignoring the point. Fine, west bad, war mongers…and how does this reality justify Putin’s reality? Are you capable of thinking beyond the binary?

          2. Haideng says:

            And feel free to actually refute the EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE provided……tumble weed rolls past.

  15. Gordon McShean says:

    I wrote in my memoir RETiRED TERRORIST (Trafford, 2011) about having to hitch hike to Paris in the 1950s to get French short wave radio coverage of the Scottish independence movement. The subsequent broadcast of my interview on Radio Diffusion Television Francaise reached few Scottish listeners, but apparently brought some SNP officer to comment about the inappropriate nature of the publicity (and to bestow the ‘terrorist’ identity upon me that was reinforced subsequent to my involvement in the Johnstone gun heist organised by another SNP officer, Robert Curran). There was some irony in my radical label, as the motive for the raid was to remove armaments that might have been used against nationalist demonstrators. When Robert and I had to hurriedly leave the country I went to Europe, where my kilt was admired by Russian troops in Vienna – and I was given employment by US military authorities in Germany (Robert kept in touch with me from New York, where he’d found employment at the YMCA). I’ve been accepted in the US and NZ since then, since Scotland, and even the SNP, have been reluctant to endorse activists. National loyalties – whether Russian, French or Scottish – then and now – remain confused. The BBC has played a particularly venomous role – largely by its deliberate failure to report on many political and nationalist initiatives – and not only Scottish ones! It is my belief that media and Scottish motives over the years have been skillfully manipulated by BBC world views and that their policies remain; although I can never return home, please allow me to say BEWARE!

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