On ‘Othering’ and the Unionist Media

On a day when the rule of law has effectively been abandoned by the British Prime Minister and the former Home Secretary made a speech in the House of Commons that would leave Enoch Powell’s (rivers of) blood run cold, the Times columnist Kenny Farquharson posted this tweet below (after previously trying to compare Stephen Flynn MP with Suella Braverman).

It’s important to put this in some context …

Kenny Farquharson, and a number of other journalists and editors who are all friends and acquaintances have all taken the same line for a number of years now. They hold positions of power and gatekeeping across the British media, and their position is broadly this:

“We are progressive liberal types committed to social equality and culturally broad-minded. We stand against narrow nationalism, are virulently opposed to Scottish independence (which we collectively argued against) and instead long for the return of a Labour government in Westminster (and Holyrood). We sort of back devolution – or we did before parties we can’t stand were elected.”

The assumptions behind this thinking are convoluted, but two stand out. The first is that Britain is (somehow) an innately progressive place. It just is. We don’t even need to examine that or defend it, cos it just is. The second is that (despite the first claim) it needs some modernising, and as soon as the Labour party return to power, many of these journalists friends and peers will get to work updating the constitution. Chief among these tasks will be things like strengthening devolution (even though they attack it relentlessly as it is); reforming the House of Lords; creating Federalism; and so on (and on).

The problem for Kenny Farquharson (and his friends and peers in The Times, the BBC, the New Statesman, the Spectator, the Daily Telegraph, Unherd, etc etc) is that none of this is true, and none of this is happening. We know this because they’ve told us.

As I explained here: “The Scottish Labour party seems likely to inherit the fortunes of the UK party, born into government on the back of Tory collapse and huge disenchantment with the failed Conservative regime, which staggers on. But Scottish Labour suffers from very low influence within the UK party, gone are the days when Jeremy Paxman would complain of the ‘Scottish Raj’ when individuals like Tony Blair, Robin Cook, Gordon Brown, John Reid and Alasdair Darling formed a Cabinet. If it does as well as expected it will be from a baseline of two MPs. If it makes large gains it will be on the basis of a manifesto to which it will have contributed very little if anything. It has little to say about the direction Scotland should travel other than what it should not do. The fantasy that a Starmer victory would usher in the next round of constitutional reforms — including strengthening Holyrood and abolishing the House of Lords — all masterminded by Gordon Brown, has all been abandoned.”

Given that Farquharson and his colleagues have spent years anticipating the return of their friends to office, the sinking in of the reality that NONE of the constitutional changes they imagined are happening has left them desolate, if silent on the topics they used to empty Ink-Trucks over.

In addition to this they have to watch as the covid inquiry exposes the Johnson government as being a regime based on eugenics and the Sunak regime being one that happily, gleefully abandons the rule of law.


Among all the breakdown and churn of total chaos under the Tories, this is a new low.

The pliant journalists and media people know this.

So it’s with some desperation, and it cannot be in real ignorance, that people like Farquharson are turned to comparing Stephen Flynn with Suella Braverman. This does not mean that there isn’t racism in Scotland, there is. It does not mean that there aren’t problems of ‘othering’ in Scotland, there clearly are. But what it does mean is that people in positions of media power need to have a think to themselves. Here is the British Govt abandoning the rule of law and engaging in unparalleled levels of racism. But that’s not the real point. Pointing out the Tories dire behaviour should be the basics of any decent British journalist. The real point is that these journalists demand that we be forever tied to this.

Comments (26)

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  1. Derek Thomson says:

    “This does not mean that there isn’t racism in Scotland, there is. It does not mean that there aren’t problems of ‘othering’ in Scotland, there clearly are.” Indeed. But they’re not espoused as values at government level. They are in Westminster.

  2. John says:

    I assume that “…a baseline of twp MPs” is a typo. But it also works quite well if you’ve lapsed into using a Welsh adjective to describe them.

  3. SleepingDog says:

    The first two Doctor Who specials this year featured no-society alien-terrorist stories masquerading as socially-progressive stories. BBC drama productions are quite possibly further to the right than USAmerican Disney/Marvel/DC offerings. The speciesist bigotry of Modern Who contrasts with DC’s eco-aware Swamp Thing and Poison Ivy (the latter now a Pride-friendly story which addresses deep and important ecological, social and economic issues in ways BBC’s Who ignores or treats superficially at best). I don’t know if the BBC has any equivalent of the Muslim Ms Marvel either.

    A generation of children are growing up, many watching a Dr Who where a section of Anglo-Welsh-Scot society is presented as only important and highest point of civilization/life anywhere in the Universe, beyond serious criticism, and Others are monstrous, criminal, murderous, terrorist foreigners. This is why these episodes have been getting 4 or 5 star reviews in the Daily Telegraph/Mail.

  4. Blair Breton says:

    Sounded dictatorial and rudely treated the journalists with dismissive next. A Goverment that suspends court action, breaks international agreements is aligned with Lukeshenko and Putin. Authoritian, and a dictator. Surely deliberately breaking international agreements is mis conduct in a public office?

  5. John says:

    I was a long time Labour supporter and in my younger days did look at SNP as not really a proper respectable political party. I also viewed independence through this prism. This was the default position of many so called liberally minded people in Scotland in 70’s & 80’s. The long years of Tory rule followed by Labour rule post 2001 (especially Iraq war) forced me to reevaluate my views. After a long process of reevaluation I now support independence for Scotland- partly due to revulsion of Westminster based AngloBritish nationalism (Brexit, union jacks everywhere etc), but also because I now believe that Scotland can only flourish both socially and economically if it detaches itself from Westminster rule.
    What I see in Kenny Farquarson’s and many others reporting in media and at Westminster is not a critique of SNP policies but the same lack of acceptance that support for Scottish independence is a point of view that deserves any respect that I once had and that the case for independence and those that promote it should be demonised at every opportunity. This approach has become far more strident since the scare of 2014 referendum, the rise of SNP support and the lack of a positive case for the continuation of union in Scotland

  6. Dougie Blackwood says:

    The recently proposed bill to push through the ludicrous Rwanda scheme is a straightforward assault on the division between courts and government. It baldy states that decision makers, i.e. the courts are to be powerless to have a say on the government’s actions with regard to the Rwanda plan.

    The courts are there to protect the people and are specifically not to be the creature of government and bowing to their every whim. These are the roads travelled by the Third Reich that led to concentration camps that had to be stopped by the previous UK government and others in a long and bitter war.

    The comparison with Gaza is for another time.

  7. Jim Aitken says:

    The Tories have always made up legislation as they go along and they do this because there is no written constitution to hold them to account. The last person who said that the UK should have a written constitution was Tony Benn. Labour have not been too keen either to create one. Without a written constitution a supreme court ruling can be ignored as we are seeing just now.
    Good that the forlorn SNP, however, did present a paper on a written constitution for an independent Scotland. To get there, of course, the SNP will have to find some radicalism that explains why there is a £1BN black hole in its finances and also relates this to how Nottingham and Birmingham councils declared bankruptcy, why Cornwall have stopped street lighting to save money and why 13 years of Conservative political and economic calumny has created a pitiful state to be in.

    1. SleepingDog says:

      @Jim Aitken, Tony Benn was hardly a lone voice. Charter 88 (now succeeded by Unlock Democracy) made similar demands.
      UK Prime Ministers and Monarchs have been able to bypass the legislature and judiciary by various means, from Tony Blair’s sofa cabinet to Boris Johnson’s use of Henry VIII powers, by the Privy Council and royal prerogatives, by secret committees/laws/courts and arcane practices.

      International treaties could be given legal priority by a written (codified) constitution, as they apparently are in the USA (which is why Congress has been so reluctant to ratify them, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child). At the moment, the King or Queen under Anglican God is the supreme earthly authority in the British Empire.

  8. Wul says:

    I don’t know what Farqhuarson et al have been drinking since 2014. The UK’s slide to the far right, and it’s decline into USA-style government-for-sale was clear to me and others in 2014. The current shit storm is just where we were already, clearly heading 10 years ago. Have these so-called journalists got no eyes, ears and brains?

    I support independence for Scotland because I see it as a last chance to escape from marriage to a partner that is clearly going in a wildly different and very ugly direction to what most Scots want.

    Bizarrely , Farquharson is blind to the fact that he and his UK-OK cheerleaders use most of his “populist nationalist” tropes list against the Scottish Government and the half of the Scottish voting population who support independence. The UK Gov. has just suspended the rule of law and use of reason. What TAF will it take for these spineless scribes to stand up for their fellow UK citizens?

    1. Iain Ross says:

      Thus the conclusion, for me at least:

      Farquharson et al are not actually journalists they are political activists who happen to write.

    2. Mark Howitt says:

      “I support independence for Scotland because I see it as a last chance to escape from marriage to a partner that is clearly going in a wildly different and very ugly direction to what most Scots want.”

      Spot on.

  9. SleepingDog says:

    On the mention of Gordon Brown, he was the pundit chosen to give political commentary on BBC’s dramadoc Shakespeare: Birth of a Genius:
    although this was the BBC, and no speculation that the Bard might have been a republican was to be entertained (Catholic, maybe). Brown covered himself with the opposite of glory by boasting about his never having read Machiavelli, employing his ignorance again to say Shakespeare should be read for political insight in preference, and thirdly to be apparently unaware that Shakespeare surely read Machiavelli and specifically referred to him in plays. If you read Machiavelli’s work in context, it becomes evident that while he wrote a short monarchical handbook in The Prince, his true preference was for a Republic, treated at greater length in his Discourses on Livy.

    Indeed, the BBC 3-part series, leaning heavily into the rightwing Great Man (Occasionally Woman) View of History, is a useful illustration of what can and cannot be said by the broadcaster on the politics of culture. Shakespeare’s speech written for the character of Thomas More on extending empathy for refugees is included, as an acceptable form of treating the Other, but among the wisdom and folly uttered, the bulk of Shakespeare’s political critique is missing. And there is no sense that his work contributed to a canon of pre-revolutionary art. Instead, pundit after pundit insisted that his plays reflected very small and personal concerns (which somehow translated into the universal and traversed swathes of time and space).

    Where the series got it right, I think, was in presenting evidence that Shakespeare (and presumably collaborators) was highly resistant to writing propaganda for royal masters. People who insist he did fail to understand drama. Of course, in production and performance, the most seditious elements of the plays tend to be excised, lost, watered down, even inverted, by generations of Establishment gatekeepers, lackeys and censors.

    1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

      Like you, I was somewhat taken aback the Bodger Broon was given a lot of air time in this series to ‘explain’ Shakespeare’s political ideas. The Bodger and ‘culture’ have never been overlapping concepts. Outside of British nationalism and ‘saving the world’, the only cultural thing he seems to be interested in is Raith Rovers.

      With regard to Shakespeare and royal politics, you have been consistent in your opinion of his independence of mind in this regard and, in other posts to other articles, you and I have disagreed. In this post I think your assertion regarding differences between what Shakespeare wrote and what was actually performed has shifted me to a position closer to yours. However, I think that the fate of his contemporary and occasional literary collaborator, Christopher Marlowe, would have caused him to be somewhat circumspect in what he wrote. The series indicated the brutality with which the authorities dealt with opposition from a number of sources. The scenes which showed the actor portraying Shakespeare observing the savage treatment of protestors seemed to indicate both horror at the brutality and the need to be careful.

      In such times, writers who wish to indicate condemnation and opposition have to be circumspect and introduce ambiguities to provide a degree of protection. Unlike ‘Samizdat’ publication during the time of the Soviet Union, Shakespeare was not seeking to be ‘underground’. On the contrary he was seeking to be the foremost dramatist of the period and to write something that was seditious would have required some way of ‘hiding in plain sight’.

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Alasdair Macdonald, yes the penalties for offending authority then were reportedly pretty horrific. Not much point in appealing if you got your hands cut off. Gordon Brown seemed oblivious, however, to the very recent ending of political censorship of the theatre in the UK (while Brown was at university, I guess), and the even more recent repeal of sedition law in Scotland (2011?).

        A fellow learner on an online Shakespeare course recommended this double series of lectures to me:
        which I found interesting and informative, although pitched at undergraduate literature students (I studied politics and philosophy) and I didn’t agree with everything. I think Prof Cantor is reluctant to go as far as impute republicanism to Shakespeare. But then, republicanism had to be even more greatly repressed than the wrong kind of Christianity.

        I think the common comedic contrast between corrupt court and purer countryside; that all of Shakespeare’s English monarchs are pretty bad sorts, even war-criminal Henry V; that effective rule had to busy nobles and commoners with foreign wars and even a marginally effective ruler might produce entirely unfit heirs; all this and more makes the point when the plays are considered as an overarching project.

        I think Shakespeare like many contemporaries was trying to influence society and bring about changes, and envisaged a life without terror, expedient impoverishing war and uncertainty (not least over succession). Having a written play pass all levels of censorship was a little bit of a safety net, though in performance actors could lampoon their rulers and clerics by impersonation, risking punishment. I found ‘Art Made Tongue-tied by Authority’: Elizabethan and Jacobean Dramatic Censorship by Janet Clare to be a useful resource in this respect.

  10. Wul says:

    We have a government made up of millionaires who are obsessed with trawling the land, looking for poor and vulnerable scapegoats to drag into the spotlight of their cruelty circus;
    people crossing the sea in small boats who risk having their kids washed up dead on the beach,
    the sick and disabled, whose bank accounts are to be rummaged and made to work from their freezing homes,
    people fleeing torture, seeking asylum, who are to be thrown into diseased shipping hulks or abducted to a different continent
    “foreigners” on minimum wage who are caring for our sick and elderly, but shan’t be allowed to have their families live with them
    frightened citizens who peacefully protest to save a liveable planet for our species

    Somewhere along the line, these money-demented creatures in the Tory party and beyond have lost their connection to their fellow human beings. They are not fit to have a say over the lives of other people. They are very, very ill people.

    1. Maureen Kerr says:

      Well put, Wul. My son has a song out similar lines. Check it out here.

  11. Observer says:

    Columnists are paid to opine. The function of Times Scotland columnists is to push key narratives which support an establishment view. Murdoch was happy to flirt with Salmond when he wanted to undermine Labour but in 2023 its a political and commercial imperative to oppose the SNP.

    Taken at face value, the tweet makes the reasonable point that politicians overstate the influence of both their own policy ideas and values and those of their opponents on their respective electorates. It’s really just another way of bemoaning political polarisation.

    The implication is that readers should vote for the sensible Starmers of this world, rather than the somewhat edgier SNP. This is hardly a surprise.

  12. Not-My-Real-Name says:

    Can we also include the British “Nationalist’s textbook” where the term “Separatists” is one that they always use, that as a term, falls within the realms of them “othering” those of us who have an opposing opinion to theirs (to include KF and his newspaper’s opinion) as far as the UK is concerned……

    Or is that to be filed under an inconvenient truth that they and he (KF), as British “Nationalists”, would prefer we did not highlight or recognise as being connected to language, via terms, that THEY always choose to use when referring to those of us who support Scottish independence……

    You reap what you sow…..and if you , as a print media or individual ‘journalist’, adopt the same preferred language and terms used by British Nationalist political parties against ‘Others’ then you and your newspaper cannot then be seen by those ‘Others’ as either distinct from British Nationalist politics or indeed objective in the narrative you choose to promote via either your publication or you personally as a…checks notes…. ‘journalist’…….that is in you and your news publication adopting and thus promoting the same “Textbook characteristics on populist (British)nationalist othering” as those British nationalist political parties you support via the regular output we see in your newspaper headlines/columns and also very much it seems via your individual output via your own ‘personal’ Tweets…..LOL

    1. John says:

      Not my real name – you lost me half way through this ramble.
      If this is an example of your thought process I am not surprised you cannot recall your real name.

      1. Not-My-Real-Name says:

        “If this is an example of your thought process I am not surprised you cannot recall your real name”

        Is that really why you think I use NMRN as opposed to using my REAL name….because I cannot….. “recall” it………LOL

        That conclusion is just as confusing as my “ramble”…. how kind of you to take the time to give me your feedback in such a polite and diplomatic manner …..LOLs

        Have a nice evening John…….


        1. John says:

          You have tried to come over as some sort of intellectual cynic. Your moniker is in a similar vein and frankly you come over as a a time waster. I fully understand why you don’t want to give your real name out of embarrassment.
          A piece of advice if you have nothing relevant to say it is best to say nothing at all.

          1. Not-My-Real-Name says:

            Well this is escalating….for some strange reason…..via you John….. who to me is….. as a person…..a complete stranger …….but who has formed an opinion of me based solely on a comment I made on this site…..which I concede may indeed have been incoherent and even I admit ….utter nonsense…..so what…..big deal…..but do not get carried away and go overboard with further insults about me…..trust me you know nowt about who I actually am or my life or indeed why I use that particular “moniker”………sorry if I was just supposed to ignore your initial comment (insults) to me without my responding to you……indeed In truth I really did not know HOW to respond to you other than to pretend to laugh it off…..as in LOL…..but truth is I really felt crap which may have been the required reaction you sought…..so well done you…

            Best I bow out now….before you write something REALLY nasty about me…..based on your assumptions alone and certainly not on who I ACTUALLY am as a person…..though in honesty your comments about me are far less significant to me than the absolute sh*t that has gone down via the Tory party since 2010 and beyond…..via all of that I could not feel any more dejected and demoralised than I feel now….but if you must then please continue insulting me…..fill your boots…….to be honest I am way beyond caring………as what the Hell is the point anyway…..it’s not as If I have any control over what other people like you say about me…..is it ?……..and in the angry social media world it seems to be par for the course…..

          2. Niemand says:

            ‘John’s’ general modus operandi on here is to play the ball not the man and for most he doesn’t agree with. In this respect he is a typical keyboard bully. He doesn’t realise people notice this as his general strategy and he doesn’t realise it undermines everything he says.

    2. Niemand says:

      I think the general obsession with the media, by the media is part of the problem here. You’d think sometimes there isn’t a world beyond it and that whatever some commentator / journalist has said (good or bad) is the most important thing, forgetting the fact the vast majority of the populace have zero interest in what any of them say about anything, ever. I think this has got much worse in recent years I think possibly because the amount of pontificating copy has increased, seemingly requiring more pontificating reposts, and it is very easy to sift through it all and hey presto, another article appears. Actual journalistic work that involves getting up from one’s chair, moving away from the laptop and walking out into the street is anathema.

  13. John says:

    Reply to Niemand comment of 10th December.
    I post a number of comments (admittedly too many) on the article published which are on topic and polite. They may not be intellectually rigorous or in line with others personal opinions but they are posted in an honest manner to add to discussion. Most people who comment on this site do so in a similar vein. There are however a number of other posters who are either:
    1.alt-right trolls who are trying to skew discussions to their agenda. If I wanted to take part in a right wing discussion I would go the Mail, Express or variety of other right wing sites, where these poisonous views are ten a penny, not Bella Caledonia. (example is Stevie H)
    2.There are some posters who come on who try to dominate any discussion with their own pseudo intellectual narcissism (example is dateman).
    3There are some posters who come on and just waste everyone’s time by posting nonsense comments (Not My Real Name has admitted his post was nonsense.) This is again just a form of narcissism.
    With the 3 categories I have given above I have assiduously not commented to alt-right trolls as they want to turn discussion to their viewpoint.
    With the other categories I have posted that they are talking rubbish as I would say to their face. I am sorry if you feel offended by this approach but frankly if you post arrant nonsense you must expect a cutting reply.
    I note you accuse me of playing the man not the ball – I would criticise the comment if it had any value.
    I have however decided to refrain from commenting on all comments I consider nonsensical in future as upon reflection I realise it is a waste of everyone’s time not least my own.
    All the best.

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