This independence campaign has been a massive wakeup call to many of us who thought that democracy, accountability and reasonable impartiality (accepting that it is impossible for any person to not have a bias in some way) were a part of the national institutions of the UK. Certainly we are told – repeatedly – that ‘regimes’ all over the world are more draconian than our own government. But while this is true in many ways it is becoming increasingly clear that we (the residents of the UK) are completely free, providing we do, say and believe what our institutions tell us to do, say and believe. You could almost accept this from government but the BBC is supposed to be the epitome of the ‘free press’ and the upholder of ‘decent society’s’ standards, both here in the UK and worldwide. What has become abundantly clear is that the BBC has become exactly what they have long accused the likes of the old Soviet media, the Chinese state media, the Iranian media (and on and on through the ‘axis of evil’ nations) of being; organs of state propaganda.
A Scottish academic has conducted two academic studies into the way in which the TV media in Scotland has been reporting the issues around independence over the past year or so. As with all academic works, his methods are conclusions are open to scrutiny and challenge, but what should not happen is for an investigative news organisation to try and put pressure on the author of such report by complaining to his employers. Yet this is what happened and you can read Professor Roberton’s account (with a summary of his findings from the studies he conducted) here.
I must admit to being more than a little annoyed with myself about being so complacent in recent years because I have long been aware of how people and organisations use words to influence the views of the population at large. In fact, I have a book on the very subject sitting on my bookshelf that I would like to recommend to everyone who cares about such things: ‘Unspeak’ by Steven Poole. For the more audio-visual inclined, there is a website with short video clips explaining and highlighting the concept.