In his usual shallow, blinkered fashion David Torrance acknowledges that the media in Scotland is generally regarded with a profound contempt which, if novel at all, is so only in terms of a more widespread readiness to express that contempt. Being blinkered and shallow, Torrance doesn’t trouble himself unduly with the matter of why journalists are held in such low regard by the public. To the extent that he addresses the question at all, he contrives an answer which is entirely shaped his prejudices. An answer which, moreover, lends no credibility whatever to his comical claim to some special insight into the “mindset” of independence supporters.
His verdict, unsurprisingly, is that the media is innocent in all of this and that the charges of distortion of facts and downright dishonesty can simply be dismissed for no other reason than that are levelled by Torrance’s curious trio of “Scottish Nationalists, Corbynistas and supporters of Donald Trump” – the last of being included, one supposes, lest we should in any doubt that the intention was to suggest a shared “eccentricity”.
Apparently, we are supposed to disregard the lies and the smears peddled by journalists in the service of the British establishment on the grounds that those journalists are actually a convivial bunch who work hard and don’t get paid as much as they imagine they’re worth. Torrance’s feeble defence of the media is, not that it doesn’t wantonly sensationalise and wilfully mislead, nor even that there is some justification for such behaviour. He offers no defence or plea in mitigation because he doesn’t accept that the media can do anything wrong.
His argument appears to be that, if we want a “free press”, we must accept whatever we’re given in the name of this “press freedom”. Apparently, the proper functioning of democracy requires that there should be no constraints whatever on the media. We are told that “press freedom” means the right to exert political influence, however minor, with total impunity. A “free press”, by Torrance’s self-serving definition, is a press which has an unfettered right to push a particular political agenda, by absolutely any means, without being answerable to anyone.
Torrance makes the bold assertion that the Scottish media “has heaps more self-awareness and integrity than many of those who zealously traduce it”. A claim which he seems to imagine is conclusively proved by the fact that diverse journalists are prepared to have the gentle piss taken out of them while they enjoy the doubtless generous hospitality of the junket’s sponsors. I’m going to be so bold as to suggest that not everybody will find this “evidence” as persuasive as Mr Torrance does.
We are told that, “the problem is the capacity and ability to carry on producing quality journalism, not the media’s constitutional stance”. But who is to judge what constitutes “quality journalism”? Not the consumers, that’s for sure. Torrance is at pains to tell us that, should our opinions be less than flattering to the media clique, then those opinions are either misguided or irrelevant. The media itself is a “great issue”. And newspapers must be free to judge the great issues of the day on their own terms.
The fact that increasing numbers of us do not recognise what we are being offered as “quality journalism” has, according to Torrance, no bearing on the matter. There is more to quality journalism than good writing. A lie is yet a lie when it is couched in the prettiest of prose.
And it is not, as Torrance supposes in characteristic blinkered and shallow fashion, a matter of “constitutional stance”. Across the independence movement, during the referendum campaign and since, people like myself genuinely craved honest and factual engagement in the constitutional debate from the British establishment – in particular, the British political parties and the British media. It was, and continues to be, one of the great frustrations of that debate that the unionist side simply does not participate in any meaningful way.
I would love to be responding to some rational analysis or dispassionate commentary from unabashedly pro-union journalists. If only I could find any. Instead, I find myself replying to the shallow, blinkered drivel that David Torrance hopes will pass as quality journalism.