Wednesday, February 15, 2012

OK, so it looks like neutral reporting from Reuters is a lost cause

Via Yahoo, I've just caught up with a Reuters report on the independence referendum that reads like a Labour or Downing Street press release -

"Parliament threw down the gauntlet to Scottish separatists on Wednesday, challenging them to answer a series of questions about how an independent Scotland would work before they ask Scots to vote on whether they want independence or not."

"Parliament"? Which parliament? After all, as any self-respecting Brit Nat will tell you (when it suits them), "Scotland has two parliaments". And I'm not convinced that "separatists" is a sufficiently vivid charaterisation of what these bloody people are all about - maybe "divorce-seekers" or "home-wreckers" would be better? (Or how about "animals"?)

"Some campaign battle lines have already been drawn, with the SNP demanding 90 percent of Britain's North Sea oil revenues for Scotland..."

Just how much oil revenues does the London government expect to receive from beneath the waters of another sovereign state? By contrast, the SNP is "demanding" 100% of Scotland's own oil revenues, and 0% of other countries' oil revenues. How very dare they?

"Questions sent to the lawmakers by ordinary voters ranged from whether their welfare provisions would be cut to whether they would still have access to BBC television and whether they could still use their British passports for foreign travel."

Well, I rather think the latter question has more to do with the passport policy of a post-independence London government. Perhaps Ian Davidson and his fearless committee of truth-seekers should be "throwing down the gauntlet" to their own side on behalf of the common man?

* * *

If you've read the thread on which the PB Tory hordes descended the other night, you'll have been given a crash course in one of the most fundamental articles of faith of the right-wing group-think that permeates their 'home site', namely that comments from a Scottish nationalist perspective are above all else extremely "boring", and that this is the all-purpose get-out clause that permits censorship to be sought without compromising any principles about open debate. For future reference, here is a handy extract from the PBspeak-to-English dictionary...

PBspeak : "You're being really boring, James/Mick/Oldnat."

English translation : "'re talking about a non-Westminster topic! Again!"

Yes, the PB Tory Herd do seem to view the world through the Dimblebyesque prism that "Westminster is God", and that by definition all Westminster village topics are of constant and universal interest, no matter how navel-gazing and repetitive. By contrast, non-Westminster topics are perhaps OK for an "and finally" piece on News at Ten once in a while (or perhaps one of those condescending animated items on The Daily Politics with hairy Picts and icebergs on the Firth of Forth), but anything more than that is just tedious, quite frankly.

A vivid illustration of this mindset was provided on Monday, when I took the (thankfully now defunct) ban on posts about Scotland at face value, and wrote about an entirely different topic. But the PB Tory brain just couldn't seem to discern any difference - my discussion of Welsh language education was just a continuation of my 'crazy, tedious obsession' with non-Westminster topics...

"You think the debate here is nuanced?

Where Mr J Kelly cannot talk about the Macbeth situation, so talks about Welsh language independence instead?

That's not nuance. That's obsession."


  1. Re: the Reuters language, "seperatists" is a common denomination used for the Parti Quebecois, even by themselves, in North America, which is really the only example they have to call on of sovereign countries in that part of the world breaking apart unilaterally (other than the South's "seceding from the Union"

    And as for Parliament, that's also easily explained by any elementary-school American history course, where they're taught that it was Parliament that taxed the colonies too heavily and provoked the American Revolution. It's a common, non-pejorative term used by the American media to refer to the British government, and while it may not be accurate, the report is constructed for their readers, who make such harmless links.

    If you think they're deliberately ignoring regional definitions, I would remind you the USA is a country with enormous tension between the federal and state levels. They might be the most devolution-sensitive people on the planet.

    I agree it's distressing to see such terms parroted by foreign media, but we all know that the Americans don't exactly represent the highest standard of journalistic integrity or endeavour. I think this is genuinely harmless and not really something worth getting het up about.

  2. Craig, it might be harmless if this was exclusively or even predominantly a report for a US audience - but it isn't. For several hours yesterday, the Yahoo UK homepage featured a picture of a saltire, accompanied by a headline along the lines of "Separatists pressed for answers". Given the popularity of Yahoo, that presumably would have been seen by millions across the UK, and linked to the Reuters piece that breathlessly reported Ian Davidson and co as champions of the underdog, fearlessly asking the questions that no-one else dared to ask.

    Perhaps I should have been more precise and made the criticism of the UK news outlets that used the Reuters piece without making the extensive alterations necessary for a home-grown audience, rather than of Reuters itself. But either way it's a valid criticism.

    As for the Parti Quebecois and Bloc Quebecois, I don't know to what extent it's true that they're content to be called separatists, but it's pretty clear that their preferred term is 'sovereigntist'.