I've almost been dreading attempting to write this blogpost, because I feel it may expose my inadequacy. I'm not sure I actually have the words to sufficiently convey how angry I am right now and how angry I think everyone else should be. Over the last few days we have come face to face with how power is derived and exercised in this country, and it bears little resemblance to the pretty story of freedom and democracy we've been told all our lives. Complicit in it are the monarchy itself, the politicians, the police, and a media committed to the industrial-scale dissemination of state propaganda. Consider what we've seen...
* An unelected Head of State assumed office on Thursday. When people peacefully protested against this and argued in favour of a democratic system for electing our Head of State, they were arrested and even charged. How does that look? How is that even intended to look? In a free country, the logic for police intervention in protests is generally that it's necessary to uphold liberties and democracy - but this is the polar opposite. This is the forces of anti-democracy using the raw power of the state to suppress anyone calling for a democratic system. It's just like the communists in the old Eastern Bloc telling the ordinary people that they're snookered - not only do you not get to choose the person who reigns over you, you don't get to even say that you should be allowed to choose, or to explain why.
* It's a very similar story over at the state broadcaster. We can all understand the BBC giving only a one-sided, rose-tinted perspective on an individual who has just died and is being mourned, but when they blur the distinction between that person and the institution of the monarchy and use that as an excuse to give only one side of the story on a matter of legitimate political debate, they are betraying their nominal duty of impartiality (which we can now see has always been a fiction). Either they should be restricting themselves to celebrating the life of an individual, or they should bring in anti-monarchy voices to robustly contradict BBC presenters who apparently are now de facto politicians and are allowed to give monologues on the virtues of an unelected Head of State. As Emily Maitlis pointed out recently, the BBC moved heaven and earth to find pro-Brexit economists to artificially balance out the 99% of economists who are anti-Brexit. By contrast, they wouldn't need to look further than the broom cupboard to find anti-monarchy commentators. So why aren't those people on TV every day? You don't achieve impartiality as a broadcaster with a tokenistic disclaimer that "not everyone in this country supports the monarchy but the vast majority do and let's face it those who don't are a bit weird and out of step". In a functioning democracy, dissenting voices are actually heard, not swept under the carpet and pathologised.
* Even worse than a blurring of the distinction between the virtues of the Queen as a person and the virtues of the institution of monarchy is the blurring of the distinction between the virtues of the Queen and the virtues of a "united UK" as she supposedly stood for (even though, paradoxically, she was betraying her duty to be non-political by taking any sort of stand at all against Scottish independence). The broadcasters have given themselves free licence to openly campaign against independence over the last few days, with their implicit justification being that to allow the other side of the argument would be disrespectful towards what the Queen was all about. The generally very good BBC contributor Allan Little made a catastrophic error of judgement the other night when he said in a voiceover: "A small group of protestors booed and called for an independent Scottish republic, but this was not the prevailing mood." He said this in the same tone of voice that a journalist might say "a small minority support terrorism, but the vast majority of people are decent and oppose violence". But what is the word Little finds so troubling here? "Independent", "Scottish" or "republic"? As far as I can see, all three words encapsulate beliefs that are entirely moderate and mainstream. And remember that what Little calls "the prevailing view" is, in this instance, the anti-democratic view. It's the protestors who believe in a democratic system for choosing the Head of State.
* I gather Jeremy Vine eagerly grabbed the opportunity to host a phone-in asking whether the death of a Queen so "devoted to Scotland" (where's my violin?) would help save the Union. But can you imagine any broadcaster having a phone-in at the present time to ask the equally logical question: "will the replacement of a popular British monarch with an unpopular one hasten the break-up of the UK?" Well, no, of course you can't imagine it, because that would be "disrespectful to the memory of the Queen". Do you see how this works?
* Quite possibly the most barking mad thing I've heard about the BBC doing is Martin Geissler trying to explain away the muted reaction on the streets of Scotland by saying "we Scots don't show our emotions". That's the kind of propaganda strength you'd expect from the state broadcaster in a totalitarian state. If people don't show the emotions you insist they must have, it's not because they're not feeling those emotions, oh no perish the thought. It's because those emotions are so intense that they have to be hidden by a cunning outward show of not actually giving a monkey's.
In 2014, I agreed with the strategic logic of the Yes campaign saying the monarchy would be retained in an independent Scotland. Supporters of a republic were mostly voting Yes anyway, so what was the point of alienating the monarchists? I would grudgingly still take that view, although we in the Alba Party have the luxury of being pro-cake and pro-eating it, because we can take a republican stance without that being portrayed as the official position of the Yes campaign. But what I would say is this: if independence wasn't my over-riding priority, the experience of the last few days would have led me to throw caution to the wind and decide that we must do all we can to build as much support as possible for the end of this corrupt system of monarchy. If there's one thing that the state won't let you say, and won't let you be heard saying, that in itself makes it vitally important to say it, over and over and over again.
As a renowned ultra-monarchist, I went to a vantage point close to the Queensferry Crossing to see the hearse carrying the Queen. (Forgive my unkempt appearance, it was a last minute decision to go.) pic.twitter.com/lTzGWkfBYG— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) September 11, 2022
I think in the long run they'll regret televising the Accession Council yesterday, because we saw/heard:— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) September 11, 2022
1) Charles lording it over his servant
2) The Privy Council functioning not as a rubber stamp, but as an *audience*
3) An affirmation of the importance of the Claim of Right
The totally impartial BBC's attitude when it encounters anti-monarchist views is the same as its attitude to streakers at sporting events. Turn the cameras away and pretend nothing is happening, because you don't want to encourage anyone to do it again.— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) September 11, 2022
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