Lies, Damned Lies and Propaganda



Selma Rahman from our National Committee speculates on propaganda, media and associated lies. Picture shows the official imperial seal of Darius the Great.  

It was a delight reading Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp in The National a week ago (link here) partly addressing the current stooshie around the going ‘live’ of Sputnik, a Russian news outlet, the presence there of two journalists-broadcasters, and their previous incarnations with the now deid and gone ‘Newshaft’.

Time to ‘fess up right at the start since up I know both journalists, broadcasters Jack Foster and Carolyn Scott.  from Newshaft and Edinburgh Women for Independence.  Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp’s article  informed us that;

"The mainstream media has been almost universally offended “a state mouthpiece of Vladimir Putin’s increasingly uncompromising Russian regime” shouted the Herald. Kremlin mouthpiece sang the Evening Times headline and that “the voice of the Kremlin is to bellow from Edinburgh’s West End”. The head of Sputnik overall is a well-known and, to be fair, controversial Russian journalist, but instead of CEO or head of Sputnik he is invariably described as Putin’s propaganda chief."

But propaganda isn’t new. One of the earliest examples of state controlled propaganda - no not the BBC - is an inscription on a rock in the Kermanshah province of Western Iran, created sometime between 522BC and 486BC. These were the dates of the coronation and death of Darius the Great, who (naturally enough from his point of view) commissioned this prior to his death so as to proclaim many of his attributes and prowess, with possibly a nod to immortality.  Over the centuries then, style and implements may have changed from rock to parchment to the internet, but the premise remains the same.

If it’s mine, it’s news, truthful and apposite to the times.  If it’s the opposition’s, then it could be some varying form of propaganda or mis information, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, and treated with contempt.

From 2013 to now, the independence movement has had its fair share of lies, damned lies and statistics thrown at it, culminating in various pieces of ‘propaganda'.  Remember the cranking up in 2014 when we got some real crackers; an independent Scotland would run out of food,  we wouldn’t get EastEnders, soldiers would be at the border, we’d not be in the EU…eh, hang on…..

And then there’s the ‘other’, the extreme:  the hate filled examples of the Nazis and Fascists of 20th century, too vile to dignify with an actual quote or pictorial description.  Sadly, though possibly more subliminal, we saw an update of pictorial propaganda : that poster from UKIP in the run up to the EU Referendum that concocted  a spurious link from  refugees and asylum seekers to all the supposed woes in British society.

But is there a line in the ‘print’, in the speech, the media that we should not cross? What is permissible, what isn’t? How do we get it, receive it, read it? Is there some enshrined  right to freedom of speech?  


The  Universal Declaration of Human Rights tells us that …

’ freedom of expression is the right of every individual to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’

And as I tell anyone willing to listen to me, ”I have my opinions and you’re all entitled to hear them!"

It’s all very well ‘receiving’ the information, in whatever form, but surely it is up to us to ‘filter’ it and come to conclusions for ourselves.And therein lies the rub. No matter the outlet, nor the source, we have to be prepared to critique and challenge.  Surely there must be room for dissent within the broad movement for Scottish independence, no matter the ‘party’, the organisation, the ‘faction’.

But do we do that as rigorously within the independence movement as we do with the ‘opposition’? If we challenge a viewpoint are we being disloyal? Are we shouted down? Are we ‘trolled’?

Why not welcome another view, another opinion, another voice? This time Sputnik, but in the broader context, of  the whole of the independence pantheon then discourse that tests, experiments, pushes the boundaries of ideas and thoughts has to be welcomed, not silenced.  

It was Malala Yousafzai who said ‘we realise the importance of our voices only when we are silenced’.

Let’s welcome the other ‘voices’, let’s use our own ability to cut through propaganda, and make up our minds for ourselves

PS: Darius I (522-486 B.C.), called "the Great," was a Persian king. A great conqueror and the chief organizer of the Persian Empire, best known for the unsuccessful attack on Greece which ended at Marathon. (OK, I chose old Darius deliberately. Quite appropriate, time wise, but hey, don’t get me started on medals at approx.. £4.5 m a throw!)


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