A funny thing happened to me during the Scottish Independence Referendum campaign last year – I pretty much gave up on a lifetime habit of reading newspapers and generally ended up avoiding TV news and current affairs programmes too. As far as I could manage it this continued, in truth intensified, during the recent UK General Election too.
Why? I was, am, fed up, frustrated, outraged and, well, just generally hacked off with being lied to or hearing interminable and unintelligible spin masquerading as fact.
Now, I’m not naïve, I expect to be lied to by politicians, that’s just what they do. But they are getting worse. More blatant. Sometimes they don’t even try to spin to disguise the fact they’ve lied, they just blunder on regardless and either hope we haven’t noticed or, more likely, they simply don’t care. And too many journalists appear all too happy to perpetuate their lies.
To be fair, (even though I’m really not inclined to be), sometimes they’re not exactly lying per se, they just don’t know any better. And therein lies the real problem, and the fundamental reason I’ve stopped listening. They are not experts. I’ll say that again for emphasis… They. Are. Not. Experts.
Take George Osborne (and I really wish someone would!) as an example, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in charge of all the dosh and all of our economic futures, has a degree in Modern History. His immediate predecessor, Alistair Darling, studied Law and the one before that, Gordon Brown, History (in all senses!). Am I the only one spotting a pattern here?
Moving on, how about the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, (and how accurate was James Naughtie about him, by the way?) – the dreaded Philosophy, Politics and Economics, usually glorified as PPE in ‘meeja’ circles. His shadow, Andy Burnham, is an English graduate. Maybe Education is better served…? Maybe not. Nicky Morgan was a Solicitor, and her shadow, Tristram Hunt, is another with a History degree.
I’m shouting at the page now… They. Are. Not. Experts.
So what about the people who allegedly hold them to account, the journalists? Let’s take just one example, Jeremy Paxman. He has an English degree yet we are expected to accept his forensic questioning on economics, health, education, defence, foreign policy and everything else, unquestioningly. Just because he’s read a bit of Shakespeare?
Now, I’m not saying you have to have been a doctor to have an opinion on health, or a teacher to have an opinion on education, but in positions of absolute authority surely it helps? And perhaps someone with a sound and proven grasp of Economics might just have a better understanding of, well, and I’m just throwing this out there, Economics, than some hooray with a History degree?
And that’s mainly why I switched off.
I also believe there’s an agenda in the media. The BBC has made it explicitly clear that it is the State broadcaster with an absolute responsibility for promoting the Establishment position at all times. Its conduct during the Scottish Referendum campaign was reprehensible. By the time the UK General Election rolled around most people in Scotland, thankfully, had realised that and treated everything broadcast by the BBC with an entire proverbial salt cellar.
So, what am I really trying to say here? People have to see beyond what’s presented as ‘fact’ and look behind the rhetoric. Returning to my Scottish Independence theme, for just one important example, I know that our friends in England have been fed a line by UKIP, fuelled by Labour and the Tories, that ‘their’ money is subsidising free prescriptions, free education and lots of other goodies in Scotland. That is a lie. It is simply not true.
But our beloved State broadcaster won’t correct it. Other vested interest outlets such as The Torygraph, The Daily Wail and others gleefully perpetuate it because it suits their agenda. Ask yourselves why? Even those erstwhile paragons of virtue The Guardian and The Independent are not immune, and just don’t get me started on Dan Snow! It suits the Establishment to perpetuate such mistruths and they rely on the ‘it’s in the paper so it must be true’ mythology.
And, it’s not just me. Something has fundamentally changed in Scotland over the past couple of years, and central to that has been the increasing numbers of ordinary people finding alternative sources of information. There is widespread mistrust of the so-called MSM (mainstream media) and new, mainly online, outlets have sprung up to fill the void. The rest of the UK must now do the same and hold the traditional political parties and news outlets to account. Remember my main message here – they are not experts.