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Stop your tickling Jock

April 13, 2012

Breaking the habits of a lifetime, this will be a short and topic specific blog – a reaction to the ‘hysteria’ caused by the Economist’s front page in its current issue, reproduced below if you haven’t seen it.

There were two types of allegedly ‘hysterical’ reaction: one from those – mostly Nats, who saw it as grossly insulting, and the other from unionists who berated the Nats for overreacting to what they saw as just a bit of fun, a satirical dig. The whole business was further complicated by a lack of connection between the implications of the cover and the weight of the article which said little that was new and was more or less ambivolent on whether Scotland could ‘pay its way’, while warning of the perils of leaving the ‘safety’ of the union.

I suspect those wise men at the magazine knew it would be thus and are probably quite happy at the increased web exposure. You can imagine the discussion: how do we boost attention? If we can’t get Kate Middleton on the cover, let’s insult the Jocks – they are sooooooo touchy!

Well, to quote Peter Finch in ‘Network’ – I’m mad as hell and I ain’t gonna take it any more.

In a sense, this whole schemozzle has been a reflection of what is happening in the Independence campaign. A unionist camp, bereft of a coherent campaign in defence of the Union, has taken to criticising those who espouse independence. Their approach sometimes seems to be: ‘Alex Salmond’s smug, so vote no’. If Nats respond tetchily to this they are cried ‘Cybernats’ and accused of vile and unwarranted attacks; when it comes the other way, we are supposed to smile and say: ‘Ach, it’s only a bit of fun; satire, don’t you know!’

Well, to (almost) quote Lloyd Bentsen: ‘I know satire; I’ve grown up with satire; and this front page has neither the wit, the craft, nor the originality to be satire’. Quite simply, it’s a weak and lazy piece of journalism and I don’t think I should have to apologise for reacting to it in a negative manner. When my country’s future is being commented upon, I think a reputable magazine should spend a little bit more time on content and display – and I don’t think that should be counted as an unreasonable expectation.

I fear sections of the Scottish media find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place. They are products of a unionist situation; many active journos have grown up with the stock Labour view of an independent Scotland being unfair on fellow Labour voters in England – a legitimate if slightly odd angle (Shouldn’t we seek union with France to keep out the Gaullists, or the US to keep out the GOP???) and one which is even harder to maintain now that Labour appears incapable of standing up for the vulnerable anywhere in the UK. In their fear of rocking the status quo, they accept insults and untruths from the southern media, for fear of being labelled ‘chippy Jocks’. It’s not a happy position – and it reminds me of another situation with which I am familiar.

Over the years as a teacher I have had to deal with incidents of bullying. The majority have not been physical bullying but rather emotional – comments made, implications cast. Without exception, the bully’s first line of defence has always been: “I was only joking; I was having a laugh; I didn’t think he was taking it seriously; he never complained about it; if he’d said anything I would have stopped; I didn’t mean it”.

Compared with our country’s future, the ‘hysterics’ over an Economist front page is indeed small beer. The magazine claims a circulation of around two million but I’m not sure how many of them would actually be interested in the independence referendum. The point of this stushie is the reaction of the unionist community: “Wheesht! Can you not take a joke? Don’t be so touchy!”

Which is always what the bully’s friends say when they realise the victim has reported their distress.

I don’t think Scotland, as a country, and irrespective of politics, should have to take this kind of sloppy, insulting journalism. We deserve better. I don’t expect everyone to agree with my politics, but I do expect the respect I give to opponents to be returned.

Maybe that’s why I want a different way of running Scotland.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Peter A Bell permalink
    April 13, 2012 8:06 pm

    Very well said.

  2. Peter Crowe permalink
    April 13, 2012 9:32 pm

    Well reasoned response to what is after all an infantile ad hominem attack on the Scottish Government and supporters of Independence. I have been sceptical about Independence in the past but this sort of thing doesn’t frighten me away from it. In fact, these scares and smears make the case for the Union (and I only mean the 1707 Union) seem morally and intellectually bankrupt.

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