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Madman Of The Year 59

Posted on August 31, 2012 by

We’ve mentioned previously that one of the core tactics the No camp appears to be utilising in the referendum debate is that of attrition through extremism. It’s a strategy borrowed from the terrifying American right wing, and has two main goals.

One is to recalibrate the perceived centre-ground by abandoning any kind of moderate position and instead arguing positions so self-evidently ludicrous and dishonest that the listener is nudged towards assuming that they must be true purely on the grounds that nobody would dare to present such an audacious lie with a straight face. The other is to simply exhaust your opponents by forcing them to constantly battle over even the most basic and obvious facts, long before you get to the real debating points.

It’s a nihilistic but clever ploy, particularly effective in broadcast media where time is often very limited and such obfuscatory stalling can completely prevent the serious issues from being addressed at all. So far it seems to be pretty much the only weapon in Scottish Labour’s armoury, not just in respect of the referendum but also politics generally – a good example being the party’s absurd claims about the cost of knife crime during the 2011 election campaign.

It applies at the macro level as well as at the top end of the scale. When we started this blog we subscribed to the Twitter accounts of lots of prominent Labour activists in a naive attempt at engaging in genuine constructive debate, but were gradually forced to the realisation that the primary (or only) point of their dialogue was to deliberately waste our time and exasperate us into submission, and unfollowed them all.

So rather than be drawn into attempting to intelligently and forensically deconstruct three of the most recent outpourings of (calculated) lunacy from some of the No camp’s leading mad old men, we’re going to treat them with the amount of respect they deserve. Read the three articles below, then use your skill and judgement to decide (via the poll over in the central column) who’s the most barking-mad mental.

Michael Kelly in the Scotsman, insisting that an independent Scotland having its own defence forces is a hilarious joke

Alan Cochrane in the Telegraph, burbling about Alex Salmond sacrificing the referendum in return for more powers

Ian Smart in his shed, banging his worn-out drum of how Salmond doesn’t want to have a referendum in the first place

Vote now!

Mental Mickey’s Wild Ride 56

Posted on August 09, 2012 by

Strap yourselves in, readers. And scatter some cushions around your chair, because there’s a pretty good chance you’re about to fall off it. Not in surprise, though, because as we predicted yesterday the Scottish media has imposed a near-blanket ban on reporting Labour MP and Scottish Affairs Select Committee chairman Ian Davidson’s astonishing meltdown on Tuesday’s edition of Newsnight Scotland.

The Herald buried a small neutral piece on it yesterday afternoon in an obscure corner of its website, with no bylines and no quotes from any of the parties (in either sense of the word) concerned. Interestingly the exact same story appears word-for-word in the Daily Record, still without attribution, but that’s it for news coverage.

On the BBC website there’s not a peep, even in the Scotland Politics section, despite the direct and savage attack on the Corporation’s prized impartiality. (Political editor Brian Taylor hasn’t graced the site with a blog in six weeks.) Over at the Guardian, the paper’s fearless Scotland correspondent Severin Carrell – normally so keen to cover media matters – felt a five-minute fuss over an advertising poster at Edinburgh Airport was the big Scottish story of the day. And so on.

The Twittersphere was also strangely quiet, or at least the Union-friendly side of it was. Tom Gordon of the Herald and Eddie Barnes of the Scotsman both tried to play the story down as a storm in a teacup (here’s a fun game to play: imagine the Scottish media reaction if Stewart Hosie or Alex Neil had done the same thing, especially during the political slow news season), and every normally-prolific Scottish Labour activist adopted a policy of total radio silence on the subject.

Only Angus Macleod of the Times went public to suggest that Johann Lamont should discipline Davidson for his “bonkers” outburst, while Al Jazeera reporter (and former Scottish Labour senior media adviser) Andrew McFadyen called the performance a “bad misjudgement” directed at “one of the best broadcasters in Scotland”, while noting that the point of politicians giving interviews to TV news programmes is supposed to be “to win people over, not put them off”.

We were just about to congratulate ourselves on our powers of insight when we noticed a link hidden right down at the bottom of the Scotsman’s politics section. “Michael Kelly: Showdown has put BBC objectivity to the test”, it said. We went and made ourselves a drink. “This should be good”, we thought. We weren’t disappointed.

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