When someone sent us the image below on Twitter, we actually went to the “Better Together” Facebook page to verify it was real, because it can be hard to tell the No campaign’s real leaflets and posters from satire. But it’s totally genuine.
We’ve spoken before of the “swarm of wasps” principle often deployed by Unionists to undermine any prospect of serious debate about independence. It operates by packing so much untruth into a small soundbite that simply unpicking all the lies – let alone making any sort of counterpoint – takes far longer than anyone is ever allowed to have uninterrupted on any news or current-affairs programme or interview.
Even on a website like this it’s hard to deal with all of it before people’s attention starts to wander, but images like today’s are such an instructive textbook example of this particular dirty trick that we’re going to make the effort. We’ll try to keep it short.
1. There’s a real audacity to presenting “If Scotland votes for independence we’ll lose two thirds of our embassies and you won’t have anyone to turn to if you get into trouble abroad!” as a “positive message”. In “1984”, George Orwell called this propaganda tactic “blackwhite”.
2. We’re not sure how the UK manages to have 270 embassies and consulates when there are only 206 sovereign nations on the planet. It would seem that there might be grounds for some pruning to be done there.
3. The claim that an independent Scotland would only have 100 embassies is an extrapolation from a rather vague comment made by Nicola Sturgeon – not even an actual quote, never mind a stated policy.
And as noted by several commenters in this post, Scotland wouldn’t need to open its own dedicated embassies to have representation. EU rules provide for access to the embassies of other member states, and numerous countries – including the UK – already have embassy-sharing agreements.
4. If the state of the UK’s finances are anything to go by, our embassies haven’t done the greatest job of “building prosperity” anyway. We could probably manage to get by okay without a few of them.
5. The cherry on the cake, though, is the diagram. “Better Together” presents its questionable statistics in pictorial form, illustrating how many fewer 100 is than 270. But it can’t even bring itself to tell the truth about the contents of its own lie.
The “270” map is depicted with 102 dots marking notional embassies – including, oddly, one in the UK, and no fewer than 20 in the US. On that ratio, the “100” side should have 38 dots. (Here’s how that might look, as we’re fairly sure that having 20 separate Scottish embassies in the USA would be overkill.)
But in fact it has exactly half as many – just 19. Evidently, the No camp’s graphics artists decided that even their own hyperbolic scaremongering wasn’t scary enough, and doubled it.
This particular image is just one trivial example. But it’s one of many, almost all of them equally dishonest, and the intended effect is to cumulatively wear down voters with an irresistible, unrelenting bombardment of untruth, and to provide a constantly-moving target – already telling a new and multi-faceted lie while the old one is still being debunked – with the unceasing assistance of a Scottish media always prepared to dutifully follow the agenda set by the anti-independence parties.
Some believe it’s best to simply ignore the “Better Together” propaganda output, and that drawing attention to it only gives it exposure and some sort of twisted credence. It’s an understandable view, but not one this site shares. The more people understand that they’re being lied to – and crudely and insultingly lied to, at that – the more of them begin to wonder what it is the No campaign is trying to hide.