The recent polls in Ireland and Scotland make for interesting reading in the run-up to the European and local elections (though only the former contest is being held in our fellow Gaelic neighbour). While the percentages for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are within a whisper of each other both parties are expected to do less well than in previous years (though in fairness FF has nowhere to go but up following its 2011 general election drubbing). The Labour Party ship is possibly fatally holed below the waterline with the remaining rats turning on each other while Sinn Féin and the smaller parties of the Left or non-aligned seem likely to secure substantial electoral gains, the former both nationally and locally. No surprise then that the Irish news media have gone into overdrive in an attempt to thwart SF’s challenge at the ballot box to the country’s cosy, decades-old consensus of government by the two big establishment parties with or without the support of minor players (the rearranging of the chairs on the deck of the Titanic as we saw in the aftermath of the Celtic Tiger). During the Irish Revolution the majority of newspapers on this island nation took up a position broadly hostile to the independence movement, most famously in the form of the two big dailies, the Irish Times and Irish Independent, and arguably very little has changed since then in terms of the political ideology that controls our media. The majority of Irish journalists are anti-Republican in their politics since that is the culture of those who would employ them. The Neo-Unionist tendency hire those who echo their own world view while ignoring or denigrating those who would think otherwise (however tentatively).
In Scotland, with the polls predicting a strong showing by the governing SNP and other pro-independence parties like the Greens, a similar Unionist consensus exists within the print and electronic media, and the looming referendum on Scottish sovereignty is sending them into a feeding frenzy. One of the nastier tactics to have emerged in recent months is the campaign to shut down pro-sovereignty voices that exist outside the control of the journalistic establishment. The British media have consistently targeted independent Scottish opinion-makers, particularly those with an online presence (the so-called “cybernats”). A long litany of allegations, the vast majority proven to be unfounded, exaggerated or simply invented for propaganda purposes, have been made damaging personal reputations or worse endangering people’s careers and livelihoods.
The most egregious harassment of recent weeks has come from the “Scottish” Daily Mail (sister to our “Irish” Daily Mail and just as subservient to its London paymasters). Headlined “Cybernats unmasked: Meet the footsoldiers of pro-Scottish independence ‘army’ whose online poison shames the Nationalists” the article vilifies several people associated, in some cases very loosely indeed, with public support for a free and sovereign Scotland. The basis of the allegations are tenuous to say the least. It is simply a good, old-fashioned smear piece designed to punish individual citizens for publicly expressing their political opinions. It is the antithesis of support for a participatory democracy, an attack on individual rights and freedoms which all right-minded Europeans should reject. With some Irish media elders now engaging in similar tactics we should be wary of those who believe that the provision of information in a democracy is the preserve of a corrupt and ideologically-fixated elite who believe that they – and only they – have the right to dictate the future course of events for the plebeian masses.
As our Gaelic cousins o’er the sea contemplate taking the monumental first step in the journey to true nationhood we should give what support we can while being mindful of those at home who would have us retrace our steps back to the days of our servility to others.