Are Robertson and Chomsky wrong about fake news?

From reader, anandprasad

I understand your point [suggesting no conspiracy at BBC Scotland] and agreed with it until this last year.

Now i am highly suspicious that there isn’t either a high up influence by the intelligence agencies or an extremely biased executive with a planned anti Independence agenda.
The attacks have just been too focused and consistently anti SNHS and education to fit with Manufacturing Consent.

Elsewhere, in a national newspaper like The Guardian half of the Scottish articles are by Severin Carrell who is obviously a unionist (and also a terrible journalist), Libby Brooks seem to be more balanced but because of that The Guardian is biased without too much conspiracy. Books will be written about the Guardian’s drift (avalanche?) to the right and their overall anti-independence bias is what it is, engrained establishment unionism.

I also understand that because there isn’t much news in Scotland they think they have to work harder to find bad stories which because they are hard to find, are often extremely petty. But look at any other regional news in England. Yorkshire for example. They don’t spend all their time trying to portray their own region as a shit hole.
Does any other regional news repeat the same stories endlessly?

As John promotes, what is wrong with some good stories about Scotland, if there aren’t any important bad ones? Would the Tories and Labour allow it?

The hilarious thing is that the lies are being repeated by so called experts below the border. Lisa Nandy, who doesn’t even know the name of the SNP (at least twice in one minute).Lisa Nandy@lisanandy

Some supporters of Scottish independence are wilfully distorting my words. They may be panicking but it’s time to raise the level of debate in this country.

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I am beginning to think that all this BBC bad news is not for us but for England’s consumption. I am sure this is at least partly true. State propaganda for the ruling state allowing it to feel ‘right’ about it’s colonisation, against all contrary evidence. ‘Yes they are poor and uneducated and we shouldn’t have to, but we have to rule them because they couldn’t do it themselves’.

Published by johnrobertson834

Retired Professor of Media Politics Not-for-profit independent political analysis

12 thoughts on “Are Robertson and Chomsky wrong about fake news?

  1. When assessing the BBC’s coverage of Scottish politics and the now undeniable bias in favour of the British establishment it would be a mistake to think in terms of a formal conspiracy. If you’re imagining a cabal of managers, producers, directors, journalists and presenters secretly conniving together to do down the SNP and the independence movement, you are entertaining a fantasy. There is no organised plot. Nor is there any need for such a thing. What, with hindsight, has all the appearance of having been carefully contrived is, in fact, no more than the incidental outcome of an ‘organic’ process with no purpose or direction.

    Just as ‘misreporting’ may be indistinguishable from deliberate dishonesty, so what looks like a conspiracy may be only a mirage. It may be no more than the impression left on history by lots of unconnected, or only loosely connected events. It may be a pattern without a plan. It may be conspiracy as an emergent property of an organisation which, not being effectively managed towards its true purpose, tends towards the dominant agenda within its own structures.

    All that is required for the appearance of conspiracy to emerge is that there should be a sufficient number of people; with a sufficient amount of influence; and a sufficient commonality of interest.

    Conspiracy as an emergent property of organisations

    Liked by 1 person

      1. As Noam Chomsky demonstrated with Andrew Marr, “If you thought any differently you wouldn’t be sitting there”. It’s a conspiracy only because everyone in a position to influence things thinks the same way, so there doesn’t need to be an overt direction, it just comes naturally.

        Sad reflection on our news media, BBC and MSM.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. An appropriate day to take to give ourselves an opportunity to reflect on the Ukanian addiction to ‘framing’ it’s conceit of itself and the rest of the world around the lingering stench of the British Imperial Ethic. It is 70 years to the day since Eric Blair (George Orwell ) passed from this life – In many ways a deeply flawed individual but his clear-sighted view of the role and operation of ‘Ministries of Truth’ has given us all plenty to consider over recent years.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Indeed we are all flawed – Eric Blair no more or no less than most – and he used his superb talents pretty darned well whilst he was around. His analytical eye and spare prose are certainly much missed.


  4. I wasn’t saying there is definitely a conspiracy, i am saying there is a possibility that there is someone with a strong deliberate anti independence agenda influencing news output. Do we know for sure that there are no conflict of interests or family connections involving BBC Scotland staff with any Unionist Parties or companies which may benefit from Unionism?
    I am only putting out ideas here, we will only know in 50 years plus. I am partly playing devil’s advocate.
    I agree that there doesn’t need to be a conspiracy when the whole of the media bubble thinks in a certain way, it is just that the patterns of BBC bias hints at something more sinister..Their behaviour is way beyond the mean and if i am right it should be statistically provable. Are they less biased than other channels because they are in a more close knit bubble, are they less diverse in some way? There is a PhD in there for someone to study and compare the major news outlets and their content and repetition of stories with the social backgrounds of their staff. Someone has to answer why the BBC is so more biased than other channels. Repetition of news is not normal. It is state propaganda. Deliberate. It doesn’t fit the Manufacturing Consent theory.
    I don’t think Chomsky ever said that conspiracy in the media never happens just that most of the time it is never needed. The New York Times this week just revealed that they send their ‘sensitive’ news to the intelligence agencies to get approval before printing. The Guardian has publicly stated that now, after the Snowdon affair, it works with MI5.

    I think it would be highly naive to think that there COULDN’T be a mole in the BBC. They had undercover agents working in animal rights organisation for years and Harold Wilson was probably bugged. Are we to believe that the intelligence agencies are incapable of such a small thing as interfering with Scottish news when the integrity of the British state is at stake? It would only take one person in a influential position. It doesn’t even have to be a paid official roll. Just a few drinks at the club and a few hints here and there. If they interfere in foreign counties why wouldn’t they do the same here. We are now an occupied country after-all.

    There is another argument for interference in our news.
    Political media corruption doesn’t stop absolutely at national borders. The UK has one of the worst records for media freedom. If state media manipulation happens in other countries and i don’t think anyone doubts that, then there is no absolute law which states that it can’t happen here. The chemical weapons ‘attack’ in Syria didn’t happen and the OPCW are covering it up so it is a bit silly to rule out as impossible a simple thing like a nudge, nudge in the news desk. Conspiracies happen.

    The state is scared stiff of the Independence movement and nothing is beneath them. They see the state as being under attack. It is only going to get worse. If the Pledge was possible, so is a little bending of the news. Bit of repetition here and there, ‘no one will notice and everyone will put it down to the Chomsky effect.’ Could we be being too naive?

    I lived in Denmark for 9 years and my partner is Danish. We also visit Sweden for short visits. Both these countries are comparable to Scotland in many ways. Neither of these countries have level of trivial anti-government news that we are faced with daily in Scotland by the BBC. Their news can be very boring but it isn’t vitriolic. It is not normal for small counties to attack their own government in such a systematic way. I doubt the same would happen in Denmark if Greenland Independence became imminent. But perhaps there i am being naive. I will ask my Danish friend next time.

    The other major alternative to conspiracy is stupidity. I also used to buy into this to a great extent. But slowly slowly i have been finding out that most of those in the media are highly educated. Christmas University Challenge is an eye opener. Of course that doesn’t rule out stupidity completely but it is hard to imagine that the BBC doesn’t know it is being spoon fed propaganda by Scottish Lib-Dems, Tories and Labour. They know this isn’t journalism, this is stenography. Laziness and lack of resources are of course another factors.
    If the other parties know that the BBC will publish any old angle they can dig up without any checks then it just encourages the political parties to continue more and more. It is a viscous circle and the BBC are complicit in this propagation of false news. It is a policy.

    Another interesting aspect which has a bearing on all this is the psychology of the BBC decision makers. This is revealed through John’s complaints and their reactions. It seemed that in one of the recent replies there was a inherent belief they couldn’t possibly be ever be guilty of bias and that any evidence to the contrary was the stuff of conspiracy theories (is there a pattern here). But i found that reply fascinating. What is going on? John gave irrefutable demonstration of bias and they just denied it apparently on the grounds that it was not possible because they aren’t biased. Basically we aren’t biased because we aren’t biased.
    There have been a few studies that have shown that when people are given more and more power they become more convinced of their infallibility, they lose empathy and become out of touch with their own limitations. It could be that the BBC reinforces this because of their apparent personnel stability. My impression is that a job for the BBC is a job for life. I was aboard for over 30 years and when i returned i couldn’t believe that the same old faces were doing the same jobs and often these people that drew my attention most were absolutely dreadfully incompetent. If this is true it will probably foster that same sense of entitlement as seen in the psychology experiments.

    None of this affects how we fight misinformation and so please forgive my indulgence.

    Just because we aren’t paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get us.


  5. When nuclear weapons bases and oil are concerned then everything is on the table.
    Britain and the US overthrew democratically elected Mohammad Mosaddegh in Iran because he was intending to nationalise the oil.


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