Is the BBC’s violent and troubled, but utterly loyal Scot, just a ‘natural’ choice for writers or is he deliberate propaganda for Better Together?


Yes, but is it keeping them loyal?

Today in the Random Public Journal, Jason Michael writes under the headline, Bodyguard: The BBC and Soft Power, a fascinating piece on the BBC’s hit drama, The Bodyguard, and, in particular, its central character, a tough, violent and troubled ex-soldier, now a bodyguard, with ‘The Met’.

Jason, perhaps, read sociology sometime after my own experience, in the 70s and, I think, at a time when Bourdieu was ‘the man’. Readers will be relieved to hear that I’m not going to engage with Bourdieu as this is not the time nor the place to do and my brain is not the place with the stuff to do so either. What I want to consider is the business of the degree of consciousness and of the intent, in the mind of the writer, of the bodyguard, Jed Mercurio! Really?

I agree with this from Jason:

 ‘There’s a lot going on between the lines in this show, but here – considering the times we are in – we’re going to take a closer look at these two themes, terrorism and the tartan super-man. Both are important because they work together towards the single goal of winning in the heart of the viewer the idea of British togetherness in crisis.’

I think it very likely that this overall effect in the minds of many viewers will be to reinforce the idea that British solidarity is a good thing. I’ve underlined the notion of some kind underlying purpose that I want to return to. I also agree with this:

‘Muslim women do not have agency in the British narratives of immigration, integration, and terrorism), the “terrorists” are conspicuously absent from the story. They aren’t important. The meaning of terrorism – as it is on the BBC News – is to foster a sense of national unity; a reason to come together as one United Kingdom as we did in the good old days of the Blitz.’

Once again, my brain twitched at the potentially active verb underlined. In this third extract, too, I’m strongly with this interpretation:

‘As always, ‘the Scot’ gets ahead in the world by being perfectly obedient to his betters. He cannot be the hero of the story unless he knows his place. The meaning is simple: Britain is in crisis. It needs heroes. It needs the Scots. But for us to be the heroes of this one-nation Britain, this state in crisis, we must do so on others’ terms – as obedient slaves.’

This time, there is nothing suggesting underlying purpose in the writer which requires my underlining. Finally, I really like the conclusion, below, but again, an undeniably active verb made me twitch:

‘Bodyguard is an excellent piece of propaganda. In this, in my opinion, the BBC has surpassed itself. Finally, it has taken steps in the realm of culture to distance itself from Project Fear – putting in its place something closer to Project Hero with conditions. By reaching into the past – with the ennobled stereotype of ‘the Scot’ – it is hoping, that with an updated twist, it might find the winning formula to save the union. This is soft power at its best, this is what Britain and the BBC do best.’

Now, I might be being unfair to Jason. He might be using the language that I’ve underlined in a way too subtle or maybe justifiably stylised for me to get, but I’ve got a problem with the notion that ‘the BBC’ or any, but a very small number of elite editors, producers and writers, have an explicit, fully conscious, agenda to actively promote British solidarity, through it’s output, whether in the form of news or drama.

With Chomsky, I think writers are, with few exceptions such as Alan Bleasdale (Boys from the Black Stuff), thoroughly conditioned by their quite common experience, in upper-middle-class homes, in private preparatory schools, in ‘public’ schools like Eton, and in Oxbridge, to ‘know’, subconsciously and at all times, what their own interests are and that by acting in their own interests, mostly again subconsciously, they act in the interests of their class. Thus, we get the news and the drama which subtly but effectively generate the soft power Jason correctly talks of.

I hope I’m not missing his point or being a pedant but look back at the phrases I’ve underlined, and they seem, to me, to be suggesting a degree of conscious intent to propagandise and maybe, even, conspiracy, if only at the level of small elite groups.

There, I’ve had my say.



16 thoughts on “Is the BBC’s violent and troubled, but utterly loyal Scot, just a ‘natural’ choice for writers or is he deliberate propaganda for Better Together?

  1. Ann Forbes September 17, 2018 / 8:00 am

    Re your point about acting in the interests of their class-

    Liked by 1 person

  2. johnrobertson834 September 17, 2018 / 8:23 am

    Thanks, brilliant. ‘If you believed something different you wouldn’t be sitting there.’


  3. Alasdair Macdonald September 17, 2018 / 8:53 am

    I agree with Chomsky and you, but, I believed something different I probably would not be reading your blog! However, I think that Jason Michael has provided a good service by his article and, despite, using the phrases you have underlined, is seeking to make explicit that there might be manipulation of our perceptions going on in much of our drama and news and current affairs.

    While I think that many of the schema that characterise “BRITAIN:” as a construct are subconscious, I think that there are a fair number who are fully aware of what is going on. Effective propagandists are not numpties and are effective because they have a good understanding of how people perceive and think and can direct messages in ways which optimise their chances of being accepted. I think that within many of our institutions (does my use of ‘our’ indicate that I am not immune to their blandishments?) there are people who understand what needs to be done to sustain the mindset they feel is necessary for their regime to continue. I think, too, that they recruit people who have internalised the mindset to the extent that it is hegemonic to carry out the day-to-day business.

    So, the people who are the presenters and interviewers on the BBC and other media are chosen because they will present the message credibly – because they really believe it and they will ask the ‘right’ kind of questions, because these come to them naturally. For example, I once read that of the 20 presenters of the BBC national (i.e. not the news from where we are) 19 had been privately educated. So, they have a particular perception of how the world is.

    To return to the dichotomous question you present in your headline, I think an answer could be ‘YES’ to both parts.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A Bruce September 17, 2018 / 8:58 am

    Marr clearly didn’t see himself as practicing the “crusading craft” type of journalism he referred to but apparently he didn’t see himself as fitting into the obedient/subordinate band of journalists either. Mr Chomsky certainly had him sussed out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • johnrobertson834 September 17, 2018 / 9:24 am

      Chomsky’s analysis is unforgiving so it’s understandable they don’t like it.


  5. Jeggit September 17, 2018 / 2:23 pm

    John, thank you for this. I am entirely unused to being critiqued, but this is marvellous. In my defence, or rather in defence of my argument, I would point to the BBC Charter and its aim to “contribute to the 𝙨𝙤𝙘𝙞𝙖𝙡 𝙘𝙤𝙝𝙚𝙨𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙬𝙚𝙡𝙡𝙗𝙚𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙤𝙛 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙐𝙣𝙞𝙩𝙚𝙙 𝙆𝙞𝙣𝙜𝙙𝙤𝙢.” This would suggest to me the BBC, as an institution, is conscious of the purpose of its output – even in drama. While Jed Mercurio is listed as both writer and creator of the series, ‘Bodyguard’ was a collaborative effort, pulling in a number of producers, directors, writers, and editors. Given its charter and the nature of the material, it is not unlikely those responsible for the final cut had the “cohesion” and “wellbeing” of the state in mind.

    And yes, I have recently completed an MPhil in Sociology (2016) and Bourdieu was ‘the man.’ Well spotted. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • johnrobertson834 September 17, 2018 / 8:24 pm

      Cheers Jeggit. I, sort of, kinda, accept your interpretation as an alternative reality given that we won’t manage to investigate them empirically. They won’t speak to me. You?


      • Jeggit September 18, 2018 / 9:25 pm

        I’ll be sure to let you know.


  6. Alasdair Macdonald. September 17, 2018 / 6:44 pm

    A revealing vignette: for a number of years a group of us, mainly old codgers have been working on footpaths and cycle paths in the Glasgow area, clearing litter, cutting back intrusive vegetation, cleaning graffiti. Interestingly, we have seen a significant reduction in litter and an increase in the numbers of people using these paths. It is a virtuous circle – because there is less litter and because people can see through the vegetation, people feel safer in using the path and because more people are using the path, the antisocial element which creates the litter and the graffiti go elsewhere. Recently, we have become more constructive, creating wildflower meadows in places alongside the paths. This actually recruits more people, who appreciate being able to do something of value for the community

    However, today, I was accosted by a dog walker in a rather accusatory manner. “What are you doing about the Japanese knotweed along there?” I pointed out that we were volunteers and that that particular plant has to be treated by injection by specialists and that we keep our distance because even Tony amounts on our tools can cause it to spread. ‘But what are YOU doing about it?’ I pointed out that we had reported it and that he could do the same, too. That was not for him. “That Mrs Sturgeon should be down here seeing the state of things” I pointed out that the area was hugely improved and we were making it better. He snorted. He was only interested in the welfare of his dog. I pointed out that the knotweed presented no hazard to the dog, but that some fragments of the plants might stick to its paws and spread the plant. “As long as the dog’s safe, I don’t care what happens.You tell that Mrs Sturgeon to come here and see the shambles she’s caused.” And he was off.

    He had a strong English accent and he KNEW things were getting worse. It was clear he was BRITISH. Our group actually contained English born people and as well as people from other places. However, my interlocutor had the British/English arrogance: he lived here, but clearly did not see himself as PART of it.

    I have known Scots born people with similar mindsets.

    Liked by 5 people

    • johnrobertson834 September 17, 2018 / 8:13 pm

      Ah a bit of a horror story. Glad it was you not me. Was there a handy canal or burn nearby? Anyhoo,well done. Doing something unquestionably good must be satisfying.


      • Alasdair Macdonald. September 18, 2018 / 8:26 am

        There was a burn nearby, but that was where the knotweed was! I did not want to cause it to spread!


    • Legerwood September 17, 2018 / 9:47 pm

      “”…he lived here, but clearly did not see himself as PART of it.””

      More accurate I think to say they stay there but don’t live there. If you live in a place you take an interest in the place and get involved in things in the local area.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Alasdair Macdonald. September 18, 2018 / 8:25 am

        I accept your distinction. Thanks!


  7. Sard September 17, 2018 / 9:11 pm

    For years the BBC hasn’t had any dramas worth watching (IMO). Then with the country facing a troubled future, out comes a whole rack of quality dramas to drum up an audience for the propaganda bulletins.

    Liked by 1 person

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