Stuart Cosgrove like other mainstream media-insiders just doesn’t get how propaganda happens

In the National today, Stuart Cosgrove repeats the same kind of indignant protest we see over and over again from Yes-supporting mainstream media-insiders. He writes:

There are many hundreds of Yes supporters working within BBC Scotland and to categorise the organisation as a stooge of London is to misrepresent a much more complicated reality.’

Leaving aside his typically journalistic willingness to represent his gut-based guesswork on how many Yes-supporters there are in Pacific Quay, as fact, the rest of this statement is a classic of the type so commonly used to misunderstand and to confuse the nature of propaganda. Independence-supporting editors at the Sunday Herald and even at have tried to portray me as a simple conspiracy theorist before and to characterise clear propagandists at the BBC as rare ‘bad apples.’ Even George Monbiot tried to do the same to Chomsky when the latter reminded him that in the end, he (Monbiot) was inside the corporation-controlled bubble that is mainstream media.

You see, I’ve said over and over before that BBC Scotland is not home to a cabal of scheming cauldron-circlers but that bias FOR the status quo emerges naturally from it. Starting with an organisation recently headed up by Labour-party Unionist insiders, openly anti-independence, such as John Boothman and Kirsty Wark and perpetuated by Sarah Smith, a hostile environment toward any reporting supportive of the cause, the SNP, the Scottish Government, NHS Scotland and so on, has developed. The evidence for this is everywhere. Readers need only search this blog for ‘bias’ or, indeed, for ‘NHS.’

Into this environment have come new staff who, wishing to get on, learn quickly what to write and how to write it. No one need tell them what to do and, soon, it seems the right thing to do, the natural thing to do.

Making the above go smoothly, the new entrants arrive already socialised from homes saturated with the messages that constitutional change is risky and that we are better together, from broadcast media and the thoughts of parents indoctrinated in schools with British imperial history classes. The latter has become less so in recent years. If they come from one of Scotland’s ancient universities, there is also a good chance that they have had a heavy dose of Atlanticism and of positive views on the status quo in the UK.

Finally, to return to the fact that there may be a number of yes-supporting folk within BBC Scotland (I doubt ‘hundreds’), the output of the two news programmes that matter, Reporting Scotland and Good Morning Scotland, suggests they’re damn few or they’re keepin’ their heids doon. Can Stuart name an editor at either of these two prepared to come out?




19 thoughts on “Stuart Cosgrove like other mainstream media-insiders just doesn’t get how propaganda happens

  1. Alasdair Macdonald August 11, 2019 / 8:52 am

    Typo in fourth paragraph?

    Should it not be “bias FOR the status quo.”

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Bugger le Panda August 11, 2019 / 8:57 am

    The received internal culture.


    Assimilated by the Borg

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Alasdair Macdonald August 11, 2019 / 9:22 am

    First of all, I rate Mr Cosgrove as a broadcaster. He is unashamedly intellectual in his presentation, while expressing his ideas in clear language with little recourse to jargon. I think he is quite unequivocally in favour of independence. I do not know him although he was at Perth Academy at the same time as my late brother in law.

    What he is stating here is what Mr Derek Bateman has been saying for a number of years. When he was on the BBC News I thought he was a fine professional journalist and uninhibited about getting stuck in to waffle and gobbledegook. His blog, sadly discontinued since his serious illness, made the case for independence strongly.

    I have a good friend – and strongly pro-independence – who worked for many years in both the BBC and STV (he is no longer involved in broadcasting) and knows many people in News and Current Affairs and he, too, subscribes to the view Mr Cosgrove is putting forward.

    So, I am prepared to accept that what Mr Cosgrove and the others are saying is true.

    However, I also accept what you say about the culture within News and Current Affairs, particularly as being put forward by the kind of figures you mentioned. The BBC has, since the days of Lord Reith, been a plllar of the UK state and these unionist, indeed, pro-establishment views are deeply embedded in the organisation, particularly in key positions. When someone joins any organisation one is inevitably compromised because each of us has to fit in. I do not mean in a toadying way (though we all know of toadying colleagues), I simply meaning having to get into the way of working to be able to do one’s job. Inevitably, there arise occasions when what the organisation is trying to do about a particular aspect causes tensions with one’s own beliefs and, usually we find some way of fulfilling our contract and maintaining a degree of self-respect. Looking back at my working career, I can recall occasions when I was genuinely ‘torn’. On some occasions, I recall with some embarrassment, I made choices which were the wrong ones. I had to live with my conscience then and I have to live with the memory. However, I can also look back on more occasions when I think I did good things and brought about some change for the better (in my opinion). It is difficult to go through life without conflict and feelings of guilt. John Steinbeck wrote a short story ‘In Dubious Battle’, where the characters have to make ‘dubious decisions’.

    Outwith News and Current Affairs, there are a number of programmes presented by the BBC where good positive stories of Scotland and the people who live in Scotland are told and it is fairly easy to infer that the people responsible are sympathetic to independence.

    The sands seem to be shifting with regard to ‘this precious union’ – especially as the dinosaur of Bodger Broon has been brought to the stage in its defence (cf today’s Observer). and people who have swithered, who have been ‘sleepers’ (to be melodramatic), who have kept shtumm, who have been shocked to see the precious union unclothed like Hans Christian Anderson’s king need to be persuaded to take the step. In such circumstances I think we have to be prepared to offer the hand of friendship and to forgive and forget. One of the features of some of the deeply ‘principled’ mainly radical left wing people I have encountered, is that they never forgave and never forgot and prided themselves on their UNCOMPROMISING PRINCIPLES. What they really were angry about was about losing the cause for complaint that gave them prominence – they did not want a solution!

    That final piece of bile is NOT directed at you. I have vented my spleen on an aggregation of memories which came back as I was writing this! _Some of these grievances date back more than 50 years!! my wife says I am becoming increasingly curmudgeonly. All the best.

    Liked by 2 people

    • JSM August 11, 2019 / 10:28 am

      I also know someone who used to work at the BBC in Glasgow (production side) and she says the same; that there are plenty of indy people working there. However, these people have to keep their opinions to themselves if they want to keep their jobs. Remember Isobel Fraser who was a reporter on Reporting Scotland? She is for indy and was open about it. She no longer works for the BBC.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Alasdair Macdonald August 11, 2019 / 1:31 pm

        Isobel Fraser presents Good Morning Scotland on Saturdays and Sundays, but always in tandem with someone like Gordon Brewer who will put the Corporation anti-change line (this from someone who was a student Trotskyite!). Isabel Fraser is a good professional journalist who puts her personal opinions to one side while seeking to extract meaningful information from interviewees.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. A C Bruce August 11, 2019 / 10:03 am

    “There are many hundreds of Yes supporters working within BBC Scotland”

    Doubtful that “many hundreds” would have admitted as much to him. A figure plucked from thin air. Would they really risk their livelihoods and their families’ futures by admitting to him that they supported Independence.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alasdair Macdonald August 11, 2019 / 1:51 pm

      I think the estimate is plausible, given the size of the workforce of the BBC in Scotland, not all of which is based in Pacific Quay. The main issue is News and Current Affairs and I suspect that editorially, it is quite tightly controlled.

      I remember back in the 1980s listening to GMS as I was having my breakfast. I had to get up fairly early and usually GMS had not yet started and so I would hear the very first headlines. Very often – at least once a week, I would say, the bulletin would start with a press release from the Scottish Conservative Party which would be making some assertion against the Labour Party or some Labour run council or some public service. (The SNP had only a handful of seats , there was no Scottish Parliament and they controlled no Councils). Having read out the statement they would then say, the Labour Party or Councillor McTumshie, or a spokesperson for NHS Greater Glasgow etc ‘DENIES” this. There would be an interview later in the bulletin where the interviewee was forced to DENY. (The BBC word). As the programme wore on the headline would be adjusted in the light of the DENIAL. It is the preactice which Professor Robertson refers to of a drip-drip-drip of bad things which seps into the consciousness.

      As the SNP gained power and 2014 approached any pretence at impartiality was dropped – it was full frontal SCOTLAND IS SHITE!

      I suspect they might try again, but the Scottish public is much more savvy having lived through the media perfidy. However, as far as the metropolitan media the arguments of 2014 are still being trotted out – it is all because “we hate the English”. The Guardian had a letter on this from an ‘English’ born person who has lived in East Lothian for 30 years (allegedly). Look at the wall to wall coverage given to the recent drugs deaths data, with that posturing ninny, Jon Snow leading the charge. Channel 4 interviewed people in Motherwell about Boris Johnson becoming PM and, amazingly the three people were Tories who opposed independence!


  5. Jon August 11, 2019 / 10:17 am

    I rember seeing Stuart Cosgrove being interviewed by Gordon Brewer, quite a few years ago. At one point Stuart said “I’m supposed to take the (pro) Independence line. ” , not an exact quote but this was the meaning of his words, said in a joking fashion.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dave Albiston August 11, 2019 / 10:36 am

    Those of us who read your blog, John, are well aware of the relentless diet of ‘Scotland is shite’ from the BBC. I’m not convinced of this ‘it’s just the internal culture explanation. There must be orchestration – memos, policy documents etc. If there are ‘hundreds’ of Yes supporters in Pacific Quay, why has there never been a leak? Where are the whistle-blowers?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. bedelsten August 11, 2019 / 11:05 am

    Stuart Cosgrove (and Derek Bateman previously) have been embedded within the forest and they are failing to see the trees, failing to see the corrosive long term effect of the British state broadcaster failing to reflect reality in Scotland and the increasing loss of trust. This has probably not happened before to the state broadcaster, at least not to the scale of an increasing number of the Scottish population, like me, choosing not to pay the licence fee and not watching or listening. Regaining the trust will be difficult, possibly impossible in the current political climate and we will have to wait for Scotland to become an independent country, or at least have voted to become on (not long now), before the British state broadcaster’s Scottish branch office reassesses itself.

    On Friday 8th May 2015 at 08.00 I tuned in to BBC Radio 4 to get the previous night’s election results, discovered the exit polls had been substantially correct and, in Scotland, the SNP were the winners taking fifty-six of Scotland’s fifty-nine Westminster seats. After the ten-minute news bulletin finished, the BBC chose to interview, not, as would be usual, the leader of the winning party, but Ian Murray the only Scottish Labour MP in Scotland. ‘Odd’ I thought, maybe the leader of the winning party is busy on another channel so retuned to Good Morning Scotland where, after the usual depressing litany of cats up trees, murrrder and fitba, Good Morning Scotland chose to interview, not the leader of the winning party in Scotland, but Ian Murray (again). ‘Odd’ I thought (again) and turned the radio off.

    Once sensitised to what I originally thought was a bit of anomaly, reality starts to look a bit disturbing, best characterised by a typical Scottish BBC news web page which goes along the lines of, something happened, then some random, partial, contextless information, and a Scottish Labour spokesperson said ‘SNPBaad’, and we were a bit surprised how pervasive this is within the BBC. Since, for various reasons, we were not watching much TV anyway we decided to stop completely, cancelled the direct debit and, as a final act, removed the TV aerial from the roof. The money saved has been spent on a Netflix subscription, a National subscription and helps fund some bloggers. The time saved is spent on-line reading many blogs, such as this one and even some, just to be perverse, of a different persuasion.

    Part of the problem is, in my opinion, a failure by the state broadcaster to acknowledge it is extremely difficult, sometimes impossible, when presenting information, not to have a viewpoint, not to choose where to point the camera, not to choose where to point the microphone and not to choose to edit out information. Something that is better explained here:

    Liked by 1 person

  8. davybwood August 11, 2019 / 3:11 pm

    I spent many years in the Police and regularly got hit with the phrase ‘Institutional Racism’. Perhaps we ought to start using the term ‘Institutional Unionism’ when referring to the BBC. It would be accurate.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Ludo Thierry August 11, 2019 / 6:05 pm

    Chomsky absolutely nailed it when he explained to Andrew Marr that he (Marr) didn’t require any conscious bias because he (Marr), simply, wouldn’t be occupying the chair he was sitting in (presenting a beeb political show) if he held views (establishment filters) other than those that he holds.

    My understanding of Chomsky’s argument is that we just have to accept this as the starting point. The holders of progressive ideas then have to use whatever media opportunities they can engineer (and develop) to feed whatever progressive ideas they can into the mix. It is an utterly uneven battle – but strong ideas pursued with vigour and persistence can – at times – cut through immense quantities of establishment persiflage and reach the voting public with good effect. Its a sair fecht – but victories are picked up along the way. Changes are achieved.

    Liked by 1 person

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