Last year Russia Today launched a poster campaign with a fanciful strapline: ‘This is what happens when there is no second opinion’. The extraordinary implication is that the conflict could have been avoided, if only we had listened to Putin.
This is such an obvious fallacy that it’s hardly worth dwelling on. But RT (as it now likes to be known, as if people don't know what the 'R' stands for) is producing lightly disguised state propaganda. The viewers know it and so do the mercenaries that make it. In contrast, Scotland’s new pro-independence daily newspaper – ‘The National’– is written with earnest conviction. Its contributors are devout believers, and that’s what makes it so hilarious.
The paper’s response to the budget was typical. In a desperate search for opinions which fit the separatist narrative, The National sought ‘expert advice’ on economics from the project manager of an equal pay organisation and the director of a child poverty charity. Martin Crewe of Barnardo's told readers that the budget was ‘meh’. He does at least believe in austerity of prose.
The comment section is particularly inane. It’s a forum for ideas which would be troubling if they weren’t so half-baked. Yesterday, for example, the broadcaster Lesley Riddoch asked: ‘Is it time for a People’s University to take advantage of the incredible appetite for knowledge about Scotland since the referendum?'
Why not create a virtual People’s University of Scotland which could supply speakers to any group who’d like to know more – from the SWRI to local cafes or political party branches? The idea would be to take the mountain to Mohammed with speakers going where people are already gathered – not expect people to trail into hard-to-reach ivory towers.
Given the number of problems Scotland faces (and there are a lot of them, especially if you’re a National reader) it seems incredible that Riddoch should use her column inches to complain that we aren’t insular enough. But flag-waving nationalists do tend to be insecure.
Consider John Swinney, our Deputy First Minister. In response to reports of declining oil revenues he moaned this week that Westminster politicians are ‘talking Scotland down’. It’s his favourite phrase. Imagine if such a callow figure was in charge of an independent country! In fact, we don’t have to. The quasi-nationalist government of Turkey created a new offence in 2005; the ‘public denigration of Turkishness’. These are presumably the sort of policy edicts we could expect from the ‘People’s University’.
Russia Today is primarily aimed at an English speaking audience, and so Moscow is attempting to engage with the outside world. But Scottish nationalism is different. It’s inward-looking and hypersensitive, and so is the god-awful 'newspaper' it has spawned.