That was quick

Better Together launched its new poster campaign – “We love our kids/family/Scotland so we’re voting no” – this afternoon. Within minutes, the Yes campaign tweeted this.

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It’s not always obvious from the media, but there’s a lot of humour in the referendum campaign.

Fear

Today’s Herald newspaper front page reports No campaign claims that we’ll experience “carnage” at polling stations because the  referendum campaigning’s turned nasty. It’s bollocks, dangerous bollocks, but I don’t need to write a full post about it because Burdz Eye View has beaten me to it.

If anything told us that they are worried – seriously worried – that the tide in this referendum has turned, it is this little publicity stunt.  Because it is designed and intended to keep the Scottish people in their place.  To put the fear of God in them that if they turn out to vote on 18 September and to vote Yes, then something terrible may befall them.

It smacks of desperation, that the only way they can prevent defeat by democratic means is by suppressing the democratic process.  “We are worried there is going to be absolute carnage”? Yep, I can see why you’d be worried about that.  Clearly, the No campaign’s private polls are telling them things that they really would rather not hear.

Today’s other news, the launch of posters suggesting that only people who vote No love their kids, suggests the same.

Apologies in advance to my non-Scots friends, but my posts will probably contain a disproportionate amount of indyref stuff over the next 18 days. It’s a bit of a big deal here.

The best of both worlds: Spiceworld and Narnia

Today’s Sun says that for the very first time Alex Salmond has admitted that independence won’t be easy and that we won’t have magic taps running fresh water, whisky and oil.  “Was that really so difficult, First Minister?” the leader asks.

As Wings Over Scotland points out, it wasn’t difficult – and wasn’t difficult  when he said the same thing publicly in June 2013, in January 2014 and in June 2014.

It probably sounds like a minor thing, but it’s characteristic of something that’s really shaken my faith in journalism in general over the last couple of years: we’re being told stuff that simply isn’t true and that doesn’t stand up to the slightest bit of fact-checking. It’s not just the tabloids, either.

If the papers can’t be straight about very simple, well documented and easily verifiable pieces of information, how can you trust them on the more important issues?

It’s hard to quibble with Stuart Campbell when he says:

this stuff isn’t (just) cheap, snarky point-scoring about the stupefying incompetence of other journalists. It’s about the people of Scotland being fed a completely false narrative about a dishonest, shifty First Minister who promises the Earth and refuses to acknowledge any possible problems.

Obviously I’m coming to this from the perspective of a (converted) Yes voter, but it’s very clear from conversations I’m having online and off that many people will be voting in part based on outright lies and some very carefully worded claims (so for example the Better Together literature points out that Scotland benefits from transplant deals with English hospitals, implying that independence will mean the end of such deals. It won’t).

I’m not naive. I know that political campaigning means lying, distortion, dog whistle issues and other unpalatable things. But journalism is supposed to counterbalance that, to investigate the claims, expose the falsehoods and to hold campaigners (on both sides) to account. Its number one purpose is to ensure that the electorate are well informed – and from where I’m sitting, much of the media appears to be doing quite the opposite.

Journalism is supposed to be part of the solution, but here in Scotland* it’s part of the problem.

* With some honourable exceptions, of course. 

“The comments have failed us”

Margaret Eby argues that online comments on news pieces “are, most of the time, a disservice to both the writer and the reader.”

It’s true that putting your work out for public consumption requires some heartiness of spirit. But it is now not just tolerated but expected that journalists should suffer abuse at the hands of their audience. This is a relatively new occupational hazard. Newspapers always got their fair share of cranky letters, but no reporter was required to read–let alone publish–all of them. There is no other job, save comedian or bar band, where heckling is so routine.

It’s (nearly) time to get excited about virtual reality gaming

A fantastic piece by Richard Cobbett on what’s great about VR and what isn’t quite ready for prime time. I am *really* excited about this tech.

In an experience like the Museum of Games, you get to see many famous game characters rendered at their actual size – to really appreciate the scale of something like a Left 4 Dead Boomer and why it would be so terrifying to meet one in the flesh, or to stare up, up and further up at a Transformer rendered at a scale that no monitor can do justice to. It sounds like bullshit, but it’s true – VR adds a sense of meaning to things, from turning a series of empty corridors into a place, to making its inhabitants feel solid.

The Wee Blue Book: everything you’re being told is wrong

One of the things that’s really struck me about the Scottish independence debate is the astonishing amount of bullshit, usually from the No camp, that gets printed and broadcast. That’s inevitable when the majority of the media favours the status quo, but it’s pretty offensive to read or hear something that you know is utter bollocks go unquestioned.

Wings over Scotland is biased in the other direction, but at least it backs up its arguments with facts, figures and details of its sources – and its (free) Wee Blue Book does a pretty good job of telling the pro-independence side of the story.

You certainly don’t get this kind of honesty in the campaign literature, or in many of the newspapers:

Anyone, on either side of the debate, claiming to know as a matter of certainty what would happen to an independent Scotland’s EU membership status is a liar. Nobody knows for sure whether an independent Scotland would be admitted directly, because although the EU has offered to answer that question, it will only do so if asked by the UK government, and the UK government refuses to ask.

If you’re frustrated by the hazy optimism of Yes and the outright bullshit of No, The Wee Blue Book is well worth a look.

Hope and Faith: an independence anthem

It’s almost a year since we released Good Times, High Times and Hard Times, so it’s about time we put out some new music. Here’s the first one, a wee independence anthem that doesn’t so much veer close to Big Country territory as barrel through it on a motorbike fuelled by Irn-Bru.

As ever, if you like it we’d appreciate it if you could share it – and if you’d like to use it for something, please get in touch.

Freelance writer Gary Marshall on Apple, technology, music and too much coffee

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