#Daisleygate: speaking truth to power

mark mclaughlinMark McLaughlin says supporters and members of the SNP have a unique responsibility to condemn undue influence on STV news by MPs who should know better.


Some of those who leap on their high horse to smite the vicious Cybernats with a pithy “#civic #joyous” tweet seem to develop tunnel vision when it comes to highlighting abuse. A glance at the timelines of Nicola Sturgeon and Humza Yousaf and it’s quickly apparent that there is an abundance of zoomers on Twitter of all stripes. None seem particularly newsworthy, in fairness; but it seems odd to constantly highlight one and not the others. Apart from anything else, it’s now bone-achingly dull and often reheated when it’s a slow news day. Why feed the trolls with attention? Let the snivelling keyboard warriors sit in their pants in their bedroom enjoying all the attention they deserve – none.

But I fear this all too easy to say as a straight, white man with no religion and no public profile. There are, as ever, notable exceptions. In an interview with the BBC in January, for example, Ruth Davidson argued that homophobic comments were a form of abuse worthy of particular spotlight, as many of her younger followers had to see that it’s not something they should ever be forced to accept. This seems like a good rule. The only way to heal deep societal wounds like homophobia, racism and misogyny is to drag them into a harsh light. Exposing hatefulness to evidence can be an effective counterbalance to the platform it is given by social media.

However, it is important to distinguish between deep-rooted societal issues and people who just disagree with what commentators write. Being a journalist does not mean your readers aren’t allowed to make fun of you. Sorry, it just doesn’t. So when David Torrance somewhat clumsily expressed his opposition to the Scottish Six, wilful misinterpretation for comedic effect is fair game.

It is clear to every rational person that Mr Torrance’s argument was that the cost-benefit analysis on which a dedicated radio broadcast was justified could not be transposed onto an argument for the Scottish Six, as television broadcasting requires more resources. However, to condemn witticisms based on someone clumsily expressing themselves is to condemn a decent portion of social media. Taking the mickey out of columnists you disagree with isn’t abuse, and shouldn’t be lumped in with the genuinely horrendous abuse some people suffer because of who they are. There are gradations of iniquity, and journalists should resist the urge to allow a story about some Twitter numpty calling you a walnut to mutate into a crisis of the free press.

What does endanger the free press, however, is Members of Parliament for the governing party meeting with media executives to discuss a critical journalist.

When there is a spat in Scottish politics the arguments are often reductive, and nuance is the first casualty. But I must confess I’m struggling to see the nuance here. As far as can be discerned, the facts are the following: John Nicholson MP objected to Stephen Daisley promoting a Twitter account that has posted misogynist abuse of female politicians. Pete Wishart MP objected to Stephen Daisley tweeting about social media abuse directed at journalists in Scotland. Mr Nicolson and Mr Wishart met STV executives “to discuss STV’s importance as a leading broadcaster and commercial production company”. From July 16th, STV stopped publishing Daisley’s opinion pieces.

It’s difficult to analyse this chain of events without being reduced to hyperbole and sounding like the sort of person that says everything is “Orwellian”, as if referencing 1984 is the absolute pinnacle of insight. But what has happened here is not okay in a democratic society. It really isn’t.

Most of the blame lies with the spineless, lily-livered STV executives. The correct response would have been to first, politely tell John Nicholson and Pete Wishart to sod off and that they must have constituency work to do. Step two, give Stephen Daisley a pay rise, apportion a prominent section of the website for a daily column, and appoint him as political editor of the six o’clock news. Step three, ensure that his first story was about Members of Parliament seeking to influence the media.

As should be obvious, the only journalists worth reading are those who criticise the powerful.

And a portion of criticism also lies at the feet of John Nicholson and Pete Wishart. Anyone can understand a politician’s frustration at what they feel is unfair criticism. MPs are, contrary to popular opinion, just as human as the rest of us. But the oft-claimed “media bias” is usually the final howl of a failing politician. Corbyn and Trump are the contemporary examples. The way to counter criticism by the press is with arguments of your own.

To suggest that a journalist shouldn’t be in their job because of the views they hold is, to put it mildly, poor form. To suggest to a journalist’s boss that he shouldn’t be in his job is really quite sinister. Politicians have a particular duty to engage with the media in a responsible way. It is crucial to our democracy that politicians fear the media. Journalists should never be afraid of their politicians.

The content of what Stephen Daisley tweeted is almost irrelevant, and I’m reluctant to make the conversation about judging the journalist rather than the MPs. There are, however, a few things worth noting. There is a double standard on calling out misogynistic and sectarian abuse from those you disagree with, then promoting an account which does just that. As scandals go, it’s hardly Watergate. Journalists are imperfect; who knew?

More importantly, Mr Daisley has been a critical of politicians in all parties. Yes, he has written articles that say he is a ‘friend of Labour’, but he has been vociferous in criticising the antisemitism that has erupted in that party. He has criticised the Conservatives for proposed cuts to public services. He has criticised the ‘preponderance of zoomers’ in the SNP. And on a personal level, it was through a Stephen Daisley article that I was first introduced to Darren McGarvey, aka Loki, who will prove to be one of the most important voices in Scottish politics. Daisley has attracted a new audience to the STV website, and allows a wide range of opinion.

Above all else, if a journalist has annoyed those in power, the party of government and its supporters, they have done their job. Executives should give them a pay rise, not a demotion.

Prominent SNP politicians should make it very clear that this will never happen again. And people who vote SNP, like me, have a responsibility to say that this is not okay. For years we have defended the party against accusations of an inclination to silence dissenting voices. Indeed, given the lamentably predictable reaction on social media, this may be a boy-who-cried-wolf type scenario.

The normal histrionics about the ‘oppressive’ SNP are not justified. Most of the print media take an editorial stance ranging anywhere from profoundly skeptical to outright hostile of Nicola Sturgeon and her government. If the SNP have been suppressing dissent, they have been terrible at it. As if to prove the point, I eagerly await the columns from many a commentator dousing John Nicolson and Pete Wishart in justified opprobrium for their idiotic and seriously misjudged meddling. This is certainly not a criticism, but does rather render the idea of the SNP weeding out protesting voices as ridiculous on its face, until now.

Perhaps this was merely a catastrophic error of judgement by both the MPs and STV executives. Both come out of it looking dreadful. Supporters of the governing party have a particular responsibility to ensure that this genuinely unsettling and sinister turn of events is an anomaly. To see the divide about whether or not this is acceptable fall, once again, on constitutional lines is as depressing as it is predictable.

The British press can be vindictive, nasty and vicious. It has hacked the phones of a murdered school girl and besmirched the memory of dead football fans at Hillsborough. For every Ian Hislop there are two Kelvin McKenzies. But that same media also brought us the expenses scandal (Telegraph) and campaigned for justice for Stephen Lawrence (Daily Mail).

It is easy to defend free speech that you agree with. We don’t have a pretty press, but we do have a free press. Politicians and the public must ensure it stays that way.

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17 thoughts on “#Daisleygate: speaking truth to power

  1. Is there any evidence that the two MPs discussed Daisley at this meeting? If there is then I agree with the article, but from what I’ve seen the SNP say no, STV have kept quiet and Stephen Daisley has said nothing.

    And no, I don’t accept that because the MPs happen to have tweeted about him some days or weeks before, that is evidence of discussion.

    If he wasn’t discussed then this entire furore is a made up sham.

    Without evidence Occam’s razor should be used here. @journostephen has given his bosses plenty of reasons to consider cutting back his public profile without the need for any MPs involvement.

  2. The peddling of smears and gossip is an act of social vandalism. Has McLaughlin one fact to back up his lamentable farrage of innuenda?
    However, if Dailey is a supporter of Brian Spanner, then there is no hell too deep for him to spend eternity in. And not as Editor.

  3. Oh, dear.

    It’s not even funny here now. Essentially a source, normally a unionist one, reports ‘something’ and without question or research you parrot and expand upon it, has professional pride disappeared?

    It’s remarkable that we live in an age where people are so keen to disempower themselves and so excited to be proven incompetent.

    I can understand many things YES and NO, Leave and Remain, Hue and Cry (nearly) but I’ll never understand individuals’ attempts to prove beyond any doubt ‘I’m not actually any good at this’

    I remember many, many moons ago starting my career as a teacher. I was older than most, having entered the career late, but despite my Bacheror’s, a Masters (now 2) and my PhD I was absolutely terrified I’d be found to be anything less than component, skilled and knowledgeable.

    Fast forward to today and not only are people proud to display their lack of abilitiesl, intellect and graft but they willingingly volunteer to display it to a wider audience by rushing to their favourite blog.

    Duncan, you and I generally disagree but you have a level of competence and a willingness to look deeper.

    ps Is it true that Spanner’s being ‘unveiled’ this coming week 😉

  4. It’s hard to know what is going on. The Herald article reports an spokesperson saying:

    “At no point did they ask for Mr Daisley to stop writing and any suggestion otherwise is completely untrue. Any editorial decisions are entirely a matter for STV.”

    The man is a clever writer, but I have always thought he is a *bizarre* choice for STV as a mainstream broadcaster. His online personality could reflect badly on them if they want to be seen as a serious and impartial organisation, even if “clickbait” style articles and their promotion do increase the online audience.

    eg He is an outspoken zionist with no time for Palestine, which could be seen to colour STV reporting of anything to do with Corbyn.

  5. A website that cannot be named but has the initials WoS does a wonderful clarity filling article on the issue. Worth a read. As usual.

  6. The press isn’t free! Its subjective and reflects the bias of its owners. It should be condemned under the trade description act as they advertise the fact that they are selling news when in fact they don’t.
    People by their tabloid rubbish because they advertise the fact that they are offering news and information when in fact they are suppressing news and supplying misinformation more times than not.

    But apart from that wee point its a pretty fair and balanced article. Found it right out of place on this site.

    1. Thanks Mike. Hope you don’t think I’m a zoomer yoon in future articles.

      1. That’s entirely down to the content of your articles. Its not something I determine its something you determine.

      2. It’s a refreshingly honest article in many ways. However it is let down badly by the blind acceptance, without any evidence at all, of the nonsensicle accusations laid against Nicholson and Wishart.

        Even the most cursory engagement of the critical senses would undermine the premise. What leverage do they have over STV? If they could influence the media at all do you not think they would have done so during the Indy ref?

        Why do you give these accusations credence when you seem so open to questioning every other myth about Indies?

    2. Mike, Sometimes you can be an unbelievable snob. And as with most snobs you are totally oblivious to the fact. I like that. It makes me smile. Keep it up.
      You dismiss tabloid newspapers as rubbish and by association their readers. Why? Wait for this. This is a good one. Becuase of the the size of the pages. Brilliant. The more I think about that the funnier it gets.
      You have worked it all out, you are adament that the press cannot be free, your logic being, the owners of newspapers are all biased and therefore are not actually supplying news they are doing the opposite they are suppressing news.
      Mike have you never considered that there might be owners out there that see their newspaper as a business and that making a profit is important?

      1. Do you actually have mental health issues Richard? Are you dyslexic?

        In what universe did you manage to conclude I find the UK media to be subjective and partial based on the size of their pages?

        I hope you’re not deliberately trying to be a dick because there is far too many Yoons taking up this position online as a default.

        Selling news has become a business. Fair enough it has a right to be profitable. But if you’re going to advertise your product as news and take payment for news then youd better deliver news or you’re breaking the law.

        Don’t try and stupidly lie that the media delivers nothing but news you know perfectly well they taint their articles with bias sometimes to the point where they deliberately mislead and actually deliberately bare face lie. They also suppress news.
        The fact that you’re taking the time to deny it only highlights that many of them taint their bias in favour of the Labour party.

        You cant deny the likes of the Telegraph the Daily Mail and the Express all taint their bias towards the Conservatives except when Labour behave like Conservatives which Is getting more and more often. But the entire UK media corps has one thing in common they are all bias against the SNP and the idea of Scottish Independence. More so than this site is that’s how bad it is.

      2. Don’t see where you get the idea it’s the size of the pages that is the key point. I get the impression you either made it up or its a “fact” you really believe which only exists in your head.

  7. It’s a weird story this.
    Not one iota of evidence to suggest two mps in question ‘leaned’ on stv,been roundly dismissed by both of them and also by stv themselves.
    Yet seemingly intelligent people take it as fact that it’s what happened,despite zero tangible proof it is,and are spouting their baseless assertions as fact?
    I get why political opponents of the snp would buy into a story with no evidence as it suits an agenda and they’d be quite happy to smear them whether its true or not.
    I’m baffled why a SNP voter would choose to do so though Mark?

    1. John Nicholson has said he spoke to STV bosses about Stephen Daisley. Whether or not that influenced their decision is only known by STV. MPs shouldn’t be doing it. I think we should expect better of a party we support.

      1. I don’t support the SNP but Id expect better of all parties than to try lean on anyone to stifle opinion.
        Have not seen any evidence produced to suggest that occurred though.
        Could it just be stv reigned a guy in whose ever more extreme views on things like abortion,palestine etc as well as his promotion of a vile troll account which sends horrible abuse to female politicians was embarassing their station?
        Seems far more realistic than attributing some weight to two MPs who probably have very little influence with STV or any other media outlet.

  8. As their seems not to be much movement on this site I thought I would let you know the GER’s figures have been released, guess what ? yet again theirs a deficit and YES its Scotland’s / SNPBAD fault.

    Just to keep all you yoons up to date,

    Their be yoon dancing in the streets tonight at the further demise of their country.

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