Are independence supporters being naïve when they claim the media are biased against them? Did any one ever expect the playing field to be level? Probably not, but what has taken team Yes by surprise is how blatant support for team No has been. Another surprise has been how easily apparent political rivals like Labour and the Tories have become best friends for the duration. As in war-time, a defensive anti-independence coalition has been formed. You might almost think that all the shouting and arguing that goes on at Prime Minister’s question time is just a bit of parliamentary pantomime, not real debate.
The idea that most of what passes for political debates are a series of staged set-pieces designed to distract from the real processes of decision making is not new. Back in 1967, Guy Debord argued in ‘The Society of the Spectacle’ that it was no longer possible to separate the economy from society. In work time we the produce the goods and services which we then buy back and consume in our leisure time.
In this system, politics is about oiling the wheels of industry to make sure voters aren’t distracted by interruptions to the flow of everyday life. But when normal service is interrupted and people start to wonder when the good times will return, cracks appear in the mirrored surface of this spectacle. Since the 2008 global economic crisis, a whole series of cracks have appeared in the facade of business as usual.
What had been an easily brushed over hairline fault between the slightly more left of centre politics of Scotland and the more right of centre politics of key UK marginal seats -the only ones which count in first past the post politics, began to grow wider. The need to paper over this crack has intensified in the run up to the independence referendum.
The fear is not of ‘separation’, but that the claim that there is no alternative to the status quo might become exposed to critical questioning. For the Labour party in particular, their trick of being old Labour in Scotland and their traditional heartlands but new Labour in middle England risks being exposed. This in turn risks opening up a gap for a more radical party of the left to emerge in England, threatening the cosy complacency of the current system.
The fear which now haunts the palaces of power is not the ‘uncertainty’ of what independence will mean for Scotland, but what it will mean for our present ruling elite. Which is why Scotland is being pounded by a propaganda war. The airwaves are filled with No, politicians and business leaders are parachuted in to say No and everyday we are carpet bombed with tons of paper printed with message No. The aim is to drown out the Yes message and to that end the normally discretely disguised mechanisms of the Spectacle are on open display.
The media are not biased against the Yes campaign. They are biased against any alternative which threatens the status quo.