6 November 2009

Gray's Inferno

Calling anything propaganda can be a risky escapade. Such allegations obviously tend to insult the propagandist for a manipulative so-and-so, up to no good. They also, perhaps less perceptibly, slight the alleged propagandees. Not that I’d dispute the labelling of anything as politic cant and fiction. Yet in a democratic setting, webbed with independent information ways and stern-eyed critics – and a time’s conceit of itself as free thinking - it must at least be mildly hazardous to imply that the crowding public are easily deceived by the whizz-bang and whoop of public excitement. Or that it takes the benevolent, clear-sighted intervention of one of the higher orders of our species to wipe the firework dazzle from the public eye – and point where truth lies. It has been suggested that the coincidence of St Andrew's Day celebrations and the publishing of SNP referendum schemes are designed cunningly for the former to fertilise the latter. Mike Russell's great alchemical task is to turn poetry, dance and song into spontaneous and ready desire for political nationalism.

Here, for your perusal, are those aforementioned souls, concerned lest those of us lower down the great Chain of Being lapse into benighted nationalism:

Iain Gray: “To splash out extra money on St Andrew’s day celebrations is an insult to ordinary families who are worried about their jobs. We are in a recession and the Scottish government should be working flat out on economic recovery not on what is basically a party political stunt for the SNP.”

Mike Rumbles: “The Scottish government is throwing taxpayers’ money at trying to whip up nationalist fervour at a time when pressure on the public purse has never been greater.”

Alex Johnstone MSP (Unknown Tory MSP hailing from the North-East): “The SNP is more obsessed with its independence propaganda exercise than it is in repairing the damage Labour has done to our public finances.”

A complex web of associations here. Indeed, all three have the crumb of an argument that is at least distinguished by primae facie legitimacy. What is the opportunity cost of the St Andrews day hoolies? What should our priorities be in terms of public spending? Important questions, and ones which will press upon all tribunes with imminently increasing urgency. £434,000 is the least of their ulcer-prompting worries, frankly. What is of more interest to me, however, is the conceptual architecture. Although the tale draws much of its journalistic interest from the coincidence of these events with the government's referendum schemes - the tenor of the critics' argument is not so time limited. Surely the machinery to goad the goatish public into nationalist fervour and independence propaganda remains propaganda, whatever and whenever some bloke up the road announces his abortive plot to consult the Scottish public on its constitutional future.

Looking through the stuff going on, the propagandist limb of this argument is, as others have suggested, daft. As an enactment of any desire to "reclaim the Saltire", it is simply absurd. You can examine the various events occurring across Scotland at their website, here. I’m interested to hear why Rumbles thinks his constituents in West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine are so gormless that if they decide to go to the Ceilidh in Aberdeen City on St Andrew’s Day, they will not only enjoy “traditional fayre of stovies, oatcakes and beetroot, learn new dances, meet new friends and celebrate the end of Homecoming Scotland 2009”, but will also come away with their sporrans stuffed with glaze-eyed nationalist fervour. Perhaps the maliciously fiddling Shindig have adjusted the Dashing White Sergeant to include subliminal, chauvinistic themes – or have laced Strip the Willow with second-long messages from Salmond summoning the dancing audience to vote SNP. Meanwhile, over in Inverurie, Alex Johnstone will huddle in a foetal position, lamely tugging at his legs, fighting against the devil’s melody strung out by fiddler Paul Anderson that tutors the unguided mind into a hatred of our southerly neighbours.

In Edinburgh, Gray will stagger, scarecrow like through the cobbled streets, fenced in by a horrid, sticky mass of bairns with blue and white faces. Each phizog illuminated by the hellfire bursts of firelights, he might drag his bedraggled form into the Hub, seeking silence and reflection, only to find the building alive with the same manic laughter and song. Beating a hasty retreat down the hill to Holyrood, Gray would find no repose. Outside, strains of Burnsong burn at his ears. Retreating within, another roaring cavalcade will affront him. A monument to the whole event’s malicious mind-sapping tendencies, the once proud chamber will be transformed into the setting for a University debating competition. As the blistering voices exchange, Iain swoons at last, lapsing into a cold, dreamless sleep. Its like Dante’s inferno, but crapper. You can see a trailer of the filmic rendering of this spirit-tearing work (naturally rated 18) here:

Horrifying stuff, no? Then again, my brain was in need of a bit of a scrubbing.


  1. Gawd, we're becoming such a dour, selfish people. "Eh'm no' playin'" seems to be out mantra these days.

  2. Of course that should read 'ouR mantra'. Apologies.

  3. not only can Scots "not afford to run our country, but apparently we can't afford a few parties either!

  4. Let's just be honest about it, Ian Gray is a complete disgrace.

    Willie Bain is espousing policies at odds with Labour Policy, he is a charlatan.

  5. Subrosa,

    I'd certainly not assume that the wee men and women who clutter up our politics should be taken as representatives for the whole. Indeed, partly what surprises me about the tribunes' various remarks is how unlikely they are to chime with ordinary people. Little wonder, since Rumbles, Gray and Tory (other) all seem to assume that their constituencies are propped up by numpties, not men and women of independent mind who could not be straightforwardly hoodwinked into self-determination by a wheezy ceilidh band and a spot of Highland dancing.

  6. like.your.blog.very.much.thanks.for.creating.this blog.