This snippet from the Financial Times, brought to our attention by Wings Over Scotland, perfectly illustrates the principal weapon deployed by Better Together/Project Fear during the first independence referendum campaign – doubt.
The rules governing this form of negative propaganda are very simple. Where there is doubt, exaggerate it. Take the normal uncertainties of life and massively overstate them. Hyperbolise them. Use the media to make the commonplace incertitudes that would otherwise pass unnoticed loom huge, dark and ominous in the minds of voters.
Where there is no doubt, create it. There is nothing at all “contentious” about the post-independence division of mineral rights. The land and maritime borders defining Scotland’s sovereign territory already exist. They are governed by international laws and conventions. Disputes are arbitrated by international bodies under well defined procedures. There is almost no scope for contentiousness. There is no meaningful doubt.
So lie about it! Create doubt where none exists. Where truth is inconvenient, manufacture a new truth which better serves the purposes of established power.
This is not to suggest a ‘conspiracy’ of any kind. It is vanishingly unlikely that there was an editorial meeting at which it was decided to purposefully generate doubt about ownership of oil in Scottish waters. It’s actually worse than that. The British media now do this kind of thing instinctively.
The dishonesty of the British media is not necessarily intentional and actively malign. It is just as likely to be unthinking and passively contemptuous.