Controlling the narrative is vital to any information, or disinformation, campaign in politics and in policy. To achieve this, a political party will use several different tactics, such as catchy slogans, announcements, cover-ups and more. All these tactics fundamentally rely on someone to convey them from the party to the public: journalists and influencers that dominate the media and the online world.
The SNP have been able to control the narrative well, hiding their overtly divisive nationalism and objectively terrible record in government, which has allowed them to convince, or at least dissuade, criticism from most casual readers. The SNP has relied on many things to achieve this, but above all, they have relied on a sympathetic Scottish media establishment that they have, in turn, given either preferential access or outright bullied.
However, this is changing, and now even the most sympathetic journalist must be starting to question their loyalty to the SNP and its messaging strategy.
Even those who support secession have called out the SNP for being a bloated, arrogant and corrupt party with all the hallmarks of an upcoming and very well-deserved fall. Publications that once rallied around the SNP now openly comment against them. One needed only look at the Twitter feeds and reflection articles during the Salmond scandal to see no love lost between former friends.
The SNP are entering this election cycle without a sympathetic media by their side, They are no longer able to shape, or direct, the narrative. This is a catastrophic loss.
I have often cautioned people about raving about conspiracies in the media because journalism is fundamentally a commercial profit-driven business and “if it bleeds, it leads”. A media outlet, and by that I mean an actual journalistic outlet unlike Pravda, RT, NK News or The National — will run a story no matter how damaging, if they think it will result in greater sales and influence. And therein lies the start of the feedback loop of narratives.
As of today, in the last five polls, there has been a dramatic drop in trust in Nicola Sturgeon, declining support for the SNP and increasing support for the UK. These results come atop the lasting political fallout of the inquiry, damaging revelations and all the debris of 14 years of awful leadership.
As the SNP starts to unravel, people want to know more, and the media, once neutered, is only too willing to oblige. But that leads to more questions that need more answers, generating a feedback loop with each step fuelling a further discussion and a spiralling whirlpool of narrative outside of the SNP’s control. They can’t stop it because they no longer have sympathetic journalists who would not write such things.
This downward spiral is already in effect, with even international sources commenting on the drop in support for ‘independence’. The SNP are, of course, scrambling to stop this, but the flood is now in full flow. Over the past few days we had: revelations that an SNP staffer had been silenced by the party after attempting to report sexual harassment by two SNP MPs; the fact that half of the UK funding for end-of-life care had not yet been spent; and the SNP pinning blame on Rangers football club. They can’t generate enough good stories about themselves to outweigh the negative ones. The feedback loop is becoming a downward spiral that is now dominating the media narrative.
Of course, for those of us who know the SNP’s reality and what they have done to our country, it is frustrating to only now start to see a change in the way the media talks about the secessionists. Still, it is a welcome change nonetheless. I expect it to continue as the election cycle heats up and as more about the twisted nature of the SNP is revealed.
The Salmond scandal still has a long way to run; pressure on publishing the OECD report will build, the allegations of sexual harassment will be further explored, and the empty promises of the SNP will be put to debate. In the meantime, do your bit. Using the same old adage of “if it bleeds, it leads” and knowing that journalists pander to their readers, be sure to read, like and share stories against the SNP as this will help to change the widespread discussion and will encourage journalists to write more on the topic as they know they have a ready audience.