A tale of two events

There was a sizeable turnout on Sunday for a demonstration outside the offices of BBC Scotland in Glasgow, protesting against the blatant bias displayed by the Corporation in its coverage of the referendum debate. Organisers estimate the attendance at around 2000, making turnout approximately the same as the estimate published by Craig Murray on his blog for attendance at Saturday’s Armed Forces Day in Stirling.

The Armed Forces Day events are supposed to be in honour of those who served or have served in the armed forces. It honours and remembers those who fought and died and sacrificed. At least that’s what it’s supposed to be. But choosing to hold the event in Stirling on the anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn was a shamefully transparent attempt to politicise what ought to have been a solemn and non-political event in order to use it as a stick with which to beat the Scottish political opponents of the Westminster parties. That’s a perversion of the stated purpose of Armed Forces Day. If you honestly believe that it was sheer coincidence that the event was held where it was and when it was, I have a Stirling Bridge to sell you.

Craig Murray’s estimate for Armed Services Day is probably too low, as it does not include those who lined the parade but who did not go on to the main event, however it is questionable how many of those could be regarded as attendees, as opposed to people who happened to be in the area anyway but who paused to take in a free show. There’s a difference between an attendee and a passer-by but we have no means of distinguishing between them for the purposes of arriving at a reliable attendance figure. The BBC and the MoD have clearly decided to count everyone who was in the general vicinity as an attendee.  Despite this, attendance was not huge.  It was  noticeable that during the wall to wall coverage of the event on the BBC yesterday there were few panning shots showing the entire crowd.

There is also a significant difference in the nature of the two events. Armed Forces Day was not a static event, it began with a parade from the esplanade of Stirling Castle to the fields where the commemoration was held. The BBC protest was a static event, there was no prior march. It could be argued that counting those who lined the Armed Forces Day parade is equivalent to counting as demonstrators those who witness a protest march as it winds through a city centre. When you want to make a valid comparison, it’s important to compare like with like. So it’s valid then to restrict our comparison with the BBC demo to those who turned up for the static event outside the town.

Another important distinction is that all those who attend a protest demonstration can legitimately be described as protesters, but many of those in attendance at Armed Forces Day were there in an official capacity of one sort or another. Alicsammin and several of his staff members were there – but I don’t think anyone would claim they are supporters of the Union. Others came as representatives of their workplaces or organisations, yet others because they were working at the event. For starters, we should discount all the press and TV crews, those providing catering and other services. So again this will inflate the attendance figures of those at the Stirling event.

Then there were the service people in attendance as part of their duties. According to the Armed Forces Day official website, the parade consisted of “400 Service personnel, including soldiers from the 4th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland who recently returned from Afghanistan, marched from the Esplanade of Stirling Castle through the streets of the historic city. They were joined by more than 1,200 veterans, and 200 cadets.” These 1800 people were not there as ordinary members of the public turning up to show their support for David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg. Many of these current and former servicepeople will have been accompanied by family and friends who came along in order to show support for their loved one. Others were there because they have personal or emotional ties to the armed forces and wished to honour the sacrifice made by a long deceased relative. We can make no judgement as to their views on the official portrayal of the event as a celebration of coming together in Great Britishness.

At least one attendee interviewed on the BBC news said that he was there to honour the sacrifices of servicepeople, “the politics is a different matter,” he added.

We can however be pretty certain that all those who turned up at the BBC demo are pissed off with the BBC. The number who turned up at the Armed Forces Day event explicitly in order to demonstrate their support for a United Kingdom and the Westminster Parliament was almost certainly much smaller than the attendance at the BBC demo. Whatever the Armed Forces Day event represented, and it will have meant very different things to the individuals in attendance, it was not a mass popular demonstration in favour of keeping Westminster rule.

Whatever the exact figure, attendance at Armed Forces Day was well short of the 35,000 claimed by the Ministry of Defence and the BBC, and judging by the photos on Craig Murray’s blog, did not come close to approaching 5,000. The photos in this link show computer generated graphics of crowds of various sizes and densities and are useful for estimating the size of a crowd in a photo.

However arguments over exact crowd size are essentially little more than exercises in dick waving. What is important is not the exact size of turnout and whose is bigger than whose, what is important and relevant is that a protest against BBC bias which had no prior coverage in the mainstream media allowing people to plan to get there, no institutional or official support, and without the promise of Red Arrow displays or demonstrations of blowing things up, attracted an attendance of the same order of magnitude as a national event which was heavily touted in advance as a fun day out for all the Great British family.

That tells us two things.  It tells us that there is no massive popular support in Scotland for the UK or its institutions, and it tells us that there is massive public anger about the way in which the BBC has been representing Scotland.  Whatever happens in September, BBC Scotland is already the big loser.

That’s news, that’s relevant. However the demonstration rated a few seconds at the end of the BBC Scotland evening news broadcast, and attendance was described as “hundreds of people”. Interesting is it not that one event’s attendance was inflated to 35000, while the other was reported as a vague low estimate. The protest did not rate three film crews and live coverage throughout the duration of the event followed by endless analysis and discussion afterwards. A demonstration against BBC bias itself demonstrates the bias that the demonstration seeks to highlight. BBC management don’t do irony.

The BBC is hopelessly compromised. Like the Labour party in Scotland, the BBC has no intention of reforming itself to make itself accountable to the ordinary people of Scotland. We have to make it accountable, and force it to change. The only way to do that is by voting Yes in September.

35 comments on “A tale of two events

  1. Capella says:

    Watched the protest on the livestream and thought it was fantastic. Talented musicians and singers and the poet Sean Moore was great. Good speech from John Robertson. Very positive atmosphere I thought.
    As for Armed Forces Day, the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee will have to quiz these Stirling Councillors on how their sums worked out after such a poor turnout. The event cost £550,000 on a projected turnout of 50,000.
    Thankfully, Bannockburn Live was a great success selling out on both days. Good news day!

  2. kininvie says:

    A BBC spokesman said “Our coverage of the referendum story is fair and impartial in line with the editorial guidelines.”

    The very first, utterly simple lesson from business is that when people start complaining about your product, you take a look to see whether or not they have a point. And meanwhile you say ‘thank you for bringing these matters to our attention’.

    History is littered with arrogant firms who thought they knew better than their customers. Few survive for long.

    • Tris says:

      Of course, the joy for the BBC is that it isn’t a business in any real sense of the word, and you can be fined up to £1000, or imprisoned for not paying for it, if you have, in your premises, the means to access it. It has little financial incentive to provide a decent service in any way. It is assured of its money as long as it doesn’t too overtly upset the government of the day.

      It more or less does that, currently creeping up the unionists and Tory backsides. Not that there is an appreciable difference between a Tory backside and a Labour one.

  3. […] There was a sizeable turnout on Sunday for a demonstration outside the offices of BBC Scotland in Glasgow, protesting against the blatant bias displayed by the Corporation in its coverage of the re…  […]

  4. James Coleman says:

    This here is an actual 35,000 crowd. pic.twitter.com/xzMoCQrWBy

  5. Eilean says:

    I was in the armed forces for a total of sixteen years. Guess where I was today?

    Pacific Quay was well attended I wouldn’t attempt to put a number on it but it was well over 1,000

    I was impressed with Professor Robertson he came across as a really nice guy. Like most Yes “celebrities”(?) he was very relaxed and mingled with the crowd. Compare that with the Westminster day-trippers and BT fearties.

    I am kicking myself for not taking the opportunity to thank the Prof for his input. I am also kicking myself for not presenting him with a “BBC Bias-No Thanks” badge. If the Prof reads this or any of his mates Im sure that the dug won’t mind him / them getting in touch and I will get a badge to Prof Robertson. 🙂

    • Eilean says:

      BTW. I had my own wee ginger dug (see avatar) with me today and judging by folks reactions at PQ. I think im going to have to get a t-shirt made up stating “Im not the wee ginger dug” Its that or a can of black spray paint. 😉

      • weegingerdug says:

        I know someone who knows Prof Robertson, so will get in touch via them.

        • Eilean says:

          Did Ronnie Anderson deliver your two badges? I gave them to him at PQ.

          I have two “better togethers” and one “BBC bias” left.

          I guess the Prof would like the BBC one and a “better together” for macart763. that leaves one spare.

    • macart763 says:

      Hope you’re keeping me a badge. 🙂

      • Eilean says:

        I have a badge for you. Perhaps Paul will supply you with my email address and we can arrange to send by post.

  6. Robert Graham says:

    good to see we had some coverage of the protest which brings me to the vision of two scotlands ,one side totally oblivious to the other, one side fed daily whatever the official line is that day and the other one is people who have finally woken up to what’s going on and is trying to attract the attention of the ones who are being deceived and don’t realise it ,I just wonder how close to the truth the film the matrix actually is ,before i started to find out things for myself i actually thought it was just very clever fiction that film was until over the past few months i have seen for myself how facts can be manipulated and twisted and how bloody stupid i have been never questioning what i saw and heard on TV and the mainstream press like most idiots i believed these people were telling the truth ,now apart from feeling a bit stupid i am getting really angry at this deception who do these people think they are these people bordering on the criminal are getting away with in some cases murder in full view and never questioned , this is now more than just a referendum its the way we live what is really going on in our free society. oh well onwards and upwards as they say i just hope we have enough time to convince the people who will blindly vote no in Sept .just a thought

    • Eilean says:

      Robert I get what you say about “The Matrix”. Have you watched “V for Vendetta”? If not you should. The bit where John Hurt playing the British PM goes into full on project fear mode is brilliant as are the closing scenes. I wont spoil it for anyone but if you are like me you will play them over and over again. 🙂

      • macart763 says:

        I reckon they should show V for Vendetta the night before the vote.

        Made a point of watching Reporting Scotland for the first time in about three years tonight just to see if they would report anything at all. What looked like a fifteen second mention which amounted to ‘these people think we’re biased, but we disagree’ end of.

        Apparently there were some wags in the building showing yes posters from their windows, this true? If so I’ll bet they were back hidden in their cubby holes before the heid bummers kicked in the office door. 😀

        • Eilean says:

          I didn’t see any Yes posters. In fact PQ was very quiet hardly saw any staff at all apart from a couple of guys in suits with identical ties. We guessed that they were the concierge. This makes me question if it was wise to have the demo on a Sunday when the building was mostly empty.

          • macart763 says:

            The Saturday might have been a better idea. Plenty of people to confirm numbers, take notice and generally pass on the news that PQ was having a bad day. They’re spinning attendance figures like tops all over the place. What was your take on numbers? From just the camera angles I saw on live stream there looked to be way more than the 350 BBC are trying to sell and a bit of a party atmo to boot.

            • Eilean says:

              My take on the numbers. I guessed about 1,000 to 1,200. I think saying 2,000 (newsnet) is pushing it a bit.
              If not a party atmosphere it was indeed very good natured. There were two large police riot vans in the car park when I arrived but they buggered off quite soon after the event got going. there were two unmarked cars with uniform in them and two PCs patrolling the area. Ronnie Anderson even got the wee WPC up to pose beside the two folk in panda outfits underneath the Wingsoverscotland banner. 🙂
              There was a short “aggressive” chant of “Mcquarry Out” but that didn’t last long.
              I did see the polis searching one guy beside one of the vans but he looked like one of the locals rather than a Yesser.

      • weegingerdug says:

        The Matrix was really disappointing. First fillum was great, second was watchable but the third was dire.

        A bit like Star Wars come to think of it. Wonder if the new one will be any good? Saddo that I am I’ll watch it anyway. I watched V for Vendetta, it wisnae bad.

        • macart763 says:

          Abrams working on VII isn’t it? Fella did a fair job on the Star Trek reboot so I might be forced to get my Jedi goonie oot the cupboard and stock up on midichlorians (choccy raisins). The force is strong with that one.

  7. It’s now apparently being said that the 35,000 figure was for those attending AFD events across the UK — but BBC omitted to include that bit.

    I think Cameron missed a trick. He should have jigged along the road from the AFD event to Bannockburn and shown his face, spoken to revellers, shaken a few hands, perhaps even had a slice of pie (humble?). Wonder what the reaction would have been. As it was, who even knows he was on an away-day return again?

    • weegingerdug says:

      Haven’t we got Ed Miliband coming to stay for the duration? Maybe he’ll be staying in the same place Johann and Alistair hide when they’re avoiding questions.

    • dennis mclaughlin says:

      Cameron’s away-day special ticket wouldnae allow him to mix with us ‘ordinary ‘ scum ;).

  8. dennis mclaughlin says:

    The BBC showed us it’s colours on September’s Calton Hill Rally last year…..they “grudgingly” reported that 8,000 people marched thru’ Edinburgh to Calton Hill.
    Those of us who were present know the real attendance figures…This was just the start of the anti referendum bias by our once great broadcaster BBC Scotland.

    • Eilean says:

      I was there Dennis and I know what you mean. However I disagree that it was Carlton Hill when the bias started. This bias has been going on for a lot longer than that and it is not just anti-independence it is anti Scottish. Look at how they enjoyed “reporting” on things like the freeing of Megrahi or even the building of Holyrood. It feels like they have been telling us that we are too poor too wee and too stupid for decades.

      • Helena Brown says:

        I stopped listening to GMS well before 2007, before that I was a devoted listener. I started noticing things being said which I was pretty certain were untrue so I went back to Radio 4, and the foreign news. I have this on for a bit while I make breakfast other wise I just don’t listen to the BBC except for a dry laugh.

        • Devereux says:

          Same! Would be fun to know the numbers of disgruntled folk listening to Radio 4 to prevent hurling of said radio at wall!

  9. Matt Seattle says:

    The Matrix is a favourite of mine too, in my opinion a very accurate metaphor for the human condition, and also very clever in the way it uses mass media to subvert the usual mass media guff.

    The work of fiction which has resonated most with me during this time, though, is Doris Lessing’s Shikasta, which I strangely completed re-reading the day before she passed on:

    Diary – Mon 18 Nov 2013 – Yesterday I finished re-reading Shikasta after a 30-year gap, inspiring, a stunningly convincing vision or parable of life on Earth.

    Also relevant is Tom Donald’s comment on Gayle Smith’s guest post “it’s always seemed to me that “yes” is a state of mind, a form of consciousness, and once one aquires it, there’s no going back”.

    Where am I going with this? There’s more than ‘information’ (and misinformation) at play here. There is ‘something in the air’ and many are talking about it in different ways. Doris Lessing’s ‘something’ is called “Substance-Of-We-Feeling”, SOWF. Hers is a religious viewpoint. A political convergence is Common Weal’s “All Of Us First”. Who could say ‘No’ to that?

  10. I filmed the demo outside theBBC yesterday and have finished editing it and am in the process of posting it to YouTube. The film is basically of three singers doing a turn overplayed with the buildup of people arriving and culminating with the chant ” McQarrie out etc” I am aware people might see spaces in the crowd but I must emphasise that these shots were of the accumulation of protesters. Any one interested might see themselves and at least hopefully enjoy my efforts on “panoramicgeorge” (ONE word) channel on YouTube.

  11. PS it should be available by 5pm if no hitches occur.

  12. rosa alba says:

    As you said it does not matter which is bigger – and as a rough tennis court, the were about the same (attendance at Armed Forces Farce and Biased Broadcasting Corp demo). Every point you make is cogent. Not withstanding the other events going on – Batons, Armed Forces, Bannockburn – people at a spontaneously organised level turned up to vote with their presence.
    What is worth mentioning – AGAIN – is the sabotaging of Bannockburn Live ith the Armed Forces Event for political gain. Everyone can see that. (In fairness it is poss that some people attended both BBL and AF – in part; it is also likely that with bairns in tow, people stayed part of the day only at either event).
    Two oether stories in the news today – one in the MSMirror about Tory MP Benyon buying a London housing estate, upping rents and potentially making people homeless. He currently nets an income of £120,000 via rents paid by Housing Benefit (which safety net I am glad we have but which monies are not for lining a rich Tory fat-cat’s fur pooches).

    This story of land grabs (even if paid for) for personal financial gain (or coroporate – but hey, corporation tax will go down if Labour win….) is bad enough, but worse (and not unrelated in concept) .

    This story about the privatising of common land (I signed a petition a few weeks ago, the story is on Bella FB page) is more horrifying: buildings paid with by public subscription ( or even by the public themselves – I am sure there are schools in England built as were some Glasgow Schools by parishoners) and maybe hospitals (RACH in Aberdeen was build by public subscription) are being sold off (If I read correctly), as well as common land. It is so horrific I cannot believe this. I am assured Scots Law makes it impossible here, for now. But I hae my doots. i

    THe Common Weal – wiping from the slate all the old laws of Empire and Capitalism and rebuilding a fair, equal society – cannot come soon enough>
    However despite the confusing debates about the various options of Devo-Whatevo, which muddy the water with (as you put it) jam we canna coagulate to spread on any sandwich today or tomorrow, the only way to a tabula rasa – a clean canvas is to vote Yes.

    We cannot trust even Labour 9the Corporate Tax debate shows that) who promise Devo-Whatevo with one hand and speak of border posts with the the next slide on the power point.

    One clear message: Vote Yes to Write the Furure: Scotland for All of Us First.
    Sorry bit of an article.

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