A guest post by Red Spex
You might not recognise Stephen Daisley’s name straight away but you’ll definitely recognise the sites he’s been featured on. He’s written for everyone – from liberal darlings the Guardian to Murdoch’s broadsheet mouthpiece the Times, but his main gig is ‘Digital Political Correspondent’ for STV. He came to the fore doing daily blogs in the run-up to the referendum last year. If you’re unfortunate enough to bear witness to the smug love-in that is Scottish politics twitter (where Nicola Sturgeon has no surname, disabled people protesting against cuts to vital services is bad if it hurts a Buzzfeed journalist’s feelings, and the party that’s been in government for the last 8 years being criticised is not allowed) you’ll have seen his name pop up. He sends pictures of pugs to politicians!! He’s really nice to everyone!!! He constantly talks about how great Jim Murphy is!!! And if you think I’m exaggerating with constant: I’m not. If we got the sort of free-speech hating society that this blog stands for, this would be enough to have you banned from Twitter and any sort of journalism forever.
Daisley’s been attracting the ire of Green Party supporters for his completely outrageous attack on the party for passing a motion that supports the BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions) campaign. One line in the motion asks for Hamas to be taken off the UK government’s list of proscribed terror organisations: this classification exists only to justify and avoid negotiation around the continued Israeli military occupation. Despite reclassification only getting a single line mention in the lengthy motion, Daisley devotes most of his article to Hamas. In stark contrast, the BDS press release thanking the Greens doesn’t mention Hamas once. Despite what apologists for Israel’s violence say, it’s not really about Hamas.
You can see what a blatant derailing tactic Daisley’s argument is when you look at the Israel Project’s leaked 2009 “Global Language Dictionary”, a guide to manipulating debate around the occupation for pro-Israeli journalists. There’s an entire chapter devoted to the tactic of making the issue about Hamas; we’re supposed to reject the Palestinian people’s right to self defence because of their government. Nope. Daisley has obviously taken this part to heart, rarely missing an opportunity to link Corbyn to Hamas. Let’s get this straight: Jeremy Corbyn’s not inviting Hamas down to Islington for a Nando’s. Unusually for a potential prime minister, he’s against carpet bombing Palestine and wants to open up negotiations with the country’s elected government. The Greens’ motion is like so many of their policies – it’s not terrible but it doesn’t go far enough. If you qualify your support for the Palestinian people as support for only “non-violent resistance”, you back them into an impossible corner. This allows apologists for the Israeli state to pretend throwing stones and firing mortars is the same as tanks, land occupation and relentless bombing.
Daisley had another piece on the SGP motion on Monday on the Jewish Chronicle, and it shows how he changes his tone when writing for a more staunchly pro-Israeli outlet. He scaremongers that the Greens could hold the balance of power at Holyrood after the 2016 election. This prediction is notably absent from his STV piece on the issue, presumably because anyone who has more than a passing interest in Scottish politics would laugh at it.
He also loves long time friend of ATF Wings over Scotland, writing multiple congratulatory pieces about the Bath-based transphobe’s fundraising efforts. I look forward to the follow up about what Stuart Campbell has actually done with the hundreds of thousands of pounds he’s raised because it doesn’t look like an awful lot from here. Maybe Daisley sees Campbell as a model for carving out a career for yourself by convincing people you’re less right-wing than you really are. Daisley, like Wings, understands perfectly the landscape of Scottish politics in 2015; what language you need to speak in and how to come across in order to be taken seriously. Unlike Wings he’s good at using social justice language when it suits him, but calls the SNP’s 50/50 selection policy ‘meritocratically dubious’, likes to mock trigger warnings and has just outed himself as being anti-abortion – but he’s pragmatic about it, so denying women the right to choose what happens with their own bodies isn’t actually violent as fuck. Daisley has form in this area – much of his old blog is taken up churning out the myth that Israel is a haven for women in the Middle East but despite doing lots of digging I couldn’t find a peep from Daisley about the Israeli state using birth control on Ethopian women without their consent.
Going back to The Israel Project’s “Global Language Dictionary” for a second, on page 100 (yes it’s that long) there’s a revealing bit of advice:
“College students and young people in general can smell propaganda from a mile away. If you don’t immediately position yourself as a credible moderate with compassion and empathy for both sides, your audience will not listen to you.”
This is blatantly Daisley’s tactic at STV. He is a self-identified Zionist (though any mention of this has mysteriously disappeared off his blog in the last week) who believes in the obliteration of Palestine. A blatant piece of this propaganda was the post where he laughs off Jim Murphy’s well-known affection for anti-Palestine policies. Israeli settlements are treated like a big joke when they are a vital part of Israel’s strategy in colonising Palestine. Daisley manages to make his position sound like the only rational one to take, in opposition to those rabid communists at errrm the UN, the Red Cross and the International Court of Justice. He finishes the piece by linking to a jokey video of the Israeli police singing, which is up there with the time he used the blog to say happy birthday to Benjamin Netanyahu in terms of attempting to humanise the worst perpetrators of Israeli violence.
The fact is Daisley’s staunch support for the Israeli state’s violence is not a widely held view in Scotland, and his attempts to paint supporting Palestinians as an extremist position is a joke. Those well-known militants at Glasgow’s Labour council flew the Palestinian flag for a day as a show of solidarity – which was actually a gross token gesture when they’re awarding surveillance contracts to Israeli firms who’ve field-tested the technology on Palestinians. Previously the SNP government has made positive noises about Palestine but again, these are mainly symbolic gestures with fairly middle of the road politics. They just sound radical compared to the UK government’s steadfast support for Israel.
Whether over fracking or land reform, the splits in the SNP are becoming increasingly visible. It’s worth watching the campaign to gain formal recognition by SNP Friends of Palestine, to see if it opens up a similarly obvious left/right divide. Many of the recently elected MPs support the campaign group: it would be a significant victory if the Scottish government could be forced into supporting the BDS campaign and ratcheting up international pressure on Israel. Unfortunately, for now at least, Palestine is on the ever-growing pile of issues where the SNP’s rhetoric doesn’t match the reality.
Daisley has been a long time admirer of American style neo-conservatism. In researching this blog I read basically everything Steve (as close friends like myself know him) has ever written. This terrible review of the Great Gatsby remake includes this gushing paragraph:
Once you’ve stopped laughing at the image of Daisley writing with hail to the chief up full blast in the background let’s be clear: “the American century” was won through violent and brutal suppression of communists and indigenous people worldwide. Anything else is a whitewash. Other highlights of his old blogs include a classic piece of on how Obama is a symbol of the left winning control of the American academy (a fun article to play Anti-Communist Trope Bingo with), and quoting Tony Blair in a semi-academic looking article about foreign intervention.
Generally Daisley seems pretty keen on bombing majority-Muslim countries as a solution to their problems. Whenever commentators suggest this is what NEEDS to happen we’re supposed to ignore all the death and destruction these bombing campaigns cause. We’re supposed to ignore that the US has usually funded several sides of the conflict at different times. In these situations the right are good at making their politics sound like the only common sense option, going all the way back to the Kosovo conflict where the carpet bombing and total destruction of the country became about taking a stand against ethnic cleansing. In reality there were atrocities on all sides of the conflict and America was only actually worried about, you guessed it… the effect on its global standing and oil. If you’re seeing a theme develop here that’s because there is one. America and allies like the UK start these wars to gain control of a country’s resources.
Journalists like Daisley are an important part of the propaganda that allows them to do it. He posits himself as the only reasonable voice above the rabble of the left, carefully deciding (after considering all options), yet again, that military intervention led by America is the only option. We’re supposed to believe that anyone who is against war and occupation is unrealistic, unreasonable or scared: only the clever journalists have all the knowledge and objectivity to make the decision. Our natural human disgust at killing other people is wrong and it simply must be done on a massive scale to protect us from terrorists/ to do the right thing/ for the national interest – delete as appropriate. If disagreeing with every American intervention (when did we let them rebrand war?) makes you an irrelevant commie ideologue (hi), what about agreeing with every single one? That’s just sensible politics buddy, don’t you care enough about the children dying to do anything about it? Easy to sit in your lefty bubble all day when there’s natural resources to steal and people we’ve classed as dispensable are standing in the way. If you’re asking yourself if I’m arguing that Serious Political Journalists are just Team America with politics degrees: I absolutely am.
What it’s important to take from all of this is that Scotland doesn’t exist in a vacuum away from the rest of world politics. American imperialism is still the dominant political force worldwide and propagandists like Daisley are an integral part of propping that up. Other Scottish journalists in this mould are Euan McColm (if you don’t bomb Syria you’re a shitebag) and Jamie Ross (Zionist Tories are just really funny). More than ever before people in Scotland are switched on about media bias – sadly for the Wings crowd this seems to mean that the police and parasitic landlords are the victims of some sort of conspiracy. Even the Labour left are now taking an interest, which is nice. Funny how the scaremongering that the Yes campaign was subject to last year was brave journalistic dissection of vile nationalism, but the same strategy being deployed on Jeremy Corbyn is the bourgeois media attacking international communism. I’m as lost as you are.
Anyway, the media ignores power structures and presents all the conflict in society as being equal sides of the debate, where we have to hear both sides of the story to form a balanced opinion. Nowhere does this approach more blatantly favour one side than the Israeli occupation of Palestine. It’s not a “conflict” and it’s barely even a war most of the time. It is one country, armed to the teeth by America and the UK, colonising another. America needs an ally in this region to maintain control of the area’s resources, and as a result Israel is emboldened to keep taking more and more over Palestinian land.
When you go to the news website of Scotland’s second biggest broadcaster, there is only one author in the analysis section for months and months: Stephen Daisley. Is it right that he is allowed such an unopposed platform to voice his support for Israeli settler colonialism? We’re in a new, post-referendum landscape for the Scottish media: it feels like Daisley’s jokey Twitter persona is part of a concerted effort to make STV’s online presence as light-hearted as possible, so to avoid accusations of dreaded anti-Scottish bias. Daisley’s actual articles do not match up to this and although they rarely express an opinion on independence, he’s probably the most right wing of any Scottish political journalist. At a time when Israel is further intensifying its violent occupation of Palestine it’s vital that we don’t let apologists like Daisley away with only telling one side of the story.