sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul

Wings Over Scotland

Fear, uncertainty and gibberish

Posted on February 08, 2013 by

We checked with a few people on this one to make sure it wasn’t just us. Today’s Herald carries a story – by Magnus Gardham, no less – that on first glance sounds like good news for supporters of independence. But on closer inspection, it’s an incoherent jumble of word-noise that contradicts itself almost every paragraph. We honestly don’t have a clue what they’re up to over there.

Here’s the story, as an image so you don’t have to go to the site. Click bigger.


We start off with an unequivocal headline and opening paragraph: the Bank Of England HAS, past tense, given “technical assistance” to the Scottish Government about the retention of Sterling in an independent Scotland.

The next paragraph notes that a “Government” (presumably Scottish) “report” on the subject is going to be issued “within the next few weeks”, implying that it will be based on the results of said technical discussions.

Paragraph 3 sets up the backstory of the BoE previously denying any such talks had taken place, but then things go a bit weird. The quote the Herald cites in support of its headline simply doesn’t do any such thing. It says the BoE “stands ready” to provide technical assistance, not that it’s already done so.

Paragraphs 7 and 8 then put a bomb under the whole story, noting that the Bank (and Scottish Government) had refused Freedom of Information requests to release the very information the Herald claims it’s just released, (while providing no evidence for it having done so). And then paragraph 9 attaches the tin lid, by blithely reiterating the very thing that the story’s just explicitly told us hasn’t happened.

This, readers, is how conspiracy theories get started. Because it’s all but impossible to construct a plausible explanation for how this labyrinthine shambles of incomprehensibility could ever have come to be. We’re not talking about a careless typo or a subbing oversight here – the entire premise of the story is something that nobody could possibly have arrived at from the published content, because the content says the exact opposite of not just the headline, but also the rest of its own text.

For all our frequent criticisms of him, Mr Gardham is a highly experienced journalist, and as far as we know the Herald still employs sub-editors. This story can’t have just happened like this by accident, because for it to do so would have required it to be written by two different people operating on the basis of Chinese whispers who never spoke to each other or saw the other’s contribution.

Is it an elephant trap designed to make “cybernats” look foolish by having them spread it reflexively across social media based on the headline alone? Is it simply an attempt to make political coverage so bewildering to the average reader that people will turn off entirely as the No camp’s case starts to collapse? Because we’re sure the Herald’s staff can’t be allowed to turn up at work THAT drunk.

Be Sociable, Share!

54 to “Fear, uncertainty and gibberish”

  1. Juteman says:

    Don’t all MSM journalists work when pished?


  2. Connor says:

    Odd. If anything, it seems like gross misinterpretation by the writer over at the Herald – or maybe a case of the article author and headline writer not quite working in tandem? In any case, it does indeed seem to be an annoyingly contradictory article, but not one that is impossible to understand. The key part is the quote that says the Bank of England is willing to provide “technical assistance”; it’s the quote around which the entire article is built, even with its slight issues, so we can assume this, at least, is accurate. I’d more interested in hearing what this really means, rather than speculating about the sobriety of a Herald writer!


  3. Angus McLellan says:

    Hanlon’s Razor says Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity. Yup, fits just fine.


  4. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    The story contradicts itself back and forth and back again, at least three times. Nobody’s THAT stupid.


  5. Barontorc says:

    A Lard Foulkes editorial perhaps? – The liquified version, but of course.
    Looks like it has been round the tables and had many alterations ending up like a committee’s design for a horse with desirable features similar to a camel. Very soon the MG’s of this life will be disappearing up their own bahookies if they keep up these contortions.
    Is it any wonder Lamentable Lamont has to strictly keep to her prepared script. if only just for Flubber’s sake and his already prepared summing-up  – I’m awaiting the day when the FM will proffer a retort that simply has no offensive reply written into her multi-choice script and she’s speechless as well as gormless. Of course, the lumpen desk-bangers will  still bang their desks as programmed. 


  6. Robert Kerr says:

    Thanks Rev for giving this since as you say, I don’t have to go to the site. That means one less hit.

    Can you or anyone else confirm that my visits generate a revenue to the Herald even without my payment of any cash. 

    If that is the case, your one hit for all of us could well hurt financially.

    Can you be sued for this?

    Would you want to be?

    Would that help WoS since as the actress said “there is no BAD publicity”.

    Keep up the good work.

    Tiocfaidh ár lá


  7. Doug Daniel says:

    Whatever the reason is, I really wish the Herald and Scotsman sub-editors wouldn’t be so bloody blatant with their twisting of the content of articles. If for some reason either paper ever asked me to write an article, I would flat out refuse, purely on the basis that I would have no control over whatever headline was put on it.


  8. Marian says:

    This appears to be a clumsy attempt to muddy the waters from which no conclusions should be drawn.

    It should therefore be totally ignored.


  9. Juteman says:

    It’s like Darlings speech about leaving the Union being forever, or maybe not. Full of contradictions.
     Designed to say a lot about nothing. 


  10. FreddieThreepwood says:

    Not in any way as a defence of Mr Gardham, but I must say the whole thing looks a lot more like cock up than conspiracy. As you say, Rev, to the casual glancer, it looks a reasonably positive story.
    Q – Would Gardham have been happy to put his name to such?
    Also, sub-editors’ meddling – sorry, “polishing” – is not restricted to headlines and intros. If space is tight, if the writing is pish, if the sub has nothing better to do or, as is usually the case, thinks he or she knows better than the mere mortal who has actually spoken to the sources and researched the facts (sorry, is this sounding like I’m venting?) then their doltish fingerprints can, and often are, found throughout a story.
    Either way – it’s a dog’s arse of a story which, I suspect, will piss off Gardham, the BoE and those seeking informed debate in equal measure.


  11. Dunphail says:

      Absurdity and Gardham go together just like Peaches and Cream. Never underestimate his stupidity


  12. H Scott says:

    Could it be connected with the report that Darling has been meeting with the head civil servant at the Treasury?
    A sort of spoiler to make Darling’s and the Treasury’s behaviour less partisan?


  13. Juteman says:

    Good thinking H Scott.
    I’ll get my tinfoil hat back on. :-)


  14. Morag says:

    If you want a similar example, peruse these two stories from last summer.

    IT has been hidden, blocked and kept secret by the UK Government for more than 20 years, but The Herald can reveal for the first time the contents of the top-secret Lockerbie document that the UK tried to prevent us from publishing.

    The highly classified document, which has never even been aired in public or shared with the courts, originally came from Jordan and indicates that a Palestinian terrorist group was involved in the bombing that killed 270 people – something the UK Government has vehemently denied.

    The UK Government has gone to considerable lengths to prevent details of the document – which casts further doubt on the safety of the conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi – being published by The Herald.

    It has threatened legal action to stop publication of the newspaper and asked the paper to sign up to a court-approved gagging order.

    Our decision to publish details of the document, which was obtained by the Crown Office but never shown to the defence team, will prove highly embarrassing to the Crown, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Office of the Advocate General, whose lawyers have worked tirelessly to prevent it ever being even discussed in public.

    The document incriminates the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) in the Lockerbie bombing.

    Sounds like a great scoop, doesn’t it?  But actually, there isn’t a syllable in either article about the contents of the document.  I mean, not a scooby.  The bit about its implicating the PFLP-GC has been informed opinion for some time, based on what the SCCRC said about it.

    It gets better.  Further down, the article actually admits, “To date, only the Crown, UK Government and SCCRC team know the contents of this closely guarded document.”

    There are a bunch of comments praising the Herald for its courage and public-spiritedness in revealing the document, without the writers apparently realising nothing was revealed at all, because the Herald didn’t actually have the document and apparently had never even seen it.

    I posted two or three comments pointing this out.  I think something got through moderation, as far as I recall, though my main comment on the subject didn’t.  I see there’s no comment there now from me or anyone else pointing out the serious deficiency in Emperor wardroble department.

    I mean, who edits these things?  Lucy Adams is an experienced jourmalist.  What the hell was going on?


  15. Embradon says:

    Looks like two seperate takes on the same subject slotted together by mailmerge.
    Even the quotation marks are inconsistent.


  16. Cuphook says:

    Have we witnessed the birth of Schrodinger journalism? The story is simultaneously alive and dead.


  17. Tattie-boggle says:

    maybe this guy wirks for the herald


  18. cath says:

    What it sounds like to me is the sound of utter panic as the MSM suddenly realises: “holy shit, the Scottish government have had a fiscal commission working on how currency, tax and finance will work post independence, and that committee includes Joseph Stigliz among other seriously hard-hitting economists. How the hell did we not quite manage to pick this up, although it’s been public knowledge?”

    They’re now realising propaganda stories about “oh of course the bank of won’t speak to the sweaty Jocks, why would they?” won’t quite fly when a commission like that reports in the next couple of weeks, and they’re desperately using FOI to find out what was actually said in the negotiations that obvoiusly DID take place between that commission and the BoE, so they can get their propaganda ready to try and discret it it.

    The sheer panic is the realisation that discrediting people like Joseph Stiglitz may not be as simple as “Salmond accused” headlines.

    That’s my guess anyway. They haven’t had their eyes on the ball, or even on the pitch.


  19. Marcia says:

    Now we seem to have Liberal Democrats for Independence


  20. Albalha says:

    Talking of gibberish the risible Rep Scot tells me a man has been sent down for 7 days … his crime? feeding a sausage roll to police horses.

    Everywhere you look horses are headlining. 


  21. ronald alexander mcdonald says:

    Lies and deception accurately describes that paper’s coverage of Scottish Independence. The Scotsman is even worse.


  22. Dubbieside says:

    You can take the boy out of the Daily Record but you cannot take the Daily Record out of the boy.


  23. Richie says:

    Sorry OT
    Does anyone have a link to First Minister’r Questions that’s not on the bbc?
    I tried to watch it on bbc democracy live but only shows about 2 minutes.


  24. Aplinal says:

    Holyrood TV has previous episodes


  25. Richie says:

    Thanks Aplinal. 
    Your link doesn’t actually work but I found it at the root of that site.


  26. Ray says:

    I’ve been out this evening – are you telling me this headline and/or the rest of the piece are still up on the site, unchanged? Stu has already put across who “penned” the piece and, sub-editor headline or not, it’s one of the worst pieces of copy I’ve read in my life. It makes utterly no sense, it contradicts itself on more than one occasion, and it’s just a horrible read in which you learn nothing.
    I mentioned this story on Twitter earlier and assumed it would be taken off or edited heavily at some point but, bloody hell, this is supposed to be one of our country’s top newspapers. It’s just terrible. I know they would probably wave me away being a lowly graduate and all but even I could write a more compelling and intelligent piece on the subject matter with a chainsaw sitting half-way through my own face.


  27. Aplinal says:

    strange, it worked for me. Never mind, glad you got it.  They don’t always have the video up immediately, often a day or so later, but I tend to watch it live on the site rather than the BBC.


  28. Craig Evans says:

    Oh! And I thought it was just me when I read it this morning.


  29. muttley79 says:

    @Robert Kerr
    Tiocfaidh ár lá
    Is that not an PIRA slogan?  If it is (and I am pretty sure it is) do you think it is appropriate to use it in relation to Scottish independence?


  30. Alex McI says:

    @ muttley you are correct, it means,” our day will come ” if I remember correctly. And I agree it is not something you want associated with the yes campaign. 


  31. rabb says:

    muttley79 says:

    @Robert Kerr

    Tiocfaidh ár lá
    Is that not an PIRA slogan? If it is (and I am pretty sure it is) do you think it is appropriate to use it in relation to Scottish independence?

    It’s Irish Gaelic roughly translated to “Our day will come”
    As words they’re harmless together but I agree the link to Irish republicanism isn’t really appropriate.
    On another note, good to see Lib Dems for Independence off the ground and running!


  32. muttley79 says:

    Cheers Alex Mcl and Rabb.  I agree they are harmless in isolation.  However both the IRA and Sinn Fein used them during the Troubles.  I have seen a documentary on the BBC by Peter Taylor and recall Adams and McGuiness both shouting it.  Unfortunately they used it at IRA funerals.  I really do not see the point in using it in relation to achieving Scottish independence.


  33. Jen says:

    As time goes by, it becomes harder to believe in what any of the MSM say about Scotland, Independence, SNP and many other things.   Sad. 


  34. douglas clark says:

    Ahem, off topic, big style.
    I was sitting, drinking a bottle of wine, when it occurred to me that one of the issues, post independence, is what we do with the Lords and Ladies?
    Recalling that it was they that sold us out in the first place.
    I want no titles in a new Scotland.
    Is that guaranteed?
     I can, just about – swallow the idea of a Monarch – well, not really.

    But, given the love she apparently holds it would be foolish to deny her, in a perhaps Australian sort of a way.

    But the rest of them?

    Not now, not ever.


  35. Cameron says:

    @ douglas clark
    I think that one is bound up with the issue of the monarchy. IMO, it is probably wise to consider what to do about “them”, after a Yes vote. Only my opinion. :)

    Sorry, didn’t see you go on to mention the monarchy.


  36. muttley79 says:


    As time goes by, it becomes harder to believe in what any of the MSM say about Scotland, Independence, SNP and many other things.   Sad. 

    That is why it is important to help Rev Stu get his fund, and then unleash him on the MSM! 😀


  37. douglas clark says:

    Thanks for the reply.
    I’m not sure I agree with you when you say:
    “IMO, it is probably wise to consider what to do about “them”, after a Yes vote”
    I want that sorted out now.
    Just saying.


  38. Tamson says:

    Can’t we stop calling Herald MSM? Given the circulation, can it reasonably be called “mainstream”?
    I recommend “Old Media”.


  39. douglas clark says:



  40. Cameron says:

    @ douglas Clark
    Not fit to wrap your chips in.


  41. Simon says:

    On the subject of Lords, I think there is a general principle that a person can call themselves whatever they like? I don’t mind if some old doddery gent likes to announce to anyone who will listen that his is Lord Strathmiglo and so was his great great grandfather.

    The important point is whether he gets any kind of fast-track into the legislature. At present he does in England but not in Scotland. Perhaps it’ll stay that way?

    From the pen of
    Grand High Wizard Simon, Chief Druid Lord of Fife and the Lothians.


  42. douglas clark says:

    Sadly true


  43. Stuart Black says:

    No doubt you will have already seen this, Mr.Gardham in similar vein.
    Nothing in the article bears any resemblance to the – startling –  claim made in the sub header (standfirst?), and even though there are only four paragraphs, it seems to be remarkably incoherent, or disjointed, from someone who is Chief Political Editor.
    I have tried a comment, but with trepidation, I got nowhere on the 14,000 treaties thread!


  44. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    I saw that and wondered if it was maybe an iPad bug, was waiting to check on PC. Seems not. Bizarre.


  45. MJB says:

    The Herald is now content to be a regional title,why give it any credence on a national basis when it`s now on a parochial par with the P&J. 

    It is a pretendy national publication,dressed up to be something it`s not,any editorial or journalistic piece is given far more serious thought than it deserves,ignore it,thankfully it appears by circulation figures that others are doing just that. 


  46. Robert Kerr says:

    I appended the Irish slogan to my post as a kite flying exercise and at least it was noticed.
    The Scottish Yes campaign requires to attract the Catholic voters in the West Central Belt. I first saw the slogan on a wall at Motherwell station many years ago. I had to ask What it meant.
    We can ill afford to ignore them and their history. The campaign for Independence needs to evolve a dialogue with this section of our people. A sensible and thoughtful discussion is needed. I merely attempted to spark this off.
    I append a similar phrase in another European language which also has layers of subjectivity
    Der Tag der Freiheit


  47. moujick says:

    My comment relating to todays Grdham story pointing out that there was nothing in the article relating to the first paragraph didn’t get through moderation…although another comment stating the same did. Story was third headline on the Website this morning but has now disappeared into the politics section.


  48. ianbrotherhood says:

    NNS have done another forensic job, this time on the Creighton incident – also contains some important updates re the Feb 23rd rally in Glasgow:


  49. Stuart Black says:

    moujick, I pointed out the same thing, never made it through moderation. Update from my last post however, it has gone from 4 paragraphs to lots, must have been the first draft that was on the site.
    Still doesn’t explain the sub headline.


  50. douglas clark says:

    Robert @ 10:20am,
    What especial discussion do you want the SNP to have with Catholics in West Central Scotland?


  51. douglas clark says:

    The comment that appeared to get through moderation is now deleted, making my own comment an orphan! The brief part of my post that agreed with the deleted post, that the article looked like a half finished draft or something was also deleted. It appears to be Herald policy that no criticism, no matter how mild mannered, can be levelled at their journalism. And they wonder why their circulation continues to tumble….
    Herald moderators are entering my pantheon of folk to dislike, along with the usual suspects, anyone in the Better Together Campaign, Traffic Wardens, etc, etc…….


  52. mogabee says:

    Robert Kerr
     Don’t you worry about the Catholic vote….there are a good few of us on that case with more success than initially thought!!…and no need for useless slogans….


  53. commenter says:

    I’ve stopped going to the Herald. If it won’t publish my comments there is no point in reading it. There are plenty of other newspapers and sites which don’t moderate or  moderate lightly.


Leave a Reply

↑ Top