In 1787 Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, wrote:-
“…were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
When Jefferson wrote this he was fundamentally thinking of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution safeguarding the freedom of the Press. He felt it important that newspapers provide the function of imparting unbiased information on the government of the day and their policies.
Contrast this with the situation in Scotland. Not one of the many newspapers in Scotland has an editorial policy which supports the policies of the elected and popular SNP Government! All have anti-SNP editorial stances. Freedom of speech is one thing we should all agree on, but are these newspapers properly fulfilling their function of imparting unbiased information on Government if their editorial policy is unashamedly biased in the opposite direction?
It is remarkable then that in spite of these anti-editorials across the board that this SNP Government ever got elected.
And there’s the rub. Newspaper circulation in Scotland is falling at an alarming rate. And until market forces, falling sales and declining revenue finally force change; it seems that they are becoming irrelevant to the people of Scotland today.
So it could be argued that we have a Government without Newspapers in Scotland today. Yet it hardly is the fault of the SNP Government; it must be the fault of the Newspapers. Jefferson could have never envisaged this!
Jefferson became the 3rd President of the United States. The 4th President, James Madison, wrote this a few years after his period of office :-
“A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and the people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power, which knowledge gives.”
This is as true of the public, as it is of the Government.
So where then are the public getting their information? – The Internet.
It is the Internet that is now fulfilling this role in Scotland, not the Press. As the newspapers have eschewed the SNP government, it has been left to the Scottish public to fill this vacuum; writing websites and blogs to promote the Government’s main goal: Independence. Without a voice in the Newspapers, Television or Radio, the Internet provides the voice.
One only has to look at the comments section of online versions of Scotland’s two main ‘quality’ Newspapers, The Scotsman and the The Herald, to realise that the public are dissatisfied with their political editorials.
Such commentators are dismissed by the other parties as Cybernats. But without a voice in the media, and a Government without newspapers, people have little other choice but to use the Internet to let their voices be heard.
As Jefferson and Madison proposed Independence for the U.S. from the Westminster Government in Britain, similarly the SNP does for Scotland today. These early U.S. Presidents were the Cybernats of their day!
As long as the Internet provides Freedom of Speech then popular information can be acquired.
I imagine Jefferson and Madison would be pleased.