Chris Marshall: Mainstream media are not ‘enemies of the people’

Police in Glasgow have been attracting world-wide attention because of their tactics in dealing with knife crime (Picture: John Devlin)
Police in Glasgow have been attracting world-wide attention because of their tactics in dealing with knife crime (Picture: John Devlin)
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When the World Economic Forum highlighted the work of Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit, it should have been a source of pride.

Established in 2005, the VRU is now regarded as a world-leader in pioneering the idea that violence can be treated as a public health issue. But after the WEF, a Geneva-based not-for-profit, tweeted a video about the VRU’s work, it turned into another stick with which to beat Scotland’s beleaguered media.

Devastated by cuts more or less across the board over the past decade or so, Scotland’s media have nevertheless been instrumental in helping tell the story of the VRU.

Set up by Strathclyde Police as an attempt to tackle Glasgow’s unwanted reputation as the murder capital of western Europe, the VRU took a 2002 World Health Organisation report on violence and health and an anti-gang initiative first piloted on the streets of Boston in the 1990s as its starting points.

What the force created was something unique – an approach which treated violence and knife crime as a disease to be cured with education, health and social work interventions.

Since its inception it has received coverage from journalists who not only know a good story when they see one, but – like their police counterparts – had become sick of bearing witness to the toll of violence on the streets of Scotland’s largest city.

READ MORE: Chris Marshall: How Glasgow police could help London cut knife crime

But while the Scottish media were quick to realise the merits of the new approach, others have been slow to sit up and pay attention. Thirteen years since the VRU’s creation, officers from the Metropolitan Police visited Glasgow earlier this year following a spate of murders in the English capital. The visit piqued the attention of journalists for whom the VRU was a new story, leading to a slew of coverage across the UK and beyond.

Yet for many in Scotland, those who have not been paying attention for the past decade, it was the first they had heard of the VRU and Scotland’s falling murder rate. There could be only one answer: Scotland’s mendacious, biased and self-serving media didn’t want them to know, so it had actively buried the story.

For some it is immaterial if all the evidence is to the contrary – Scotland’s media are the opposition and cannot be trusted.

In the dangerous rhetoric now being employed by President Donald Trump, the press are the “enemy of the people”.

Sadly it is not just the current incumbent of the Oval Office who has sought political gain from attacks on the media.

READ MORE: Violent crime increases despite fall in murders and serious assaults

Former First Minister Alex Salmond, currently appearing on a Kremlin-backed TV channel, has repeatedly had a go at the BBC over its coverage.

As recently as last week, the former SNP leader criticised the broadcaster after it blocked the website Wings Over Scotland from using its material on YouTube.

Mr Salmond knows these attacks resonate with parts of the nationalist movement, those who believe they are more likely to get impartiality and balance from Russia Today than from the BBC.

Others in the SNP, notably the First Minister, have been quick to defend the free press when they are subjected to attack.

Increasingly, however, the voices of rationality and reason are being drowned out by the cacophony from those shouting about ‘fake news’ and conspiracy.