In the cities and towns, highlands and islands, hills and glens of the place that I call home, the cultural, political and social future is being widely mooted. On the 18th of September, all eligible voters will have the opportunity to answer yes/no to the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?“. I hold strong views supporting the independence campaign, predicated on the hope of building a more equal society with a political and economic framework that rejects the severely flawed neoliberal model. My present geographic location here in Canada has led me to rely on an exploding scene of online media that is consistently offering work (news reporting, investigative journalism, art, music, literature, film, poetry) of phenomenal quality and creativity. This digitally powered enlightenment is enabling and inspiring a more participatory democracy, as evidenced by people like Stephen Paton and his new YouTube series #Indyref Weekly Review.
Stephen’s weekly roundup of the news surrounding independence debuted last monday (1/06/14) and has accumulated more than 7,000 views. The second instalment, posted above, went online yesterday (8/6/14) and has already been viewed 3,274 times at the time of writing. Driving this popularity is a potent combination of thorough research, excellent production values, concise and effective writing, and an engaging host. Perhaps the most crucial aspect of Stephen’s work however, is that it is accessible. It is very easy for pro-independence campaigners to communicate the benefits of secession to people who already support the cause. The obvious challenge is to reach past the echo chamber, and interact with those who do not. #Indyref Weekly Review is presented in such a way that it is accessible for both sides. It is also accessible in the sense that its brevity and directness make it digestible for all. Campaigners, politicians and journalists of any creed are failing the democratic purpose of the debate by communicating in such a way that excludes or deters members of our society. A result that is fundamentally grounded in inclusiveness and understanding is vital to securing the goals of independence.
In this week’s instalment of #Indyref Weekly Review, Stephen draws attention to a quote by Jello Biafra: “Don’t hate the media, become the media”. This quote is incredibly apt as a description of the burgeoning new media community in Scotland. Bella Caledonia, Wings Over Scotland, National Collective, Common Weal and the Radical Independence Campaign are just a few of the more influential players contributing to this new media community. From news reporting, to defending the arts, publishing literature and campaigning door-to-door, nearly every angle of the independence debate is being covered using digital media like youtube, Vimeo, blogs and social media.
This new media community is fostering creativity and inspiring debate. On monday Bella Caledonia reported on the number of independence movement projects currently in action. The answer: 16 (Source: Bella Caledonia). Furthermore, at the beginning of the month Wings Over Scotland released their truly startling readership statistics for the month of may 2014:
Evidence such as this, in combination with the appearance of people like Stephen Paton, is illustrative of a movement that is involving and engaging citizens in politics. No longer constricted by the BBC and foreign-owned newspapers, the media community in Scotland has seized the opportunities presented by the digital age and are contributing to a second enlightenment. If this is what has been achieved through discussing the possibilities of independence, I can not help but be excited about what could be achieved once political autonomy is secured.