It’s intended to cause harm to the individual by painting him/her in a bad light. The underlying motive for the insidious practice is the political persuasion of the target.
The smear is once again in the headlines after the mother of a soldier killed on active service in Afghanistan revealed to the media the contents of a hand written letter sent to her by Gordon Brown.
Jacqui Janes, the mother of Grenadier Guardsman Jamie Janes, who was killed in Afghanistan on 5 October, received the letter days after her son's death.
It is the talking point on every news programme in England and every pundit is offering their opinion. Surprisingly though, the spotlight is now turning on The Sun newspaper and questions are being asked over whether or not such a smear campaign is beyond the pale.
Few people would argue that Brown meant well; clumsy and inept the letter may have been but the way that the newspaper has used it in order to run a series of personal attacks against the PM is unacceptable.
The criticism of The Sun even made it onto BBC Radio Scotland’s mid evening news programme Drivetime.
So, what you might ask is the problem here?
Well, on Thursday the good people of Glasgow North East will go to the polls in order to elect a replacement for their former MP, Michael (now Baron) Martin.
This campaign has witnessed one of the worst smear campaigns ever instigated against an individual. The SNP’s David Kerr has had his religion highlighted, his birthplace questioned, his education; he has also been branded a liar and a snob. One of the so called quality papers even accused Kerr of “brandishing” a gun in a public car park [Kerr was filming an item for the BBC at the time].
Every Scottish media outlet has, at one point or another, either referred to one or more of the smears, or as in the case of Glenn Campbell of the BBC, openly questioned Kerr on them.
Of the Gordon Brown smear campaign conducted by The Sun; Peter Mandelson said
“people should understand that the row was being orchestrated by a paper that was actively campaigning against Labour.”
One paper eh? How might Mandelson have felt if, instead of just one paper running the smears, practically every paper was doing it – with the BBC firing off questions at the victim for good measure.
This morning sees well orchestrated smear campaign aimed at the First Minister Alex Salmond. This campaign revolves around Mr Salmond’s invitation to a dinner and concert of a dentist friend.
There is a well established and accepted practice of allowing First Ministers to invite members of the public with whom the FM is friendly to events such as these. This practice has been accepted since the days of Donald Dewar and has been carried on by every FM since then – Alex Salmond is no exception.
Why then is every news outlet suddenly carrying this as some sort of smear? Sadly the BBC Scotland’s own Brian Taylor sullied his own reputation by not just joining the attacks on this mornings Good Morning Scotland.
Taylor’s justification was simply ridiculous in that he claims that the shocking display of avarice witnessed at Westminster somehow “probably” (yes, probably) renders the FM’s actions as now “perhaps” (yes, perhaps) inappropriate.
There is no probably or perhaps about it, the actions of the FM are acceptable, acknowledged and within the rules – for Taylor to conflate them with the very real questionable expense claims of some Westminster politicians is disgraceful.
For appropriate and acceptable behaviour to be simultaneously portrayed by every single news outlet in Scotland as somehow ‘questionable’ is dishonest and brings journalism into disrepute.
It simply confirms the levels to which the Scottish media will sink when a by-election is looming.
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