The Invincibles

If you want to present yourself as superior, better suited to rule or even infallible, you can't come out and say it directly, that would come across as crass and arrogant. It is not even possible to get other people to say it on your behalf, that would be sycophantic. What you can do is employ techniques which give the impression you are born to rule and this is exactly what is done by a group we will call The Invincibles.

In the past The Invincibles were the aristocracy, often royalty, but today they are mostly politicians but also senior civil servants, captains of industry and military leaders. You might be thinking that The Invincibles sound very much like The Establishment, The Elite or The 1% and you'd be correct. However, what we will cover here is the way these people act and most importantly the way they are portrayed, rather than who they are.

To gain and hold power it is essential to have the opportunity, the motivation, and the resources but it is also important to look the part. Substance is more important than style, however, for that truism to succeed people need to be aware of and understand the substance. Style is much easier to convey.

In ancient times monarchs were typically skilled warriors who were able to lead armies and navies to glorious victories. In more modern times royalty typically don't go anywhere near the battlefield but the look is maintained. Take, for example, the recent controversy over Edward Windsor appearing at the Trooping of the Colour with a chest full of medals; not bad for 4 weeks in the Marines. Peruse any photograph of the royal family at a formal occasion and all the males will invariably be dressed in military uniforms and sporting numerous medals. The unstated message is: look at us, we are important.

Armed Forces Day

Politicians in this country don't dress in military regalia, unlike some foreign dictators, but they do like to benefit indirectly through association. Independence supporters will remember David Cameron standing alongside Princess Anne (in Naval uniform, of course) at Armed Forces Day, conveniently arranged for the same date and locality as the Bannockburn Commemoration. Tony Blair was no slouch when the opportunity presented itself to be photographed alongside soldiers during the Iraq war.

Another favourite is for The Invincibles to be photographed on submarines, warships and tanks (give yourself a brownie point if you can name two prominent female politicians photographed on tanks).

Tony Blair with soldiers in Iraq

Apparel isn't the only thing that can be used to give a sense of invincibility but also architecture. Not only is it nice for those in power to work in big fancy buildings but the architecture and the location reinforces the concept that this is where our leaders reside. A walk down Whitehall, in London, taking in The Ministry of Defence, the Cabinet Office, both Houses of Parliament and Downing Street (and many others) will demonstrate what we mean. All these buildings have imposing facades and in all likelihood impressive interiors. For those who don't live in London the message is reinforced every time television journalists stand outside these grand buildings while giving their reports.

There is, of course, a complimentary technique The Invincibles can use to portray themselves in an exalted position. You can create a distance between yourself and anyone you consider a threat by denigrading them. Build up one group and knock down the other. If you have the media on your side it is rather easy to get this message out without fear of reply. It is interesting to note that when locations for the new Scottish Parliament were being considered the then Scottish Secretary, Donald Dewar, allegedly blocked the use of the Old High School as he considered that building had become a "nationalist shibboleth". The Old High School is an impressive neoclassical building high upon Calton Hill, overlooking Edinburgh. Instead of this imposing location on Calton Hill the current location at the bottom of The Royal Mile was chosen.

The Invincibles are also incredibly keen on using titles to convey a sense of superiority. Not only do MPs refer to each other as "honourable member" (although not a title) but the more exclusive Privy Councillors make use of "The Right Honourable" (which can be used as a title). Former cabinet ministers and senior civil servants invariably get "elevated" to the House of Lords or get a knighthood, the latter group often while still in harness. The House of Lords may well have reduced the number of hereditary peers but the numbers of Dukes, Countesses, Viscounts and Baronesses in senior positions in quangos, NGOs and other public bodies is far in excess of their numbers in the general population. What we still have is a ruling upper class. Even though we are well into the 21st century it would seem that names and titles still matter as is demonstrated by the propensity of donors getting them.

The Treasury

It is important for The Invincibles to maintain the historic value of bestowed titles by imbuing them with current esteem and what better way to do that than giving honours to a few in vogue celebrities like Olympic athletes and popstars. If they do this quickly enough not only do they enhance the titles system but some of the stardust might just rub off on to The Invincibles. The Summer Olympics start in a few days so you can expect a flurry of knighthoods soon.

Yet again the denial of prestige, in this case a proper title, can be used to maintain a distance between The Invincibles and anyone they consider a threat. For example, it is surprising how often press reports and television broadcasts about Nicola Sturgeon refer to her as the "SNP leader" but David Cameron, and now, Theresa May are referred to as "Prime Minister".

Military leaders have long believed that command structures are enhanced by keeping the officers separate from the rank and file. The Invincibles have followed this doctrine and it is partly for this reason that they have adopted an aloofness, to keep themselves apart from us. This aloofness was parodied to great effect when a band of Labour MPs arrived in Glasgow to campaign against independence in the summer of 2014. They were met by a man on a rickshaw blasting out Star Wars' Imperial March and exclaiming "People of Glasgow, your imperial masters have arrived!"

In a proper fully functioning democracy all of the above would be to no avail as we could rely on the members of the fourth estate to draw back the curtain and reveal who the wizards are and what they are really doing. Unfortunately, many of the largest media organisations and their employees are not only failing to report the deficiencies of The Invincibles but are actively supporting their continuation. The defenders of democracy have been co-opted. This won't be news to Yes supporters who have witnessed at first hand the duplicity of the media during the first independence campaign but there are still significant numbers of voters who haven't seen past the curtain.

For those of us wanting to bring about change the good news is that the media organisations no longer have a near monopoly of news and analysis that they once had. The Internet has opened up a new front where citizens can discover and disseminate their own news and critique the mainstream analysis. The news agenda is no longer fully controlled by the large media interests and the old business models of the print industry are crumbling.

One demographic where Yes support is at its lowest is among those aged 65+ and it is perhaps no coincidence that this group maintains the highest consumption of print journalism and the lowest online usage. One of the most vociferous anti-independence newspapers, The Daily Telegraph, has an average reader age of 61 and the Daily Mail isn't far behind at 58. These print newspapers are in a vicious spiral of decline as they serve their news agenda to an ever diminishing readership.

Boris Grishenko

Perhaps the biggest threat to The Invincibles is what we will call The Boris Effect (no, not that Boris, not yet) named after the character Boris Grishenko in the James Bond film Goldeneye. Boris, brilliantly brought to life by Alan Cumming, is a talented computer programmer who takes control of a Soviet era satellite weapon which is to be used to destroy the UK's financial systems. Boris' catchphrase right up until the moment he is instantly frozen by a stream of liquid nitrogen is "I am invincible!". Just like Boris, The Invincibles are convinced of their own mastery and just like him their demise may be coming soon. For The Invincibles it won't be an exploding pen that will be their undoing but their own ineptitude, highlighted in blogs and social media.

In pre-Internet days inconvenient truths were ignored by a partisan media and old stories could be forgotten. Now, every change of stance, every inconsistent statement and sometimes plain downright lies can be dredged up in seconds. George Osborne's "punishment budget", Boris Johnson's "outright lies" or Liam Fox being "slapped down" can never be erased from the public archive. Ahead of us, with the forthcoming Brexit negotiations (for which we don't have any negotiators), we will likely have a never ending stream of stories showing up The Invincibles as the less than superior beings they really are. Ordinarily, the Tory version of The Invincibles would be challenged by their Westminster compatriots in the Labour party but their internal feuding means they are probably in a worse shambles than the government.

The Invincibles seem to be crumbling and no amount of posh names, fancy apparel and aloofness can obscure the fact that they are in fact inept. The facade is falling away and many more people can see the truth in front of them. The UK omnishambles is only beginning; there has never been a better time for Scotland to break free.


To be continued...



Alasdair 7 years, 10 months ago

My fear is that we lose indyref2 partly for the same reason as indyref1, namely the BBC. There can be as many pro-indy websites, blogs and Twitter accounts as we like but there are too many people who still believe the rubbish from the BBC. I can only hope I am wrong

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Editor 7 years, 10 months ago

I understand your concern but I genuinely believe it will be different this time. There are a whole load of things which will be different in IndieRef2: strategies on the Yes side being slightly different, lack of potential leaders on the unionist side and different dynamic due to the EU situation.

I think many people will have had their eyes opened due to the nature of the EU referendum, particularly the IndieRef Tribute Act perspective. It will be much more difficult to make Project Fear III effective.

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hetty 7 years, 10 months ago

A good read, thanks. Makes me wonder was it ever any different to this. Brought up in a Labour household, in NE england, they were supposedly going to make life better for ordinary people. Perhaps things improved, but of course now we see that the red, and yellow tories are no better than the true blue toff tories.

The unionists will do their utmost to keep Scotland shackled. It will be a different ballgame next time, with new voters aged 16-17, and with brexit looming large. T.May will be making sure her civil servants work hard this summer, having cancelled their hols, on brexit, Scotland and more SNP bad propaganda. They are terrified of losing Scotland, especially if we get to stay in the EU, after independence. Many have ditched the bbc, and many more will do so with their charging for iplayer as of September.

Just have to keep sharing, keep blogging, and keep conversations going. Easy to feel very despondent, but we must stay positive, it's the only wat forward.

Saor Alba.

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hetty 7 years, 10 months ago

meant way, not wat!

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Editor 7 years, 10 months ago

@ Hetty

It was ever thus. One of my favourite quotes is from Thomas Jefferson: "advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper". Jefferson died in 1826. The media, in the main, have been the propaganda departments of the various political parties for a very long time.

I used to be an avid listener to BBC radio but the bias became too much to bear in 2014 and I stopped tuning in. I haven't listened to the radio since. I might be in a minority who forego the BBC completely but there will be many who now view the organisation sceptically.

The next IndieRef campaign will be quite different.

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