Yesterday, in Scotland, we had this:
And Wales Online when I checked at about 8pm last night, was leading with a story about scary clown sightings across Wales. I kid you not. And this was not a reference to Alun Cairns.
There was, to be fair, a story about the heartwarming hashtag #WeAreWales, which featured about two thirds of the way down the homepage. But instead of presenting this for what it is, a passionate backlash against Tory racist and xenophobic policy, it was couched in blander terms as being a response to the Question Time debacle on Thursday. Note the use of the phrase ‘many (Twitter) users took offence’. That is very different to actually stating that the comments made by Alun Cairns were offensive. Which they clearly were.
Already annoyed, I then scrolled further down today’s Wales Online page, at which point I came across a quiz at the bottom. The Quiz invited me to see how many ‘British Icons’ I could name. I think you can see where I am headed with this.
It took some grit to get through it. I was spitting mad by the time I got half way through, so I drafted in some like minded company to make it more fun. We got 54 out of 57 questions correct (the format was either/or), which apparently made us ‘history professors’ – I think it just meant we had seen through the shoddy biased way they had written the questions – is one of the options not a white English male? Probably not the answer then.
Of those 57 ‘British Icons’, how many do you think were Welsh? One. I bet you are wondering who. Owain Glyndwr? Aneurin Bevan? Dylan Thomas?
I’ll leave you in suspense for a while on that one*.
Two of the 57 were Scottish. And no, William Wallace did not feature, nor did Alex Salmond or Nicola Sturgeon (Ms Sturgeon is pretty near top of my list of icons right now, albeit I wouldn’t tarnish her with the label ‘British’).
Apparently Scotland’s most iconic heroes are Gordon Brown and Sean Connery. Presumably you need to have served as a British Prime Minister (however ineptly) or starred as James Bond, to be classed as a famous Scot.
One of the 57 was Irish. Oscar Wilde – who knew? Born in Ireland in 1854, before Irish independence.
Four were born outside of the UK but lived the majority of their lives on our fair and previously welcoming Isles. Begging the question, according to the Tory party in 2016 are they genuinely British?
In no particular order, these four ‘foreign’ (using the Tory definition not my own) British Icons were:
Freddie Mercury – born in Zanzibar (and the only non-white person to feature – apparently we can count you as British because you are a rock legend), Julie Christie (one of only 19 women on the list – born in British India in 1940, Empire darling…), Richard E. Grant – born in Swaziland (but obviously, you are as English as cucumber sandwiches and Hugh Grant so we’ll overlook your immigrant status. Your agent will need to register you on The List though.)
Lastly, Prince Philip – Greek. Icon.
Apparently, 12 of the 57 most notable ‘British’ icons of all time were members of the English Monarchy. Yes. A full 20% of the most iconic people ever in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland (and throwing in, where it suits, anywhere in the former British Empire we fancy) were members of the English monarchy. Famously iconic for the merits of their own achievements.
It’s probably advisable to dismiss this stupid quiz as nothing more than a distraction from the more pressing matters at hand in the news. But the whole thing just got me so riled up. Apart from anything else, its smacks of the diabolic lack of Welsh content in the history curriculum – a situation that the Welsh media is wholly complicit with. For Britain, read England, and think whitewash. For Wales, well, do your own research because you won’t (currently) find much on the school curriculum, and the likes of Wales Online and BBC Wales are all doing their level best to ram Britishness down our throats at every opportunity.
Whilst Scotland is mobilising, reacting, expressing their outrage (they have their own issues with BBC bias but at least they have some non-establishment pro-indy media), Wales is usually doing one of two things. We are either discussing English politics (which is how I class the Westminster parties) in terms that suggest it is all directly applicable here. Or where we have Wales specific media, they act as if they are a regional, not a National outlet, covering the trivial (headlining with stories on double-yolked eggs for example – Radio Wales) whilst ignoring stories with major political implications for Wales (coverage of the various readings of the Wales Bill this summer has been shockingly scant).
The print and broadcast media in Wales have spent so long discussing the English Labour Party leadership contest over the last few months, it has been like there has been an enormous, Carwyn Jones shaped elephant in the room the entire time. When will it occur to the Welsh media to question the quality of leadership in Wales? Is it sheer laziness? Because to reflect on our own situation would require more research and journalistic effort than just to regurgitate what the London media is talking about? Or is it a more insidious desire to maintain the status quo at all costs?
Whatever the reasons, and to be honest they are multiple and complex, this huge media failure in Wales puts us in a serious and perilous position.
As the wave of positive #WeareWales/#NiYwCymru tweets has shown over the weekend, there is huge strength of feeling in Wales. There is passion as well as compassion. There is outrage and a desire to reject the swing to the right that is happening in ‘British’ (English) politics.
But it must be given more of a voice. For at the moment, Wales all too often is channeling an English stream of consciousness. As a Nation, we open our mouths to speak, but the words that come out have somehow been unduly influenced, and the views we sought to express have been tweaked. Sanitised. Made to fit the British mold. The sentiment that poured forth so passionately on Twitter through #WeAreWales, is not the one that is being allowed to dominate the mainstream media. In a world where Neil Hamilton is invited to present the weather in Wales, the dice are loaded in favour of a steady march further towards the fascist right, and British Nationalism.
We must do more. We have begun to build something amazing in Wales, and we must now act decisively to follow it up. We must make the link now between all that people have sought to celebrate about Wales over the past few days, and all those things that threaten to undermine us. We need to take collective action to build an alternative media in Wales. Part of this will happen through showing an appetite for non-conformist, anti-establishment, pro-indy media. If there’s an audience for it people will write / broadcast.
So we’ll keep tweeting #WeAreWales, as well as #indywales, #indycurious #annibyniaeth…
And in the meantime, get blogging. It doesn’t matter what your take on all of this is, if you have a perspective to add on Wales’ future, throw it into the mix.
Singer song writer? Poet? Artist? Activist? Economist? Historian? We need all of you and more… Get vocal, join in, get active.
Because Scotland are doing it. They are doing it and then some. They will have IndyRef2, and then they will be gone. I wish them all the luck in the world, and when the time comes I will give whatever support I can (I love that it feels we are more closely linked now in our endeavours – #WeAreWales, sister of #WeAreScotland). But once they are gone, it’s really important that what we are left with is not #WeAreEngland&Wales, or indeed #WeAreFascistBritain.
We are in the eye of the storm. Scotland may be able to see the rainbow, but if we are not very very careful, and if we do not work very hard, we will succumb to this storm for it is viscious and it has us in its sights.
Its time to step up and show what #WeAreWales actually looks like.
(*The answer you are looking for is of course Lawrence of Arabia. Born in Tremadog in 1888. According to Wales Online, Wales’ most noteworthy icon.)
This post was first published by Indymam on her blog here