A few weeks ago Donald Trump responded to Alec Baldwin’s impression of his performance in the first presidential debate. The portrayal, he Tweeted, “stinks”, before adding: “Media rigging election!”

The implied connection between Saturday Night Live and election rigging was vintage Trump, but attacks on “mainstream media bias” have been a persistent theme of this US election campaign, just as it was in the Scottish and European referendums.

And as at home, it clearly resonates with a section of the electorate. I’ve been travelling around the US for the past few weeks and have spoken to several Trump supporters who were personally polite towards me as a journalist but share their candidate’s low regard for my trade.

I asked one taxi driver if he believed the New York Times was helping rig next month’s election and without a moment’s hesitation he replied: “Absolutely.” CNN, one of the main US broadcasters, is often referred to as the Clinton (or Corrupt) News Network.

But then if prominent politicians go after the media, it’s hardly surprising that many of their supporters will come to believe that sections of it are irredeemably biased or corrupt. The former First Minister Alex Salmond, for example, led the charge against the BBC a few years ago, criticising individual reporters and endorsing protests outside Pacific Quay in Glasgow.

So while the SNP has been careful to distance itself from a new billboard campaign targeting BBC Scotland, its former leader and several other senior Nationalists arguably helped give rise to the paranoid conspiracy theories behind the ironically-named group “Inform Scotland”.

In a recent piece for the Common Space website, Simon Malzer admitted these billboards were a “blunt instrument” but, he argued, it was nevertheless necessary one to combat BBC “bias”. As usual, the empirical evidence for this was slight. SNP ministers, he argued, were habitually misrepresented, while the Secretary of State for Scotland regularly got away with “unchallenged lying”.

To be fair, Mr Malzer did give one more concrete example, although it probably wouldn’t stand up in court. Recounting that the Conservatives voted down an SNP amendment to the recent Scotland Bill recognising the Scottish Parliament as “permanent”, he recalls feeling full of “impotent rage” when the BBC failed to cover this “immediate breach of the famous Vow”.

That might have had something to do with the fact that a similar acknowledgement of Holyrood’s permanence (and the requirement for a referendum to reverse it) was already in the Scotland Bill and indeed forms Section 2A of the Scotland Act granted Royal Assent earlier this year. A legitimate complaint might have been that such a clause is constitutionally meaningless, but instead a grievance has been manufactured and lives on in the minds of those behind Inform Scotland.

Of course this sort of nonsense is so self-evidently counterproductive that the more sensible elements within the Yes movement have been quick, like the SNP, to distance themselves from the billboard campaign. They realise, unlike Inform Scotland, that implying No voters are stupid is not the way to win another referendum. Mr Malzer claims the campaign is not some “thoughtless, blind kickback against a vaguely perceived sense of injustice”, but that’s certainly what it looks like.

And despite the distancing going on in official quarters, senior Yessers doubtless agree with at least the general thrust. The pejorative term “mainstream media” used by Trump et al has entered even Scottish Government discourse, with minister Jeanne Freeman using it the other day in relation to public perceptions of welfare claimants.

Barely a week goes by, meanwhile, without Alex Salmond giving Russia Today (RT) his thoughts on one subject or another, which rather implies that he considers the Putin-backed broadcaster to be a more legitimate media outlet than the BBC. Yesterday Salmond’s Westminster colleague Paul Mongahan told the Sunday Herald that RT and the Sputnik radio station delivered “impartial” journalism (Ofcom, on the other hand, accused RT of broadcasting “materially misleading” content).

Now I’m not arguing the media – print or broadcast – is beyond reproach, far from it, but to elevate RT above the BBC makes as much sense as arguing that the European Single Market is more important to Scotland than the UK equivalent. Many of the leading critics of the “MSM” appear to have no understanding of how editorial decisions are made or how TV and radio bulletins are put together.

The former academic John Robertson, much cited by Nationalists, is a case in point; his “research” started from the bizarre premise that during the independence referendum Yes and No each produced an equal number of credible news stories and therefore “bias” could be determined by analysing how many of them ended up on Reporting or Good Morning Scotland.

In a recent piece for the website thoughtcontrolscotland.com (which clearly has an open mind), Mr Robertson cited BBC Scotland’s coverage of the recent Audit Scotland report on the state of the Scottish NHS as further evidence of bias. Apparently this highly critical report wasn’t news because health services the world over are badly run.

Elsewhere Mr Robertson has accused the BBC of perpetrating “an almost semi-conscious unionism”, but again, beyond methodologically-questionable research he was basically saying that he didn’t agree with the stories its editors chose to run. But that, of course, is not the same thing as purposeful bias.

It’s all, in short, a massive distraction from the ongoing challenges facing the “mainstream media” in Scotland, the UK and most other Western nations, that of falling circulations and declining resources. Quite how delegitimisation by senior politicians is supposed to help tackle that is anyone’s guess.

When Nicola Sturgeon first took over as First Minister she struck an admirably different tone on the media than her more pugilistic predecessor, but since then she’s opted for a policy of benign neglect of the print media, elevating television sound-bites and selfies above even short interviews with lots of journalists doing their best to cover her government’s activities in a comprehensive way. Sure, she’s not going to like a lot of what they write, but then it was ever thus, and failing to engage is hardly going to alter that.

Three years on from the signing of a Royal Charter on self-regulation of the press and the UK’s main newspapers are still refusing to sign up to the system recommended by Leveson, fearing that “recognition” is tantamount to “state regulation”, while the Scottish Government appears to have little interest in devising its own system, as it has the option to do under the original Scotland Act.

In the US, meanwhile, there’s just over a week to go until the election, after which Donald Trump will doubtlessly accuse the “MSM” of helping “steal” or “rig” the outcome. It’ll sound depressingly familiar, and lead nowhere useful.