IN this depressing age of fake news and social media paranoia, it can be hard for a journalist to write a sentence that everyone agrees on, but here goes: on Saturday August 11th, a crowd of around 200 protesters gathered outside the BBC offices in Glasgow to campaign against what they see as the corporation’s bias against Scottish independence.

How did I do? Was that a sentence we can agree on or not? Was it an example of media objectivity or was it dripping with anti-independence bias? Did I deliberately understate the size of the group? Were there, in reality, many more than 200 people there? Was the use of the word “crowd” pejorative and designed to de-legitimise the cause? Am I, in fact, part of a neo-liberal media that is out to use misinformation to undermine anti-establishment forces? In other words, was that innocent-seeming sentence about a protest at the BBC the fake truth or the real one?

If you think yes, there is a media campaign against Scottish independence, you may well have been at the protest on Saturday, or at least be sympathetic to the anti-BBC cause. According to one of the organisers, David McGuinness, BBC Scotland is London’s puppet in Scotland and does not represent the voices of the people (the voices of the people presumably being pro-independence despite the actual result of the 2014 referendum). The protest was also part of a wider, UK-wide campaign to encourage people to switch off the BBC because of its alleged bias against Labour and Jeremy Corbyn. And it has to be said, the campaign seemed to find a voice: last week, the hashtag BBCswitchoff was trending high on social media.

But what do the protesters actually mean when they say the BBC is biased? It can be hard to tell amid some of the more extreme online material, but it would seem that they believe the corporation is misrepresenting or suppressing the facts or is just plain lying in some cases. One of the placards on show in Glasgow suggested that the letters BBC now stood for Blatantly Biased and Corrupt.

Now, I suspect most reasonable people would pretty quickly dismiss the second of those accusations that the BBC is corrupt, but I think the use of the word “biased” is correct although not in the way that the protesters do. The BBC is a news organisation made up of human beings and to that extent it is not – and cannot be – immune from bias. As soon as a journalist at the BBC or anywhere else makes a decision to cover one story rather than another, or ask that question instead of that one, or use one particular phrase, he or she is working to the unconscious rules of their bias – even the way they apply the rules on impartiality may itself be subject to bias.

I have to say this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it’s just how human beings work: we have a whole set of rules in our heads (made up from our memories and experiences) that help us make decisions quickly but not always objectively. Journalists are the same, even if they think they’re not.

To be fair to the BBC, it does more than many news organisations to overcome this bias through the rules on impartiality, especially on controversial subjects such as Scottish independence. Anyone who has ever worked at BBC Scotland will know that its staff are just as divided on the subject as the staff at any other organisation (some for No, some for Yes), but I think the fact that the majority of its employees are middle-class – combined with the nature of the BBC itself ( a publicly-funded state organisation) –may mean the unconscious bias of the corporation and its staff is towards the status quo and the establishment.

It is maybe this that the anti-BBC, switch-off protesters have been picking up, but what they fail to see is that their own bias runs much deeper. The protesters in Glasgow are desperate for Scottish independence to happen and would like most Scots to support it and so strong is this desire that they ignore or reject information that does not conform – hence their call to switch off the BBC and their bewildering refusal to meet with BBC management at Pacific Quay when they were offered. The protesters do not want anything to challenge their belief that theirs is a revolution driven by a hashtag, when actually it’s just naked bias masquerading as anti-bias.

What makes matters worse is that the campaigners then take to social media where their belief that the BBC is corrupt or anti-Scottish gains more and more plausibility in their heads because it is repeated so often in tweets. Psychologists have a phrase to describe this effect – availability cascade – and it leads to the ludicrous sight of nationalists getting angry at a BBC commentator for saying the Scottish swimmer Duncan Scott had “stolen” a gold medal at the Euro Championships. And how about the tweeter who said she was sick of BBC bias so was off to subscribe to the Morning Star? In other words, the campaigners don’t want objectivity – they want a bias that agrees with theirs.

I also find the fury of the anti-BBC protesters a little hard to understand for the simple reason that their campaign probably doesn’t matter. The campaigners appear to believe that bias at the corporation is somehow preventing the pro-independence cause from breaking through by warping the minds of people who might otherwise vote yes, but that’s the same mindset that believed it was The Sun wot won it for the Conservatives in the 1992 General Election (it didn’t).

In fact, in a social-media-driven society like ours, media bias just isn’t that powerful. What happens is that, instead of people changing their minds due to bias, they drift to media that agrees with their own bias and so become firmer in whatever beliefs they already had. This helps explain the fury of the anti-BBC protesters fed on pro-nationalist websites, but perhaps they should go home and chill out for one simple reason. Most people in Scotland now know where they stand on independence and the chances of their opinions being changed by the BBC – even if it was blatantly biased and corrupt – are very small indeed.