Union Jack tinted spectacles
If there is one thing that I don’t think when I look at the Scottish press, it’s that the people who produce it must be censored by the Scottish Government.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those independence supporters who spend their days whining about how biased the media is. I happen to think the main problem with the media is that, due to having to compete with the internet, it has seriously declined in quality over the last decade.
There is still some good journalism out there but even the quality papers nowadays are full of clickbait and hastily regurgitated press releases. Which explains why the story I’m about to write about reached the front page of several major newspapers. Lazy journalists latched onto a tweet that should have been ignored on the grounds that it was silly. They elevated something of little substance to a front-page sensationalist splash that took no journalistic ability to produce.
The tweet that the story was built around was about the now infamous SNP party political broadcast.
The ad was a pastiche of an old Monty Python sketch and it is basically trying to counter the point that the SNP don’t get on with the day job. I found it quite cringe-worth myself, and there are a few claims in it that could be debated. However, I feel the same way about any party political broadcast by pretty much any party.
However, this particular broadcast has caused outrage amongst the Yoonatariat.
This is the tweet by Lib Dem MSP, Alex Cole-Hamilton, that generated several front-page headlines stopping just short of accusing the SNP of being liars and borderline fascists. To me, his reasoning shares something I see a lot in online political discourse. It criticises the one side of a debate for something that both sides are guilty of.
I have watched the ad several times now and can confirm that the SNP did not claim to introduce free personal care. You could argue that the ad might have given a person not well versed in English comprehension the wrong impression. However, you can make that argument about every party political broadcast ever. So, I don’t think Alex has a leg to stand on with that claim.
So we can move swiftly to the Trumpian aspect of Cole-Hamilton’s complaint which he later expanded on.
It is more accurate to say that a small minority of SNP supporters regularly mock, harass and even threaten writers and commentators. Thing is, so do a small minority of supporters from every party.
When you look at Douglas Fraser’s feed it seems a couple of people have said nasty things to him in the last few days. This isn’t proof that the SNP have a particular problem with abusive followers.
As we have written about before Nick Robinson wasn’t silenced and he deserved all the criticism he got for blatantly misleading the public by misrepresenting what a politician had actually said. He didn’t deserve any of the abuse he got but, again, the fact that he received abuse isn’t proof of any problem unique to the SNP.
There is no evidence Stephen Daisley lost his job due to interference by the SNP.
However, as we have mentioned before, there is a lot of evidence that he lost his job due to the fact he ditched the impartiality required to be an editor of a national news site.
It is also not clear that there was a deliberate parody of David Torrance on the party political broadcast but for the sake of argument, I’ll grant him that one.
The idea that Torrance would be a new target for cybernats is hilarious.
Cybernats are already familiar with his oft-repeated newspaper column. In fact, you would have to know who he is and what he writes about to get the extremely niche in-joke in the party political broadcast. I have to admit it didn’t dawn on me that it was meant to be him until the outrage started. I just presumed it was meant to be a generic bearded hipster political commentator type.
We highlighted before that Sturgeon is the recipient of some of the most heinous abuse by a small minority of unionist twitter users.
The difference between Alex and I is that I have the good grace to realise the abuse Sturgeon receives only comes from a minority. I understand that most supporters of the union don’t abuse people online and the ones who do are not representative of the movement as a whole or its leadership.
The commentariat definitely play a role in society but I’m not sure what point Alex is trying to make about targets.
I mean, nobody should be getting abused online. Neither politicians nor writers nor the general public. However, a tiny proportion of people are going to overstep the mark. That is the price we pay for free speech. It’s a sad but inevitable part of online discourse.
A person who makes a living writing highly partisan political commentary should expect it as much as an actual politician. It’s not right but it’s not surprising. And most of the feedback journalists like Torrance get is valid criticism. Which I think is legitimate as Torrance is in a privileged position in which his musings instantly reach a large audience. He has power and influences the average twitter egg could only dream of.
Personally, I find the disdain with which some of these talking heads treat valid feedback, just as worrying as the fact that some of the tweets they receive are abusive. There is a massive power imbalance and some journalists swot away valid criticism just because it comes from the unwashed masses.
I have no idea what a whiff of tyranny could mean. Things are either tyrannical or not. However, this tweet gets to the heart of Alex’s claim. So I asked Alex in what way he thought the ad could possibly silence Torrance as I can’t think of one. At worst the ad was a gentle ribbing of a public figure that made no effort to silence him. In fact, the stooshie has raised his public profile. We all know Torrance will be dusting off his anti-SNP article for republication this Monday.
Alex didn’t respond. He did respond to this question though.
And his answer was, predictably, a collage of abuse he has received, some clearly not from SNP supporters.
The kind of collage of abuse that every high profile Twitter user could easily compile. I could have made my own collage and sent it back to him but what’s the point. I’m starting to believe that either Alex is being disingenuous or that his Union Jack tinted spectacles are blinding him to the truth.
This sort of abuse happens to everyone on twitter and it is just as likely to be perpetrated by those on the same side of the debate as him.
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