I totally disagree with Stu Campbell’s assertion that “there wasn’t plausibly going to be any justification for another referendum for years”. The fact of a No vote being sold on a totally false prospectus was, in itself, more than adequate grounds for demanding a fresh referendum. As Campbell observes on Wings Over Scotland,
Overall, 60% of Scots think that most or all of what “Better Together” promised them turned out to be lies.
It is, frankly, a little ridiculous to imagine this level of dissatisfaction with the 2014 outcome could go unanswered. People really don’t like being lied to. But what they detest even more is being exposed as gullible dupes. The British establishment made fools of every No voter other than the fanatical British nationalists who actually believe with a religious fervour that any conduct at all is justified in the name of preserving the British state. People do not react well to being made to look stupid. It might even be argued that the whole Brexit fiasco has got in the way of much more widespread and vigorous demands for redress. If it wasn’t for Brexit, we’d be talking far more about the vicious and totally unprincipled behaviour of Better Together/Project Fear. And people would be be more angry about that.
Stu Campbell is on much firmer ground when looking at the issue of ‘online abuse’. It was the massively lopsided reporting which gave the impression of virulent ‘cybernat’ hordes assaulting the delicate hot-house blooms of British nationalism’s online support with poison-tipped Tweets and flaming Facebook comments. The reality was very different. It still is. Bitter, angry, hateful rhetoric is very much the province of those who adhere to the dogma of ‘The Union At Any Cost’. And for good reason. It is they who are bitter, angry and hateful. The mood in the Yes camp is positive and optimistic. An attitude which is simply not conducive to the kind of unpleasantness that the media likes to pretend is the vernacular of the independence movement.
A critical point here is that made by Stu Campbell when he refers to the tone of British political discourse having “emboldened a certain type of extreme British nationalist”. The language used by political leaders and those who are pleased to regard themselves as ‘opinion formers’ has an effect. Even reasonable-sounding remarks can give licence to more extreme voices. The spittle-flecked ranting of extremists can often be seen as having been informally sanctioned by the ill-advised and downright irresponsible utterances of public figures.
It is difficult to believe that experienced politicians and commentators are unaware of the fact that their words can have an incendiary effect. There is a niggling suspicion that much of what was and is said by prominent individuals in the British establishment is calculated to fuel the prejudices of their online supporters.
There is no equivalence between the two sides of the constitutional issue in this regard. The notion that one lot’s as bad as the other is the product of woefully shallow analysis. In fact, it is all too often a lazy assumption based on no analysis at all. The reality is that those prominent in the Yes campaign were always scrupulous about avoiding anything that could be interpreted as inflammatory or even provocative. Indeed, within the Yes movement, the complaint tended to be that its leading figures weren’t nearly aggressive enough.
British nationalists are more likely to resort to abuse for a number of reasons. They are given tacit permission to do so by British politicians. They know they are highly unlikely to be held to account for their behaviour by the media. They have most cause to be afraid that their cause is facing defeat. And they have little or nothing in the way of substantive arguments.
It won’t get any better. The British state is a cornered beast. It’s devotees will behave accordingly. And here’s the thing… I don’t care! Frankly, there are more pressing concerns than a few semi-coherent social inadequates venting their ample spleens on social media. We need to accept that not everybody expresses themselves in the same way. Not everybody has the same access to language. We can’t all be equally eloquent and erudite. I am pleased that people are engaging with politics at all. If their only way of doing so is by being abusive, that’s unfortunate. But I would rather that than them being excluded from politics altogether.
There is, of course, a line which divides the inelegant from the actionable. If the ‘robustness’ of comments tests those limits, I consider that no bad thing. Let the people speak!Views: 2848
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