A Herald journalist has sparked outrage on social media after accusing online independence supporters of mounting ‘Trumpist Attacks’ on journalism.
David Leask also called for SNP politicians who endorse criticism of members of his sector to be disciplined by the party.
The journalist tweeted: “This weekend’s @newsundayherald is a must-read for anybody who thinks cybernat rhetoric on journalism is either acceptable in a democracy or remotely helpful to the cause of Scottish self-determination. The SNP must now act on any elected member endorsing Trumpist attacks.”
The message was prompted by an announcement from the Sunday Herald that its Editor would be responding to recent criticism of the newspaper by independence supporters. The Sunday Herald account tweeted: “You can read a full response by our editor @NeilMackay to the reaction to our front page last week in the forthcoming edition of the Sunday Herald.”
Last weekend the newspaper was accused of having misrepresented a sixty thousand strong independence march in Glasgow.
Independence supporters who took part in the march reacted angrily to a photograph on the front page depicting what appeared to be a considerable pro-Union counter demonstration.
The article also claimed the march had been “marred” by “ugly confrontations”.
Within minutes of the front page appearing, pro-independence users of twitter swamped the social media platform questioning the newspaper’s coverage of the event. Many expressed anger at what they claimed were misrepresentations and pledged to cancel long held subscriptions to the newspaper. Others questioned the newspaper’s claim to back independence.
The ‘Trumpism Attacks’ tweet from David Leask has now reignited the spat and has witnessed the journalist swapping insults with other twitter users. Asked about the Sunday Herald’s reporting of the march, Leask responded: “I thought that was strong front page but alas I don’t work for the Sunday Herald and I can’t claim credit for it.”
SNP councillor Mhairi Hunter tweeted: “Equally let’s not get into a situation where genuine criticism is seen as just “cybernats”. I think putting that pic on the front page was a misjudgement. Won’t stop me reading the S Herald or Herald but I really didn’t like it.”
Leask responded: “I’m really happy the Sunday herald continues its record of highlighting extreme unionist and sectarian groups. And, yes, they fly Union jacks. But a lot of the reaction to that picture & those flags was not “normal” criticism by any measure. It was fascinating, though, to witness.”
The Herald journalist was less diplomatic with other responses, later tweeting: “It is really problematic to call this “contradiction”. We’re dealing with Mass allegations of professional misconduct, routine false allegations, threats and intimation, false blogs about reporters (I was recently falsely outed as GCHQ spy), cyber attacks, malicious theft. Etc.”
Responding to a tweet which pointed out the march had nothing to do with the SNP, Leask retorted: “I didn’t say the march had anything to do with the SNP. The SNP, however, suffers the most from dysfunctional online behviour and Trumpist antiMSM narratives. So the SNP is our natural ally in challenging this serious problem.”
The journalist also defended his use of the term ‘Cybernat’, saying: “Cybernat was not coined by unionist newspapers. It’s as good a term as any of the mobs whose antics are capable of doing more damage to Indy than the entire massed ranks of unionism together.”
He added: “I don’t use the term cybernat to describe those who support independence. I use it to describe a poisonous online minority who undermine what is overwhelmingly a democratic and legitimate viewpoint in and of our society.”
Leask was pressed on the use of the term ‘Cybernat’: “Cybernats? Are you referring to Scots Cybernats or Brit Cybernats? Or both? Rhetoric? Are you saying anyone who is not a journalist cannot present facts? Are you saying journalists are infallible? Really?”
The Herald journalist responded by advising the person to delete their twitter account: “These points are pretty surreal, proud cybernat. What I am saying is that you – and your ilk – now pose a meaningful threat to quality of political discourse and the possible success of the cause you claim to support. My advice: Delete your account.”
Amongst the scores of responses to Leask, few, if any, were sympathetic to the journalists’ arguments. Many reiterated a desire not to buy the Sunday Herald again.
“I bought the Sunday Herald for 20 years, long before the recent prominence of the Indy issue. I stopped buying it recently. This Trump/cybernat smearing of any criticism is not winning me back.”
“Jeez David,“trumpist” & “cybernat” surely you dont need to utilise that approach. Never normally tweet on things like this but no one person is above criticism and when levelled you should try and respond rationally, granted it’s not always easy. Just disappointed in the language.”
The exchanges are unlikely to dampen a feeling amongst many pro-independence supporters that the main stream media remains a significant obstacle to independence. The Sunday Herald, which came out in favour of independence towards the end of the 2014 campaign, has never formally altered this stance. Last Sunday’s front page was viewed by many online commentators as a serious misjudgement that will have cost the paper a significant amount in terms of pro-independence custom and trust.
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