Let me say straight away that I quite like Susan Calman - I've seen her live a few times, and while she's maybe not rip-roaringly hilarious, she's certainly a 'feel-good' performer, and on the amusing end of the spectrum. I wouldn't previously have said that I've got a lot in common with her, but as a result of the controversy over the last few days I've realised there are a couple of little things. For example, we both feel that we've been the subject of rather nasty personal abuse on the internet as a result of comments we've made about the independence referendum. Because of my expression of support for independence on certain unionist-dominated websites over the years (OK, mainly one website), I've been called a "c**t", a "Nazi", a "w**ker", a "t*at", and a "traitor" to Britain, and told that like all Scottish nationalists I'm not a true Scot, and that I should f**k off back to Ireland or Quebec or wherever it is I really "come from". (That's just the stuff I can remember off-hand.) And like Ms Calman, I've sometimes written blog-posts to let off steam about the abuse.
There the similarities end, though, because in those blog-posts I actually quoted some of the abuse (and of course for doing that I was always accused of "Nat whining"), whereas Ms Calman only referred to being told about something she hadn't actually read, without even the vaguest hint of where it could be found. To the best of my knowledge, nobody has succeeded in tracking it down, which must at least leave open the possibility of a "Chinese whispers" effect being at play in her original claim. Oh, and the other difference is that I didn't have much of the print and broadcast media indignantly weighing in on my behalf.
And now we're solemnly told over and over again that while there may be abusive online warriors on both sides, the "Cybernats" are much, much worse than the "CyberBrits"? Well, with respect to Ms Calman's talent, that's a considerably funnier joke than she or any other comedian is ever likely to come up with. One of the great mysteries of our time is why the only personal abuse that is invisible to the eye of unionist media commentators is the abuse of nationalists by unionists.
As a long-standing victim of precisely the type of abuse that Ms Calman seemingly has merely been told she is a victim of, there's something else I'd like to say. Until this blogpost, I had only previously made one brief comment about the controversy, and that was a tweet in which I asked an ITV reporter if he could point me to evidence to support his claim that Ms Calman had suffered abuse. At the time I wrote that tweet, it would never even have occurred to me that it could be perceived as anything other than entirely innocuous. But from the bizarre reaction of people (who I would otherwise regard as intelligent) to equally legitimate comments made by others, I'm beginning to realise that by merely questioning the evidential basis of Ms Calman's claim, my tweet was probably regarded as a full-blown part of the "barrage of abuse" that she supposedly suffered, and that led to her deleting her Twitter account. The logic seems to be something like this - "If someone says they've been abused then they have been, and if you ask them for evidence you are compounding that abuse and are worse than the original abusers (who may or may not exist). Oh, and if the complainant happens to be a woman, you're also automatically a misogynist."
That attitude is chilling, it's Orwellian, and it's an affront to free speech. But it gets even better. If you still refuse to be cowed, you'll be told something like this -
"Just take a step back and think about whether what you've said is going to make a Yes vote in the referendum more or less likely."
Ah, the nuclear option - if you can't think of a logical reason why someone should be silenced, try to frighten them into submission with "even if you've got a point, don't say it out loud, because you're helping the other side". I can't remember what RevStu's response was when an SNP councillor tried that line on him, but if it had been me I think I would have said that I simply don't see every word I utter through the prism of vote-winning or vote-losing, and if I did I would cease to be human. Given that the Yes campaign is dominated by the left, there's inevitably a strong radical feminist strain within it, and I can think of posts on this blog (opposing the Swedish model on prostitution law, for instance) which some people probably think I should have been "disciplined" enough not to write, just to avoid the million-to-one chance that the sight of a random independence supporter saying such things might cost one or two radical feminist votes at the referendum.
Nope. Sorry. I'm not a robot. If I was employed by the Yes campaign or by the SNP, I might feel obliged to act like a robot for the greater good, but even then I'd probably be unsure whether the tactic was really paying off. The electorate aren't fools, and they can smell a lack of authenticity a mile off.
Mike Small said this the other day -
"You’re going to threaten Susan Calman? Really? Are you? Susan Calman? Then you’re going to defend it or explain it? Really? Count me out of that brigade. What’s the Goldman quote? 'If I can’t dance to it, it’s not my revolution' should be turned to 'If I can’t laugh, it’s not my revolution'...
It’s time for the independence movement to move on and stop the push-button responses to infantile unionist baiting. Let’s have a lightness of spirit and re-set the agenda onto what we can do, what we will do and what we hope for."
The first problem here is that Mike has seemingly fallen into the aforementioned self-supporting cycle of illogicality that results in someone who politely asks for evidence that the abuse took place being reimagined as "an abuser who is defending or explaining the abuse". Not good enough. But as for a "lightness of spirit"? Agreed, there were a few things that were (genuinely and as a matter of record) said about Ms Calman that were petty and vindictive, and would have been far better left unsaid. But the reason they'd have been better left unsaid is that human decency is a good thing, not because we're automatons who must conform at every step with the Blueprint for Victory. Human beings are lighter of spirit than robots.