VICTORIA : It's a fossil.
THE DOCTOR : Victoria, be careful. Let me see that. Yes, it's certainly inactive, but it's not a fossil. Wait a minute.
(The Doctor consults his 500-year diary.)
THE DOCTOR : Yes, here we are. It's a Cybermat.
VICTORIA : What's a Cybermat?
THE DOCTOR : It's one of those. I'd leave it alone if I were you. Come along.
(Victoria pops the Cybermat into her handbag.)
* * *
Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis have got a lot to answer for. With those lines in the 1967 Doctor Who story The Tomb of the Cybermen, they unwittingly coined a term of abuse that (in very slightly modified form) has ended up being used several decades later to dehumanise any supporter of Scottish independence who happens to have an internet presence.
We all know the truth. Any of us who have engaged for any length of time with anti-independence activists (or even just anti-independence people in general) on online forums and social media is well used to being subjected to such extreme abusive behaviour that we almost fail to register it after a while - it becomes background noise. And yes, there are idiots on both sides, but the statistical evidence from a scientific opinion poll for the Sunday Express speaks for itself - 21% of Yes supporters have suffered abuse, compared to only 8% of No supporters.
The idea that supporters of independence are disproportionately responsible for any abuse is one of the most brazen 'Big Lies' that any political campaign has ever attempted to propagate - and an independent mainstream media worthy of the name would quickly challenge it and put a stop to it. Instead, journalists are enabling it and colluding with it. Today's front page of the Daily Record may well be the most despicable thing I've seen in this campaign outside the pages of the Mail. They've done exactly what Iain Macwhirter pointed out journalists were doing - gone actively searching for an example of abuse in the sure knowledge that it must exist somewhere, but they've gone looking for it on the Yes side only. They've then seized upon the most extreme example they can find, and used it to smear all independence supporters.
My feeling is that the time has come for the Yes campaign to fight fire with fire. I know they probably won't do that, because the mantra is that Yes can only win by being relentlessly positive. But the whole point about this particular smear campaign is that it's intended to undermine the public's perception of Yes as positive - and in particular, it's a cynical attempt to foster distaste for the Yes campaign among undecided female voters. There comes a point where you have to take some brief time out to defend your reputation against people slinging mud which otherwise might stick. I wouldn't mind seeing a succession of morning press conferences featuring the personal stories of people who have been abused for their pro-independence beliefs - and that spectacle should carry on relentlessly, day after day, until the media are shamed into giving the stories at least one-tenth of the coverage they've lavished on the Clare Lally nonsense. By all means questions should be asked about whether the abuse was personally ordered and coordinated by David Cameron, Alistair Darling and Blair McDougall, and those men should be challenged to "call off the dogs" without delay. Yes, that would be complete garbage, but it's precisely the sort of garbage we have to put up with as a matter of routine, so I fail to see why the other side should get a free pass.
And with the benefit of hindsight, I think it was a mistake to ask Campbell Gunn to make such an overly-generous apology to Lally - he should have simply made a curt apology for a minor factual error, and stuck to his guns about everything else. Being all goody-two-shoes about it was interpreted by the media as a sign of weakness - and as the saying goes, "no good deed goes unpunished".