Friday, June 13, 2014

Is it time for the Yes campaign to play hardball against gutter journalism?

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".


  1. James, can't agree with the "fight fire with fire" remark. I don't think the debate should be staged in the "gutter" we have the best and positive case and we will win the argument. Lets be alert by all means to misrepresentation and lies, and lets rise above it and be a NATION again.

  2. And it's as though every online political debate up to this point has been conducted with Sunday school manners. Nobody ever called anyone a Tory expletive or a commie pejorative or compared them to Stalin or Hitler or anything like that, oh no. It is uniquely the independence debate which has provoked this torrent of 'bile and bigotry'. Aye, right. Funny how it seems to have thinned some people's skins overnight.

  3. Stuart, for the life of me I can't see the point in being "alert to misrepresentations and lies" if we don't plan to do something assertive when we spot them. And I hope I made it abundantly clear in the post that I'm not suggesting for a moment that we should fight this campaign in the "gutter" - I'm saying that this particular smear tactic by the No campaign and the anti-independence media is a special case, because if the mud sticks it could undermine our positive message. That's why it needs to be tackled head on.

  4. Where does the 21% come from?

    Looks higher in the tables?

  5. The Record has always been a joke paper when it comes to politics and now exists mostly on the strength of it's football/sports coverage as well as the diminishing supply of diehard Labour voters who lap up all the Labour propaganda. Which will hardly stop their circulation from continuing to nosedive.

    Fact is they have a revolving door at the Record between scottish labour politicians/advisers and reporters. They were forced to restructure at the beginning of the year with fairly sizable layoffs. Trinity put in new editors at the Record and Sunday Mail who now answer to previous editor Rennie under the umbrella of "media scotland".

    The Record is also owned by Trinity Mirror so as I pointed out several years ago they have almost as high a moral ground to pontificate from as News UK do. (previously News International before the 'rebrand')

    There are far worse things to be guilty of than an idiotic tweet from an internet troll as Trinity may well find out in due course.

    I'll say it yet again in case it's significance was missed before. UKIP was thoroughly monstered by the media and labour/tory politicians and it backfired completely. Yet EVEN THEN they didn't stoop so low and get so desperate as to try and manufacture outrage from a few random f***ing idiots on the internet.

    These tactics are a massive signal that blind panic is now setting in to the No campaign just like it did in 2011. The Record (for those who may have forgotten) was positively foaming at the mouth when all their attacks fell on stony ground and the end result was that they had to watch the SNP win a landslide despite everything the Record threw at them.

    That said, I would welcome at least some kind of pushback from Yes by having Sturgeon point out all the death threats and abuse that has been endured by leading Yes politicians and Yes supporters.

    A simple statement of just how many pro-unionist papers there are endlessly villifying those who support an Independent scotland would certainly not go amiss either.

    Pointing out that the pro-unionist media have an ovewhelmingly one-sided playing field and a very public megaphone from which to blast their hatred and propaganda should really be a standard response by now for the Yes campaign. The obvious truth of it is as devastating to the labour/tory NO campaign as the anti-democratic implications of it.

  6. I also apologise for bringing this up again but to be frank I can think of few more stark examples of just how poorly served the scottish public are by their incompetent and biased media than this one.

    Prominent 'Better Together' spokesman and strategist John McTernan is now calling for UK troops to be sent back into Iraq.

    Yet where on earth is the wall to wall outrage in the media at that jawdropping suggestion after the Iraq catastrophe? You think if a prominent Yes spokesman said we should send young scottish servicemen and women back in to the slaughterhouse that would pass by with no media sh*tstorm? Hardly.

    So instead the scottish media continue to hunt for random internet idiots and ignore the enormous implications of Iraq imploding and the US beginning to mull over 'strategic options' while not ruling any course of action out.

    I think those of us in scotland who opposed the colossal Iraq stupidity can certainly rule something out for good. Not to trust westminster politicians on the subject ever again or to keep us out of another endless bloody quagmire.

    1. I agree wholeheartedly! This is where the media are a real disgrace. Not just the insults for paltry things but the non reporting of huge things!

  7. Iraq again, seriously?

    If we had a slightly unbiased megia that would be handing us the referendum on a silver platter:

    Don't want our sons and daughters dying for America's war? Vote for Independance from Westminster!

    C'mon, that's a gimmie.

  8. From the Sunday Express article:

    "However, our exclusive poll today shows that more people are actually being bullied or threatened in person – and pro-independence supporters are more likely to be the victims.

    The Survation survey of 1,002 voters, carried out on March 6 and 7, found that 13 per cent – which would extrapolate to around 550,000 Scots – have been on the receiving end of such vile abuse, either online or face-to-face.

    Men were twice as likely to have been harrassed than women and a staggering 30 per cent of those aged 16 to 24 have been threatened in this way.

    In a worrying development for the Better Together campaign, 21 per cent of those planning to vote Yes have received abuse or threats compared to just eight per cent of those planning to vote No."

    This article really needs to be given as much publicity as possible, so let's start pushing the link.

  9. This is just a measure of the proportion of yes and no voters though.

    Say a 60/40 split between yes and no. A fixed percentage (say 1 in 6) on both sides hurl abuse at an individual on the other side.

    In that case 10% (1 in 6 of the NO's) hurl abuse at YES campaigners. With less YES campaigners to share the abuse, a higher proportion are on the receiving end. In this case 1 in 4 (10% of the 40% yes) get abused.

    The other way round, 1 in 6 of the YES supporters fire off abuse in turn - this equates to just under 7% hurling abuse at the NO supporters. With more NO supporters to share the abuse, just over 1 in 10 NO supporters get abused (7% of the 60%).

    The greeks worked this out millennia ago as the advantage of using ranged weapons rather than one-on-one battling. If you had 100 (1 in 10) archers firing at 200 opponents, and they only had (1 in 10) 20 archers firing at your 1000 men, you would inflict much more damage than the proportion of your armies would suggest.

  10. All this tosh is to stifle debate. Simple.

    We have to read or watch twisted stories day ind day out and many people are finding it all a put off. Does this help any in the referendum campaign ? I'm not so sure. Folk , me included can have our daft moments, but when the time comes we will vote using our heads. Most folk have been through this drivel for years now and hardly give it much thought.

    For me , i was angry at the hypocrisy of the BT mob. They have lied and scared voters since day one ( project fear says it all). But now a day or two later it's just old news .

    The YES campaign has been positive throughout and is a winning formula and thats the way it will stay. The tactics of scares and bullying will be blown over and we should get on to more important matters such as getting the YES message across.

    Spending time on the negatives only makes it easier for the BT mob to have a voice. Forget it and move on.

    P.S. I understand folk getting angry. I have spent the last few days shouting at the telly myself but were spending too much time on this and the real message is being lost in claim and counter claim.

    After the vote we will see what happens. We're winning , BT have nothing else.

  11. "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."

    I agree and thought so at the time. Too many in the YES campaign live in an ivory tower and are still ready to believe that Cybernats are the main menace when the rest of us know the UKOKS are worse. The YES campaign DOES need to take a stronger line about it because a lot of YESSERS are becoming fed up and losing enthusiasm due to the lack of response from the YES campaign.

    If we don't act to stand up and counteract the abuse the field will be left to the NOs which is what they are trying to achieve. And it is a sorry shame that many YES folk still don't realise that.

  12. Anon : Even if you look at the absolute numbers the disparity is still there. No fewer than 85% of people who had suffered online abuse were Yes supporters, as were 69% of people who had suffered abuse of any sort.

  13. The reason that these stories are important is that there was a little sense that the Record's stance on independence was changing.

    It was running a few less attack stories without actually being positive. This feels like the owners taking the position back. It may be desperate but it may also be effective.

    Love or hate the Record, it has its consistuency. And, if working class Labour voters don't come across then the result is pretty done and dusted.

  14. Thankfully, as Mick points out above, there is already a precedent of working class voters not doing as they were "instructed" by the Record.

  15. Sorry James. I can't really accept that you should write off something as 'well the guys don't really listen'. Some do.

    What we know is that the media are popularity whores - given enough reason they will completely reverse their stance.

    Better to have them with you than agin you.

    I guess we all now believe that this vote could be very, very close. In those circumstances, every heart and mind counts.

  16. "Sorry James. I can't really accept that you should write off something as 'well the guys don't really listen'."

    I didn't say that. But I'm not sure how fatalism helps - we can't control the Daily Record's stance, but there are plenty of other factors that will decide working class votes that we do have control over.

  17. Anon,
    good luck with that on the doorsteps. The NO campaign created and pushed this particular fallacy (along with all the other nasty little YES racist, fascist, mysogynist, etc. etc.. inventions)

    This particular Sunday Express (Sunday Express FFS) article and Survation poll, used properly on the doorstep, could be political cryptonite!

    JKR and Claire Lally, exposed as attempting to, at best monopolise and at worst, deny a voice to fellow 'victims' of vile internet abuse for purely personal political motivations.

    Out in the real world, for 'ordinary mothers' and the 'ordinary public' that's just simply disgusting and hypocritical.

    Something DougDaniel said the other day really struck true to me.

    He noted that the media campaign was being conducted in the manner that politicos and journalists conduct 'normal' politics. That is as professionals. Spit bile and venom while the cameras are running or curtains are open, but then happily share a joke and a pint when the shows over and things get back to the day to day 'of the usual channels'.

    We the great unwashed are not professionals and are not enured to the day to day compromise and sell outs required to live within the confines of the party political ruling elite. We are not politically 'sophisticated' and will not (most cannot) simply forget these filthy, full on accusations of fascism, racism, bigotry and mysogyny.

    Many of us have spent a lifetime opposed to those exact same societal evils and now face a branding with them, from the self same establishment that has historically fed, nurtured and cynically perpetrated them as a political tool of control throughout the globe.

    What's next, accusing the YES campaign of inventing the Nuclear bomb and dropping it on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?!

    (Shouldn't give them any ideas }8-0)


  18. @Iain.
    I don't think you understand what is really going on. The media aren't " popularity whores - given enough reason they will completely reverse their stance."
    They are working for the British State to keep hold of 'their' Scottish assets. They couldn't give a fuck about popularity.

  19. @Iain.
    I don't think you understand what is really going on. The media aren't " popularity whores - given enough reason they will completely reverse their stance."
    They are working for the British State to keep hold of 'their' Scottish assets. They couldn't give a fuck about popularity.

  20. SNP go FAV in Gordon (LD Maj = 6,748)

    SNP 5/4 (from 11/8)
    LD 6/4 (from 11/8)
    Lab 7/2 (n/c)
    Con 20/1 (n/c)
    100 bar


  21. Iain is right in that there did seem to be a slight softening of the Record's political stance a while back but I think it needs to be stressed how the Record, and indeed the scottish Sun, operate.

    I'm certainly not dismissing the Record's reach into scotland's working class. That's very real and you'd better believe it also applies to the scottish Sun. However, you need to ask yourself why they have that reach and what it is they offer.

    The restructuring this year I highlighted was a classic case of it as those who were promoted to editorial and even higher positions have a deep background in sports reporting. Trinity know perfectly well what gets working class punters buying their papers. So apart from that small percentage of diehard labour supporters who lap up the political stuff your average guy grabbing a record on his way to work turns it to the back pages when gets to his teabreak. I should know, I was one of them once upon a time when I was working on a backshift. The canteen was always full of guys scrutinising the back pages of the Sun or Record to catch up on the football and other sports. That wasn't a small minority it was the norm.

    What has changed forever since those days is that a guy on building site or in the factory canteen can now turn on his mobile and read or even watch sports coverage as it happens for free. That's a massive blow to the likes of the Record and the Sun and they absolutely know it. They'll still get by for a wee while yet since some guys will always want to have the hardcopy paper to turn to the back, but the Record and the Sun certainly aren't relying on their somewhat comical political coverage to keep hold of that kind of core reader. Which is why they still promote from the Sports section.

    It's also a two way street because a good few of those sports reporters from the Record, the Sun and other papers have ended up in Ibrox, Celtic park and elsewhere working in various capacities like communications.

    The other tabloids who rely on celebrity gossip to capture their core readers promote from their celebrity gossip columns. You have two very glaring examples of this extremely common practice waiting on a verdict right now.

    So to cut a long story short, you can forget about the Record backing Independence but the Record can also wave cheerio to a great many more readers as you need only look at the scotsman's continuing precipitous decline to appreciate that when papers become nothing more than an tedious and shrieking propaganda arm for a political party then the readers can and will just go elsewhere.

    If the coverage of the world cup, commonwealth games, Ryder cup and league games get's sidelined and weakened for yet more campaign propaganda bullshit like today, then the Record had better get it's excuses ready when the next round of layoffs happen, as they most assuredly will.

    Witness also the three Westminster twats Cammie, Clegg and little Ed posing witlessly with the Sun's special free world cup edition. I still don't yet know what those three were promised as a reward for that endorsement but it's going to come out eventually so they had better get their excuses ready. They didn't just do that for them to try (and hilariously fail) to appear like the everyday football fans only an idiot would ever believe they were. They could have done that kind of pitiful posturing in the TV studios or with any other paper they chose.

    So what exactly was the offer they couldn't refuse? I wonder...

  22. Juteman, it's not that they don't give a fuck about popularity, (they do) it's that they have to walk a line between pleasing the media barons and their political sponsors and not going out of business.

    If the pressure from above to supply a political line is overwhelming, like it is for their rabidly unionist stance on the Independence referendum, then they will give over front page coverage usually reserved for far more punter friendly splashes. Make no mistake though, they will pay a heavy price for that and at a time when they are fighting harder than ever to keep circulations from plummeting.

    The record still fairly frequently gives their paper away for nowt as an amusing trick to boost those all important circulation figures. Those numbers matter and are all that keeps advertisers from reconsidering how to get the best spend when new media are offering them a huge outreach and at pretty cheap prices in comparison.

    Another example of when an overly political stance drops a paper right in the shit is Dacre and his stupidity over little Ed's dad. (the man who hates britain stuff) The Mail paid heavily for that as did Dacre himself. Rothermere had to step out of the shadows and became the story when his own families past friendship with a certain Adolf Hitler went viral. Lord Rotheremere was none too pleased at this, funnily enough. Dacre managed to make his own paper and, even more damaging for Dacre, his own boss look a complete laughing stock for no other reason than his desire to stomp his subtle as a brick political agenda all over the front pages.

  23. van Persie, an absolute belter.

    Anyway, as an amusing half-time quiz for Scot Goes Pop readers which shows how everything is connected...

    Which former AFC Wimbledon footballer is at the heart of the longest criminal trial in English history?

    Here's a couple of amusing pictorial clues.


  24. So what exactly was the offer they couldn't refuse? I wonder...

    Scottish Sun to back an iScotland ;-)

  25. Hello
    Sorry to bother folks and this is probably not the right place to
    post this but on subject of abuse on internet there was an
    interesting story on STV news on 12 June entitled
    "Man sent independence campaigner anti-Catholic threat on
    A threat was sent via facebook to a pro independence supporter.
    The poster ended being taken to court and fined £200 pounds.
    The link for the story is
    My apologies for butting in to folks conversation but as far as
    internet abuse goes it was a unionist that was guilty here.
    Thought you might like to know.
    Have never posted on website before so apologies if I have not
    inserted link properly

  26. Don't worry, you weren't butting in, everyone is welcome to comment!

  27. And there was heard a great weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth from the separatists.

  28. Labour spin doctor and frequent 'better together' spokesman John McTernan was back on newsnight very vocally beating the war drums to send UK troops back into Iraq.

    He was also joined by former Tory defence secretary Liam Fox who explicitly said the US and UK should not rule out military intervention including boots on the ground in Iraq.

    I know plenty of Yes campaigners who are going to be using these two chickenhawk imbeciles as 'better together' posterboys from now on and quoting from them heavily as we campaign on the ground.

    They are an absolute gift.

    Though to be fair, it's not as if the scottish public trust incompetent westminster liars on Iraq anyway. They hardly need any persuading that the likes of Cammie or little Ed would eventually join in another bloody quagmire and poodle along with whatever a U.S. President told them to do.

    Poor old 'better together' and their tory/labour cheerleaders. The out of touch Westminster incompetents don't seem to have a clue just how toxic a subject Iraq is for them and the No campaign on scotland's doorsteps. They'll find out soon enough.

    And there was heard a great weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth from the BritNat twits.


  29. Good thing is we've finally confirmed what Ed's 'One [Tory] Nation' is. When he gave his first speech on this I had an inkling from the way he kept talking about Scots in the third person. No need to ponder any more.

    Ties in with the blue fading to white with St. George's cross increasingly resplendent.

    Can't help but feel the three of them all smiling with the Sun is about more than the world cup either.

  30. I was abused in the streets of glasgow for having a yes wristband on. It didnt quite go their way when the verbal turned into them throwing punches at me. 1.2 game over. I not happy i had to do that but i had to protect myself. Got a cheer from the grannies watchin outside the butchers lol.

  31. I know that not everybody is quite as intelligent as Ed Milliband but why has nobody pointed out the beleeding obvious.

    People are more likely to vote Yes if Cameron is heading for a return to Downing St. But if there is a No vote then it makes PM Cameron a certainty as he will be the hero who saved the Union after labour's failed devolution experiment almost broke it.

    People shouldn't be told vote no and risk getting the Tories back but vote no and you guarantee a Tory government.