I've just been down with the lurgy for about a fortnight - I think it was two successive colds, and they were both absolutely wretched. So when I published the now-famous blogpost on Monday that revealed J K Rowling's misogynistic friend "Brian Spanner" had probably been in Ardrossan when he posted on Twitter on 7th July 2015, I didn't hang around to see the reaction - I turned off the computer, watched a DVD for a little while, and then had a nap. It wasn't until several hours later that I switched on my phone and discovered that all hell had broken loose in the interim, and that Ardrossan was the eighth highest trending topic in the UK on Twitter. My amusement at the whole thing gradually started to turn to concern when I saw a rather self-righteous chap called Scott Reid say this : "Somewhere (not Ardrossan, presumably), Nicola Sturgeon looks at her phone, silently screams and hits her head off a wall."
Now, don't get me wrong - I was absolutely clear in my mind that the blogpost had been fully justified. If certain journalists are deliberately giving the public a misleading impression of a story by withholding crucial pieces of information, it's vitally important to try to discover why they're doing that. However, I'm not naive enough to think that a justified action can never backfire, and I did accept the uncomfortable possibility that the SNP leadership might have preferred it if people like me had left well enough alone - even if that meant letting sections of the media get away with absolute murder. But thankfully, my fears that I may have unwittingly caused some damage were very quickly dispelled. Correct me if I overlooked anything, but my search for any news headlines the following morning about "Ardrossangate" drew a complete blank, even in Rowling-obsessed gossipy websites like BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post.
Scott Reid and his fellow spannersplainers might want to reflect on this irony : just as it's not possible for J K Rowling to be damaged by her association with Spanner if the media conveniently edit him out of the story, it was also never possible for "Ardrossangate" to harm the SNP in any way if journalists refrained from reporting it due to their determination to protect Spanner. The temptation must have been overwhelming to run mocking, distorted stories about a female Cybernat descending on Ardrossan with a detection-device in one hand and a pitchfork in the other - but, in view of the wider imperatives, they somehow managed to resist it entirely. I did spot one journalist from the local Ardrossan/Saltcoats paper say that he had considered writing a light-hearted piece about the subject, but had decided against it because no-one would have had a sodding clue what he was talking about.
And the wall of silence continues. Just a few hours ago, a news website ran a piece about Natalie McGarry's return to Twitter, and regurgitated the story of her spat with Rowling in a typically one-sided fashion. The misogynistic Mr Spanner was referred to several times - but only indirectly as an "anonymous tweeter", and never by name. I suspect that will have left anyone who doesn't use Twitter with the false impression that no name at all, even a fake one, was ever attached to Spanner's tweets. It drives a coach and horses through Jamie Ross' insistence that the reason Spanner had been edited out of events by journalists was that Rowling and McGarry were the only two people of interest in the story. As it turns out, he's important enough to be mentioned repeatedly, but he absolutely mustn't be named. Why? Spanner is a bogus identity, so there can't possibly be any credible privacy considerations. It's very, very hard to escape the conclusion that a decision has been reached that as little attention as humanly possible should be drawn to Spanner's Twitter account. OK, if members of the public are absolutely determined to locate it, they can't be stopped, but they're not going to receive any encouragement or assistance at all in that direction - presumably because of what they'd find when they get there (both in terms of the content of the account, and the prominent public figures who have very visibly interacted with him and continue to do so).
If there's an alternative spannersplanation, I'd be delighted to hear it from Scott Reid, or Professor James Chalmers, or Jamie Ross, or any of the others. But I have to say I'm really struggling to think of one.
Incidentally, I've been taking another look at this blog's stats. Here are the top ten most viewed blogposts, out of the 2500 or so I've written since May 2008 -
As you can see, two posts from the last couple of weeks, both about Spanner, are already in the top five for all-time page views. It seems that there are at least a good few thousand people out there who beg to differ when they're patted on the head by establishment figures, and told that they wouldn't be remotely interested in hearing the uncensored version of what the Rowling-McGarry dispute was actually about.