Monday, September 6, 2021

On the subject of harassment and manipulation in the name of "positivity" - and the vital need for pro-independence blogging to be truly *independent*

It seems to me there are two different types of life lesson.  There are the lessons you genuinely have to learn the hard way, and then there are the truths you kind of instinctively know from the start, but that are continuously reaffirmed by experience.  This is a blogpost about two lessons - one of each type.

The first lesson is one that I learned when I was 7 or 8 years old.  Every child that has ever been bullied at school has probably heard the same two clichés a million times - "if you just ignore them, they'll go away" and "all you have to do is tell a teacher, and they'll put a stop to it".  And of course, when you're a child, if lots of people are telling you exactly the same thing, you believe it must be true.  So you put the advice into practice, assuming that it's bound to work - and guess what?  It doesn't.  The teacher you confide in just goes through the motions by taking completely ineffective action, and if you raise the issue with them again, they shrug their shoulders because they've "already dealt with it".  And ignoring the bullies has precisely the opposite effect from the one you're told to expect - they're actually emboldened by your silence and passivity.

Eventually you reach a strange but inescapable conclusion - that the function of the clichés is not to help you, but instead to pass the blame onto you for the things that are happening to you.  If you're being persecuted, day in, day out, it's not the bullies' fault, and heaven forbid that it could be the fault of adults for failing to act - no no, it's your own fault for not taking the simple steps that everyone is telling you to take.

The second lesson is about independence - not about the independence of this country, but about independence of thought and action.  In 2010, about two years after I started blogging, I was invited by Mick Fealty of Slugger O'Toole fame to a conference in Edinburgh about New Media and related matters. It turned out to be the one and only time I met some of the better known bloggers of the period, including Duncan Stephen, Caron Lindsay and James Mackenzie.  The latter had recently given up his Two Doctors blog to join forces with Jeff Breslin and Malcolm Harvey in the group blog Better Nation.  And, indeed, one of the recurring themes of the day was that the days of the solo blog were on the way out, and that the future of blogging belonged to collaborative efforts.  I remember thinking that I fervently hoped that wasn't true, because to me, blogging was all about individual expression without being subject to editorial control or to less direct external pressures and influences.

And thankfully the predictions couldn't have been more wrong.  At least as far as the pro-independence New Media in Scotland was concerned, the next decade belonged largely to solo bloggers, while group efforts like Better Nation generally either failed or didn't quite meet their initial promise.  But nevertheless, even as a solo blogger there are constant attempts - some subtle, some less than subtle - to co-opt you into some kind of bigger 'machine'.  For example, it's occasionally suggested that there should be some form of centralised funding for the New Media - that instead of each outlet seeking its own funding, it should instead have to apply for funds. I once went to a meeting where it was "decided" that in future none of us would publish blogposts mentioning other independence supporters without notifying the person first - and I thought "hang on, when did I agree to hand over editorial control of my blog to a majority vote of other bloggers?"  An SNP press officer once asked me if it would be possible to get an article published on a certain high-profile English political website that I had written for before, and I said I'd give it a go, because I was an SNP supporter and of course I wanted to be helpful if I could. But it turned out that what he actually had in mind was that he would write a propaganda piece for me, and all I would do is put my name to it.  Apart from anything else, it was appallingly badly written and I would have been deeply embarrassed if anyone had thought it was mine. As far as I can recall, I didn't reply to him again, and I simply submitted my own original piece to the website instead.

My strong instinct has always been to guard my independence jealously, and each time one of these episodes occurs, it just confirms that my instinct is right - because, more often than not, the "centralisation" and "collaboration" masterplans really turn out to be an exercise in gate-keeping or manipulation.  They're ultimately about policing what you can and can't say, or straightforwardly putting words in your mouth. 

Which brings me to the fallout from the relentless campaign of harassment I've been subjected to over the last few months by a former prolific commenter on this blog - namely Ross Anderson, aka "Scottish Skier". The bulk of the harassment has been invisible to readers, because it happened after I turned pre-moderation on, and for the most part I simply didn't let his comments through - but every single one of them landed in my inbox.  It wasn't unusual to receive six or seven lengthy comments per day, many of them laced with extreme bitterness and presumptuous demands about how I should run this blog.  It reminded me of the redundancy of the old advice about "ignore bullies and they'll go away", because even though Mr Anderson was screaming into the ether (nobody apart from me was even reading his comments and I wasn't responding to them), he simply didn't stop. I kept expecting him to get bored and to 'defect' to a different lucky blog, but no, he just carried on pointlessly bombarding my inbox for weeks. He was like a hurricane that didn't blow itself out. Eventually he worked out a way of forcing me to pay him some attention - he vexatiously demanded a partial refund of an ancient £20 donation that had long since been spent in precisely the way promised.  I was recently left with little choice but to fully publish my side of the email exchange that ensued, because Mr Anderson cynically misrepresented that exchange in a number of comments on the Wee Ginger Dug blog.

And yes, that happened because Mr Anderson belatedly did what I had expected him to do several weeks earlier - he adopted another blog as his home.  Almost immediately, though, some of my own readers became concerned at the extreme nature of the claims that Mr Anderson was making about me in comments on Wee Ginger Dug - they felt that my reputation was in danger of being seriously damaged and urged me to post a public response.  Initially I was sceptical, but when I actually read the comments, I began to see their point.  So I did publish a brief reply on Scot Goes Pop - and that prompted an email message from the author of WGD, Paul Kavanagh, who I was still on good terms with at the time.  It was friendly enough, but I could tell he was unhappy that I had posted publicly and that he thought I should have spoken to him first.  So, when the attacks from Mr Anderson kept coming, I messaged Paul and let him know as a matter of courtesy that I was going to have to post another response.  I wasn't in any sense 'asking for permission' - nobody needs permission to respond to personal attacks made on them in a public space.  But as Paul had been upset by my actions before, I wanted to ensure that I observed every possible courtesy this time around.

The reply I received startled me. Paul basically instructed me not to post a public reply, and said that he and his moderators would instead deal with Mr Anderson privately.  He said that if I posted about Mr Anderson, it would simply provoke a retaliation, and make the moderation of Wee Ginger Dug an even more difficult task.  Every instinct in my body told me that I shouldn't allow someone to give me instructions about the content of my own blog - but I had a high regard for Paul, and he has of course been extremely unwell over the last year.  I didn't want to add to his problems, so I decided that, just this once, there was no harm in bending with the wind a little. 

"No good deed goes unpunished", as the saying goes. It turned out that the instructions didn't end there. A few weeks later, Paul messaged me again, this time attempting to lay down the law about the Scot Goes Pop moderation policy.  He effectively told me that, because the moderators on WGD had been protecting me, I was now honour-bound to give him similar protection by censoring the comments of "Independence for Scotland".  He made clear that I should not only prevent any criticisms of himself, but also any criticisms of Mr Anderson, because that would make life easier for his moderators.  This, it seemed to me, was a blatant attempt to manipulate me into subordinating the moderation policy of Scot Goes Pop to that of Wee Ginger Dug, and it just wasn't on.  However, I was very unsure of how to deal with the situation, because I had been placed in an almost impossible position.  I didn't reply for several days, and I used that time to take advice from friends and family, who agreed that there was no easy solution. Either I went along once again with what Paul wanted, in which case I was effectively surrendering editorial control of Scot Goes Pop, or I said no, in which case he was bound to react badly and that might destroy my relationship with him.

It was tempting just to pretend I'd never received the email in the first place, but that would have been the coward's way out.  In the end I tried to navigate the minefield by posting to ask IFS to stop criticising Paul, but making it clear that I was not going to censor any criticisms of Mr Anderson. That seemed like a reasonable enough compromise - but Paul immediately phoned me up to tell me that I had made matters worse.  He told me to delete the blogpost - an utterly extraordinary demand to make, and a sign that his attempts to control me were getting totally out of hand. I just laughed and told him that I would look ridiculous if I deleted a blogpost I had only just posted.

Mr Anderson then resumed his attacks on me in the comments section of Wee Ginger Dug the following day, with no sign of the fabled 'protection' from the moderators that had supposedly required a quid pro quo from me.  This culminated in Paul sending me what I can only describe as a thoroughly inappropriate and extremely angry email. He squarely placed the blame on me for Mr Anderson's behaviour, which he suggested was contributing to him feeling unwell, and told me that he was "frankly disappointed" at my "poor judgement" - once again implying that I should have deferred to him on editorial matters.  At that point, I realised that there was nothing to be gained from continuing to try to be diplomatic, so I made clear to Paul that his attempts to place the onus on third parties like myself to solve moderation problems on Wee Ginger Dug were completely ridiculous.  I pointed out that he and his moderators have all the necessary tools at their disposal to deal with commenters who displease them (unlike my own, Paul's commenting platform allows him to ban commenters outright). Asking me to self-censor to stop his awkward squad of commenters from being 'triggered' by what I write was as pointless as it was needless, because in many cases they're simply 'triggered' by the existence of the Alba party and by the fact that there are bloggers out there who dare to write in support of it.  I noted that WGD has become a safe haven for people to rant about anyone even vaguely associated with Alba - something which I had no complaint about, but there was no point in pretending it wasn't happening.  

I told Paul that I was genuinely very, very sorry (and I am) that he was feeling so unwell and that he'd gone through so much, but that there was simply no need for him to lash out at me or to try to manipulate me in the way that he had.  I stressed that I would not be adjusting the content of Scot Goes Pop, either above or below the line, to conveniently fit in with the moderation policy of another blog.

So this is yet another episode that has reinforced my ongoing belief that it's always best to insist upon blogging independence.  When the paternal arm comes over your shoulder, there's usually an agenda behind it.  In this case, the agenda seems to be about the synthetic notion that the pro-independence movement must be relentlessly "positive" (code for slavishly loyal to the SNP leadership) to win a referendum that as far as I can see is not actually taking place.  This idea of "positivity" does not of course preclude vicious attacks on Alba, who are "transphobic bigots" hellbent on "distracting" us all from the non-existent referendum campaign.  Right on cue today, we have yet another attack on Scot Goes Pop from Mr Anderson in the comments section of WGD (no sign of "protection" from the moderators thus far) which equates my support for Alba with "negativity", and attempts to prove using a dodgy chart worthy of the Lib Dems that I am losing readers because of it.

In case anyone is daft enough to take Mr Anderson's rather contrived propaganda seriously, there are four major flaws in it.  Firstly, I have not been posting anything like as much since the spring for the simple reason that the election is over, so a drop in traffic is inevitable, and has always happened before at similar times of the electoral cycle.  Secondly, the traffic figures he uses are not actually accurate figures, but are instead ball-park estimates taken from the website SimilarWeb, and which are miles out from the real numbers I can see for myself on Google Analytics. Thirdly, it's a bit bloody convenient that the only two pro-Alba websites he looks at are ones that have had fewer posts since the spring (myself and Wings).  Even the most cursory look at the remarkable recent viewing figures for the Through a Scottish Prism channel on YouTube gives the lie to any idea that support for Alba repels visitors.  And fourthly, even if it was actually true that being pro-Alba puts people off, here's the thing: I would still be pro-Alba anyway, because this is about principle rather than cynical calculation (admittedly that may be an alien concept for Mr Anderson).

Ladies and gentlemen, you're reading Scot Goes Pop, your fiercely independent pro-independence website.  And fiercely independent is exactly how it's going to stay, no matter how inconvenient that may be to anyone else.


  1. Bloggers tend to gave their fingers in the political pulse. With the honourable exceptions of Mike Small and PK . It's no coincidence they are getting paid by the National.

  2. James,

    We really appreciate your independence and integrity

    The attacks on you are completely wrong and tell us everything we need to know about the bad character of those attacking you.

    Don’t let them get you down (I know they won’t get you to abandon your principles)

    Best wishes

  3. Hi James tell Pay Pal Paul to take a hike.

  4. He...he...he told you delete a post? He what? You did the right thing by standing up to him.

  5. Absolutely appalling behaviour by Skier and WGD. It doesn't, however, surprise me. Remember this ill man (Kavanagh) found the time and energy to try to fit up Campbell for some fake assault. Whether you like Campbell or not and Kavanagh does not this is not the sort of behaviour any decent person should be undertaking - yeh and that includes Sturgeon and her gang trying to fit up Salmond.

    A blogger telling another blogger what to post and to delete a post. The arrogance is astonishing.

    There is no doubt that these moderators let these posts on WGD through because they wanted to and were never going to stick to your agreement with Kavanagh

    Not only a bunch of numpties on WGD but bad faith actors you cannae trust.

    Some of these SNP WGD numpties should go and have a read of Iain Lawsons Yours For Scotland blog to see what Sturgeon is doing to their party. But they won't because averting their eyes from the truth is all they can do.

    Stay independent and honest James.

  6. I see Ross Anderson is now appearing more frequently in the comments section of The National.

    1. Indeed - and ranting about me on at least a couple of occasions. I don't know how he finds the time to sleep or eat.

    2. Maybe he’ll calm down when the skiing season starts. It’s remarkable the extent to which Sturgeon loyalists are attacking Alba supporters. It’s as if they’re scared of something; independence, maybe?

  7. I don't always agree with you, James, but you are absolutely correct here. The creepy attempts at coercion and control running through Scottish society, from the Scottish Government down, are incompatible with a democratic society and utterly incongruent with what an independent Scotland should look like.

    You have the right to publish whatever you like in your own blog. WGD has the right to publish whatever he likes on his - even it it's to write essentially the same thing every day (unless this has changed in the last year or so - I haven't read his blog for ages).

    If BTL commenters want to dictate anyone's blog policy, they can start their own and see how they get on. And if bloggers want to police other bloggers, they should stick to what they are doing themselves.

  8. This sounds like an awful situation without any easy options. I don't agree with you on everything you write on SGP but that should not stop you writing your blog. If I don't agree your views then I should go somewhere else.

    The attempts to police what is said regarding the Indy movement are counter productive, its got to be a wide tent. Even though that means I don't like all the views of everyone inside here with me.

    So I guess I am saying you should ignore my opinion, don't know why I commented really..

  9. The only thing which will make Mr Kavanagh take notice is money. You won't get anywhere with Mr Kavanagh by playing nicely.

    He is jointly and severally liable for any defamatory comments made BTL on his site and were I you James I'd be instructing a solicitor to make that crystal clear to him and also to Mr Anderson.

    Re comments in The National made by Mr Anderson - if they're defamatory then Newsquest Media Group Ltd are jointly and severally liable for the content of those comments. I'd ensure that whatever "digital content" moron they employ to police comments is aware of that and bcc any emails to Newsquest Media Group Ltd's CEO.

    If you need a fundraiser to pay for legal action then I'm in. I can assure you I won't be the only one either.

    1. I'm not remotely interested in legal action (although I am still fundraising for polling). My view has always been that people are solely responsible for their own comments. As you might remember, I received an implied legal threat from Stuart Campbell's solicitor over Christmas because of a comment someone left here, and I thought that was pretty outrageous. So no, I won't be going down that road myself.

    2. That's fair enough James.

      However your view isn't reflected in Scots (or English) law so you've effectively given Mr Anderson carte blanche to continue saying whatever he wishes about you - on any platform he can find.

      Rather sounds like the "if you just ignore them, they'll go away" section of your bully analogy. IME People like Mr Anderson don't "go away" until the legal consequences of their actions are made absolutely clear to them.

      Your choice as its you he's defaming.

    3. Some of his comments probably are technically defamatory, but my view is that as long as I have the right to reply and to set the record straight, that's all that matters. The only thing I object to is being told to shut up.

    4. But the thing is you DON'T have the right to reply - not where the defamatory comments are made anyway. You're relying on people coming here to set the record straight.

      Anyway, enough said.

    5. What I mean is the right to reply *here*. Paul tried to stop me doing that, which was ridiculous. I think I did once have a reply to Skier deleted by the WGD moderators, but I have no problem with that. Paul is free to set his own moderation policy, but not to set mine.

  10. Hello James, I genuinely hope my part in ridiculing the fantasist Skier is not in any way responsible for his vexatious pursuit of you on another blog. However, your site is much more readable btl without his multiple posts to plough through.

    WGD seems to have become the last stand for SNP loyalists. I can't think of any other indy blog which offers the same level of uncritical support to the present leadership. Most bloggers, like yourself, have abandoned the party under Queen Nicola. All of  these bloggers were passionately pro-yes in 2014 yet nobody on WGD questions why they are now 'outside the SNP tent'. 

    I stopped reading PK when he tried to involve himself in allegations of sexual abuse against Stuart Campbell and only returned to it to see what IFS was saying about Skier. Unfortunately, one can't get on to debunk Skier's nonsense as PK's moderation policy allows only the ultra loyal to comment. But take heart, anyone who has to put up with SS for a few weeks soon realises the man is as mad as a bucket of frogs! 

    1. Yes, I agree with your last comment, I said a few weeks ago that whichever blogger Skier latches onto next will live to regret it. Maybe not this week, maybe not this year, but at some point Skier will turn on Paul. It's a predictable pattern.

      "I genuinely hope my part in ridiculing the fantasist Skier is not in any way responsible for his vexatious pursuit of you on another blog."

      No, I don't think so, in fact I always enjoyed your 'Skier bingo' posts. What was it, "Both votes SNP, I have an Irish passport, I have a French wife..."

  11. Oh the French wife and Irish passport still get an airing on WGD. Skier's nothing if not predictable as well as ludicrous.

    1. On the plus side, none of us will struggle to think of a specialist subject for Mastermind.

  12. Good for you. Stay Independent of mind and of actions. Individuals will always try to upset you or to misrepresent you. I hope in future you will continue to be assertive in dealing with these numpties.

    More power to your elbow (or typing fingers, or whatever!)

  13. On a positive note ( Kavanagh and his doggers will be happy ) congratulations to Catriona Mathew and her team in winning the Solheim cup for the second time in a row. Due to Covid nearly all the crowd were supporting the USA but against the odds they got the job done. Good to see a Scot succeeding on the international sporting stage.

  14. Young James you should reward yourself with a giant milkshake. You were always staunch for truth in your funny little way. Skier was my evil twin.

  15. Stick to your principles and keep on posting.

  16. I didn't watch Sturgeon this pm.

    I bet she said for the nth time since the EU referendum that there will be a Scottish independence referendum. I also bet Kavanagh said it was the best thing since sliced bread was invented and there will be a referendum. I also bet the WGD numpties got all excited for the nth time. Numpties will be numpties. If I hadn't read some of the stuff they posted about Salmond I might feel sorry for them.

    Meanwhile, Sturgeon will get on with the day job of turning Scotland into an authoritarian nightmare so that she can hold on to power for as long as possible. 14 years she has been in Government.

    As energy bills go through the roof in Scotland I also bet she didn't apologise for not delivering the low cost energy company for Scotland that she promised 4 years ago.

    1. I have now heard Sturgeons speech and looked at the WGD take on the speech so how did my bets do.

      1. Sturgeon said for the nth time there will be a referendum. Tick.

      2. Kavangh said it was the best thing since sliced bread was invented and there will be a referendum. Tick.

      3. The WGD numpties get all excited for the nth time. Only a part tick here. The numpties weren't that over excited. Are even the numpties starting to realise they are being conned. I mean even the WGD numpties have some sort of a brain - don't they?

      4. I bet she didn't apologise for not delivering the low cost energy company that she promised 4 years ago. Tick. Not a word on this matter.

      On the matter of independence which is SUPPOSED to be what the SNP is all about there were a few words early on and that was it. A referendum subject to COVID. Covid is now in charge of Scottish peoples right to self determination. Now I am in favour of public libraries but there was more on this than how and when a referendum will take place. The old gold standard excuse has been put in the bottom drawer for now ready to be pulled out if the Covid excuse is no longer feasible.

      Of course Dross thought the speech was all about independence - pretty much just like Kavanagh.

      It's all a scam.

      There was a lot of good stuff in the speech. How much can you rely on Sturgeon to deliver on? Who thinks she will actually deliver a National Care System? She certainly won't deliver on the recommendations of the Parliamentary Inquiry in to her actions in persecuting Salmond. That was not mentioned - surprise surprise. That report and Hamiltons report have had the full redaction by John ( Redactor Man) and are in the drawer marked not to be opened for 100 years.

      Oh and they want to look at getting rid of " not proven" verdict. Wonder why that is now all of a sudden. My new bet is the persecution of Salmond continuing by Sturgeon and her gang all the way through this Parliament. Strangely enough that wasn't in Sturgeons speech.

      It makes me sick seeing Angus Robertson sitting there grinning.

      Sturgeon will NEVER deliver independence but she will deliver trouble and strife

  17. Stick to your principles, James. I know that the views you are expressing are honestly held, and I value that, as I'm sure most of your readers do.

  18. Why do I think that there is more to WGD than meets the eye?

    An interesting account of your difficulties with WGD, seems to consider himself somewhat elevated above being a blogger.

    Wings being in retirement we need you and Ian lawson to keep us informed and motivated.

  19. Misgivings of WGD I've for some time.

  20. More power to your elbow James. Independence is key to integrity, at all levels. Your blog remains one of the must reads of the Yes Media.


  21. Well said, and keep up the good work.

  22. Very O/T. There is a Panelbase poll in the field that a friend sent me screenprints of the questions (which look like Sunday Times commissioned) today. We will hear at the weekend no doubt as to the results.

  23. Every one of Skiers graphs on WGD look like a ski slope/jump. I wonder where Skier got the idea from. All they are missing is a wee drawing at the top of them showing Eddie the Eagle.

  24. The current top contender for WGD numpty quote of the week comes from barpe. Now I'm guessing this is the same person who used to post here on SGP as barpe49. Seems he realised telling everyone his IQ is 49 is not a good idea. I could be wrong it could be son/daughter of barpe.

    " I'm delighted that John Swinney is to lead this endeavour, a sure footed politician, who will be more than up to the job.
    It is signalling that Indyref2 is not too far off - good!!" says barpe.

    Of course barpe in his optimistic burp completely ignores the fact that Derek McKay was supposed to provide a replacement GERS many years ago. The growth commission is also in the do not open for 100 years drawer.

    Barpe what it signals is that numpties like you will keep on believing anything they are told by Sturgeons gang and keep on forgetting anything older than 6 months ago.

    1. Well the competition between WGD NUMPTIES hots up with this from the well kent liar Scottish Skier.

      " Does very much look like ex-pat Scots/new English in the South of England were lying and the SNP do want independence soon."

      You really cannae keep a good WGD numpty down can you. Let's look at this statement:

      the SNP want independence - evidence for this - Nicola says so.

      soon - evidence for this - Nicola says when Covid crisis is over - the numpty Skier is therefore forecasting Covid will be over soon. Whatever soon actually means.
      Numpties will be numpties.

  25. I watched Alasdair Allan ( ultra loyal Sturgeonite) go through his farce of a challenge to Dross at Sturgeons programme for Government speech. I thought a plague on both your houses but then realised that doesn't work as we already have a plague on all houses.

    Allan is the sort of unthinking Sturgeon loyalist MSP who if Sturgeon said all first born of Scots must be killed at birth he would be first to jump up and ask for a date when this is to start. Asking for a date from Sturgeon when this holy grail of an independence referendum will happen - nae chance from Allan or any of the rest of the SNP MSPs - craven cowards the lot of them.

    Sturgeons Scotland.