Saturday, November 12, 2022

At last the pretence is stripped away - Wings Over Scotland reveals its true readership numbers, which average less than 60,000 per month or around 1% of the population, far less than previously implied

Well, never let it be said that politely challenging some of the more outlandish propaganda on Wings Over Scotland fails to elicit any results. Stuart Campbell was so furious about my previous post that it took only an hour or two for a trademark rant/meltdown to appear, and it actually includes a limited glimpse of some of his private stats for traffic to Wings, which as I suspected bear no resemblance to the impression he's been trying to give us for years of hundreds of thousands of people hanging on his every word on a daily basis. 

Ignore the bluster about SimilarWeb "understating" the number of visits to Wings, because as I pointed out, "visits" are including the same people over and over again in the same month. The key figure is the number of unique visitors, which shows an average of just 58,747 people visiting Wings per month between January and June of this year. I say "just", because those are obviously extremely healthy numbers by any normal political blogging standards - it's simply that they fall well short of the boasts.  A few weeks ago, Stuart was not only claiming that he had the most popular pro-independence website, but that it was slightly more popular than all of the other leading sites combined - which he painted as an unmitigated disaster for the Yes-supporting New Media, because it would mean the only site that is really visited is one that is "closed" (ahem).  I can now say with confidence that the second claim was untrue (the other leading sites in combination almost certainly exceed Wings by some distance), and I'm not even totally convinced about the first.  I wouldn't wholly rule out the possibility that either Craig Murray or Wee Ginger Dug average more than 60,000 unique visitors per month - they probably don't, but they may not be a ridiculously long way behind.

Scot Goes Pop itself has actually been in that ballpark at times - during particularly busy periods like elections and referendums, it has occasionally exceeded 40,000 unique visitors in individual months, especially between around 2015 and 2017.  In recent months, leaving aside August which was an extreme outlier on the low side, 10-15,000 per month has been typical (which is actually a significant dip on the average figures for 2021 - I have various theories about the reasons for that slippage).  So, again, as I suspected, the claims repeatedly made by Stuart have given a significantly false impression - Wings seems to currently have approximately five times as many readers as Scot Goes Pop, not ten or twelve times.  I would guess that Stuart may have also overstated the disparity between Wings and other middle-ranking sites such as Bella Caledonia and Believe in Scotland by similar degrees.

To try to make these numbers more meaningful, the average monthly readership of Wings equates to just over 1% of the population of Scotland.  However, in practice this means that the site almost certainly reaches less than 1%, because a significant portion of readers are sure to be based outwith Scotland.  And remember that many people will just be casual visitors who drop by maybe once, twice, or three times a month.  The true core of committed readers is bound to be much lower - I can only speculate, but let's say it might plausibly be around 0.1% of the Scottish population. That tells us a lot about why the "Wings Party" idea proved to be such a non-starter.  You might remember that Campbell was at one point dazzling his disciples with fantastical projections about how easy it would be for a Wings Party to take 10-20% of the Holyrood list vote, because the Wings website supposedly already had that kind of reach into the general population.  Simply not true.  Anecdotally, I do find that a lot of ordinary people are aware of the existence of Wings, but in terms of actual regular readers, it's much more of a 'cult' pursuit.  (I use that word in the sense that it's typically used about TV shows or films with a very passionate niche audience.)

Lastly, could I just thank Stuart for the superb comedy spectacle in the second half of his post, in which he explains at some length that the website he's posting on, and which he has just boasted about the immense popularity of, does not in fact exist, and has not existed since May 2021.  The space-time continuum may never recover from a contradiction like that.  As evidence of the non-existence of Wings Over Scotland, he cites the fact that he's only posted 95 blogposts on it since it "closed", which works out at just over one article every six days.  Well, say no more, Stu, clearly there is but a shapeless void where your website used to be.

(But actually, let's dispense with the straw man - the point I made was not about the last eighteen months, but about the first eleven days of November 2022, in which Stuart posted no fewer than *nine* times.  That looks very much like he's back to full-time blogging for the time being, possibly due in part to his boyish excitement at Elon Musk indirectly enabling his return to Twitter.)

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Friday, November 11, 2022

Newsflash, guys: There's no special rule that makes Wings Over Scotland immune from criticism

In the last few days, I have made two incredibly mild criticisms of Stuart Campbell.  Firstly, I pointed out that the SimilarWeb numbers he relies upon to portray his "closed" website as far more popular than the rest of the pro-indy blogosphere are simply not reliable or credible, and I set out the reasons why.  This is something I have a direct stake in, because he explicitly mentioned Scot Goes Pop in the relevant posts and tried to portray this site as having roughly one-tenth of the visitors that Wings attracts - which is unlikely to be true.  The only way we'd ever know for sure is if Mr Campbell reveals his own private stats to permit a direct comparison, but in a nutshell there are two issues with the SimilarWeb numbers - a) they seem to count the same visitors multiple times, which will artificially inflate the reported popularity of any site that essentially functions as a chat forum, and b) they're not real traffic numbers at all, but merely speculative extrapolations from what seems to be an extremely rudimentary 'panel' system.

And secondly, I very briefly pointed out on Twitter today that it's increasingly ludicrous for Mr Campbell to maintain the fiction that his site is "closed" when in fact he's published no fewer than nine blogposts on it over the eleven days since the start of November.  That, frankly, is just fair comment, and was crying out to be said by someone.

But I should have remembered one of the iron laws of Scottish politics: criticisms of Stuart Campbell, no matter how mild or obviously fair, are not permitted.  If you make any such criticisms, you will get an avalanche of nasty replies from his fan club, some of which will be downright abusive, but all of which will seek to pathologise the act of disagreeing with Mr Campbell in even the slightest way.  There's a rather scattergun approach to this process of pathologisation - some will say that any criticisms can only ever be motivated by "bitterness" or "jealousy at his success".  Some will say that you're being "immature" or "childish".  Some will say that you're "obsessed" and that you need to "chill".  Some will say that you need to stop being "divisive" or "picking fights with a fellow pro-indy blogger".

Hmmm.  Let me try and give these diehard fans of Mr Campbell a long-overdue crash course on the subject of perspective and self-awareness.  It comes in the form of a few questions.

* Mr Campbell repeatedly makes bitter and highly personalised attacks on Nicola Sturgeon.  When he does that, do you take him to task and tell him that he's just jealous about the fact that she's far more successful than he is?  (Whatever you may think of Ms Sturgeon, it's objectively undeniable that she's more successful - she's been the elected leader of Scotland for eight years, whereas Mr Campbell has thus far failed to translate his following into a political force capable of meaningfully influencing the direction of this country.) Or do you instead say "YEAH, YOU STICK IT TO HER, STU"?  Honest answers only, please.

* Two days ago, Mr Campbell described Pete Wishart as a "traitor" in a Wings headline.  Now, I'm no fan of Wishart, who has had me blocked for many years, but nevertheless I do not believe calling him a "traitor" is appropriate or responsible language.  So when Mr Campbell did that, did you tell him that he was becoming obsessed and needed to chill?  Or did you say "STU CALLED WISHART A TRAITOR - FANTASTIC, WOT A LEGEND"?  Honest answers only, please.

* A few months ago, Mr Campbell described a woman as "mercifully deceased" - quite possibly the most repugnant thing he's ever written on Wings.  When he did that, did you warn him that he risked damaging both his own reputation and that of the independence movement?  Or did you say "YEAH, PEOPLE LIKE HER ARE BETTER OFF DEAD, GREAT TO SEE STU TELLING IT LIKE IT IS"?  Honest answers only, please.

* At the start of 2021, Mr Campbell was so angry at the contents of this blog that he sent me an email out of the blue calling me a "c**t", and then tried to intimidate me into censoring readers' comments by getting his solicitor to send me menacing emails at the dead of night.  When he did that, did you tell him that he needed to stop being so driven by bitterness and petty revenge, and that it was sad to see him being so divisive and picking needless fights with a fellow pro-indy blogger?  Or did you ludicrously try to paint an abusive bully as the victim?  Honest answers only, please.

* On 1st November, Mr Campbell published the results of the most pathetically self-indulgent poll question that he's ever commissioned. (In fact it's possibly the most pathetic and pointless poll question that anyone at all has ever commissioned.)  It served no other purpose than to fuel his neverending feud with Kezia Dugdale, which is only a thing because he can't get over the fact that she defeated him in court a few years ago, albeit on a technicality.  When he did that, did you tell him it was time to stop being so immature and childish, and to grow up and move on?  Or did you say "DRAG HER TO COURT AGAIN, STU!  HOWEVER MANY TIMES IT TAKES!  MAKE WINGS GREAT AGAIN!"  Honest answers only, please.

Hopefully the point has been made.  And now that Mr Campbell appears to be back blogging full-time, I'm afraid the laughably hypocritical Twitter pile-ons are not going to deter me from critiquing future posts on Wings that are inaccurate or misleading, or that are destructive to the cause of independence.  For example, I discovered a few months back that Wings was the original source for the utterly baseless but frequently repeated claim that "support for independence among women has fallen 17% over the last few years".  He has also essentially lied to his readers by saying that overall support for independence has remained totally static for several years - complete with bogus graph.  (Yes, I know, those two claims are not even reconcilable with each other.)  I can fully understand why Mr Campbell's disciples want to browbeat me and others into letting his deceitful propaganda pass unchallenged - but that simply isn't going to happen.

Oh, and please note that the inevitable attempts to leave abusive comments on this blogpost will not succeed - pre-moderation of comments is still switched on.

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If you'd like to help Scot Goes Pop continue in some form, donations are welcome HERE.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

It's long past time to take a zero tolerance approach to the Trumpian lie that gender critical feminism is "far right"

Suing people for defamation is probably a luxury that only rich people can really afford, but if I was in that position I would be extremely tempted right now to take action against Mr Jérémie Fernandes - someone who I don't know from Adam, apart from what is written on his Twitter bio, which states he is "SNP Councillor for Elgin City North / SNP Group Business Manager / Information Professional  (he/him)".  I must say I find it hard to believe that people like this chap are really the best a party of 100,000 members can do in terms of local council candidates.

What he's tweeted ticks all the boxes for defamation - it's an intentional, bare-faced lie designed to wrongly and maliciously damage my reputation.  I have never, ever "asked for money from far-right activists".  I have of course fundraised, but I've done it on exactly the same basis as the SNP, ie. I've invited donations from the independence movement, which is generally centre-left and left-wing in character.  I suppose if you really look hard enough you can find a tiny minority of self-defined Yessers who are neo-fascist nutters, such as Siol nan Gaidheal - but, let's be honest, we all know that isn't what Fernandes is referring to.  He's talking about gender critical feminists, pejoratively known as "TERFs", many of whom have found a home in the Alba Party, of which I have been a member since last year.

The acronym "TERF" is in fact a helpful clue to the true nature of the people Fernandes is painting as fascists, because it stands for "Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist".  Radical feminists are generally found on the left of the political spectrum, not the right.  And feminists of no sort are found on the far right.  To paint left-wing progressives as "far-right" is, let's call a spade a spade, a Trumpian lie.  In fact, ironically it's a textbook example of the "Big Lie" propaganda technique pioneered by a genuinely far-right politician, namely Hitler's propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.

It's high time we took a zero-tolerance approach to this lie, regardless of the pedigree of the people pushing it (perhaps the most high profile and frequent offender is the Ochil & South Perthshire MP John Nicolson).

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Especially for Jérémie, here is the link to the ongoing Scot Goes Pop fundraiser.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Scotland getting the blame for the things Westminster have done to Scotland

I was thinking a bit today about the protests against the World Cup taking place in Qatar.  Of course there's one very obvious reason why it shouldn't be taking place there: the bid was only won due to corruption on an epic scale.  But if it wasn't for that, the issues would be quite complex and finely-balanced.  If we completely bar countries with poor human rights records from hosting major sporting events, then countries covering perhaps one half or more of the global population would be automatically excluded, which would arguably make a mockery of the whole concept of "international sport".  Some people would perhaps say that any awarding of an event should be conditional on changes in local laws, but in many cases the offending laws are very similar to ones that were in place in western countries as recently as a few decades ago.  Arguably it's a form of colonialism to expect developing countries to conform to our standards of right now and to say that even our standards of five minutes ago won't be good enough.

And that thought process suddenly reminded me of something.  Before I was banned from Stormfront Lite, I recall Tory posters repeatedly trying to brand Scotland a backwards, socially conservative country on the basis of the fact that male homosexual acts remained illegal here until 1980, more than a decade after the lifting of the ban in England and Wales in 1967.  There's just one little snag with that narrative: 1980 was nineteen years before the introduction of devolution, which meant that all of Scotland's laws - without exception - were decided solely by the English-dominated UK Parliament.  Exactly the same parliamentarians who decided male homosexual acts should be decriminalised in England and Wales opted to keep them illegal here.  Of course, once you point that out there's then the inevitable innuendo about how Westminster was powerless to act against the face of unsophisticated Scottish public opinion. Hmmm.  Have you ever actually noticed Westminster paying the slightest heed to Scotland-specific public opinion, as opposed to Britain-wide public opinion?  

And who held the power of initiative to legislate on Scotland-specific matters prior to devolution?  Why, that would be the Secretary of State for Scotland, who was not elected by the people of Scotland, but was instead handpicked by the British Prime Minister from the ranks of his own party, even if Scotland had voted for a different party.  No matter which way you cut it, British fingerprints are all over this supposedly "Scottish" point of historical shame.  Nor is this an isolated example of Scotland getting the blame for things that Westminster have done to Scotland - probably the most brazen one is the "Scottish deficit" we keep hearing so much about, which the Scottish Government has literally zero responsibility for due to a legal requirement to balance the books.  If it can even be reasonably described as a Scottish deficit at all, it's merely a nominally-assigned Scottish portion of a British deficit run up by British governments.

What other examples can we think of?

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If you'd like to help Scot Goes Pop continue in some form, donations are welcome HERE.

Monday, November 7, 2022

SimilarWeb Reality-Check for Stuart Campbell

For about the billionth time, Stuart Campbell has posted a comparison of the alleged readership numbers of the top pro-independence blogs and websites, supposedly to demonstrate what a miserable state the Yes-supporting New Media is in, but in reality to make yet another unsubtle boast about how his allegedly "closed" website is still leading the pack. (It's bloody peculiar that a self-styled "closed" website is regularly updated multiple times per month. Some might describe that as, well, y'know, rather an "open" sort of website on the whole.) I'm actually quite happy when he does this, because it helpfully confirms that Scot Goes Pop remains one of the top sites (and is competitive with multi-author sites such as Bella Caledonia, for example), but nevertheless I think the time has come to warn people that the data Mr Campbell is praying in aid is simply not reliable. 

I of course have access to my own private stats, both on Analytics and the Blogger platform itself, and they aren't even remotely reconcilable with Mr Campbell's numbers, which are taken from SimilarWeb. October actually saw the highest readership numbers for Scot Goes Pop since December of last year, but if you were to believe SimilarWeb, you'd wrongly think traffic had dipped to its lowest level for several months. Even more bizarrely, SimilarWeb claims that traffic was much, much higher in August than it was in September or October, which makes no sense at all, because I was barely posting in August.  My own stats show traffic was in fact 80% higher in October than in August.

The problem, of course, is that SimilarWeb does not have access to the real numbers.  It simply extrapolates from the browsing behaviour of its panellists, which will constitute only a tiny percentage of each site's overall readership.  If that by any chance produces figures that are "within the right ballpark", it can only be a very, very wide ballpark indeed.  Admittedly, some specific aspects of the SimilarWeb rankings seem intuitively plausible - I can imagine Wings may well be in first place and Wee Ginger Dug may well be in a strong second, but if we knew the real numbers, I wouldn't be at all surprised if some of the other rankings were very much wide of the mark.

I'd also be interested to know how SimilarWeb are counting "total visits", because if that isn't supposed to be synonymous with what we used to call "absolute uniques", ie. only counting each reader once per month, it may be giving a wildly distorted impression.  Wings has practically morphed into a readers' chat forum since its "closure", which means the same people are repeatedly "visiting" the same page over and over again to see if more comments have been posted.  To a lesser extent the same is true of Wee Ginger Dug.  That could be leading to a significant overestimate of the gap between Wings, WGD and the rest of the pack. (You might remember that back in the day Political Betting / Stormfront Lite was able to claim to be the UK's "most-read" political site due to its number of page views, even though Iain Dale had three or four times as many actual readers.)

I'd also just wryly note that Mr Campbell seems to have posted the SimilarWeb numbers for October almost instantly after they were published.  Is this the day he lives for every month?

UPDATE: I see SimilarWeb also claims that Wings Over Scotland has between 11 and 50 employees, is based in Glasgow (as opposed to, say, Bath), and produces annual revenues of between $2 million and $5 million.  Oh-kaaaaaaay...

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For the time being, the SNP still seem to be holding off the Labour challenge

I notice there's been a weird flurry of excitement on Twitter about the recent Scottish subsample from Redfield & Wilton showing Labour ahead of the SNP.  I don't know if I was indirectly responsible for that, because I did mention those figures in a blogpost.  However, I certainly can't take any blame for the ill-informed nature of the discussion about them, because I put in a very strong disclaimer pointing out that only 77 respondents were interviewed for the Scottish subsample, that the numbers were almost certainly not correctly weighted, and that there was therefore no cause for alarm from a pro-independence point of view.  

To put things in slightly fuller perspective, here are two other sets of Scottish subsample figures that have been published since that poll...

Opinium (2nd-4th November): SNP 42%, Labour 33%, Conservatives 13%, Greens 6%, Liberal Democrats 4%

Redfield & Wilton Strategies (6th November): SNP 37%, Labour 36%, Conservatives 20%, Reform UK 3%, Liberal Democrats 3%, Greens 2%

What these figures remind me of is the period immediately after the 2017 general election, when the SNP were briefly being seriously challenged for primacy in Scottish politics, but were for the most part just about holding on to their advantage.  The difference, of course, is that in 2017 there was a pincer movement from both the Tories and Labour, whereas this time the sole challenge comes from Labour - and indeed the Tories have lost a lot of ground since the last general election.  What might make the challenge go away would be a return to 'normality' at GB-wide level, because Scottish Labour seem to be mostly riding on the momentum generated by the pro-Labour swing down south.

With that in mind, it's interesting to note that there is evidence that the Labour surge at GB level has eased off just a touch.  Labour have been below 50% in five of the last six published polls, whereas in the previous six they had been below 50% in only one.

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If you'd like to help Scot Goes Pop continue in some form, donations are welcome HERE.

Finding the sweet spot that might just win us independence

On the previous thread there was a little exchange which once again crystallised for me the "scunnered middle" problem faced by the independence movement.  In a nutshell, the issue is this.  If you back the SNP leadership, to the hilt and without reservation, what you are doing is legitimising the following narrative -

"Everything must be absolutely perfect before we seek an independence mandate.  All the stars must be in ideal alignment, because we only get one more shot at this.  If we run away ten, twenty or a hundred times from actually trying to make independence happen, no matter how many decades may pass with Scotland still trapped in the United Kingdom, we are acting in the interests of the independence cause, because we are preventing a defeat that would kill it forever.  We must keep the flame alive at all costs."

The snag is, of course, that this supposed vital need to wait for perfection - something which is unattainable in this world and thus translates to indefinite passivity and inaction - just happens to coincide with the self-interest of parliamentarians who might be privately happy enough if independence doesn't become a real-world prospect until their own careers at Westminster come to a natural end and they've had a chance to reap the full salary benefits.  Even worse, there's an inter-related narrative that states that only the SNP leadership themselves have any role in adjudicating when this perfect moment has or has not arrived...

"Many things are known to the Leader that are not known to us.  We must trust in the Leader who is in a better place to judge than we are.  It is wise that The Plan is but known to a select few, because if The Plan is concealed from us it is also concealed from our enemies, who will fall victim to our advantage of surprise and will have no opportunity to find a strategy for counteracting The Plan.  There is no doubt that The Plan has been in place for many years and any apparent U-turns are premeditated tactical steps to hide the existence of The Plan."

This begs a couple of obvious questions.  If The Plan has been so cunningly hidden, why would it be obvious to us that it's there when it isn't obvious to unionists?  Logically, the non-existence of any plan is an equally compelling explanation for the events of the last few years.  And if there is indeed a revolutionary vanguard at the core of the SNP who are following some brilliant long-term strategy that has to be kept from us for our own good, why does Alex Salmond - who was leader of the SNP less than eight years ago - believe that there is no such vanguard and no such strategy?  What it boils down to is a type of circular quasi-religious faith - the vanguard and The Plan exist and therefore you must believe in them without evidence, because if you demand evidence you are helping our enemies.  Belief is everything.

And again, isn't this just remarkably convenient?  The cause and the Leader are one, and if you attack the Leader you attack the cause.  If the Leader does nothing to bring independence about, it's because she can see that perfection has not yet been attained.  Only she can make that judgement.  It is sufficient for the rest of us to simply Trust In Nicola.

(People may complain that I'm exaggerating to make SNP leadership groupies sound like a Dear Leader-style cult, but much of what I've written above is a very close paraphrase of tweets from loyalists such as "Scone of Destiny", or whatever he calls himself these days.)

So the conclusion is obvious.  There has to be some qualification for any support we give to the SNP leadership, because signing them a blank cheque leads to nothing - or just to an endless kicking of the can down the road and promises of jam tomorrow.

But if you try a more effective strategy to apply pressure on the SNP leadership and thus keep them honest, you quickly run into a different sort of narrative, which goes something like this...

"Now that you've realised that SNP MPs have got their snouts in the trough and that the leadership are betraying us, you know that we must destroy them completely.  What good are all these pro-independence MPs to us anyway?  We had an independence referendum when there were six SNP MPs.  We didn't have one when there were fifty-six.  Therefore, we're better off getting rid of them all and only having six pro-indy seats again.  Stands to reason, dunnit?"

Well, no, actually, it doesn't stand to reason, it's absolute bloody lunacy.  Being reduced from 56 to 35 MPs in 2017 was a horrendous setback for the independence movement.  Being reduced to six might finish us off for a generation.  The reality is of course that no-one honestly believes that only having six MPs would somehow help us win independence - the agenda for people who say these things is not actually independence at all, it's instead to destroy the SNP in an act of revenge.  In some cases that impulse is understandable - several people have been treated appallingly by the Sturgeon leadership and were subjected to spurious disciplinary proceedings while they were in the SNP.  But those of us who prioritise independence can't afford to go down the road of destruction for its own sake.

What is needed is a more nuanced approach.  Neither 'trust in Nicola' nor 'destroy the SNP'.  We need to find the sweet spot where we're applying effective pressure on the SNP leadership but stopping ourselves well before we reach the point where we're handing seats and power back to the unionists.  Without that sweet spot, either the SNP will take our votes and do nothing, or we'll blow up our own cause while unwittingly mocking ourselves with a celebratory cackle.  Neither of those outcomes strike me as great.

But I'm becoming increasingly despondent about there being enough people out there who have the remotest interest in threading the needle in the delicate and precise manner required.  Maybe it's something to do with basic human nature - people just want to pick sides.  They're determined to believe that Nicola Sturgeon is either some sort of infallible God or the enemy of independence.  Truth be told, she's neither. 

So what do those of us in the middle actually do when we feel increasingly squeezed by the extremes?  I know some would say "just opt out of the problem altogether and do your own thing campaigning for independence".  But if you think about it, that actually takes some of the necessary pressure off the SNP leadership, who for years have been telling us: "Just campaign for independence and don't worry your pretty little heads about process, that's a matter for your betters."

I suppose what I'm really saying is that I haven't found a satisfactory answer yet and I'm open to suggestions.

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Two very large donations (well, one very large, one absolutely enormous) came through to the Scot Goes Pop fundraiser on Friday.  You both know who you are, so huge thanks to you both - I was absolutely blown away when I saw the jump in the running total.  And also a million thanks to everyone else who has donated recently - it really is making a difference.