Monday, 6 May 2013

Three Tweets

I've been caught up in a bit of a twitter storm over the last twenty four hours.

I'll come to the cause in a moment.

I'm a great twitterer and I very much enjoy it. You can exchange views with all and sundry about everything from food to football to what's on the telly. And of course there is a lot of politics where people of opposing views will express strong opinions which, even if you don't share them, are accepted to be sincerely held. Including a lot of very good people who believe in the cause of Scottish Independence.

But, to be honest, there is one group who spoil the Party and that is a small group of Nationalists collectively known as the cybernats by even the more sensible on  their own side. Almost all anonymous, I suspect with multiple twitter identities, they will every so often go into overdrive about some supposed offence to their Party or (particularly) its leaders. And they do so without any regard at all for the facts.

My first experience of this was about a year ago. John Swinney was on Newsnight and repeated the falsehood that the reason that the Referendum was in the second half of the Parliament was because that had been in the SNP Manifesto. Kez Dugdale was on for us and tried to make that point but the format prevented her from doing so and I posted a tweet observing that Swinney had been lying. I then went to bed.

The next time I looked at my timeline I was beseiged by cybernat comment that I was lying. That Mr Swinney had said no such thing and that I should apologise to him. Much of this was mixed in with personal abuse directed at me.

I was so taken aback at the vehemence and certainty of this attack this that I began to doubt myself. Perhaps I had misheard or misunderstood Swinney's remarks? Perhaps I would find myself obliged to make a withdrawal, embarassing though that might be. So, eventually I looked at the debate again on the iPlayer and Swinney had in fact said exactly what I had alleged! I pointed this out, even posting a link to the actual programme but still the abuse continued, I can only assume in the hope that most twitterers would not have time to look at the link. This went on for days and even weeks or months later would make the occasional reappearance describing me as the man who had lied about John Swinney. I remain utterly bemused by the whole incident except to say that it worried me that patent and easily verifiable truth seemed to be of no consideration in the attack.

I've been through this again over the last 24 hours. Yesterday I published my usual Sunday blog and one, perfectly sensible, Nationalist tweeted that I seemed to making a case against a No vote. In moments I responded.

Better 100 years of the Tories than the turn on the Poles and the Pakis that would follow independence failing to deliver.

Now, you can agree or disagree with that sentiment and, with the benefit of hindsight, I should have put the words "Poles and Pakis" in quotation marks for it is clearly a sentiment I was ascribing to others. I also accept that, for some people, even when put in the mouths of others the "P word" is never acceptable. But I did not for a moment expect the hysteria that has followed. I myself have been accused of being a racist. An Anti-Pakistani racist; an anti-Scottish racist; even, it appears an anti-SNP racist, whatever that is. And that is the least of it. One cybernat even attempted to report me to the Police over twitter! More worryingly, words have been put into my mouth which I have never uttered and then condemned as wholly unacceptable. Which they would have been had I said them.

Throughout I have attempted to make the simple point that the part (and it is only a part) of the Nationalists support that currently blame the English for all our woes, would, inevitably, on finding that Independence is not a cure for all our ills, look round for somebody else to blame. All historic precedent suggests that will be an internal minority as it was, to a greater or lesser degree of seriousness, for the Jews and Gypsies in Hungary; for the Anglo-Irish in de Valera's Ireland; for the Russians in the inter-war Baltic Republics and indeed for the Asians in Uganda. It is the inflated hopes that (some) have for Independence: the automatic eradication of poverty; full employment; the reversal of all benefit cuts; the insulation from all world economic factors and, on top of that, tax cuts all round, that leads one to the inevitable conclusion that many of these hopes would  be dashed. After all, in the small print, the best claim that the SNP themselves make is that we'll all be £500 better off. Not a small sum but in no way justifying that kind of transformation in our living standards.

Now perhaps Scotland could dodge the historical precedents on what usually happens in that circumstance.. Happy to have that argument but on the basis of what I have said rather than what I am claimed to have said.

And that leads me to my final tweet, one which I do regret.

While I was at the Party Conference, I nipped out for a fag and tweeted

"Two separate conversations about the fear of some Nationalist suicides on 19th September 2014. Their Party has a duty of care here."

In this I was only reporting conversations I'd had moments before but it was, nonetheless, an inappropriate topic for twitter. And its brevity made it sound flippant, which was not my intention.

But what had been the basis for these conversations, for they were in no way maliciously intended?

There is a small element of the SNP support, particularly drawn to the internet, who seem to me to winding themselves up in to a state of near hysteria about the Referendum. They are not being helped by remarks such as those made by Nicola Sturgeon that the alternative to a Yes vote would be "nothing". Yes or No, the world will go on and it is incumbent on both sides to make that clear. For there are vulnerable people in all political Parties who might not appreciate that what they are being told is mere rhetoric.

It is our great good fortune in Scotland that we do not have to make the choice "Liberty or Death". We are free already. What is on offer is only a different sort of freedom. It might not be my choice but it will be decided democratically and should be decided on fact rather than on base false assertion.

And that will be my last word on this matter.


  1. Let me make this clear at the start: I don't think you are racist. I do think, however, that you need to give serious consideration to the impact of statements like the one you made last night. I asked you then to explain it and I am now asking again: what is the thinking behind your suggestion that a failure of independence would lead to an increased risk of racism? If you are going to make an argument like this then it is important that you back it up because otherwise all you achieve is to distract people from dialogues of immediate and established importance around race issues. Racism is a serious problem and needs to be treated seriously, not raised in a casual manner and then ignored. If you have serious and justifiable concerns then it's important that people should be able to discuss them and develop strategies to counter any problems that may arise as you describe. This isn't about cybernats and it isn't about you, it's about an important matter of public safety.

  2. You seem to have forgotten to explain this one:

    "Lots of WE ARE NOT RACISTS tweets from the cybernats tonight. Also lots of WE ARE NOT RACISTS tweets from the KKK in Alabama. LoL"

    Cybernats are racists, then? What's the evidence for this, please? And what's the proportion of nice, cuddly independence supporters who are "cybernats"?

    1. Why does Ian believe that the default position of his fellow Scots is racism and xenophobia. And what sort of socialist would rather Scots were run by the Tories than a party they voted for themselves? The post was daft and ill-considered and his wriggling defence is just getting him deeper and deeper into the quicksand.

  3. I actually find the argument that independence would increase racism interesting. Never heard of it before. It will no doubt be drowned in the tide of arguments based in the baseless doctrine of austerity and financial scare-mongering, but I for one would like to discuss argmuments that make sense without prior brainwashing.

    Too bad that it was put forward in such an incredibly clumsy way.

  4. Dear Ian

    I see you have drawn the attention of the RevStu.

    He blocked me on Twitter, doesn't like people answering him back.

    In fact I would go further and suggest he doesn’t like anyone answering him back, such a lamb.

    As to your post, I have to say that Twitter having a limit of 140 characters is a problem when making extended points.

    I think you correctly home in on this ditto:

    “@realcolinquinn Better 100 years of the Tories than the turn on the Poles and the Pakis that would follow independence failing to deliver”.

    Not the greatest of tweets, but I don’t think it proves you are a racist.

    I have been subject to cybernat abuse, and not any old cyber thug, Tommy Ball, the man who writes cheques with his brain that his mouth can’t cash.

    He called me a racist, a homophobe, implied I am homosexual, a misogynist, a tramp, put up a cartoon on his tatty blog implying I am a paedophile, and mouthed off anything else that he thought would upset me. Even said he was going to walk down my street and put my address up on twitter.

    I couldn't even worked up, some fat guy is going to walk down my street, and do what, breathe on me!

    In politics, certain SNP members like to smear and label people that way their ‘victims’ opinions can be discounted; it is part of the grudge, grievance and malcontent that is the ‘Scottish currency’ of Nationalism.

    So, chin up, accept that on occasion there will be ‘in coming’ and hit the dirt.

    However, generally the ‘incoming’ has no real direction or aim.

    If you are seen as a threat, expect to be targeted, modus operandi of Team Salmond and Team Sturgeon.

    Yours sincerely

    George Laird
    The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

    1. What a total load of bollocks, pure assertions from start to finish.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. He has a bit of an obsession, sadly. On one week in particular, 25% of all of his tweets and blog posts were about me.

      I can genuinely say that the only emotion I have for Mr George Laird is one of extreme pity.

      I wish him the best and hope he gets the professional care he deserves and deeply needs, and in time manages to live a productive life in the community.

    4. Dear Tommy Ball

      All people need to know about you is that you are a lying nationalist bigot.

      You are upset when I outed you, if anyone is sad, its you.

      And posting my address on twitter and saying you were going to walk down my street, was I supposed to be scared?

      A fat clown like you is supposed to frighten me?

      That was funny, you trying to talk tough.

      Stick to putting leaflets through doors, that is all you are politically good for.

      Yours sincerely

      George Laird
      The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

    5. As I said George, I pity what has happened to your life and your spiraling into paranoia and bitterness.

      All I can do is advise that you seek the professional help you clearly need. Get your head sorted out, get your life sorted out, and try and get out into the community and make some friends.

      You're to be pitied rather than scolded.

  5. George Laird, throughout your statement you have smeared and labled. As for the condoning offensive language I'm surprised you are in a position to campaign for human rights at Glasgow University.

    1. Dear Anon

      Given I have told the truth, I think you are rather sad or just generally ignorant, you tell me which it is.

      I didn't say I condoned the offending tweet:

      "Not the greatest of tweets, but I don’t think it proves you are a racist".

      That is called opinion, and free speech, English your first language?

      Rather I saw it as a rather poor use of English and Ian Smart also agrees.

      As to Tommy Ball, cyber thug, google and also check out his blog. I outed Tommy Ball to the press, the rest as they say is history. He was part of the Team Sturgeon's little gang in Glasgow. And to further enlighten you, I was at an SNP meeting when Shona McAlpine (a Team Sturgeon nobody)smeared an Asian Candidate who was standing for election, I stopped that, and according to Tommy Ball, I am supposed to be a racist.

      Chris Stephens, current SNP Euro Candidate 2014, he said nothing, and neither did the four people who became SNP councillors in Ward 3 & 4.

      I reported that incident to SNP HQ and Peter Murrell, the Chief Executive and husband of Nicola Sturgeon did nothing, I kept all emails to the SNP I sent.

      I am surprised that your body manages to generate enough electricity to power your brain.

      I stand by what I write and I don't post anon.

      Best regards

      George Laird
      The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

    2. Given I have told the truth

      Prove it with links!

      The truth is George that you are an attention seeking individual who played on the victim card which gave you peer standing until people learnt that it is all about yourself and nothing at all about honesty.

    3. Dear Cynical Highlander

      I am sure you can do your own research re cyber thug Tommy Ball.

      As to the incident I witnessed, I unfortunately didn't have a video camera. But there was a room full of people.

      I was the only person to stand up and speak out to defend the Asian Candidate, that is historical fact mate.

      Are you calling me a liar?

      Because if so, I have to say very disappointed in you.

      I don't lie.

      Since you called me an "attention seeking indivdual" would you like a copy of the email sent to me where it is alleged that two current SNP councillors said I was a sexual pervert as part of a smear campaign?

      How about the emails to SNP HQ to Peter Murrell asking for an investigation?

      Peter Murrell, husband of Nicola Sturgeon done nothing!

      What about the facebook messages to then SNP Cllr Grant Thoms about this, I kept those as well.

      How about a witness who said he heard about the smear campaign going on behind my back?

      I kept his email as well.

      If anything today, you are lowered yourself.

      Yours sincerely

      George Laird
      The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

  6. Interesting to see Mr Campbell comment on your site. He's banned me from his hateful website for pointing out his buffoonery.

  7. Not for that reason at all, dear, as well you know. You were banned for trolling by bombarding people with questions but refusing to answer theirs in return. You were warned half-a-dozen times first.

  8. "Not for that reason at all, dear, as well you know. You were banned for trolling by bombarding people with questions but refusing to answer theirs in return. You were warned half-a-dozen times first."


  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Im a proud cybernat, whatever that is! I dont see any evidence of racism in your tweet and dont think you are racist.
    Yes heres the but, it does state clearly that after #indyref we Scots would turn on ethnic minorities, implying that a whole nation are somehow racist.
    In your defence I would say that Twitter is an impossible media for proper debate, Ive been abused and recieved unwanted comments for standing up for my views on independence.
    I think we all need to cool down as we will all have to live with the result in 2014.

  11. Ian, I like your blog, I agree with your conclusion here, and my view is your tweet was wrong. I rarely look at tweets and I suppose this furore is part of the reason why. It is not fair to compare you to Charles Green, who made a superficially similar 'Paki' crack - Green's use was truly gobsmacking, in all sorts of ways - made even worse by his half-hearted 'apology'.

    A comparison with Tom Shields is perhaps nearer the mark. Back in the late 80s, Shields made a 'joke' in the Herald about Mark Walters being eligible to play for Scotland because an ancestor had eaten a Scottish missionary - the affable Shields was genuinely horrified at the charge of racism and no one seriously thought he was a racist, but the crack should never have appeared in the Herald. Bad authorial and editorial judgement.

    With twitter we can all fire off misjudged rubbish, and I'm afraid your tweet falls into that category.

    The whole indy 'debate' is pretty rubbish in truth, which is why we get mad wee brush fires like this.

    Fine post from Bill there.

  12. Dear Mr Smart , I know you probably don't want to revisit this subject, but while fixing an old computer for my daughter I found a screen capture I took last year from @realcolinquinn, the quote is "stopped at the traffic lights in Nitshill earlier. It could have been Durban. More mars bars than Tesco".
    What struck me at the time was it was the same week the statement Mars Bars was deemed racist, and I could only surmise it was racist because of the Durban reference, the quote is sometimes but rarely used as a reference to a scar, but in this case ,with Durban ,and Nitshill being Glasgow hub for Immigrants, particularly black and Asian. Anyway I have the screen capture if you want it,I thought what happened to you was disgraceful, so would need an email

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