by Kevin Williamson
It wasn’t exactly worthy of the name “infographicgate” but when it appeared online the above picture sent the chieftains of the No campaign into purple apoplexy yesterday.
Heid Naysayer Blair McDougall led the stampede to condemn the official Yes Scotland account and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for appearing to endorse it:
It got sillier by the minute. Even Paul Hutcheon from the Sunday Herald, a normally serious news reporter, didn’t seem to understand the infographic was about the organisations who support either side:
Some on the Yes side complained too, mainly that the Orange Order had been left on NO’s substitute bench.
If we scrape past the faux outrage, and the usual Punch & Judy show of online politicking, a number of serious points were being made by the infographic.
For the last 18 months social media has become the happy hunting ground for every lazy journalist who can’t be bothered getting out the office. (For the purpose of this article, I’ll include myself among the number). They trawl timelines and feeds for anything that can be used to create the idea that an army of obedient dalek operatives controlled by Braveheart HQ are pouring poison on the body politic. Here’s the sort of thing they use, something that was posted by a number of No supporters yesterday:
Clearly this “John Andrew” fellow needs a nice big hug and a cup of tea. If he exists. Anyone who uses Twitter or Facebook knows there are thousands of spoof political accounts out there. Some are satirical, others are just plain abusive or idiotic. Anyone with a computer and a spare five minutes can set up an anonymous spoof account and vent their spleen accordingly. Whether “John Andrew” is a spoof account is difficult to say. NO tweeters have cut off his account name to prevent further investigation. But since no one in the mainstream media bothers to investigate whether these accounts are spoof or real we’ll never know.
The point here is that for the last 18 months smearing the Independence movement has been one of the key strategies of NO. This isn’t the work of a few online nutters but begins from the top with the handiwork of Alistair Darling (who compared Alex Salmond to a murderous communist dictator, etc). When the tone is set by the top the legions follow. That’s why it has been so important that Salmond, Sturgeon, Jenkins, Canavan and all the leading YESsers have, by comparison, not resorted to insulting or abusing named individuals.
The latest NO smear against YES Scotland, and Nicola Sturgeon in particular, are that the above infographic equates all NO voters with fascists and racists. How they come to this conclusion isn’t explained. The graphic rightly points out which organisations have declared support for both sides. It makes no claim that ordinary NO voters would want anything to do with most of this unsavoury bunch.
What has turned the infographic into a political football, and got NO danders up, is that YES are hitting back at the “abusive cybernat” smears with factually correct information. Where No uses spoof accounts and anonymous bampots to smear the whole Independence movement, Yes is making an entirely legitimate point that there are genuinely creepy organisations campaigning for NO: fascist groupings like the BNP and Britain First, racist organisations like UKIP and Scottish Defence League, and sectarian bigots like the Orange Order. Many of these are officially registered with the Electoral Commission to campaign for NO.
It also begs the question why fascists, racists and sectarian organisations are so keen to defend the UK when no such groupings are backing Independence. What is it about the UK that attracts these people? If the UK was an oasis of tolerance and understanding, a place which welcomed immigrants, and which defended minorities, would these lot be anywhere near NO?
While they have been happy to play along with the myth of an abusive “cybernat army” the last thing NO wants to see is the media spotlight shone into the dark regressive corners of its own support. In this respect the mainstream media will no doubt grant them their privacy.
As 18 Sept approaches, and YES closes the gap on NO, the mainstream media, like the official NO campaign, seem to be going into some sort of collective psychosis. For example here’s an article in today’s Daily Mirror where reality is tweaked to resemble a referendum version of Orwell’s 1984 meets Alice In Wonderland. War is Peace. Up is Down. You have to worry about the mental health of the people writing and publishing this stuff.