Of Trolls and Polls

 

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The Guardian’s generally excellent interactive website covers lots of topical issues, from movies to politics, from gardening to space exploration. A lot of its content amounts to trivial pursuits. And there’s two many conflicting articles; every opinion must be represented, even if it is repellent. Almost all of its is middle-class fare.

The weekly Guardian video round-up of film releases reviewed by three of its critics is of a high quality and very entertaining. Invariably it influences my choice of film to see.

The site boasts the legend, “Comment is free.” And so it is, unless you express a hope Scotland regains its sovereignty. On that subject there is a price to pay. Conformity or ridicule. Shout it too loud and you are ostrasized. Little Englunders are forever vigilant.

Scotland presented as a sidebar

There is a section devoted to Scottish independence, an unusual flowering in an industry staunchly anti-independence. Populated by a few dedicated, well-informed “cybernats,” as they are pejoratively termed, it is a magnate for the malicious.

One staple contribution is statistics published from mysterious, unaccountable, privately funded “think tanks” that show a steady 30% of the population want full independence, a statistic apparently carved in stone since Noah’s flood.

Statistics can be manipulated, by both sides, simply by asking the right question. Lazy journalists reporting “latest” polls usually refer to the rest of the population, the other 70%, as against independence. This is a whopping untruth.

It is also counter-productive. Yes voters are highly motivated. You can be sure they will make the effort to vote on Referendum day. The unsure, the waverers, the No’s, are not easy to identify, nor are they an homogenous group, thus they are almost impossible to galvanise as an entity. The greatest anxiety of anti-independence campaigners is the No’s might stay at home, damnably handing the vote to Yes supporters by default.

The No camp fears an amalgamation of Yes voters, plus those swayed at the last minute, will win independence. That number includes adherents of devolution-max, (whatever that means) refused any creditable alternative to independence by Westminster’s obduracy and prevarication. Everyone who votes No is offered the same Scotland as now.

That the majority of the population want greater powers for Scotland, currently over 75%, fails to get acknowledge by the press, (radio and television too, the “media”) The result is people are fooled into assuming the swing to greater powers issues from a vociferous minority group, not what it really is, a grass roots movement.

With the exception of the usual aristocrats and landed gentry, there is no doubting the new optimism covers all social classes, a fact rarely acknowledged by the press. Ridiculed by the proponents of the No campaign, independence supporters tend to be depicted as a small, vociferous minority.

An intelligent newspaper doesn’t guarantee intelligent contributions.

The comments pages of the Guardian sees the same falsehood posted every day – that very few want Scotland to regain self-governance. Nevertheless, the claim has naysayers spending hours a day, every day, screaming blue murder! For example, an essay by poet Liz Lochead argued the obvious, rather too tersely, that had Robert Burns lived today he would support independence. It attracted a torrent of abuse. Opponents did not let up until the thread was closed.

Oddly, for someone who wrote the excellent poetic, “Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head chopped off,” Lochead omits to mention Burns was born in 1759, forty or so years after Scotland’s sovereignty was removed. The chances are high that those around him lived through those years of turmoil and expressed their sadness to him at the loss of their country, and their hopes sovereignty might be regained one day. His poetry is suffused with a love of his homeland.

Disappointment

My time on the Guardian site only served to see the severe limitations of internet debate on a unionist rag.

To be fair to the Guardian, and there are times I feel it doesn’t deserve fairness, the blurb stating rules of participation emphasise internet sites as not well suited to live discourse.

That is true. When you cannot see the face of your opponent, cannot see a barb arrive with a smile and a wink, or judge the tone of voice delivered with the polemic, you have a good chance of misjudging the statement and the person who makes it. Nor are you able to discern that the poster engaging your time is a house-ridden, overweight, acne-ridden teenager with no friends and fewer brains cells. Disputes are a daily occurrence on websites. Narcissists are on a permanent “high,” sociopaths out for vengeance.

Internet posters are obliged to choose words carefully in case they are misunderstood. Unfortunately, the slightest nuance of a poster being a Scottish nationalist, or sympathetic to their policies, ensures even the best constructed sentence gets its meaning reversed. Anything positive is turned into a negative. A lot is amateur scaremongering. Much else is barely concealed animus.

Satire and sardonic irony is wasted, polemic invariably deleted. You find yourself arguing with the same half-dozen ignorant antagonists posting the same nonsense day in, day out. The worst snarking and abuse is just as base as the idiocy published in the Scotsman’s pathetic website masquerading as free expression. “Fuck off you SNP prick!” is a good example of the genre. Anybody with a distinctive voice advocating independence, or in the least articulate, tends to get mobbed by the enemies of Scotland’s hopes. When challenged, tormentors admit they are ineligible to vote in the Referendum. Independence won’t affect them. So, what is their objective? Fun? Cruelty? Boredom?

Sooner or later, tiring of the abuse report button activated at every turn, a moderator disables the victim’s access in the mistaken assumption tranquility will prevail. In reality what it succeeds in doing is allowing bullies freedom to increase their inanities gleefully.

Debate and discussion are reduced to the anodyne and the banal. Repetition is everywhere. Thesis and good ideas go undeveloped. Cybernats are forever forced to counter smear and fiction. Confronting the infantile – whom I call the Caledonia illiterate – the wise give up and withdraw. They have a life.

The swiftness of the Guardian’s moderation, the sanctioning of rebellious or insulting posters, is impressive but as contradictory and feckless as any other newspaper. (Most sites are supervised by private companies.) I contributed to its independence debate for months before encountering “ad hominem” attacks and something termed “goading,” something difficult to ignore when a concerted attack on an individual’s integrity.

Gloating Over a Yes Win

I suspect my dozen posts stating the Referendum will be won for independence can be classed as “goading.” Once is fine, twice emphasis, but a dozen posts is a campaign of attrition if Guardian rules are anything to judge by. Westminster’s mouthpiece, Alistair Darling – the man who dissed the White Paper, Scotland’s Future, within ten minutes of publication, all 650 pages – asks that even a one per cent win is respected. (He means in either direction by both sides.) I bet he doesn’t think his ridiculous outbursts “goading.”

Knowing of the ferocity expressed over Scotland’s plebiscite I wear my Guardian moments as a badge of honour, opposition rattled. Mind you, I felt obliged to protect the Guardian’s Scottish reporter from harrassment a few times. SNP supporters think him biased in favour of the union. I think it only the monotonous tone and literary presentation technique he employs. Then again, I could be wrong. He’s pretty swift at publishing any accusation against autonomy made merely on a press release.

Some days ago a moderator posted a short account of his glee on banning delinquent posters. He – it might have been a she – gloated over his freedom to censor unchallenged, a case of power without responsibility. Outside a reference aimed at two individuals espousing opinion “typical of the arrogant colonial,” a remark heard any day in Irish politics, I don’t recall belittling anybody, but I am sure the odd sock puppet got a poke in the eye. If so, he got off lightly. To a Guardian moderator goading does not include the vitriol of dyed-in-the-wool Orange Lodge members, British National Party sociopaths, faux analysts funded by big business, or UKIP adherents – Britain’s equivalent of the USA’s Tea Party – showering the Guardian site and other newspapers with racist abuse.

The Arrogant Englishman

A  regular game is referring to an elected Scottish minister serving at Westminster as a troublesome Scot who should “go home,” as if he wears a tea towel on his head! Television’s nemesis of the vascillating politician, Jeremy Paxman, follows suit. “An Englishman can be defined as someone who lives on an island in the North Sea governed by Scots.” Paxman enjoys baiting Scots. “They can’t take a joke.”

Unlike Cameron, Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmon, was elected to office by a large majority. He is a prime target for character assassination. Calling him “Fat Eck,” “Jowly Eck,” or worse, that “lying bastard,” is, by Guardian standards, not abuse or libel, merely acceptable banter. Is it any wonder many a Scot is paranoid?

The course of Scotland’s place in the scheme of things is forever scorned.

A recent West of Scotland University survey exposes the manipulation of public opinion; it came to the inescapable conclusion the media purvey the non-independence cause by at least a 3 to 2 margin against the independence cause.

What a shock. As they say, “Breaking News” – compiled by the dominant nation.

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