Friday, 26 June 2015

Talking To The Enemy

Who’d have imagined such a day would come?  Stomach-churning angst amongst Yes supporters and celebratory congas throughout Bastardville.  Nicola Sturgeon’s fallen from grace with an almighty splat, and nothing will ever be the same again.  Why, oh why, couldn’t she have given her firm support to the macaroni pie, instead of signing up to the campaign only because it’s what her Dad wanted?

No, wait a minute, that’s not it. It’s unspeakably, horrifically worse than that, worse even than ripping the head off the new Partick Thistle mascot and finding Kaye Adams underneath.  She’s… she’s… (adjusts straitjacket)… written a piece for the Daily Mail!

Gee, thanks, Nicola! Here I am trying to write a knockabout comedy blog that secretly depends on me never saying anything too controversial, and suddenly I’ve got a hugely divisive issue bang in front of me, as unavoidable as a skateboarding hippopotamus singing Moon River.  I don’t know if there’s a section of the humour spectrum between “hardline Cybernat” and “apologist sell-out”, but, with a pile of Setlers on the desk and an unimpeded route to the bathroom, it’s time to find out…

Let’s begin with the known facts, at least in this universe, rather than the parallel one where Katie Hopkins runs a humanitarian NGO.  The Daily Mail is a poisonous, bile-ridden, hate-mongering, rancid, mendacious piece of gut-rot that Satan wouldn’t use as bog-roll for fear of getting a nasty rash.  If I were down to my last tin of Heinz Ravioli, with my wife threatening to change the locks if I didn’t earn some dosh, I still wouldn’t accept money to write for it.  Even if its editor promised to print my piece verbatim, without comment, and let me call it Famous Unionist Wankers.

But what if one of the Mail’s minions doorstepped me before my first coffee of the day, to ask searching questions about my disreputable blog, that time I swore on Twitter and whether I’d ever uttered the merest squeak of pleasure at England losing on penalties, then stuck a camera in my face as I forcefully encouraged him to leave?  And if the paper then printed an exposé entitled Unshaven Racist Potty-Mouth Can Dish It Out But Not Take It, featuring a photo of me as a wild-eyed, aggressive loon with disastrous bridgework?  Wouldn’t I be looking for, and very much entitled to, a Right of Reply?

That’s not quite Nicola’s position, of course, since she’s much too savvy to open the door to anyone before she’s fully explored the coffee-making possibilities of That Awfy Expensive Machine She’s Got.  But I’d say she was certainly entitled to a right of reply, having been monstered the previous day for following people on Twitter and graciously acknowledging their personal Tweets without setting up a full-time monitoring unit to analyse everything else they’d spouted on the Internet before or since.  The smug claptrap merchants at the Mail leapt on it as an “exclusive”, which in one sense it was: by stating her case plainly in her own words, with a backup copy on the SNP web site, Nicola neatly excluded the possibility of some treacherous hack indulging in a bit of textual jiggery-pokery.

Does exercising a right of reply constitute endorsement of the Mail and all its evil machinations?  Well, some say it does, and I’m happy to respect the bojangles out of that viewpoint, but I beg to differ. I suppose it does recognise it as an organ of influence, rather than something that should be cordoned off until the emergency services destroy it in a controlled explosion, but sadly that’s exactly what it is.  Mail readers may not be inclined to put Nicola on a pedestal, unless they’re allowed to stand menacingly around it with firebrands, but that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t at least try to insert whatever sense she can into their craniums.

But is she simply dancing to the Mail’s militaristic tune?  That's a harder question, but it exists independently of her foray into print.  Realpolitik dictates that if a complaint is publicly put to her, and it has any sort of truth in it, she has to be seen to take action. 

Some miscreants – and, so you can start setting up the gunk tank above my head, I’d include in this anyone bad-mouthing Charles Kennedy for his drink problem – deserve all they get, plus the additional sanction of being attached to an arse-kicking machine for a week.  Others - and please excuse the stench of moral relativism, purists, but I’d place Neil Hay of “Paco McSheepie” infamy in this category - have been chucked under the bus on charges that, upon examination, look shakier than a unicyclist juggling a drinks tray.  

I’m not comfortable with that broad-brush splurge, and having to watch, of all scandal-sheets, the DAILY F…F…FESTERING MAIL strut around as the arbiter of what is and isn’t acceptable is like being force-fed a powdered glass smoothie, but I can understand why it happens.   

Incidentally, in case any hypocrisy-sniffers at the Mail feel the urge to trawl through my own Twitter history, I don’t regard following someone as approval of everything they Tweet, I don’t do guilt by association and I’ll make my own grown-up decisions about whom I follow, thanks awfully.  Nicola, alas, doesn’t have that luxury.

In that context, writing the piece she did could be defended as a decent attempt to set out some principles rather than simply getting railroaded every time some numpty from the Mail lobs a “dossier” at her.  Even with my curmudgeonly dungarees and bunnet on, I couldn’t find fault with anything she wrote.  

She wholeheartedly condemned Twitter abuse, as we should all do loudly and consistently. She welcomed properly-conducted debate. She distinguished threats, misogyny, homophobia, racism and other types of vileness from impassioned industrial language. She made it clear she can’t police Twitter single-handedly, but took responsibility for dealing with line-crossers within the SNP and laid down a challenge to other parties to follow suit.

That's the grindingly obvious point, which it’s tedious watching agenda-driven puffballs constantly body-swerve: Internet abuse is a matter for all of us, not simply a partisan plaything.  It ain’t restricted to the SNP, to Scotland or even to politics.  Start a blog about the joys of flower arranging, and before you can hum a chorus of In the Hall of the Mountain King you’ll have a bunch of trolls jostling you, telling you into which graphically-described part of your anatomy to stick your delphiniums.  As a species we haven’t yet worked out how to use pen and ink without spewing venom, so now that we’ve stumbled on a technology that can instantly transmit eye-popping filth anywhere on the planet, what hope have we got?

So we’ve established that Nicola’s statement wasn’t a forelock-tug to the forces of darkness, that it was a reasonable response to “damned-either-way” circumstances, and that its content was just about spot on.  Was it nevertheless a mistake, opening the floodgates for all sorts of trumped-up Sturgeon-must-condemn tomfoolery?  The immediate aftermath may not look terribly encouraging, but remember: the Mail’s dung-beetles have been piling up their evidence for years, so an avalanche of poop was always in the offing.

And here’s another possibility.  Could this, in the longer term, be a masterstroke, in that it motivates us Yes folk not only to tidy up our own behaviour, where that’s needed, but to redouble our efforts to call out the disgraceful slurs incessantly promulgated elsewhere?  And that, self-proclaimed moral guardians of the press, includes not only the Bizarro-world of Twitter, but your own comments sections, and in many cases your very articles.

In the end (the “end” in question being my bahookey, which has several skelfs in it) it’s far too soon to make a judgement on whether Nicola’s intervention was wise or woeful.  I genuinely don’t have a scooby how things will pan out, especially since the Scottish public are no longer passive observers and will have a big say in what happens next.  But, even if it does ultimately prove to be a mistake, come on, guys!  If anyone deserves to be cut some slack, surely Nicola does.

I don’t possess an SNP membership card, but, if I did, the last thing I’d be considering right now is feeding it into the nearest shredder.  I know that some are mulling over that very course of action, but, without wishing to trample over their inalienable right to feel gutted, may I respectfully suggest to them:  gonny no’ dae that?  

Political engagement surely means hanging tough in the difficult times as well as cheering ecstatically at 12,000-seater jamborees.  Doesn’t it?

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

The Snipers Take Aim

Yoo-hoo!  I’m still here!  It’s been many a Chilcot (official definition: “vast expanse of time frittered away in pointless buggering about”) since I last posted.  During this hiatus I’ve had a wee spat with Twitter, which appears to have condemned my blog as “unsafe” on the laughable grounds that it will projectile-vomit malware over your iThingy’s hard drive, rather than the sensible grounds that it’s a farrago of ill-researched ranting.

In this, I’m in the sort of mixed company that would induce salivating ecstasy in any Channel 4 dinner-party-from-hell reality TV producer.  Frances Coppola, epoch-making film director reduced to scraping a living as a financial journalist, was similarly afflicted.  So were Moridura, independentista of adamantine resolve, whose blogs are spoken of in trembling whispers by the favoured few, and his Unionist counterpart Kevin Hague, chief analyst of the “Aren’t Scotland’s Finances Crap?” School, who nevertheless supports “pooling and sharing” with the deranged clots whose mismanagement made them that way. 

Last and definitely least, there was a failed Nazi-hunting misanthrope by the name of Ian Smart, whose long-awaited plummet down the Labour laundry chute you may have missed amidst the palaver about Jim Murphy’s farewell speaking tour and the SNP’s expulsion of Brian Smith for bad-mouthing Charles Kennedy.

Shed no tears for Ian, who’ll no doubt be pontificating on Scotland 2015 as a “non-aligned” pundit just as soon as BBC management can bully their staff into inviting him.  In the meantime, the leadership of the “SNP are Nazis” Zoomer Society passes seamlessly to Dr David Starkey, whose current medication has prompted him to issue a proclamation equating the public baring of knees with a tendency to invade the Sudetenland.

You should never feed a troll, although if I had some dog food and laxatives handy I might be prepared to rustle up a sandwich for Dr Starkey.  If he was trying to stir up discussion he certainly succeeded, the main topic being “Why is this narcissistic, attention-seeking pustule allowed to slather his rancid views all over our mainstream media, instead of being locked in a deserted house with George Galloway and left there until the screaming finally stops?” 

If the SNP really were Nazis, or anything remotely like it, the Daily Mail would probably be amongst their most ardent supporters. Instead, the rag that goose-stepped its way through the 1930s never misses an opportunity to put the boot into Team 56, except during short breaks to renew the snake-venom coating on its steel toecaps.  

Cybernats?  They’re everywhere, burbles the Mail, mysteriously failing to notice their precise counterpart in its own online comments.  Lucy Frazer?  She made it “clear”, it lectures us humourless Jocks, that her comments on Cromwell enslaving Scots were “light-hearted”. Aye right, and no doubt Bernard Manning just appeared to be a grotesque, filthy racist, and was actually dancing on the edge of satire in a pink tutu.

The SNP contingent have given up clapping, and haven’t yet developed a distinctively Scottish form of “hear hear” to piss off Westminster’s animal noises brigade, so the Mail’s had to go back to hammering Mhairi Black for having the temerity to be 20 years old. The hack responsible, Euan McLelland on the “fill the space with any old crap” desk, didn’t even have to hurt his brain by thinking up words of his own; he just nicked bits from her interview on Radio Scotland’s Off The Ball, where she “admitted” to spending some of her salary on food and drink, sometimes buying rounds for her friends, the conniving minx, and often visiting (haud me back, I’m ragin’) McDonalds.

It was a truly ground-breaking article, in that its triviality, stupidity and utter irrelevance was too much even for some Mail Online below-the-line commenters, who for the first time in their lives found themselves uncontrollably typing things such as “So what?” and “None of your business, leave her alone”.  They must have found it a terrifying experience, like being possessed by the spirit of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, and the traumatic feeling of cleanliness will no doubt haunt them to their grave.  Meanwhile, the rest of us await Mhairi’s maiden speech, in the firm expectation that it will totally blow the tits off every patronising, condescending jackanapes who’s spent the last month sneering at her, the party that selected her and the citizens that elected her.

This constant sniping from the Mail and others has, ooh, not deliberately surely, helped to obscure the posturing, game-playing and downright piss-taking that’s been going on in the Commons, as our imperial masters have knocked the stuffing out of all attempts to make the Scotland Bill worthwhile.  It always looked like a photocopy of an artist’s impression of a drunk man’s sketch of the infamous Vow, and it feels as if we’re even getting a splurge of Tipp-Ex on top of that.

Full Fiscal Autonomy?  Never thought it had a snowball’s chance, but I could have done without human belisha beacon Sir Edward Leigh’s irony-laden harrumphing, not to mention last night’s final insult, when an amendment to make it impossible to abolish the Scottish Parliament without its own consent and that of the people was squashed, in a quintessential “Up Yours, Scotland” moment.

Ach, there’s more to write about this, but the blog’s now in “shorter and more frequent” mode - stop laughing at the back! – and, anyway, if I went into detail now, still a tad raw, my industrial language would probably shock your delicate sensibilities.  Which, whatever the geeks at Twitter Support may think about it, really would make the blog “unsafe”.


Note for Re-tweeters: 
(1) Thanks for your support, without which I'd just be a sad guy howling at the moon.  
(2) If you're posting my URL, please make sure you give it the extension ".com" - not, please not,  "" as appears in the address bar, which Twitter doesn't like.  Or use the wee Twitter icon at the foot of this blog page, and you should be fine.