Saturday, 18 November 2017

Rocking the Boat

I enjoyed this article by Darren McGarvey in The Scotsman is which the writer and activist recounts his treatment on Twitter after making some mild criticism of Alex Salmond's decision to hitch his wagon to the Kremlin controlled TV channel, Russia Today.

Now this reminded me of my days in the Labour Party 20 years ago when any criticism of the party leadership was met with scowls, frowns and even accusations of disloyalty on the basis that:

a) We're in the middle of an election campaign
b) We're just a few months away from an important election campaign
c) We've just fought an important election campaign - give folks a chance

In other words, the message was 'stop rocking the bloody boat' - either you're with us or against us, so shut your gob!

I suspect Twitter makes things far worse these days because the anonymous 'avatars' that most people hide behind tend to make them even more aggressive and belligerent than normal.

Even so, I hope Darren doesn't shut his gob since he has lots of interesting things to say.

Darren McGarvey: Make a point about Alex Salmond and the SNP at your peril 

Alex Salmond's decision to host a show on Russia Today could be a problem for the SNP
Alex Salmond's decision to host a show on Russia Today could be a problem for the SNP 

Not even in London can you escape the wrath of angry Nationalists on Twitter, says Darren McGarvey.

Yesterday I went on LBC radio to talk about my book Poverty Safari. In a far-reaching conversation, covering the interplay between early years, chronic stress, political exclusion, austerity and the strain on public services, I was asked about the long-term consequences of inaction on social inequality.

I responded by saying it has given rise to various constitutional crises both in the UK and Europe, which are beginning to undermine social cohesion. Zooming in on the UK, I referred to the Scottish independence referendum and Brexit, careful to state clearly that I was not drawing an equivalence between the two. You don’t need to be a nationalist to see the key difference between Sturgeon and Farage: one blames Westminster, the other blames immigrants. 

Yet, somehow, an intrepid troupe of social media-based nationalists, decided that what I really said was that Sturgeon and Farage were the same thing. Did you catch that there? I said one thing, for the avoidance of doubt, but a bunch of people decided to interpret that as the exact opposite of what I meant. 

As you can imagine, it brought me back down to Earth, with a bang, after news that my book was the number one biography on Amazon had sent me into a state of catatonic shock. 

It seems, not even in London, can you escape the gravity of this obscure corner of Scottish Twitter. Whatever your opinion on the ever-looming constitutional question in Scotland, I’m sure you’ll agree that public discourse is tremendously strained. This is exacerbated by the limitations of social media, which isn’t a great forum for expressing nuance and complexity. 

But this week has been especially trying, thanks to one tweet about Alex Salmond’s decision to present a show for Russian state broadcaster, Russia Today: “The issue around Salmond’s show is not the controversy stoked by initial announcement. It’s the fact he is setting up a new permanent residence in the debate by creating a previously unthinkable association between the Kremlin and the drive for Scottish independence.” 

The tweet was not a value judgement, simply an attempt at analysis. My take was simple: Salmond’s show could create a headache for Sturgeon that won’t be as easy to move past as his usual interventions. This may be exacerbated by the Russia issue and the fact the show is weekly, therefore, any blow-back will be regularly reinforced.