The brittle fragility of Scottish Unionism

Over the past couple of weeks the issue of trolling within the independence campaign has been done to death. Articles have been written, including on this blog, letters have been published, fingers have been pointed, and allegations and counter-allegations have been lobbed about like diarrhoea filled balloons. Which is a trollish way to describe some of the Unionist commentary on this issue, but there you go. The Unionists have been looking upon the entire episode with a gleeful and deeply hypocritical joy.

It took the Sunday Herald yesterday to highlight the fact that bad online behaviour, name-calling, and abuse is by no means limited to the independence campaign. Trolling and abuse is so common within the online Unionist campaign that it has been become normalised. Insults and abuse hurled by Unionists at independence supporters is so everyday, so expected, and so predictable that Unionism no longer regards it as abusive. The comments section of the Scotsman is a poisonous pit of Unionist abuse.

We see Unionists howl in outrage when they are called quislings or traitors by online supporters of independence, but Unionists seem to have no compunction at all in likening independence supporters to Nazis. Just today in the Scottish Daily Mail, Unionist journalist Stephen Daisley likens the entire independence movement to the Nazis at Charlottesville. He took exception to a couple of instances of what he perceived to be anti-English sentiments, and uses them to characterise the independence movement as a whole. Nationalism is always nasty, apparently, except British nationalism, which isn’t nationalist at all.

When you call a perfectly peaceful, social democratic person who believes in equality, social justice, and who is opposed to racism, sexism, and homophobia a Nazi, that’s abuse. It’s hyperbolic. It’s insulting, both to the person who is called a Nazi and to the real victims and survivors of Nazism. But even high profile Unionist politicians seen to have no problem with likening supporters of the independence movement to the extreme right. Sadiq Khan infamously likened independence supporters to “those who will divide us on the grounds of race or religion”. That kind of behaviour and language justifies, supports, and encourages online abuse by Unionists.

I myself have been called a Nazi. I’ve been called a blood and soil nationalist more times than I can remember. One particularly frothy Unionist even took the time and trouble to write a blog article in which he claimed that this blog is exactly the same in principle to radio broadcasts during the Rwandan genocide calling on Hutu people to take machetes to their Tutsi neighbours. And the reason for this hyperbolic ire in which all sense of proportion and reason had long since been cast to the wind? Because I’d dared to write a blog piece saying that Scots and Gaelic are, along with English, national languages of Scotland. Saying that Gaelic and Scots are national languages of Scotland is apparently justification for a Unionist to liken, in all seriousness, English speakers in Scotland to the victims of the Rwandan genocide and saying that this blog is an incitement to genocide. Far more seriously than any abuse directed at me, that was an insult to the real survivors and victims of real genocide. I don’t recall any Unionists calling the author out for it though.

The accounts responsible for some of the worse Unionist behaviour on platforms like Twitter are engaged with and interacted with by prominent Unionists. The disgustingly foul misogynist Brian Spanner has a whole spannerbag full of prominent Unionist friends who seemingly claim that calling women by the c-word is just a bit of banter. That selfsame Stephen Daisley who likened the entire independence movement to white supremacists is an online friend of the Spanner account and the person or persons behind it. He even tried to make out that Spanner’s apology to some of the women that he or they had abused should be the end of the matter and praised the anonymous account for making an anonymous apology. An anonymous apology is no apology at all.

The dominant characteristic of Unionist abuse is the complete and utter failure of Unionists to recognise that Unionists are frequently abusive. On the very rare occasions when an instance of Unionist abuse attracts the public notice of prominent Unionists, it is always regarded as an isolated instance which is in no way characteristic of Unionism as a whole. This is in very marked contrast to how Unionists depict the online behaviour of independence supporters. The bad behaviour of one independence supporter becomes a characteristic of the movement as a whole.

This isn’t merely about the online abusive behaviour of Unionists however. That’s bad enough. A blindness to their own bad behaviour and unpleasant sentiments runs right through Unionism like a stalk of rock with the words FUCK YOU WE’RE BRITISH written in the middle. The Tories condemn, on remarkably little evidence, the anti-English sentiment that supposedly animates the SNP, yet are incapable of acknowledging, never mind dealing with, the sectarian bigotry that blights their party in Scotland. Labour decries the evils of nationalism while its leaders seek a hard Brexit just like the Tories and wants to put limits on immigration, utterly incapable of admitting to the reality that the Labour party is a British nationalist project. Unionist after Unionist will line up to tell you that they are opposed to nationalism, yet in practice they are advocates of a narrow minded, exclusionary and parochial British nationalism.

It’s never pleasant to face up to bad behaviour from your own colleagues, compatriots, allies and friends. But the independence movement does so. We have the moral strength and the conviction to make our case and to call out what we think is wrong, even when it comes from our own side. I was criticised by some independence supporters for my recent stance in supporting Stu Campbell. In turn I criticised other independence supporters for actions of theirs that I disagreed with. That’s not a sign of weakness, that’s a sign of strength. That’s the sign of a campaign that’s not afraid to challenge the British establishment, and is not afraid to challenge itself.

The case for independence is strong and robust enough to withstand self-criticism, Unionism isn’t. Unionism cannot bear to examine itself. It is not a self-reflective or thoughtful movement. Unionism is the reactionary support of a dying British establishment, a phenomenon which cannot bear to understand its own motives or motivations, because it’s terrified that if it did then it would evaporate like a dirty puddle on a summer’s day. Because there is no depth to it. The real brittle fragility is on the Unionist side. When it comes, and it’s coming, the collapse of Scottish Unionism will be rapid.


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0 thoughts on “The brittle fragility of Scottish Unionism

  1. The hypocrisy of British nationalists never fails to astonish. How do they get away with it? Because the media is overwhelmingly British nationalist. Thankfully the influence of britnat newspapers is waning. The so-called united kingdom is founded on fear and lies; it’s not long for this world.

    • The truth is they are mostly unaware of it. Their nationalism pervades their entire mental world and outlook. They’re no more aware of it than you are of the air you breathe, or a fish of the water it swims in. Perhaps this sort of unconscious bias and prejudice is the worst sort, certainly the hardest to shift.

      • Marconatrix, you are spot on here. I know several decent humane people whose company I enjoy who make gratuitously offensive comments towards me completely oblivious of the fact that they are being so. Even when I point this out, there is often a fair degree of incomprehension. Changing attitudes is difficult! (I did a Masters degree thesis on it many years ago.)

        However, attitudes DO change, often as a result of changed circumstances ‘exogenous shocks’) and, when they start to change, the change is often remarkably quick.

        VENCEREMOS,

        • Interesting, is your thesis available I at least would find it interesting 🙂

          Myself, I did research in animal behaviour … maybe not so irrelevant after all 😉

  2. No it’s not pretty. Not what they’ve done in our recent past, nor what they continue to do today.

    Oh, and no. No they don’t care how offensive it is either. They don’t care and they know they won’t be held to account by the political class and media who helped foment the attitude in the first place. They don’t care about the societal division they created or the fact that they’ve put people in harms way with their their shining example to their support, which frankly says a lot more about their personality and ideology than anything else really.

    Images of George Sq.? That’s a cause for celebration amongst some of their support apparently. YES stall intimidation, violence against independence support? That’s a bit of a laff to others. The denigration of a nation and a pretty sizable chunk of its population? Bayonetting the wounded? A daily task even today and popular soundbites upon a time.

    ‘Just politics’. ‘Part of the rough and tumble’. The human cost? Not really important to such people. They really, really, do not care because they are the orthodoxy and it’s not them on the receiving end, it’s their ‘opponents’ and that’s okay.

    No. No it’s not okay.

    We are people, human beings, fellow citizens and they have put their own folk in harms way for their own personal gain, agendas and jollies. THAT is why they are unfit and that is why we shouldn’t forget the actions of the political class and elements of their media.

    So again, … no. No, I won’t climb down into their sewer. I won’t be like them, but I will use their example to remind me of what I don’t want to become. I won’t hate.

    We’re better than that.

    • I seem to remember that it was Gore Vidal who, in an interview with Mohammed Ali shortly after he rejected his slave name, Cassius Clay, who observed that ‘violence is the last resort of an exhausted mind,’
      We do not hate, Sam, hatred is mental violence.
      ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.’ doesn’t apply either.
      They know what they are doing, and it’s unforgivable.
      My name really is ‘Collatin’, although some initially thought it was a play of words on the present participle ‘collating’.
      When I comment, I’m not hiding.
      I have invited all to look me up, contact me, have a pint, or send me a Christmas Card.
      I have challenged BBC and offered to take on the whole British Nationalist Team, Dugdale, Rennie, Davidson, Torrance, Brewer, and Mr Burns, live on the box.
      Let’s talk £15 billion deficit, the oil’s running out, we have reached ‘peak Celtic’ with Kelly, Tomkins and Fraser. You name it, bring it on.
      So far I have been ignored.
      I can only assume that I am not vile enough in the British Nationalist War Bunker’s eyes.
      I try my best.
      A wonderful piece, Paul.
      When Holyrood reopens, we challenge EVERYTHING that they assert to the cameras, on a daily basis.
      ‘Turbocharged’ rebuttals on all platforms and outlets.
      The Kraken awakes.

      • When Holyrood reopens, we challenge EVERYTHING that they assert to the cameras, on a daily basis.
        ‘Turbocharged’ rebuttals on all platforms and outlets.

        If only.
        I’m sure I’m not the only one getting fed up with “turning the other cheek”.

    • Hi Sam

      Don’t you think it’s just symptomatic of a wider division within humanity the also clearly impacts on society. Perhaps it’s simply a coalescing of personality types into two distinct groups which can often be identified by their views. I can see similarities in the behaviour of the George Sq miscreants with those parading in Northern Ireland recently and even the supremacists in Charlottesville this weekend. John Martin summed it up nicely – Some people are crazy!

      I don’t think you can (or would wish to) reason with the mindset at the end of the spectrum – all you can hope to do is influence and inspire some closer to sanity in the hope they may yet cross the line – but for the rest, I think I’m edging towards a guillotine on the castle ramparts.

      • No, you can’t reason with that mindset. All you can hope to do, as you say, is set the best example you can to those whom they hope to influence or deceive.

        As for how they themselves should be treated? I’ve always been in favour of point and laugh, ridicule and deflate.

        The greatest irony? They require the tolerance of those to whom they would preach or show intolerance.

  3. I’ve been thinking for several years that when the time comes the Union will collapse all of a sudden, when least expected, like the Communist regimes in eastern Europe. Roll on the day.

      • Before the first Referendum, each department had plans and procedures to be followed in the event of a Yes vote.

        I am confident that these will not only still exist, but are being continuously reviewed.

        • Well, the seem to be keeping quiet about them. Would making more of this help people to feel more confident about Indy, make it seem a bit less of a leap in the dark? It’s a difficult call to judge, I admit, but just maybe the Scottish government are being a little too cautious here?

  4. Excellent piece as usual.
    As founder of both the Labour and Scottish National Parties, RB Cunninghame Graham said
    ’The enemies of Scottish Nationalism are not the English, for they were ever a great and generous folk, quick to respond when justice calls. Our real enemies are among us, born without imagination”

  5. Pingback: The brittle fragility of Scottish Unionism | speymouth

  6. Everything pinned nicely to the wall as usual, WGD. The torrent of abuse coming from unionists is blithely overlooked, especially that of Spanner. The unionist press does not ever refer to Spanner’s high profile followers and ask for them to account. But it is this curtain of invisibility which allows unionism’s supporters to pretend to themselves that they belong to the ” naice” side of politics, the side of superior understanding and debate, by default. They are not confronted by the truth of the behaviour of many on their side.

    Like others I have been confronted on occasion by unionists’ frothy illusion of righteousness which demonises independence supporters, even to the extent that the referendum campaign can be characterised by them as terrible, divisive and confrontational. The myth exists because of the likes of Daisley and their absurd propaganda pieces. But it is also sinister because this insidious message of dangerous disruption was used ruthlessly by the Tories and Labour to excuse voting against another referendum.

    When some individuals from our side actually feed that misrepresentation you want to throw up your hands in exasperation.

  7. The likes of Spanner are bad enough, but I have a particular beef about having to read their obnoxious, offensive, ignorant and frequently puerile crap. My hypothesis is that if your behaviour and speech are such that they would get you thrown out of a public meeting in real life, then for the equivalent offensive behaviour and speech on line you should get booted off whatever new-media social platform you’re using.

    In that I include the Unionist trolls who keep quacking on in the comments sections of the National; such folk do not contribute to the debate or help us refine, adapt and reality check our ideas one tiny little bit. We have to do that ourselves by bouncing ideas off each other – which is why the recent loss of civility among some of the noisemakers on our own side is so damn irritating. What is definitely always a bad idea is to reward attention-seeking behaviour by paying attention of ANY kind to it – other than shutting it down and shutting it up.

  8. Someone on the Independence side of the debate recently, sorry I forget who, suggested we stop calling them Unionists (Yoons) and call them British Nationalists (BritNats) because that is what they are.

    I considered that a good idea because what we intend to do is choose between two different types of nationalism and the BritNat label would help make that clear. It would also defuse the the Nats/ Natsi comments as people would be entitled to enquire which ones. Their derogatory symbolism of nationalism could also apply to both sides and so it would be up to them to explain how their nationalism is superior, especially if they continue with their current trolling behaviour.

    Innocent bystanders would be able to observe two nationalist movements, contrast and compare their rhetoric and actions and decide which group they would be happy to be associated with.

  9. Laughing at them confuses them, don’t get into pointless arguments, just laugh.

    We know we are winning, and they know we know, if that’s not confusing.
    Now that must be worrying them , nothing works for them. This is why they are going to make mistakes, give it time they will assist us. Mayhems on the job .

  10. Stu Campbell’s comments about the Gaelic language were moronic and racist. He stupidly aped the rhetoric of the British nationalist/unionist, stating that the Gaelic language had no purpose other than irritating people like him, or for blood and soil nationalism.
    “The obsolete language spoken by just 0.9% of Scotland’s population might be part of the nation’s “cultural heritage”, but so were burning witches and replacing Highlanders with sheep and we don’t do those any more either.

    Being multilingual is an excellent thing, but the significant amount of time and effort taken to learn a literally-pointless second language (because everyone you can talk to in Gaelic already understood English) would be vastly better directed to picking up one that was actually of some use, and every extra fraction of a second spent scanning a road sign trying to find the bit you can read is a fraction of a second spent with your eyes off the road.

    Non-primary native languages are a tool whose main utility in practice is at best the exclusion of outsiders, and at worst an expression of dodgy blood-and-soil ethnic nationalism. They’re a barrier to communication and an irritation to the vast majority of the population, who are made to feel like uncultured aliens in their own land.”
    Anyone who thinks that is acceptable needs to have a long good look at themselves. It was the unionist British nationalism that attacked all the other ‘native’ cultures within Britain and called them archaic, useless and aggressive just as the Rev Stu did. It was propaganda based on racism then and his remarks were just the regurgitation of these ignorant racially based slurs about the supposed pointlessness and aggression of Gaelic.

    Before anyone jumps to his defence do you honestly think it is okay to slur an entire language and, therefore, culture in this way? He is a bigot plain and simple. If you stand by him aren’t you just condoning this bigotry just as Trump has done with his lack of speaking out in the USA? Or, is it acceptable to talk about a whole culture as if it were no better than burning witches or the Highland clearances?

    Racism and bigotry are racism and bigotry no matter who it comes from. The Rev thinks like a stupid racist British nationalist on this issue. He should not be let off with it. It is cowardice to not challenge him on this.

          • Why so defensive? I have told him. I just like to mention it when I see him mentioned in any piece where I don’t see it mentioned.

            Surely you can’t have a problem with that?

          • I was actually making a general point. If you want to take it so personally that is your choice.

            Whenever I see mention of the Rev in a piece anywhere I very often make the same point.

          • Just a suggestion of course, but perhaps in the future you would be doing a service to Gaelic culture if you were to mention his bigotry when you mentioned your support for him?

            As I said, just a suggestion.

          • Maybe in future you can stick to the topic at hand when you decide you’re going to take over the thread in the comments section.

            Just a suggestion.

          • I kind of think it does have to do with the topic at hand though don’t you? I mean your piece is about self criticism of the Yes movement and British nationalism from a very self unaware perspective. My comments are regarding this also don’t you think?

            I am an admirer of yours by the way. I find your hostility on this a bit perplexing.

          • I’ve just had a torrent of abuse from people because I had the audacity to point out that something Stu said wasn’t homophobic. So you can appreciate I’m not exactly thrilled with the prospect of another Let’s All Hate Stu Campbell Hate Fest. You’ve said your piece, you’ve exercised your hobby horse. Enough already.

  11. What the Rev didn’t go into of course was the British nationalist bigotry that led to the marginalisation of the other ‘native’ languages of Britain and Ireland. Being kept out of officialdom, being educated out, constantly being referred to as inferior. The culture being deliberately undermined and destroyed and turned into British feudalism. The people cleared or being encouraged to emigrate or seek employment in the slums of Glasgow. This is what led to it being spoken by 0.9% of Scotland. The Rev seems to believe only English and other imperial languages are of any ‘use’. What probably really bothers him, of course, is that it makes him feel less Scottish not knowing Gaelic.

    Hatred/disdain expressed for whole groups of other people always comes from weaknesses in oneself.

    • I’ve just caught up with this piece of Roden/Gardham inspired Up The Garden Path-ery from ‘Donald Mackenzie.’
      No need to respond, whoever is on the British National Propaganda Desk Early shift manning the ‘Donald Mackenzie’ tag this morning.
      WoS is an excellent site, and welcomes trolls.
      WGD has already made his position clear on Gaelic. It is manifest that this fictitious Donald/ British National troll attempts to use Paul as a contraceptive to shaft Stu Campbell on this blog.
      Stu Campbell is a big lad.
      Donald, or whoever you are, address your gunge directly to him.

      • Well said, Jack. I was deeply disturbed by this, which I read just before my bed-time last night, but didn’t feel able to weigh in myself for lack of knowledge. I was kept awake for quite some time mulling it over. I am glad that my instinct – which was that Donald Mackenzie was not what he seemed – was correct.

  12. “The comments section of the Scotsman is a poisonous pit of Unionist abuse.” But it pales into insignificance beside the comment threads of The Times! I had to stop venturing into that cess-pit because the vile and abusive language directed at anyone who dared to say anything positive about Scotland in General or Nicola Sturgeon and the Holyrood Government in particular was literally mind-boggling.

    Nazi is probably the most polite thing I was called – and they have no compunction in calling all Independence supporters racists and would-be terrorists – but point out to them the racist and xenophobic rhetoric which won them the “Leave” vote in the Brexit referendum and they froth at the mouth and become incoherent with apoplectic rage. To support Scottish Independence is automatically racist and intrinsically wrong – to support Brexit is just the natural desire of the “British” for self determination! They simply DO NOT see the irony of it!

  13. Without us Scots, the British psyche loses a huge portion of its identity. And when you balance your insecurity in part on a half truth; the threat of it’s deconstruction, is akin to the obliteration of your entire self-worth. Unionists have every reason to fear the eventual withdrawal of our nation from this farcical union; and the sooner it happens; the sooner a true example of unity can persevere beneath the name of Scotland alone.

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