Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Have Gutter Journalism And Personal Abuse Usurped Political Debate?

In February 2012, over two years ago, I wrote a piece entitled, "Is it possible to have a civilised debate on independence?" prompted by the inaccuracies carried in The Scotsman and Daily Mail, about alleged comments made by Mike Russell. The past two years have been filled with media pieces which have at times, bordered on the asinine and actionable, although there have been others which have been both informative and thought provoking. Unfortunately, the asinine have greatly outnumbered the informative. The tripe which has been carried in the print media, particularly newspapers such as the Daily Mail, about the consequences for Scots if we vote to become an independent country, says as much about the editorial policy of those papers as it does about those who prompted the stories which are carried. The animosity of the media to any idea of Scottish independence is as old as the movement for independence itself, therefore it comes as no surprise to those of us who have been around a bit longer than the majority who are new to the game.

I had hoped however, that the SNP and the wider Nationalist movement, had been around long enough to persuade the more responsible journalists, to give a fair assessment of the issues at stake and, to be fair, there are a few like Ian McWhirter, Ian Bell and Peter Jones who have produced pieces which have been worth reading. Unfortunately, the SNP has itself to blame for much of the criticism it has taken on the serious questions of the currency an independent Scotland will use and our membership of the EU. The party can hardly complain when it continues to argue that a currency union will provide an "independent" Scotland with the economic levers it needs to have economic control, when it quite clearly will do nothing of the kind. Even the SNP's own Fiscal Commission - along with every other economist and economic commentator in the country - has pointed out the conditions which would be necessary for a currency union to work, conditions which leave control with Westminster. For the SNP to continue to deny that is both stupid and dishonest. For their supporters to attack anyone who points this out, is equally stupid and dishonest but of much greater importance; it does nothing to persuade those who are undecided that they can rely on the information with which they are being provided.

There has never been a more important vote in my lifetime and the Nationalist movement has the more difficult task, because people are being asked to leave their comfort zone and take a step in a direction many of them do not want to go. To make that task even more difficult by being less than honest or by being downright dishonest, and then to be caught out in their dishonesty, displays a degree of stupidity that almost beggars belief. When the party is aided and abetted by a collection of numpties for whom personal abuse is their everyday language and who seem to think the way to persuade people to the cause of independence, is to be as vile and unpleasant as possible, and when it is pointed out that spouting bile and venom is not the way to persuade people of the rightness of their cause, their only resort is to spout more bile and venom, the objective of winning the argument for independence, of persuading the undecided that independence is worth having, may already be a lost cause. Any and every political party and politician invites criticism, simply by being involved. If you are going to put your head above the parapet, you are merely inviting people to have a pot-shot at it - figuratively speaking. It is one thing to be criticised for taking political positions, it is quite another to be personally abused for being involved in politics.

Alex Salmond can be fairly criticised for some of his political decisions, criticism which is perfectly acceptable. The personal abuse he takes is totally unacceptable. Politicians have always been lampooned, it goes with the territory, and a good cartoon can be highly effective but the level of personal abuse directed at Salmond has frequently gone beyond the pale. Neil Kinnock was subjected to similar abuse and there is a section of the media in the UK, which has always been incapable of serious political debate and which catered for the lowest common denominator in UK society. The establishment obviously know how serious the referendum vote is and the hounds have been unleashed. The SNP as a political party, was also a target for the tabloids in the early days, when comparisons with National Socialists was commonplace, but the National Movement in Scotland has never been based on race and try as he might, George Galloway will find it hard to make anti-Catholicism stick. The ire of the establishment, has of necessity, to be directed at individuals and Salmond, as the leader, is the obvious target.

Another who is currently in the firing line, is Nigel Farage, who if anything, is being targeted even more than Alex Salmond and with even greater venom. What is surprising, is the source of much of the criticism and the venom of the abuse. Euan McColm wrote an appalling piece in Scotland on Sunday at the weekend. He wrote, "Farage is a one-trick pony, spouting meaningless slogans while brushing off uncomfortable truths about his colleagues. He's a cynic, attacking the excesses of politicians while raking in a huge salary and expenses as an MEP. And he's a weasel, defending his party from charges of intolerance... But more than all of these things, Farage is a hypocrite...his first instinct is to protect his cushy number in Brussels." Farage's crime was to decide not to contest the Newark by-election himself. He is leader of his party and an MEP, fighting a EU election in a couple of weeks but he is a "weasel", a "hypocrite" because he is not contesting a by-election which no other party leader is expected to contest. I have NEVER heard of  a party leader contesting a by-election under similar circumstances. Since he is paid the same as every other MEP, I take it McColm considers they all have cushy numbers, or is it just Farage?

Farage's critics accuse him of racism but never miss an opportunity to make reference to his "German-born wife" whom he employs as his assistant in his job as a MEP. Ian Hudghton, MEP and President of the SNP has employed his wife since 1999 while George Lyon MEP has employed his girlfriend since 2009, something which is rarely if ever mentioned. UKIP have had some decidedly unsavoury characters who have stood as candidtates and who have been expelled by the party, which is more than can be said for the Lib Dems in their dealing with Cyril Smith, whose activities are still being covered up or denied by the party leadership. Labour in Scotland have had an MP jailed for wilfull fire-raising and another twice convicted of serious assault; the Tories have had two MPs jailed for perjury and the Lib Dems had one recently jailed for perverting the course of justice. They have all had MPs jailed for expenses fraud, one of whom, Laws, returned to the Tory government on release from prison, and a number of others that should have been. UKIP's claims about immigration have just been confirmed and we now know that 4 million immigrants came to the UK during Labour's term of office and about which they lied consistently. All of those people needed somewhere to live, needed jobs, education, health service attention and were in competition for all of those, with some of the poorest people in the UK, many of whom were deprived of them as a consequence. It was much easier to scream "Racists" at UKIP for raising the issue than to deal with them and the fact that the party is now leading the polls in England must mean something or, are 35% of English residents also just racists?

I am no supporter of UKIP but for Farage to be driven off the streets, to be denied the opportunity to speak and told to "go back to England" can hardly be described as rational debate, by people who call UKIP racists. To pelt him - or anyone else -  with eggs is cowardice and I would personally prefer the John Prescott reply to egg throwers - a good, hard left hook. The decision of the Sunday Herald to support independence was a major breakthrough and should be applauded, in the hope that others will follow. The editorial justifying the paper's stance carried the caveat that while it supported the idea of independence, it did not mean it would "support unquestioningly the SNP and its allies". I tweeted that it was to be applauded but also expressed the hope the paper's caveat "would be taken on board by the cybernats". I assumed that any semi-intelligent, rational independence supporter would understand that I was saying that I hoped the cybernats would take on board that supporting independence, did NOT mean that support must be given without question, to everything the SNP and its allies said. I did receive responses to the effect, that differences of opinion were to be welcomed.

However, true to form one of the cybernuts called Patrick Roden, had to surface, with a demand to know what my point was. Still assuming I was dealing with some semi-intelligent individual I posted,
"Try disagreeing with them and you will find out".
That did it. His next post was,
"Who? The Sunday Herald? The Yes Campaign? Haven't saw the SNP tweeting crap about you."
I then suggested he try to understand tweets before responding which unleashed the usual torrent of bile. A further ten posts followed, to none of which I responded and which ranged from,
"Why are you linking SNP with cybernats and doing BT's work for them. Bugger off you bitter old fool"
"BT will be delighted with your days work attacking the SNP again. Well done."
 "Your problem Jim is I don't need the unionists approval or pat on the head. I don't care"
to (in reply to another poster who had suggested he might concentrate on independence)
 "I agree but Jim seems determined to attack cybernats rather than the other side, silly old cvnt"
 "Jim you are the typical Scottish cringer, I'm not like you, your unionist rules don't apply to me."
At that point he decided,
 "not gona waste any more time on bitter old Jim"

Roden is obviously an idiot and caused great amusement among some of my family who were visiting but he is unfortunately, a perfect example of the kind of clown who can do the independence movement a great deal of damage. It is significant that the negativity of the No Campaign is having the exact opposite effect on Scottish voters, to that which they had hoped for; just as the daily abuse and sniping at Nigel Farage and UKIP is merely increasing both his and his party's standing in the polls. We have not had the effects of immigration in Scotland, in the way they have in parts of England and our understanding of the problems there has been at best shallow. Nevertheless, contrary to the SNP mantra, large-scale immigration would not be popular in Scotland, according to the latest polls. It is common to dismiss UKIP as having no support in Scotland but we may get a surprise, just as the polls on the referendum continue to surprise the No side. Fortunately they seem to be incapable of changing either their understanding of the issue or their campaign strategy and I fully expect both the negativity and the abuse to continue. Sadly, that is probably also true of the cybernats and people like Roden, who really should see a doctor.


  1. The publicity that ukip have been getting is mostly justified. People are right to question their motivations when there are a huge number of cases of party members making racist, xenophobic or just plain ignorant comments on any number of issues. Regardless of what their policies are as a party, they certainly have a knack for bringing in complete lunatics and they should be shown up for it.

    Let me be clear that i do not believe that being able to control immigration is a bad thing, i think that every country should have control of who passes through their borders. But there are obvious xenophobic undertones from Nigel Farage when he makes disparaging comments about Bulgarians or Romanians, which are frankly quite offensive. So why should the people of Scotland let him have his say when he clearly has abhorrent views ? I am proud of the fact that his politics are not tolerated in this country, i don't think it is xenophobic of people in this country to tell a xenophobic, arguably racist man to take his politics back to England because his political views are certainly not welcome here. Some of the protestors who gave him a hard time were English and people have the right to protest in this country, as far as i am concerned he got what he deserved.

    The criticism he gets for having a German born wife is also justified because it makes the man a hypocrite. He argues that foreigners are coming to this country and taking people's jobs on the basis of our membership of the EU and an open borders policy, UKIP's main agenda. And yet he has hired his German wife to do a job that someone from this country could have done, which of course there is nothing wrong with but it makes him a hypocrite.

    I have dug a little deeper and looked at some of the policies that ukip have been advocated in the past, and they are trying to take the UK back to the 19th century. They want to abolish the Scottish parliament, repeal the smoking ban, have a flat tax rate, deny that global warming even exists, triple the defence budget etc etc etc. They are a bunch of LOONS it is just unfortunate that a lot of the people south of the border have been taken in by farage's fake "let's have another pint lads" persona.

    1. If the publicity that UKIP gets over a relatively small number of activists, was matched by the publicity that the other parties SHOULD be getting for some of their own members, you may have a point. UKIP have expelled the ones who have brought them embarrassment. I note you completely ignored the case of Cyril Smith and the fact the Lib/Dems are still denying any knowledge despite the fact it is now known his activities were widely spoken about for two decades.

      We live in a country that has a sectarian constitution that discriminates quite openly against Catholics. Other than the SNP how many of the main paries oppose it and have tried to do anyhting about it? See my blog on "The SNP and Catholicism" for more detail about the open sectarianism of the Labour Party in Scotland.

      When you drive people, who have elcted members and who belong to a formally recognised political party off the street, then you are on a very slippery slope and to say you are proud of that makes me wonder about your own motivations. How can you talk about an "open country" when only those you happen to approve of, are to be allowed to speak and they have widespread support in England? The fact that some of those who drove him off the streets in Edinburgh is supposed to make that OK? Are you seriously presenting that as an argument?

      UKIP have been attacked on immigration for the simple reason the main parties don't want to discuss it. Labour allowed 4m people into Britain and as I point out, we haven't had to suffer the consequences of that to the same extent as they have in England. I defer to no one in my admiration of the Polish people but many of them who came here to work were not the tradesmen they claimed to be and they undercut the wages of local tradesmen. Wages in the UK have been depressed for years because of the "open-door" policy of Labour and the people who have suffered most are not the TV commentators, the MPs or the middle classes in general, it is the lower end of the working classes, many of whom have been denied both work and housing.

      MPs have been employing their wives for years because it suits for two reasons; it brings money into the house and wives can work the kind of hours an employee would not. The fact Farage has a German wife is of no consequence and it is ludicrous to call him racist but then make constant reference to his German-born wife.

      You are getting carried away with your 19th century argument. Callaghan and the Labour Party killed devolution in 1979 and half the Labour Party in Scotland campaigned against their own party policy. The Tories have JUST come to accept devolution. I take it you have heard the arguments of Alexander, Brown et al against independence? 62 countries in the world have a flat rate tax, almost all of the ex-communist countries and they are constantly held up to be admired because of the progress they have made since the collapse of communism. When you start down that rod, you really are struggling for a decent argument.

      By the way, I do not support UKIP, I just prefer when arguments are founded on more than base prejudice, whether its yours or theirs.

    2. It is not a relatively small number of activists though is it ? It seems that near enough every single day there is another crackpot making remarks about gay marriage affecting the weather or calling muslims 'devil kids' amongst many other things. I'm not going to defend the actions of the members of any other political party because UKIP do not have complete jurisdiction over all loonatics the other parties have their fair share too. But UKIP are going to come under more media scrutiny than the other parties right now because they are doing well in the polls, that's just how the media works.

      UKIP may well have elected members in England but they do not in Scotland which just highlights the different political values that we have in this country. I never said anything about an open country but people are allowed to protest here and the protestors were well within their right to give Nigel Farage a hard time when he came to give us a visit. He's made his xenophobic borderline racist, ignorant views quite clear and we made ourselves clear that his views are not tolerated in this country. Are you suggesting that he was chased out of the country because he was English ? No of course you aren't, he was given a hard time because we do not tolerate xenophobia in Scotland and yes I can safely say that I am proud of that. Farage has been given more than his fair share of a spoken platform considering his party has no elected MP's and Scotland gave it's response.

      I absolutely agree with you that immigration has been a problem in parts of England where you have Muslim ghettos where the residents have not tried to ingratiate themselves into our society at all. Labour were wrong to have an open doors policy and we are dealing with the consequences now. Our immigration needs are greatly different in Scotland where we are dealing with a declining ageing population and that is one of the main reasons why we need independence as you well know. Immigration needs to be restricted yes but what UKIP are proposing is a 5 year ban on all immigration which is lunacy, the issue must be discussed and the people want to have that debate but UKIP are not the answer.

      There is nothing wrong with MP's employing their wives as long as they are doing the job that they are getting paid to do. Surely you acknowledge that Farage is a hypocrite when he talks about immigrants taking people's jobs in this country then hiring his German wife to do a job someone in this country could easily do ? I suspect that he is at least xenophobic and it would not surprise me at all that Farage was a racist based on some of the allegations made about him from his younger days.

      I am not getting carried away in the slightest, UKIP have a generous list of policies and beliefs that would take the UK back a long way. Surely you are not going to defend any of the policies that UKIP support that I listed in my previous comment, you claim you are not a UKIP supporter so i'd imagine that you would agree with me that their policies are ridiculous ?

    3. Sorry for the delay in replying. Your response is full of, "it SEEMS that..", "I SUSPECT that..", "It would NOT SURPRISE ME..". A lot of SUPPOSITION without a single piece of evidence.

      You say it is not a relatively small number of activists, then It seems every single day.. and you give TWO examples. Eight black Labour activists in Harringay resigned from the party because of the racism in the local party but not a word appeared in the press. Why would that be I wonder?

      I don't have to be reminded of the differences between Scotland and England, I have spent my life explaining to people why we should have independence but if having elected members is to be the touchstone of whether or not a party should be allowed to campaign, until Winnie won Hamilton, under your rules that ban would have applied to the SNP. Until we take independence, we operate under UK rules, whether we like it or not.

      I wrote the piece and included UKIP, not to defend their policies, but to draw attention to the way in which they have been misrepresented and abused, in a way very similar to the way in which Scottish Nationalism has been misrepresented for as long as I can remember and throughout the referendum campaign. You justify this abuse because you don't like Farage and UKIP policies. Sorry, but that does not stand up, unless you want to see it applied across the board. I could give you any number of examples of the stupid, the nasty, the ignorant and even the dangerous, among the political parties in the UK, going back years. UKIP is on the receiving end, as you point out, because they are having an impact.

      The point about MPs employing wives is partly because OTHER people would NOT do the job in terms of the hours spent, the inconvenience, the remuneration etc. It is a problem when it becomes a sinecure. There is no suggestion that is the case with Farage's wife and she has an inbuilt advantage of being fluent in more than one EU language. The complaint is she is German. That is racism however you try to dress it up.

      On Question Time last night, the Tory threw it in Farage's face that a couple of his MEPs had been done for fiddling their expenses. If you are looking for hypocrisy then look no further.

      I agree some of UKIP's policies are ridiculous, but that applies to ALL the parties. I left the SNP because I believe their policy on the EU is ridiculous. Not only that, it is dishonest.

    4. Well ok here are another two examples for you, there are many more which i can look out for you too if you want ? Godfrey Bloom was kicked out of the party a few months back for making comments about sending money to "BongoBongoland" and made no apology for his remarks. Nigel Farage describes him as "a good laugh" and they are apparently still friends. Just a week ago William Henwood a UKIP councillor was expelled from the party for saying that Lenny Henry "Should go back to a black country". This happens constantly and it is rightly well publicised in the media, i think to suggest that UKIP are just like any other party and are being victimised by the media is wrong. Your example is absolutely fair and it wasn't really talked about in the media as it should have been but to suggest that UKIP are not more of a breedking ground for these loons than most other parties is not correct because they almost certainly are.

      Maybe i didn't quite make myself clear in my first comment. UKIP have every right to campaign in Scotland if they want to, but it is also true that the people here have every right to protest and condemn his politics and as far as i could see that is what occured in Edinburgh. The media tried to paint it is as Scottish nationalists driving an Englishman out of the country and i think you know as well as i do that that isn't the case, most of the protestors were students and some of them were English, the main issue behind the protest was an opposition to his politics. Farage has a right to his political views but they are not views that are accepted here, and as i said before i am proud of that fact.

      UKIP have been getting a disproportionate amount of media coverage in the UK, some of it bad and a lot of it good. Regardless of what the media have been saying about them it has been a fantastic catalyst for the party in gaining more support. They like to be seen as victims of the media and that "it is just the establishment trying to keep them down" and to some extent that is true but UKIP have in no way been victims to the media. It has played right into their hands and you are falling into that trap by defending them.

      The complaint is not that Farage's wife is German, the complaint from the media and it is a perfectly valid point is that Farage is a hypocrite. His lifestyle is not consistant with his politics which undermimes his whole political agenda and he should be called out on it. Why is it ok that Nigel Farage has a German secretary but that the rest of the country shouldn't employ foreigners because "they are stealing our jobs" ? There is no justification for the hypocrisy here.

      I am not here to defend the Tories or any other party, i loathe them almost as equally as i do UKIP. But you need to stop pretending like they are some sort of victim to the media, the more exposure they have been getting the more popular they have become because they are playing the anti establishment card. Which is not true either by the way, Farage is a privately educated former city banker who couldn't give two shits about the working people in this country. The only thing he cares about is getting Britain out of the EU and he will say or do anything to make that the political agenda of the day.

      UKIP's policies are ridiculous to a much greater degree than a lot of the other parties out there. I do not support membership of the EU and i think we should have controls on immigration but as a i said before, some of their other policies are straight from the 19th century. They are also clearly xenophobic and an arguably racist party which unfortunately underpins their anti EU anti immigration policies and i will never ever vote for them. I hope you will not consider voting for them on May 22nd simply because they are in oppositionn to the EU.

    5. You have managed to find another two examples. Big deal. Cyril Smith's activities are worse than all the transgressions of UKIP activists combined and we really are not getting anywhere with this kind of discussion. You think UKIP can and should be abused, prevented from speaking and driven out of Scotland because you have decided you don't like their policies. If that is your idea of democracy and how it works, so be it. But you would not be welcomed in the kind of Scotland I want to see.

      You really are scraping the barrel when you accuse Farage of enjoying a lifestyle inconsistent with his politics. What is he supposed to do, work for nothing, just like all those other good socialist and social democrat MEPs from Labour, SNP, Libs who are all drawing exactly the same as Farage? Name ONE Labour MP, MEP who lives a lifestyle consistent with his alleged socialism. I don't expect an answer anytime soon.

      I have listened to Farage on immigration and I have never heard him say that "no foreigners should be employed". You provide the evidence of that if you can. The snide comments about his wife are racist, unless you are saying no British person who is married to a non-British spouse, should employ them until every British person is employed first. That is what you are claiming Farage and UKIP are saying and it is absolute rubbish.

      Your arguments about Farage are of an ad hominem nature and do not address the issues. What the hell has his education and class have to do with what he says about the EU?

      It is little wonder UKIP is getting support when this is the best their opponents can come up with. Clegg made an absolute clown of himself in the TV debate with Farage, using your style of argument and I am afraid if their opponents don't raise their game, the party is going to get even stronger.

  2. I could give you any number of examples, i've already given four but i don't think anything any UKIP candidates or member says is going to be a "big deal" for you, you seem quite happy to sweep it all under the carpet because in your mind UKIP are victims. You're right that we wont get anywhere with this kind of discussion if you keep misrepresenting my views with strawman remarks. I thought i made my position clear when i said that UKIP were perfectly within their rights to campaign in Scotland and that people here are allowed to protest and reject their politics if they want, which is what people have done. You won't even acknowledge that the protestors were doing nothing wrong.

    I've already told you that i am not here to defend any other party so i am not going to. Farage is a hypocrite and if you can't even acknowledge that fact or any fact then what is the point in having a discussion ? You misrepresented the medias criticism of him calling them racist when they are in fact quite right to call him out for being a hypocrite. If Farage wanted his lifestyle to be consistant with his politics then he could easily have hired an indigenous British citizen to do the job instead, but he did not. What he has said is that foreigners are stealing British peoples jobs and then hired a German woman to be his secretary. How in the world you have come to the conclusion that the media are racist for pointing out this clear hypocrisy is beyond me, but you seem to see only what you want to.

    You are once again misrepresenting what i said with your ad hominen accusation. What i said was that he claims to be anti-establishment and represents the working people unlike the three main party leaders in the UK. I then pointed out the fact that he was privately educated and worked as a city banker before becoming a politician, i was merely pointing out the fact that it was just another one of UKIP's fallacies. Nigel farage is of the same ilk as any of the other three party leaders and has absolutely no idea what life is like for your common working man and his policies reflect that. It is just unfortunate that a lot of working people have bought into this nonsense but i can understand it too because they are fed with being lied to by the big three parties, it's just a shame that UKIP are certainly not the answer they are looking for.

    I've also already told you that i agreed with UKIP on the EU and i think that immigration should be controlled, or rather that a country should have control of it's immigration policy. My arguement has been with you and your representation of UKIP and some of the fundamental reasons behind UKIP's policies. I strongly believe their policies have a foundation in xenophobia and racism and i think a lot of their members along with the comments they have made are absolutely vile. I also think a lot of their other policies are backwards and unworkable and that they rightfully get a lot of criticism in the media. You are only defending them because they are the only anti EU party and you seem to think that's what the argument is about, the media have rightfully criticised them for comments their members have made which you wont even acknowledge because "big deal". UKIP got their EU debate with Clegg and Farage is constantly on tv arguing against the EU with a disproportionate amount of air time. You arguments are complete nonsense.

    1. If I were an "undecided" voter I certainly could not rely on you to persuade me by presenting an argument, because you seem to be incapable of understanding what is written down in front of you.

      At no point in the original blog, nor in our "discussion" have I made any attempt to defend UKIP, either their policies or the actions of their members. I condemned the behaviour of the demonstrators in denying Farage a platform in Edinburgh and the stupidity of their arguments that UKIP is a fascist party, when their own behaviour has all the hallmarks of a totalitarian regime. That is an opinion shared by the leader writers in most of the newspapers I have seen, as well as that of many who have written to newspapers protesting at the behaviour of the demonstrators.

      You have said you are "proud" you denied Farage a platform, following that with a rant about his policies and his hypocrisy. Who the hell are you to decide what other people are to be allowed to hear? You say you also loathe the Tories. Are they next on the list to be denied a platform? Have you any idea how stupid it is to call Farage a hypocrite because "his lifestyle is not consistent with his politics"? I asked you to give me examples of all those good socialists in the Labour Party who would pass your test of hypocrisy and am still waiting. How many leaders of the Labour Party in the last 75 years have been horny handed sons of the soil? How many of them have had actual experience of what it is like to live off a working man's wage? Are they just hypocrites too?

      If you want to stop Farage and UKIP then defeat their arguments, show the electorate how wrong they are by rational debate; not a collection of childish accusations about his lifestyle, his background and his German-born wife.

    2. Well it has been fun disagreeing with you Grandad but I think I will call it a day on this one. I don't think we will reach an amicable conclusion but I look forward to disagreeing with you again in the future, I just hope you won't strawman my arguments next time ;)

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