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By Jason Michael
Just when we thought it was safe to get back in the water… Yeah, we all had a bit of a rammy. I didn’t hold back in saying my piece, but we all agreed to bury the hatched – or I thought we had. Then came Mr McEnaney with his hatchet.
RISE’s rising star and writer for the unionist Daily Record and Common Space, James McEnaney, is one of those hierophants of Scottish political Twitter who enjoys painting those who disagree with him as bile spouting “blood and soil” racist nationalists. During my time at the Butterfly Rebellion we’ve crossed swords with him a few times. It’s always the same, he – in his own head being infinitely more intelligent than everyone else – gives us a taste of his vitriol and his rather amusing but pathetic superiority complex. He’s always good for a laugh when you’re in the doldrums.
Last week we found ourselves, as I am sure you can remember, at loggerheads with Common Space over its decision to side with Kezia Dugdale over her cynical and opportunistic accusation that Wings Over Scotland’s Stuart Campbell was a homophobe. Only today Robin McAlpine, a man for whom I have considerable respect, after returning from a trip to Sheffield, penned a piece in Common Space attempting to put ice on what he described as a “Twitter storm.” What he failed to mention, after commenting that there is “a substantial minority of you who want to live in a world of bitterness and mistrust and poison and smears and hatred and bullying,” was that it was Common Space itself that fired off all the bitterness and mistrust and poison and smears and hatred and bullying at Wings Over Scotland. This has sadly become a pattern of behaviour at Common Space.
The rights of marginalised people and groups are vastly important, but... 🤤 *This* is the sort of bile I want noth… twitter.com/i/web/status/8…—
James McEnaney (@MrMcEnaney) August 01, 2017
@MrMcEnaney Do you think our rights are safe under this Tory government who have previously pledged to walk them back?—
(@PoliticsScot) August 01, 2017
Without getting into it all again, however, I said my piece and decided to let it go, but I had a sneaking feeling that this wasn’t over. It wasn’t. Some of the personalities in this new media outfit are not the types of people to let sleeping dogs lie. These are people who like to be in charge. It was only a matter of time, I suspected, until they’d come gunning for me – and they did, and their assassin of choice was none other than Mr McEnaney himself. What he attempted to pull off was, I think, quite impressive.
He posted a tweet on Tuesday with a screen grab excerpt of the blog I published on Monday, “Independence First.” In this tweet he wrote, “The rights of marginalised people and groups are vastly important, but… [a drooling emoji] …*This* is the sort of bile I want nothing to do with.” Quite clever, I thought. You see what he did there, right? What he did was to construct a vulgar analogy to the racist cliché “I’m not a racist, but…,” where what follows is a blatant confirmation of the racism of the racist. He was telling his readers that I was not against defending and furthering the rights of marginalised people, but… actually I was – because, as a raving “blood and soil” nationalist – as one of his pals remarked – independence came first, even at the cost of people’s rights.
Patrick Harvie (@patrickharvie) August 01, 2017
Yes2 Hub (@Yes2Hub) August 01, 2017
This was certainly how Patrick Harvie read it when he invented a quote which had me saying, “Your rights can wait, your equality doesn’t matter to me yet.” According to Harvie this was what I had “explicitly” said. But I said no such thing. Is that libel? What I actually said, for the benefit of Harvie and McEnaney’s followers, was:
Of course the rights of marginalised people and groups are important. The defence and the furtherance of those rights is not the exclusive preserve of Scotland’s unionists. Everyone has an obligation to defend the rights and protect the dignity and worth of his or her neighbour. That much is a given – or, at least, it should be.
…it is not being suggested that we simply ignore these other concerns. That too would be stupid. Neither is this a matter of “nation over individual.” That too is both stupid and dangerous. What we are saying in this – and this is important – is that no one’s rights will be safe, protected, or furthered so long as we remain in the United Kingdom.
What I actually said, Messrs McEnaney and Harvie, was that we have an “obligation to defend the rights and protect the dignity and worth” of everyone in our society. It’s right there in black and white gentlemen! But I suppose your agendas and the restriction to 140 characters made it impossible for you to accurately relate what my piece said. Following the “but” was not a contradiction of my support for people’s rights and the need to protect and further them, but a straightforward assessment that without independence none of our rights are secure or even effectively defended by a Westminster government that is all about “money and power over the needs and rights of ordinary people.”
Human rights are like the air we breathe, and we cannot but breathe. We must breathe or we will die. Why on earth would I suggest anyone’s – not to mention those of the marginalised’s – rights should be suspended? That would be “abhorrent,” and that was exactly the point. This was the very word used by McEnaney to describe the position he invented and foisted upon me. That was – what was it McAlpine wrote? – an act of “cruelty.” It was a lie.
If our rights and freedoms are the air we breathe, then – to extend the analogy – Scotland is our house, the home in which we live, and move, and have our being. We must breathe, for sure, but the house we are living in is on fire. The very atmosphere is toxic – and, no Mr Harvie, all those issues are not “already under our own control.” Our priority is to get out of the inferno.
Jason is right. All you selfish marginalised minority type people need to shut up and get to the back of the bus un… twitter.com/i/web/status/8…—
(@CommonWings) August 01, 2017
Uncle Josef (@savagehenrycelt) August 02, 2017
Of course what I had written was not read this way. It was deliberately misinterpreted because it was intended to be a hatchet job. Shortly thereafter this colourful reading of my work was picked up by Angry Salmond – now “Angry Scotland;” another group account closely associated with the Common Space set, and retweeted from its new parody account – jokingly digging at those of us outraged by Common Space’s recent antagonistic antics – “CommonWings.” I knew perfectly well what was going on. I was being subjected to the astroturfing tactics of what would appear to be a small clique centred around the Common Space office.
Restarting the infighting – this “battle of the blogs” – will do no one any good. In under a week Common Space’s Twitter following has depreciated from 22.5 thousand followers to 19.8 today. This alone tells us that this carry on is self-destructive and counterproductive. It certainly hasn’t been a “battle of the blogs.” It has been Common Space on the warpath, overreaching, and getting burned. All of this needs to stop right now, but… And now I’ll use that “but.” Some very serious questions need to be asked about what is happening in Common Space. I would like to think that this is just a display of arrogance, yet in calling for what amounts to unquestioned and uncritical unity in the independence movement we had better be damn sure we don’t have a fox in the coup.
All of this was brought to my attention – because I wasn’t linked to the original tweet of course – when this amazing analysis on >>Tumblr<< was posted on my Facebook page. Have a read.
Controlling the Internet through “Astroturfing”