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By Jason Michael
The connection between British nationalism/Scottish unionism and right-wing racist street politics is not news to those of us in the Scottish independence movement, but it is being hidden from everyone else. This must be called out.
Given that independentistas tend not to follow British nationalist or Scottish unionist accounts on social media – the latter being the Scottish cognate of the former, we find ourselves in a developing echo chamber. We read and share opinions and attitudes that broadly conform to those which we hold ourselves. This is compounded by pro-independence and British nationalist users frequently blocking one another. Rather than the internet and social media opening up the world to us; facilitating bigger conversations, we are fast becoming tribes, locked into limited digital spaces.
Over the past nine months, in an attempt break out of my own social media bubble, I have been monitoring about three hundred influential British nationalist and Scottish unionist accounts on Twitter with the help of a “lurker” account. It never tweets or retweets. This account simply follows, allowing me to see what is going on in the world of British nationalism in Scotland.
What quickly becomes obvious is that this is an entirely different twittersphere from the one familiar to us in the independence movement. Misogyny and sexual swear words are ubiquitous. What passes for parody is more aggressive and offensive than it is tongue-in-cheek and light-hearted, and the iconography of Ulster loyalism and Rangers football club is everywhere. There is no clear delineation between British nationalism and Scottish unionism. They are essentially the same thing, with the exception that Scottish unionism focuses primarily on British nationalism in the context of the Scottish constitutional debate. Moreover, both British nationalists and Scottish unionists have a tendency to align themselves with so-called alt-right accounts in the United States.
Observing this British nationalist timeline, replete as it is with right-wing political viewpoints, overt racism and Islamophobia, and alt-right memes, has led me to the conclusion that British nationalism is a social expression in the UK of white supremacist identities and a highly racist ideology. In the same way that we have witnessed race hate groups in “Ameri-KKK-a” construct false equivalences between the white supremacists and the leftist counter-protesters, British nationalists have done the same by comparing the Scottish National Party to the Nazis.
I'm crowdfunding for my new movie idea, set in Scotland 2032 - "Mad Mac; Beyond Thundercunt".—
Major Gas Guzzler (@MajorDMalpas) September 05, 2017
Nicola Sturgeon is routinely depicted as an SS officer. This has been crystallised in at least one popular meme used by the “Nazi Nic” account with the Islamophobic handle “@jockystan.” Nazi Nic is followed by other well-known British nationalist troll accounts, including “UK Union Voice,” the now exposed Russian government account “David Jones,” “Agent P,” and the foulmouthed “Ayrshire Lass.” Yet a cursory glance at any British nationalist timeline is enough to show where the right-wing and openly racist sentiment in Scottish politics lies.
Tommy Robinson, one of England’s most infamous and outspoken racists, is not followed by this lurker on account of him not being related directly to Scottish politics. Still, he is a common fixture on the timeline; with a number of accounts retweeting him daily. No fewer than 52 of those followed by the lurker follow Robinson – that’s almost 20 per cent – and these include “Agent P”, “Mary Connor,” and “British Sauce.” In fact there is never more than two degrees of separation between mainstream Scottish unionists on Twitter – Effie Deans and Jill Stephenson for example – and the angry racist fringe of British nationalism.
Before discussing these observations further it is important to emphasise the distinction between a No voter and a Scottish unionist. By definition, all British nationalists in Scotland are No voters, but not all of those who voted No in September 2014 or who currently intend to vote No in another independence referendum identify as British nationalists or Scottish unionists. People opposed to Scottish independence oppose it for a plethora of reasons, but – sadly for them – they are forced to keep some rather unsavoury company. Racism, bigotry, and intolerance are endemic features of the No voting online community.
Scottish unionism qua British nationalism – often masquerading as “patriotism” for fear of the more overt rightist connotations of nationalism – is saturated with oftentimes violent Islamophobic opinion. It is frequently racist and intolerant in its stance against immigration, the protection of refugees, and in its negative attitudes towards non-UK EU citizens, members of the Traveller community, and a whole host of other people it identifies as members of out-groups.
It is worrying in the extreme that nothing of this is covered by the British media. Considering that the evidence is so easily accessible online, it has to be thought that the BBC and the rest of Britain’s establishment media are aware of the racism within British nationalism in Scotland yet choose to ignore it. This is the case, one would imagine, because the racists of the British nationalist movement in Scotland and the British establishment are both on the same side in the fight against Scottish independence. Thus British nationalism in Scotland is being used as a cat’s paw, sowing division and drawing support to unionism by appealing to racist and bigoted opinions.
The danger of this racist ideology to the health of Scottish democracy is obscured by the fact that much of it is hidden behind the pretence of protecting the unity of the United Kingdom and further obfuscated by a state media unwilling to expose it. In effect then a vicious form of racist politics is being pushed into the mainstream of Scottish politics largely under the radar. While this is not particularly news to those in the independence movement, we must appreciate that this is being concealed from everyone else.
We have an obligation, not merely to Scotland but to the rest of these islands, to call this out wherever and whenever we see it. A way must be found to bring this to the attention of the wider public before it is too late. Such ideologies, once they have gained a foothold, are not easy to uproot and remove from the body politic. We simply cannot afford to tolerate this menace to our society.
British Nationalism: “Putting the Great back in Britain”