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By Jason Michael
Why is it so shocking that bloggers and other ideas people in the movement ask for a little financial support for the work they do? Why is it important to fund those who are working for independence?
“If bloggers are struggling then why not get off ass and get a real job…?” A woeful command of the English language aside, it was only a matter of time before a comment like this was fired at us from a British nationalist troll account on Sunday in the heat of a spat over donate buttons on blogs and pro-independence media crowd funding. Musing out loud Runnerlicious asked: “Why do most Yesser blogs have donate buttons [and] constantly beg for donations?” – adding that “unionists blog for free.” While the various attempts to answer this question – my own included – quickly descended into squabbling and personal attacks, Julie was asking a fair question; one I hope to answer a bit better here than Twitter will allow.
Getting up off our arses and getting "real jobs" is tantamount to silencing the only media the Yes movement has. It… twitter.com/i/web/status/9…—
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) February 11, 2018
Julie asks this question because, as she says, she knows of “at least one elderly man who has gone without heating and food” as a result of the pressure he has felt to support “supposed Yes ‘friends’” financially. Fair play to her for having had the courage to bring this up, it certainly brought her a serious amount of flack. Pressuring anyone to donate to support a blog – or anything online for that matter – is pretty disgusting. No one is obliged to “donate,” and efforts to force donations from vulnerable people should be called out. In some cases it may even be appropriate for the police to be informed. But at this point this account is hearsay.
While this is not necessarily untrue, the incident lacks supporting evidence. Personally, I have never begged, harassed, or pressured anyone into supporting the work I do. I have a link to my Patreon account at the foot of my blog, leaving it entirely up to readers to throw me a few bucks or not. It’s not particularly profitable. At present it brings in $27 a month, an amount I gratefully receive that covers the basic costs of two websites.
One patron withdrew his gift before Christmas last year, saying that his “gas/electricity supplier [had] screwed up [his] monthly payments and stung [him] with a massive bill.” My response – I would like to think – was anything but a guilt trip: “Thank you for your kind and generous support. Your own priorities come first. But I would like to thank you for everything you have given us. It has been a massive help. Have a lovely Christmas and a good New Year.” Of course people’s own priorities come first, and I would like to think the vast majority of pro-independence bloggers and content producers understand this and receive what gifts they do receive with gratitude and thanks.
The other point raised is that unionist bloggers do their thing for free, and this would – on the face of it – appear to be true. It is something I have put some thought into as well. From my own observations I would contend that the British nationalist bloggers I know are not quite like us. As we look over them and their personal profiles we discover, as Paul Kavanagh has already noted, they are people who benefit from the status quo; they are academics in tenured positions in prestigious universities, retired professors, owners of chain retail stores, and so on. They are independently wealthy middle class professionals. There is simply no way Paul Kavanagh, James Kelly, or I – for example – can compete with people with six figure salaries and hefty pensions. It’s not a level playing field.
When we add to this the reality that the British nationalist bloggers are backed up by a multi-billion pound British unionist newspaper and television media industry; that they are platformed by the tabloids, the broadsheets, and the BBC, we begin to see the seriousness of the deficit we are at. Then we read Kavanagh quoting Tom Morton in iScot Magazine: “I received peculiar invitations to come to London for discussions with someone who apparently specialised in crisis PR for sensitive political situations. They’d pay me to write more pro-union blogs.”
Not only does Scotland in Union bring in massive donations from a few exceptionally wealthy unionist establishment types, the unionist bloggers are being paid by shady public relations firms – no doubt in the employ of the British government – to astroturf “sensitive political situations.”
So unionist bloggers have no need for donate buttons and crowd funders. They have their own money as a consequence of their place in society, they are supported and amplified by an already unionist state media apparatus, and are in receipt of dark money from a government that has an obvious interest in propagating the cause of the union. Last week when I asked Paul Kavanagh about his income he was quite candid: “As it is,” he said, “I have a donate button on the blog and it brings in less than I would get if I was claiming unemployment benefit.”
Not knowing what the exact situation is for other pro-independence bloggers, this is a sentiment I can echo. As a daily blogger I spend three to four hours writing every day – that’s discounting time taken interviewing, travelling, and doing research – and I get, as I have said, $27 per month in donations. Doing the maths, this works out to just below 30 cents – about 20 pence – an hour for the same work that any journalist in the Scotsman, the Record, or the Mail is doing. Last week, thanks to the amazing support of Ken McDonald at iScot, I was able to travel to Glasgow and interview Paul Kavanagh as part of a pilot for a series of interviews for Independence Live. Without money this is simply impossible. Watch the interview and judge for yourself.
Rob McDowall (@robmcd85) February 11, 2018
Julie has every right to ask about donate buttons and funding. No one wants to be taken a lend of, and we bloggers don’t want a reputation for abusing people or being in this just for the money – but, all the same, money is important. When it comes to cash and other resources the unionists are super-charged. We are broke. The independence movement consumes what we produce. It can be argued that the work we do helps to keep the movement alive. What happens when pro-independence bloggers chuck in the towel and go and “find a real job?” What then?
I am quite happy to continue writing. What I write will always be freely available to everyone in the movement. This is my movement too, and my work is my gift to it. I’m on this journey to help win independence – knowing full well that I have blown any chance of writing for a mainstream-unionist paper in Scotland. That was my choice. All that we are asking is that those who appreciate what we are doing, see the need for it, and are able to afford it, help us cover our bills. That is far from a crime. Having said this, donations are not obligatory. I know what it is like to be broke. I know what it feels like to have the lecky turned off. If people aren’t in a position to give, fine. Keep reading and keep sharing what we do. That is why we do it.
Journalist Jason Michael interviews Paul Kavanagh, a leading light in the Scottish independence movement.