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By Jason Michael
Sky News launched a poll asking us who was Britain’s most influential woman. Scotland spent the weekend telling Sky who influenced it, and the result has pretty much left the intended winners for dust.
Thursday is International Women’s Day and to mark the occasion Sky News launched a popularity contest on its website, asking the public to vote for Britain’s most influential woman. Naturally this poll had nothing to do with the one hundred women on the list. These things are always about reinforcing the dominant ideology on the culture space of the general public, and this one was no exception. The idea is, of course, that the faces themselves are reduced to cyphers for the political ideas they represent; which might explain why six of the bottom ten slots are filled with women of colour.
Given this, and given that we are in the season of Brexit and British faux patriotism, we can safely assume the authors of the poll fully intended the usual very British suspects to have an easy lift to the top; Elizabeth and Victoria Sax-Coburg und Gotha, Diana Spencer, Maggie Thatcher, and maybe Florence Nightingale because she used to be on a tenner. In fairness, they weren’t wrong. They all made it to the top ten. But Britishness refuses to recognise winners unless there are losers, and so a couple of losers had to be inserted into the list to teach their supporters a lesson.
Doesn’t look like this is going to plan eh🤔 news.sky.com/story/vote-who…—
James Dornan SNP (@glasgowcathcart) March 03, 2018
In both Wales and the north of Ireland there are women in politics, but Leanne Wood, Michelle O’Neil, and that Arlene Foster one aren’t listed. Back in November last year the BBC made a lot of noise about Ruth Davidson; the leader of the Scottish Unionist Party, being named The Herald newspaper’s “politician of the year,” but she doesn’t appear either. So we can take it that the appearance of Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgoen [sic], and her SNP colleague Mhairi Black indicates who the Sky News pollsters’ intended to be pilloried.
The internet however, as Sky News has been reminded, is a bit of a swine. Readers in Scotland clocked what was going on and sounded the alarm on social media. Over the weekend Twitter and Facebook did what they do best, and folk all over Scotland rallied behind their favourite people. From their place of obscurity they quickly shot to the summit, with Scots voting in their tens of thousands and sharing the news to the furthest reaches of the internet. By Sunday afternoon supporters in Wales, across parts of England, and all over the island of Ireland were joining in. The website crashed a number of times as traffic on the page mushroomed, and no doubt the admins at Sky shut it down a few times to limit access, but the votes kept pouring in.
It’s Monday now and Nicola and Mhairi are comfortably sitting on first and third place respectively and the vote doesn’t end until Wednesday. We can rest assured the headlines were already written before the poll went live: “Queen Voted Britain’s Most Influential Woman Online.” But now that that does not look to be the likely outcome, we are left to wonder what will now happen. Nicola Sturgeon being voted “Britain’s” most popular woman – with a ten to twenty thousand vote lead on Bess – is not going to be wall-to-wall news in the UK on International Women’s Day.
Miriam Brett (@MiriamBrett) March 03, 2018
So what will happen? If it is mentioned at all it will be on the couch with a couple of talking heads explaining how the poll was “rigged” or “hijacked” by an extreme element of fifty thousand Scottish nationalists. Most likely it won’t be mentioned at all. Thursday will come and go and the page will be quietly removed by the admins. Its only purpose was to create something useful to say to Sky viewers about how Brexit is bringing the people of Britain together. But they can’t say that now. Sure, Theresa May couldn’t even scrape two thousand votes as she dangles precariously just above the Spice Girls – a reminder – if ever there was one – not to ask questions we don’t want the answers to.
Back in Scotland, where we are forever being told by news outlets like Sky News that the SNP has peaked, the unionists online have produced so much froth over this poll they have pushed the share price of Mocha Frappuccino south. On the yoon stream the chorus is all about the vote having been rigged, implying that Sky News is actually now in support of Scottish independence. It hasn’t been rigged, but it has been hacked. Scottish independentistas have figured out how to use Britain’s media arsenal to strike it back, and this tactic has proven to be shockingly successful. All of their wailing is, however, very informative. Their rage and frustration at our ability to rock a UK-wide online popularity contest and to call up the support of friends and allies further afield tells us that this is something they cannot do. Online British nationalism is an astroturfing project centred on a handful of paid unionist activists. Faced with a true grassroots movement they are powerless.
It is still a long time until the polls close and it would be daft to get complacent. It’s not important that we win this. It changes nothing. But winning would send a powerful message to the British media establishment – an establishment that has fought us for years and ignored our complaints concerning its open bias. We will be saying that we are watching and that in fact we do have the numbers and the will to do something about how the media behaves and how it wants to represent us and our political ambitions and aspirations. This is the sort of activism we should be doing.
The Daily Show – Nicola Sturgeon