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By Jason Michael
SHORTLY AFTER MIDNIGHT on Sunday news began circulating on social media that the Wings Over Scotland Twitter account had been permanently removed from the platform – a verified account with a following of some 58,000 users. The significance of this loss to the online campaign for Scottish independence should be lost on no one genuinely interested in independence, and when I read the news my heart sank. Shortly thereafter Stu Campbell, the owner of the Wings website, posted a brief article acknowledging what had happened. “As some alert readers have already noticed,” Campbell wrote, “our Twitter account has been suspended again…” The difference this time is this was not a spell in the Twitter sin-bin, this ban is “supposedly permanent.”
In characteristic style, Campbell had entered the fray in the gender debate and suggested that Pink News’ Nick Duffy sounded like a bit of a “cunt” after he and others had unleashed a an “unprovoked, nasty and highly personal attack on gender-critical feminist Helen Lewis.” Naturally, Wings’ opponents leapt on this opportunity to report his “hateful conduct.” Strictly speaking, use of the c-word – for which I do apologise – is not a violation of Twitter’s rules, but any number of things may have contributed to this decision. By virtue of the partisan political nature of the website, Wings Over Scotland has no shortage of enemies, and Stu Campbell’s personal views on the gender debate have attracted a highly organised and dedicated set of online trans activists who have it in for him as well. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that the human decision makers at Twitter HQ in San Francisco have their own opinions on this debate too.
🎙️ Wings Over Scotland banned from Twitter: We have to work really hard to keep the heart of the Scottish independe… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) December 17, 2019
This may have been a decision made on an accumulation of reports made to the platform, or the wording of his tweet may have been interpreted to fall foul of the targeted harassment rule. Neither can it be ruled out that there may have been some British government involvement in Twitter’s final decision. But, regardless of what the straw was that broke the camel’s back, the result was that Wings was permanently banned. The owners of the account have lodged an appeal, but are not holding out much hope. In a short chat with Stu Campbell yesterday morning, he said the situation was “absurd,” concluding only “let’s see what happens.”
Losing Wings on Twitter is a blow to our cause and I will unapologetically take his side to do what I can to persuade Twitter to reconsider its decision. Obviously – from the mixed reactions on social media yesterday, not everyone in the independence movement agrees. A poll I posted to Twitter yesterday, in which at the time of writing over a thousand people have voted, indicates that 27 percent of independentistas believe it was “good for independence that Wings has been banned.” So, it is clear that a case has to be made.
Stu Campbell, of course, has his share of personal faults, and he has his own views on the politics of independence and the gender debate. Do I agree with him on these things? Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. Like myself and a number of other pro-independence writers, he has been outspoken and critical of the Scottish National Party. The SNP is not the voice of the independence movement, and criticism of the party is not treacherous to the cause of our nation’s freedom. The SNP has now won not one, not two, not three, but four mandates to put the question of independence back to the sovereign people of Scotland. Any employee who has to be told more than three times to do a specific task is not rewarded. They don’t get to boast they’ve been told a fourth time. An employee like this is handed their P-45. I support independence. At a push, I will tactically vote for the party to further the cause, but I’m critical of the SNP for having to be told four times while it’s busy down in London campaigning to stop Brexit after Brexit has already been rejected by the sovereign people.
Seeing a lot of pro-independence accounts delighted Wings Over Scotland has been banned. So, a question: Is it good… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) December 17, 2019
Many of Wings’ pro-independence enemies are keen to point out that he was “brilliant” back in 2014, but once he began sharing his concerns about the SNP he had “lost the plot.” How silly can people be? Someone is not brilliant merely because they say the things with which you happen to agree. They are either good at what they do or they are not. What this concession says to me – that Wings was brilliant when I agreed with him – is that once Campbell started voicing uncomfortable truths many who recognised his abilities simply turned on him. What else it says to me is something about the author’s integrity. It takes immense courage to say unpopular things to a mass social and political movement, and we have to be wary of those who only ever say popular things – something for which a good few in the SNP have developed a knack. Integrity, it seems, is in short supply.
As for Campbell’s thoughts on the gender debate, I couldn’t give a fig. This is not my fight. Not that I think it is an unimportant discussion, it is. It’s simply not my discussion. But the standard reply to this is that I must not care about the rights of trans people or biological woman. Rubbish! I do. Yet, the fact remains, if I took it upon myself to fight every worthy cause, I wouldn’t be able to contribute anything of any substance to any of them. I write and I use social media to campaign for independence – and sometimes I write things my readers don’t like.
Still, neither my Twitter account nor Campbell’s is the property of the independence movement. These are still private accounts. From time to time I wander into other interests and passions of mine. My regular readers will see the odd prayer, theological reference, holy picture, or something about trains – yes, trains. Stu Campbell has every right to air his own thoughts on things other than independence. No one is forced to read these tweets or to agree with their content. Because he is passionate about his opinions on gender does not mean he is any less passionate about independence or dedicated and useful to our cause. Neither is it the case that defending Campbell’s right to use his Twitter account as he sees fit means that I agree with his opinions.
Again and again yesterday, prominent trans activists – including one person who played centre forward in the recent vicious campaign against Joanna Cherry – appeared on my notifications accusing me of misogyny and transphobia. At one point a Direct Message was discussed in which a number of SNP staffers and trans rights activists had listed the names of pro-independence accounts and bloggers who were to be shut down. This is enough to persuade even the most level-headed among us that there is a wee coup happening in the inner workings of the SNP. It hardly inspires confidence, and – as far as I’m concerned – it ends the trust.
Not liking Stu Campbell, his politics, or his opinions on other things is not a crime. While independentistas bleat endlessly about the dangers of Britain’s tactics of divide and rule, we hear no end of the “marmite” comments about Campbell and others who are doing so much for Scottish independence. But sure, you don’t have to like what we do. You don’t even have to like us. But shutting us down because you personally don’t like us is dangerous. It is corrosive.
Wings Over Scotland has always been on the receiving end of class-based animosity from within the independence move… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) December 17, 2019
Wings Over Scotland has 58,000 followers on Twitter. That is a phenomenal social media reach, made all the more important in the context of a bitter ideological and constitutional struggle in which we still do not have a pro-independence media a fraction of the size of the BBC and with a fraction of its reach and influence. Taking down the largest and most popular pro-independence website from Twitter is a monumental tactical blunder, and it will cost the next independence referendum campaign dearly online. Saying that Stu Campbell is only one blogger is as crappy as it is naïve. Do I want 58K followers on Twitter? Absolutely! But do I want Wings’ followers? – erm, no!
Wings Over Scotland caters to a very particular readership, and a very high maintenance readership at that. It is vocal, active, and in the main gruff and full of class – working class. I can say that because I’m working class. You can’t. Wings’ readers read Wings because he speaks to their demographic, something the SNP’s Byres Road Stasi haven’t a hope in hell of doing. But what the latte commandoes can’t get into their wee peanut heids is that the heavy lifting of independence is in the working class – in the grass roots, and there will be no independence for Scotland unless that working class movement is on your side. So, the constant sniping of the Frappuccino mafia leads me to think that these roasters don’t want what we want. Well, they don’t. They’re like the Tories in that they are to a lad and a lassie instinctual class warriors; their independence doesn’t include the working class – it’s the transfer of power from one dominant class to another – or nothing.
These people detest Wings Over Scotland because they detest the Wings constituency. This assessment, which is shared by Campbell himself, certainly puts the carry on over the idea of a Wings list seat party in a new light. But they can relax. At least for the time being they have downed the great beast from Twitter – the influence of the website will fall. But I’d like you, my readers, to sit back and think about what this means. The audience the SNP could never reach – a massive Scottish audience of working class voters – has just been dumped. They’ve been told they’re not wanted, they’re being mocked and humiliated by some smug little prick with a yellow lanyard and an Instagram profile. But they won’t forget this. No, they won’t forget this.
Wings Over Scotland – Too Hot For TV