Anti-Irish Racist IRA Slur from Ross Greer

By Jason Michael

Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer showed such promise in the Sunday Herald when he blasted the bigotry of the “zoomers” on the “lunatic fringe” of the independence movement. Then he goes full Murdo Fraser with the sectarianism.

“In 2014 we built a movement which was hopeful, optimistic and open to all,” wrote the Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer in the Sunday Herald, and “bigots and bullies aren’t my people,” before he went on Twitter to attack me as “Michael Collins with a keyboard.” As the editor of the Butterfly Rebellion blog, a website established in September 2014 to continue to work for Scottish independence, I have been accused of many things. Jill Stephenson has called me a “nutter,” her unionist confederates have attempted to paint me as a neo-Nazi “blood and soil” nationalist, and – as has come to be expected – I have been written off as a “zoomer.” The ad hominem has become the go-to mode of debate for many online unionists.

Over the past couple of weeks these personalised attacks have been democratised, as the independence movement’s “radical left” intelligentsia has increasingly turned on those independentistas – including myself – with whom it disagrees. In the midst of this maelstrom I was heartened to read of Greer’s frustration at these “deeply personal attacks on good people” by “obnoxious keyboard warriors.” He rightly underlined the hypocrisy of our movement in tolerating this problematic behaviour when he asked:

What kind of hypocrisy is it to proclaim that we must all be polite to the bigots but not tell those same bigots to cut their vitriol for the sake of those they are attacking?

After over a decade of living and working in Dublin, Ireland; working with the Centre for Peace and Reconciliation at Glencree – building peace in the aftermath of the Troubles, as a delegate to the International Council of Christians and Jews, and an activist for Palestinian Solidarity, the answer to his question matters to me. Peace is an essential component of any civilised society, and peace is established with dialogue and mutual respect. When Greer writes that it is “clear that this fringe has nothing civil to say,” I agree. There are always voices on the peripheries who want nothing other than to insult, offend, and stir up trouble. I applaud Mr Greer for having called this out.

Yet yesterday the young MSP went and dirtied his bid, spoiling all his fine words. The Butterfly Rebellion published an article critical of Common Space’s use of sock puppet Twitter accounts – namely “@AngryScotland” and “@CommonWings” – to harass and troll other pro-independence activists. James McEnaney, a writer for Common Space and the unionist Daily Record, posted this to his Twitter page, calling it – as is now typical of his behaviour online – “hilarious” rather than addressing its content. So low has the journalistic integrity of Common Space sunk that everything critical of its divisive antics is dismissed as hilarious and foolish by its writing team. This was to be expected. What was not was Greer’s comment, “Check out Michael Collins with a keyboard.” Like McEnaney, I too assumed this was a witty way of calling me a “rocket” – a Scots slag term of insult, but no. In a subsequent response he hammered home its meaning: “The struggle is real and you’re no Butterfly unless you join a flying column.”

Greer was not referencing the Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins, but General Michael Collins – IRA commander during the Irish War of Independence and leader of the Irish Free State Army until his assassination by Anti-Treaty forces during the Irish Civil War. It was Collins who directed the “flying columns;” a guerrilla tactic used against British forces in the War of Independence. What an obscure insult, but it does make sense. It makes sense when one reads my personal profile on Twitter: “Scottish journalist and blogger based in Dublin…”

Jill Stephenson, retired professor of Nazi German history at Edinburgh University, has used my location as a weapon to inspire unionist aggression in the past. She is convinced the independence movement is led by “Catholics” and “infested” with “Irish Republicans.” There is simply no hiding the sectarian bigotry of such comments, but people like “Historywoman” are best ignored. But to see it used by Ross Greer, a fellow independence supporter and a “Christian,” is deeply distressing and personally hurtful. I am not going to call Ross a racist, but his comment definitely is.

Anti-Irish racism – yes, it is a thing – and its close relative anti-Catholic sectarianism are serious problems in Scottish society. Greer talks a wonderful game of the Scotland he wants to see after independence, but I am afraid that by perpetuating this garbage he is doing nothing but replicating the nightmare vision of Murdo Fraser and his ilk’s bitter and divided Scotland. Having worked with survivors and the families of the victims of the Troubles – from both communities – in Northern Ireland and in the Republic, I know the pain that such thoughtless IRA slurs cause. I too was almost a victim of a sectarian paramilitary bombing in Derry. How dare this young man use this nasty, hate-filled bile in an attempt to shame and silence me.

What do I want to see come of this? Well, for a start I want to see an end to the infighting he and others among the self-proclaimed leaders of the Yes movement are stoking. I would also like a public apology for this remark. It was a stupid and insensitive jibe made on a public forum by a public figure. Nothing short of public recognition and a public apology to me and all those Irish-Scots it has offended will do. On receipt of such an apology I will be content to let it go. If I do not get what I have asked for, I will be taking this as far as the law will permit me.


How relevant is sectarianism to life in modern Scotland?

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All Aboard! There’s a Bandwagon in Town

By Jason Michael

David Torrance has pronounced the death of “Yes-ism.” Mind you, he has been saying the same thing from the beginning of the independence movement. Ultimately he has nothing to add. It’s just another bandwagon.

According to Scottish unionism’s hipster-in-chief, David Torrance, the end is nigh for Yes-ism. What will we all do with ourselves when it’s all over; relearn the words to ‘God Save the Queen,’ get back into cat memes on Twitter like normal people?  Nah, do you mind if we don’t? When there’s a sniff of a bandwagon in town it is never long before the third-rate hacks of the tory commentariat form a disorderly queue, and this week is no exception. Torrance has raced in as expected and – as usual – added nothing of substance to the discussion that hasn’t already been said.

What he does offer, however, is an interesting distillation of the wishful thinking of Scotland’s unionist audience watching a storm in a teacup – sensationally described by Robin McAlpine as a “Twitter storm” – in the independence movement. This is Torrance’s function. Yes, he does actually have one of those. His job as a unionist outrider is to stoke up trouble in the opposition and convey and ideologically tailored version of events back to his own ranks. In telling his readers what they want to hear he observes:

Yessers have split into two camps: the “radical” Left-wingers who view independence as a means to an end and dislike Wings’ stridency and approach to equality issues, and the “diehards” who view independence as an end in itself and believe platforms like Wings are a vital source of intelligence and propaganda for the Yes movement.

How simplistic can his analysis be? We could have told him all this years ago. Torrance’s reduction of the intersections within the independence movement to just two camps is derisible. We are talking about a national movement of hundreds of thousands of people – hundreds of the thousands of very different people – all working together towards a common objective. Of course there will be divisions. There are women and men, young and not-so-young, people of vastly different political opinions, gay and straight – you name it. After all his experience of working at the coalface of Britain’s attempts to undermine our national aspiration of self-determination, all this clown manages to notice is that there are old-guard independence “diehards” and “radical left-wingers.”

His view of the left-wingers, taken from a Twitter thread of another “academic,” Dr Scott Hames of Stirling University, is rather pessimistic. Bearing in mind that Hames is another talking-head from one of those institutions of higher learning in receipt of “research funding” from the British government as an incentive to defend the union, of course he’s going to have something negative to say – and he doesn’t disappoint. Hames reckons all these lefties are blow-ins to the independence movement from a “busted flush” Labour Party on the verge of being redeemed by the messianic Jeremy Corbyn.

Once these Labour rejects have had enough of the “centrist/Blairite SNP,” and once they’ve had enough of the diehards wiping the floor with them, they’ll all – according to Hames and Torrance – jump back into the big red Brexit Labour bus. Is that right, aye? Well in fairness they have some Cat Boyd flavoured grist for this particular unionist media mill. So what?

New leftism, speaking as a socialist, is something of a postmodern parody of the political left; more of a middle class student appropriation of the worker-solidarity identity used to give voice to a smouldering sense of class guilt and its adherents’ anxieties over their unresolved identitarian issues. By and large, as a “bourgeois” tool, new leftism is used – as we are seeing in RISE and Scotland’s “new” and “alternative” media – as another route into the professional class. Given their social backgrounds and their connections in the media and the world of politics most of these kids will ascend to where their ambitions are leading them, but that doesn’t mean they will abandon the politics that has carried them there. There are plenty of middle class and professional independentistas.

“New leftism, speaking as a socialist, is something of a postmodern parody of the political left; more of a middle class student appropriation of the worker-solidarity identity used to give voice to a smouldering sense of class guilt and its adherents’ anxieties over their unresolved identitarian issues.”

Yet none of this common sense deters Torrance from stirring the pot. In fact what he does is he takes this “divide” to an utterly ridiculous conclusion, that the infighting – which is always to be expected in mass movements – has produced a fanatical resistance to insider criticism. He absurdly compares this to the post-war Soviet sympathisers in Britain who viewed any condemnation of Stalin’s outrages as giving “aid and comfort to their political opponents.” So what are we Mr Torrance, Nazis or Stalinists? People like David Torrance will use any excuse to compare the independence movement to any despotic mass murdering régime. Perhaps he needs reminding that one Yesser threw an egg in 2014. Westminster managed to kill over a million innocent Iraqi men, women, and children.

This many people are just not always going to get along. Nothing of this is new to us, and unionists making more of it than what it is shouldn’t faze us. All of us come to the independence campaign with different social and political visions in mind – all of which can only be dealt with after independence – but what we have in common is the shared understanding that what we all want can only be achieved with independence. No doubt some of our “allies” in the new left will make their bed with Corbyn, but they’ll soon discover even he won’t live forever and neither will his utopian Britain. In the end, in Britain, only the establishment will have its way. Lasting change will only be won in Scotland by leaving Britain, and the smarter “radical” leftists already know this.


David Torrance Conceding the Right of Another Referendum

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Power Abhors a Vacuum: A Scottish Coup d’État

By Jason Michael

It is highly probable that soon Scotland will be an independent nation state. This new state will require leadership and direction, but it would be naïve of us to think London has no interest in the shape that new power will take.

It is no longer likely the United Kingdom will survive as a state in its present configuration for the next decade. Supporters of independence and unionists alike are acutely aware that another referendum will likely result in Scotland deciding to leave the union, and, as the only cohort of the Scottish electorate to vote against self-determination in 2014 was the over 65s, unionism in Scotland – and not to put too fine a point on it – is quite literally dying. Even the bookmakers have changed their tune. The best odds we can get on a bet for a Yes vote in the next referendum are “even.”

Britain is, like all other states, a bureaucratic state. It is a state administration run almost entirely by bureaucrats, administrators, actuaries, and planners of every conceivable hue. Bureaucracies do not simply ride the waves of the tides of historical change, they actively strategise for the future; making their own realities or the next best thing to their own ideal realities as they go. Years, sometime decades, in advance of potential sea changes to the political landscape they have civil servants working on solutions to hypothetical problems, and alternatives, and alternatives to the alternatives to these possible future eventualities. Governments do not like surprises.

It is no conspiracy theory then to say that right now in London there are experienced and educated people working on McCrone-like reports addressing a number of issues arising for the British state from the question of Scottish independence. Such hypotheticals will deal with such matters as how Britain will cope in the event of Scotland’s departure and how the British state can best subvert the Scottish National Party and the independence movement in the hope of delaying their objective or stopping it altogether. Scotland – the only producer of oil in the UK – is a crucial strategic asset of the London government’s geopolitical ambitions. Scotland is a paramount state interest of the UK.

How then might these characters in Whitehall be planning to manage the problem of Scotland? Firstly, it will do as it has done in other contexts. It will infiltrate every level of leadership of the SNP and the independence movement. Knowledge is everything, and the British government will want and need to know everything that is going on behind closed doors in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Just as the offices of Sinn Féin were bugged by the British secret intelligence services, so too will the offices and phone lines of Scotland’s pro-independence politicians be scrupulously surveilled. Everything will be tapped; their email accounts, social media, the works. But such surveillance, comprehensive as it is, is only at best reactive. What the watchers desire most is a tool that will give them the initiative, helping them to nudge Scotland in the direction it wants.

The obvious instrument for this type of intervention is the press. More especially in a small democratic nation the media is the central processing centre of the national consciousness. Noam Chomsky has spelt out how exactly the media is where public consent and opinion can be “manufactured” by those who have leverage over what it produces. It’s a tautological given that the unionist press will support the union, but in the post-IndyRef context of Scotland the likes of the BBC, Sky News, the Scotsman, the Herald, and the Daily Record have reached the zenith of their ideological usefulness to the requirements of the British state.

What are of infinitely more value to the state are agents of influence inside that media popularly accepted to be neutral or pro-independence. Better still would be an entire Trojan horse; a media outlet funded entirely through obfuscated British state shells and which’s editorial management is therefore directed by the feeding hand. Such agents of influence may or may not be aware of their useful idiot status. Some may have been paid, others otherwise compromised and blackmailed, and others still content to follow orders. Money is never neutral.

It makes perfect sense that the flow of money – especially dark money – into “pro-independence” projects would facilitate also the flow of hidden influence. It is therefore not unreasonable for people working for the independence of Scotland to be interested in where their media outlets get their funding. We have a responsibility as a movement to scrutinise every aspect of the media that is both forming and informing the shape of the movement and the direction it is taking.

When we see, for example, pro-independence writers and journalists given ease of access to the pages of the Daily Record, the Herald, and airtime on BBC television and radio news programmes we must exercise a healthy hermeneutic of suspicion. Why is it only a certain few receive this honour when people like Paul Kavanagh and Stuart Campbell are completely ostracised? This chosen few appear to come from trustworthy and safe regions of the Scottish pro-independence media, and they are elevated by the unionist press to the station of spokespersons for the independence movement. Yet they are from the same outlets that make a habit of chiming with the unionist press’ criticism of the SNP, and from the same cliques from which support for unionist Labour is most often heard.

Britain’s game plan is to control, as best it can, events as they unfold in our country. The next referendum will see the independence campaign begin already over the fifty percent mark, and the Westminster government is hedging its bets. It is – or, from its point of view, it should be – influencing our media; both the unionist and the nationalist press, so as to – on the one hand – destabilise our campaign, and – on the other hand – influence the power structure in Scotland post-independence. In the event that we secure independence Scotland will be a new state and the race to the reins of power has already begun. London does not want to be out of the loop in shaping a newly independent Scotland, and so it is perfectly rational to imagine a pre-emptive coup d’état is already in the making.


Media Institution: Crash Course Government and Politics #44

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Portrait of a Twisted Little Man

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.

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.

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.

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”

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Letting Scotland Down

By Jason Michael

So last week we all had a wee bit of a rammy, and the unionists were beside themselves with glee. That was last week. This is this week. Let’s at least see in it that we still feel passionately about what we are doing.

It hasn’t been an easy week for independentista bloggers in Scotland, and it most certainly hasn’t been easy for our readers. I have been as much a part of that difficulty as anyone else and for that I am deeply sorry. We are part of a movement that has grown up through real stress and adversity. People the length and breadth of the country have given the project of independence their hearts and souls; their all. Watching on as the bloggers and writers, who effectively became the barricade against the relentless onslaught of Britain’s media machine, tore strips out of one another over the past few days must have been soul destroying. As always, Paul Kavanagh has said it best:

It’s the fault of those of us who tweet, who write, who blog, who run national groups, who manage the “new media”. We’re the ones who’re letting Scotland down. We’re letting ourselves down. We’ve turned into passengers on a sinking ship who’re arguing about the music the band is playing instead of organising the life-boats.
Paul Kavanagh

As one of those writers it is difficult to assess my importance in the movement. Both this, my personal blog, and the Butterfly Rebellion which I edit are minnows in comparison to the likes of Wings Over Scotland, Wee Ginger Dug, and the rest, but I have played my part in the recent strife. Yes, anger and frustration got the better of me and I was more than willing to throw in my tuppence worth when it came to what I perceived – and to a great extent still do – as a threat to the integrity of the movement. Maybe there were better ways to have gone about that, and I won’t be so arrogant so as not to take on board the criticism that came my way as a result of this storm on social media.

IndyRef was the first time in my life I heard Scottish voices speaking without them being caricatured or subtly demeaned for not being BBC enough. I doubt it was only me, but I have absorbed a sense of shame about my Scottishness. There was always an undertone of social, political, and cultural inferiority in how I understood myself as a Scot and Scotland at the table of true Britishness. This is, as I have since learned, how colonialism works and operates. We accept the superiority of the master, internalise it, and so attempt to become human in the image of the master – always, as it is designed to be, an impossible task.

What we did together during IndyRef began the process of breaking my own internal shackles. Strong Scots voices became music to my ears. We, I discovered, were people of worth who had a voice worth listening to. All the while, however, I was aware of a few missing notes in the tune. The beautiful Scottish voices I was hearing and reading were all of a type. They were educated and middle class. They had an air of privilege and perhaps entitlement about them. Now this is not envious class hatred. I dealt with that some time ago. I loved these voices. I loved what they were saying and doing. I love them still, and God only knows the gratitude I have for them.

All the same my Scottish voice – a working class Scottish voice – seemed to be missing. This, more than anything else, moved me to begin writing. From the very beginning I knew that we could only win Scotland back from the grip of Westminster together. We had to overcome or at least suspend all our other differences; they had to become subservient to the struggle for independence.

What I saw when one of our blogs launched an open assault on another last week was the violation of this unspoken rule. One particularly well-funded and well-polished, media savvy group – all code for middle class of course – unleashed its fury and frustration on a blog with massive working class appeal. Like nationalism, class antagonism is a truly powerful social force, and one which I believe has the power to wreck our collective effort if left unchecked.

Independence, as I have always made clear, is the single most important objective of this movement. That is, after all, why we call ourselves the “Scottish independence movement.” It is so important that I will argue that it must take priority over all other social and political concerns – and the reason for this: Without it we will have no rights save those granted and easily taken by London. It was with this in mind that I and a number of others opened full salvo. Perhaps it could have been done better. It is done now and it is over.

Is there anything we can take from this? I believe so. It isn’t the case that we have succumbed to terminal infighting. No, we had a spat. But what I take from this is the realisation that we’re all pretty damn passionate about what we are doing. I will not stand idly by while anyone – “foreign or domestic” – undermines and weakens the vehicle that is taking us to independence. This movement is the lifeboat Paul Kavanagh wrote about, and it was, however upsetting, also encouraging to see people fighting to protect it. It is worth fighting for, but, with all last week’s business thankfully behind us, it is time to refocus that fighting spirit – that esprit de corps – back on the real enemy.


PLEASE SUPPORT Scotland’s independent media. GA Ponsonby writes: “iScot is the most under-valued new media outlet, rarely mentioned, yet slick and professional.” He’s dead right. iScot is probably the best print media we have and it needs our support. If you can afford it, no matter how much, please think about following the link >>HERE<< and making a wee donation to keep it going. Or better still – SUBSCRIBE. It’s monthly. It’s online or delivered to your door and it’s pure brilliant so it is.

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