‘Someone on the internet said something mean about me,’ joked Paul Kavanagh a couple of years ago as he recounted to me his experience of negative comments online. And this is true; no matter what we do or say, there will always be someone lurking somewhere online — invariably hiding behind an anonymous profile — who will go out of their way to say something biting and nasty. Here we’re not talking about trolls. We have come to expect them and when we realise this is what they are up to we can dismiss them without much thought.
Paul Kavanagh has written an article explaining to his readers why he will be stepping back from the 2021 Holyrood election campaign, and the experiences he has described are truly sickening. As we are all aware, Paul suffered a stroke a number of months ago and is struggling to recover. While he was in hospital, unable to receive visits from friends and loved ones due to the pandemic restrictions, he lost his beloved friend — our beloved friend — Ginger the wee ginger dug.
All of a sudden, the campaign of malicious reporting of pro-independence accounts looks less innocent. Britain’s internet and social media experts in the clandestine services – which clearly have something to gain from the disruption of the online independence movement – have friends in the Herald, and the Herald is up to its neck in the business of calling attention to pro-independence activists – and Twitter is not beyond being influenced by the suits in Whitehall. Whether Twitter has an understanding with London or not, accounts are being locked and deleted.
It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that we are being spied on by the state. When Jim Sillars said in mid-2014 he was aware of the arrival in Glasgow of British Army intelligence officers from London, we had every reason to trust him. Even if he was lying it would have been the truth regardless; if military intelligence wasn’t watching us and actively working to undermine our campaign, it wouldn’t be doing its job. That is the job of the secret services.
Recently, I have attracted the attention of such a troll. This person, as is to be expected, has an anonymous profile and uses that anonymity to bully and intimidate social media users who happen to disagree with his “radical” political opinions. Over the past couple of weeks pro-independence bloggers have been putting out fires started by an accusation by Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard and the leadership of the GMB Labour-affiliated trade union that a blog published by the pro-independence blogger Gareth Wardell was an anti-Semitic attack levelled at GMB activist Rhea Wolfson.
Papers have standards. Yes, we can all see the humour in this statement when we are talking about The Herald. It employs David – you’re all “bots” – Leask! But even in comparison to this low-level “journalism,” Angela Haggerty has always somehow managed to lower those already bargain-basement standards. No one seriously rates Ms Haggarty as a writer. As has been discussed before on this site, her analysis and style are wanting, and I would not be the first to suggest she was taken on by The Herald as an easily controlled pro-independence voice.
This living on the threshold has taken a toll on us. Since the late 1990s, when the scales were first taken from our eyes, we have had to come to terms with new realities and battle for our faith in new and unfamiliar territories. My own journey, like that of many other Catholics, was one that made it impossible for me to consider myself a 'Roman' Catholic. The hierarchy had been – perhaps forever – tainted. It no longer held the moral authority, no matter what the Church taught, to hold my allegiance. The papacy was no longer the infallible and unassailable Rock it had once been.
The criticism could not have been clearer. It is not possible for someone to support Scottish independence – fighting for the sovereignty of Scotland, a nation that overwhelmingly rejected Brexit – and be a People’s Vote campaigner – an acceptance of the subservience of Scotland’s will to that of England. This is a contradiction. But rather than addressing this in her devious thread, she chose to invent a situation in which I was abusing her for being a woman. That is disgraceful.