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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Independence First

By Jason Michael

Independence has to come first. The rights of marginalised people and groups are vastly important, but we can never forget that none of our rights will be safe while we remain under the control of Westminster.

Let me begin by saying I haven’t the foggiest notion what people mean when they tell me they are members of the “radical left.” The last time I had a discussion about this radical left was with an enthusiastic young PhD student who introduced himself as being “on the hard left,” and he did this while tucking into a bowl of marinated garlic and chilli stuffed black olives on a bed of kale and quinoa. He lived in a rented room in an up-and-coming gentrified area of town where landlords were busy evicting lower-income tenants on the pretext of “extensive repairs,” allowing them to double the rent. His local, which served only craft beer from its basement micro-brewery, was “established in 1901” while somehow only having been in operation for six months.

This guy, who looked confused every time I corrected him with “people” when he referred to “units of labour,” had adopted an entire set of acceptable positions on the rights of marginalised social identities. “Struggle was all about challenging the hegemony of the cis-gendered misogynistic and transphobic ruling class,” he told me before asking if I had ever heard of baklava. Revolution was about achieving the maximum amount of freedom for all, he’d say, then complain about the “lumpen” kids from the flats who called him gay for drinking beer from a wine glass on a sun lounger at the front door of his house. This was his hard left. “Is that right, aye?” I asked.

On Saturday night I was chatting online with Jordan Daly, the Huffington Post and Common Space contributor who wrote the piece on sending Wings packing, about the importance of keeping the independence movement together. What I said to him was that, for the Yes movement, independence must take priority “above all other social and political concerns.” He took issue with this: “Ok,” he replied, “I’m for Indy but not ‘above all other social concerns,’ esp[ecially] as a gay man.”

We were right back at those acceptable positions on the rights of marginalised identities – what has come to be known on the “new left” as identity politics. These positions have become so important to the radical/hard/new left that it now makes perfect sense for pro-independence identitarians, in the broader context of the independence campaign, to side with unionist politicians when they deploy this politics of identity as a weapon against other pro-independence activists. This, it almost goes without saying, is the very epitome of counterproductive.

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. But my problem with the ideological package – those acceptable positions – of the new left is that it is replete with internal contradictions.

My PhD student friend will soapbox until the cows come home on the need for social and worker solidarity, but he’ll happily fuel the mechanisms that aggravate the structural causes of poverty by supporting the class war project of gentrification in the neighbourhood in which he has become a “coloniser.” Likewise, no doubt well intentioned people like Jordan Daly go to a default identitarian setting when it becomes relevant – even when that relevance is little more than political capital being used cynically against comrades in the Yes movement. It has become an ideological package that trumps even the principle objective of “the struggle” – be that the fight against the systems of capitalism and state neoliberalism or the campaign for Scottish independence.

Such thinking lacks the reflection of classical socialism. It becomes incapable of revolutionary praxis. Battling on the platform of identity rights to the harm of the wider independence movement, following the schemes of unionist strategists, is ultimately destructive because Britain will never safeguard anyone’s rights. Our struggle is against a Westminster establishment that is still up to its neck in political assassinations, foreign interventions for the purposes of bringing about regime changes useful to itself, and wholesale murder and human rights violations.

Britain is about money and power over the needs and rights of ordinary people. It has implemented an austerity regime explicitly designed to impoverish and kill the most marginalised and vulnerable people in these nations. How will becoming an unwitting instrument of Great Britain against the independence cause benefit Jordan Daly, “as a gay man?” It won’t.

When we say that independence has to come before all other social and political concerns, 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. Hands up if you’ve heard of Brexit and the replacement of the European Convention on Human Rights. It’s all on the way.

All our noble leftist and identitarian ideas of rights are dead without independence. Separation from Britain therefore is the prerequisite for a fairer, more just and equitable society that we ourselves will shape. As I see it, as old-school socialism argues, there is a hierarchy of rights. At the top of ours is independence. All other social and political concerns – while never ignored – are secondary and auxiliary to this end. If we are weakening the struggle for independence by our squabbles over rights and ideas that can never be safe under London rule we are simply rearranging deck chairs on a sinking ship.


The Religion of Identity Politics

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