Two of the ‘leading SNP figures’ who were duped by journalist Neil Mackay into providing material for his wearisome rehashing of the British Nationalist ‘vile cybernat’ trope have since sought to distance themselves from the article claiming that they were misrepresented. Some may consider that Alyn Smith and Stewart McDonald did themselves no favours by admitting to being so naive.
The third stooge, Angus Roberston, has taken a rather different approach to dealing with the backlash from the article in The Herald last Sunday under the headline ‘SNP declares war on cybernats’ While disassociating himself from the headline – despite having been happy to Tweet it – Robertson chooses to stand by the article. Or, to be more precise, he chooses to stand by his own contribution to the piece asking that we disregard the fact that this contribution became part of a shallow regurgitation of the tired old British Nationalist ‘vile cybernat’ trope.
By Angus Robertson’s account, it is not Neil Mackay who is misrepresenting his words but “intemperate” online Yes campaigners expressing their indignation at having been called, inter alia, vile, nasty and cowardly by senior figures in the SNP.
Of course, Robertson deploys the standard disclaimer – if you were offended by what was said, then it wasn’t you being referred to. But this is a feeble defence given the tone of an article so firmly lodged in that genre of British Nationalist propaganda which seeks to portray all online Yes activists as ‘vile, nasty and cowardly’.
Robertson insists that his words were not an “attack on independence marchers”. But he surely had to be aware that, coming the day after 100,000 people took to the streets of Glasgow in a massive, joyous demonstration of support for independence, an article such as he cooperated with would inevitably be seen as an attempt to diminish that event. Not least because that is precisely what was intended.
He insists his words were not meant to impugn “hard working decent volunteers “. But how could he not know how the article would be framed given that there have been so many such pieces in the past?
Such protestations of innocent intent have to be viewed in the light of what Robertson actually said.
The most important thing in the wider Yes movement is to adopt a new open and welcoming tone. The fact that this has become an issue which people are now prepared to call out is a good first step in hopefully resetting public discourse and letting those people know who engage in this kind of offensive and malicious behaviour that it’s unacceptable …
Regardless of whether a small and unrepresentative group of people continue in their unacceptable ways – which sadly I fear will be the case – I think if people in general are aware that they are unrepresentative on both sides, that has to be a positive step in the right direction.
That first sentence refers explicitly to the Yes movement as a whole and clearly implies that it has not hitherto been “open and welcoming”. Otherwise, why would it need a “new” such tone. Asked about ‘online abuse’, Robertson immediately responds with a reference to the Yes movement. Thus creating an association between the two. If this was deliberate, then is is deplorable. If it was unintentional, it is just as deplorable coming as it does from someone considered qualified to speak for the SNP.
The whole tone of Robertson’s contribution to an article about ‘online abuse’ suggests acceptance of the sense in which that term is presented in British Nationalist propaganda. At best, it is horribly clumsy. At worst, it is unforgivably reckless.
It doesn’t matter that he goes on to talk of “a small and unrepresentative group of people”. The damage is already done. It was done the moment Angus Robertson heard Neil Mackay ask about ‘online abuse’, and decided not to hang up immediately.
If you find these articles interesting please consider a small donation to help support this site and my other activities on behalf of Scotland’s independence campaign.