It is very easy to click a button in a Twitter poll. Rather less easy to actually think about the practicalities and implications of a suggested course of action. Has our politics really descended to the point where the worth of a proposal is gauged by its popularity on social media?
Not to belittle The National’s efforts at democratic engagement, but let’s be realistic; precious few of the people who agreed that the proposal should debated at the SNP’s annual conference will have read it. Fewer still will have given the matter serious consideration. Having a Plan B is a good idea. This is called Plan B. Therefore, this is a good idea. Such would be the extent of most of the thinking that went into those responses.
So, there is “considerable support” for the ‘Independence Plan B’ put forward by Angus MacNeil and Chris McEleny. Let’s not get too carried away. There would have been considerable support for anything presented as a Plan B. That support is not so much a measure of the merits of the Plan B as an indication of how little confidence people have in Plan A – whatever that is. Yes activists are at the stage where they will latch on to anything that even vaguely resembles an actual plan of action. Such is the frustration and anxiety being felt across the Yes movement.
Much is being made of the support for the proposal that a pro-independence majority of Scottish seats achieved at the next election would constitute a mandate for the Scottish Government to launch independence negotiations with the British government. Was there no criticism of the proposal? I see no mention of any. Criticism, however mild, would at least suggest that the proposal had been studied to some degree.
It would appear that what we have here is a problem that is inherent in the democratic process. ‘Raw’ democracy is entirely a numbers game. Two idiots count for more than one wise person. This doesn’t matter so much when it comes to elections, because there are relatively few idiots and they tend to get lost in the mass of voters. Usually, there are other safeguards which prevent democracy descending into a dictatorship of dickheads. Usually, truly idiotic proposals don’t get very far. For the most part, very bad ideas are filtered out long before it comes to a vote. The filtering process is complex, involving all the things which feed into political discourse. The media are, rather obviously, an important part of this.
The filtering process is broken. This may not be entirely the fault of the traditional media. But, whoever is to blame, there is no question that the process which we rely on to stop bad ideas becoming bad proposals becoming bad policies becoming bad outcomes, is not functioning as it should. If the filters were doing their job, Brexit wouldn’t be happening and we wouldn’t be facing the prospect of a malignant clown called Bojo becoming British Prime Minister.
The MacNeil-McEleny Plan B is not in that league. Nor anywhere close. It is merely flawed. As I have already pointed out. My concern is that criticism of the proposal, however ‘wise’, can be outweighed by the virtual idiot that is a Twitter poll. That’s how Donald Trump got to be POTUS.
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