A ‘promising’ proposal

It takes a lot of flawed thinking to believe in the magical powers of these new pop-up list parties and their cunning plans to game the voting system. But that’s OK. Because there are myriad ways for thinking to be flawed. I shall mention just three. Let’s call them.

  • Arithmetic/plan conflation
  • Virtue by association
  • Partial assessment

To illustrate the first of these, let me put a proposition to you. I want every pro-independence voter to give me £100. I plan to accumulate £100,000,000. I then plan on using this to get another £100,000,000. I will then have £200,000,000 which I will use to do whatever each of you considers to be your most favoured amazing and wonderful things.

How many of you immediately reached for the ‘Pay Now’ button? Probably not many. Your first instinct would be to ask questions about the plan. My response is to insist that you look at the arithmetic. Given the number of pro-independence voters it is perfectly feasible to raise £100,000.000 in the way I propose. And look at the amazing and wonderful things! £100,000,000 plus £100,000,000 is £200,000,000. And look at the amazing and wonderful things! The arithmetic checks out. And look at the amazing and wonderful things!

If your thinking isn’t flawed, you recognise that the arithmetic and the plan are quite separate and different things and that the fact the arithmetic works doesn’t mean the plan works. You also recognise that however amazing and wonderful the promise it is worthless if it isn’t connected to the proposal by a viable plan.

The kind of flawed thinking I’ve called virtue by association is the rich vein of human folly which confidence tricksters and political charlatans throughout the ages have sought to mine. The mother lode of mindlessness. Having lent their proposal superficial and spurious credibility by quoting some numbers that add up, the shyster will then produce the promise – an outcome described using an array of constantly repeated glittering generalities. Glittering generalities are words and phrases laden with positive connotations and associations but with no substance or core meaning. Glittering generalities – often combined with plausible science or mathematics – is the language of dishonest politics and dubious marketing.

The idea is that having impressed with the unarguable science (or arithmetic), the snake-oil salesman of instructional fable then dazzles the dupe with a promise that blazes with the light of a million suns so that they fail to notice the absence of any plan linking the proposal to the promise. No mapped path from one to the other.

A marketing phrase which neatly combines the plausible science with the glittering generality is ‘Up to 100% effective!’. This pill is ‘up to 100% effective in relieving pain’. This disinfectant kills ‘up to 100% of known household germs’ (note too the additional qualifiers ‘known’ and ‘household’). This snake-oil is ‘up to 100% effective in curing up to 100% of the ailments listed’.

This tactical voting strategy is ‘up to 100% effective in ensuring more pro-independence MSPs and/or fewer Unionist MSPs!’. And if you have any lingering doubts about the promise, just look at the proposal! Look at the arithmetic! Look at how the arithmetic works! Look at how amazing and wonderful the promise is! Just don’t look for the plan that connects the proposal to the promise. And if you do look for that plan and fail to find it then that is because you fail to understand the arithmetic and/or you don’t value the promised outcome as you would if you were a true believer.

Anyone who has sought to engage with proponents of pop-up list parties will find something eerily familiar in the foregoing.

Partial assessment describes the flawed thinking that the snake-oil salesman (other gender identities are available) is seeking to exploit. What matters to the shyster and the political propagandist alike is not only what the target audience/market/constituency thinks about what’s being sold but what they don’t think about at all. The ‘other stuff’. The stuff that is not covered by either the proposal or the promise. The implications and consequences that flow from the entire package – incomplete as that entire package may be.

Partial assessment involves weighing the proposed solution to a problem – which may or may not be real or as serious as it is made out to be – only against the promise attached to it. It involves excluding all negatives. All the pros and none of the cons. Well! Maybe one very trivial con just for appearances.

The word ‘partial’ is relevant in both its sense of ‘incomplete’ and its sense of ‘favouring’. Never mind the quality! Feel the width! Never mind the risk! Look at the prize! Don’t think about what you stand to lose! Look at what you might win!

Charlatans have descended on Scotland’s politics the way pickpockets descend on tourist hot-spots. Frustration with the SNP attracts power-hungry chancers like blood in the water attracts flesh-hungry sharks. Opportunity breeds exploitation. A fox with a full belly will try to catch and kill anything which is both edible and available. Individuals driven by ambition and factions driven by ideology will scavenge for power wherever it may be found. If sufficiently driven, they will resort to any means to seize the smallest scrap of power. Just as long as it isn’t power of the type or in the measure which brings with it responsibility.

It takes a lot of flawed thinking to believe in the magical powers of these new pop-up list parties and their cunning plans. It takes only a little rational thinking to see though the scam. For Scotland’s sake, make sure rationality wins.

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14 thoughts on “A ‘promising’ proposal

  1. “You also recognise that however amazing and wonderful the promise it is worthless if it isn’t connected to the proposal by a viable plan.”
    Sadly this is true for more than just the ‘pop up parties’. It is also relevant to the SNP – they also play this game.
    I find the whole situation both dispiriting and disheartening at the moment.
    The loss of jobs likely in Scotland due to Covid-19 will have a devastating impact on our economy. Not least because any percentage drop in tax revenue in Scotland that is not mirrrored in England will reduce our Barnet rebate leaving us in an impossible situation. of having to make decisions between increasing taxes or cutting services. The trap set by the treasury when the limited tax powers were handed over will be sprung. Brexit on top of that is unthinkable. If the SNP don’t come up with a viable plan to lead us to independence very soon I fear it really will be all over.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Most folk don’t ‘do’ politics. They never think about it until the actual day of voting. Folk that are active on political issues online are a very small percentage of the electorate. It can seem that everyone is backing the latest idea, but in reality it is only your small bubble that is involved. The Rise party proved that.
    Unless a major figure leads a new party, I think any new party will only gather a few thousand votes. Not enough for a seat, but maybe enough to gift a Unionist party a seat.
    I’m tempted by the idea of a ‘glittering’ party that will push the SNP into more action, but in the end i’ll probably not take the risk.
    I couldn’t forgive myself if I played a part in Holyrood falling into Unionist hands.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s really just a case of properly identifying the problem so as to develop a relevant solution. Or at least an appropriate way of addressing the problem. Is the problem the lack of pro-independence MSPs? Obviously not! A majority is a majority. There is nothing that 76 pro-independence MSPs can do that 66 cannot.

      Is the problem the fact that there are British Nationalist MSPs in the Scottish Parliament? Well! It’s a problem. But it’s not THE problem. Just as a majority is a majority so a minority is a minority. By definition, the British Parties have no power so long as there is an SNP administration and a pro-independence majority. The very things put in jeopardy by the pop-up parties. Neither is the problem the petty sniping from the opposition and the feeding of anti-Scottish headlines to the British media. British Nationalists will do this whether they’re in Holyrood or not. And the British media will always give them a platform. There will always be British politicians squatting in our Parliament until we dissolve the Union. We have to live with worse things.

      Is the problem the SNP’s approach to the constitutional issue? Yes! YES! FFS YES!

      So now the question becomes one of whether the pop-up parties solve or even address this question. And they don’t. Not in any way. If they acknowledge the REAL problem in any way it is to insist that it CANNOT be solved. It is, they insist, totally impossible to make the SNP change course. They claim they will defy the odds and logic and history and the polls and the voting system to flood the chamber with pro-independence MSPs. But they discount outright the possibility of that even the entire Yes movement managing to influence the SNP in any way.

      How stupid would anybody have to be to fall for that?

      And that’s not an end to the idiocy of these pop-up parties – actually #RISEinDisguise. They insist that it is impossible to get the SNP to adopt a Manifesto for Independence. But if the SNP doesn’t adopt a Manifesto for Independence #RISEinDisguise can do NOTHING! They’re completely useless in those circumstances.

      And if the SNP DOES adopt a Manifesto for Independence, then #RISEinDisguise is totally redundant. They can add precisely NOTHING to the process of restoring Scotland’s independence.

      Figure it out for yourselves from there.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I’ve investigated. It won’t work. If we’re getting rid of the British squatters in our Parliament then I’d rather do it properly, completely and permanently. I’m not buying #RISEinDisguise’s promises. Because I’ve investigated their proposal and found they have no plan.


  3. By all means, Mr Bell, express your disapproval of these “pop-up” list parties but it isn’t reasonable to simply dismiss those who do disagree with you. It is possible to look at them critcally and arrive at a different analysis than yours and not because you’ve been taken in or that your thinking is flawed and mindless.

    Of course you are correct that these parties (and lets be honest, there is only one viable contender) will not in themselves, bring about independence. In that respect, they do not constitute a “plan”. Their purpose however, is to maximise the number of pro-independence MSPs in the SP and ensure a majority that will be required whatever the plan is. Sticking with the current plan of voting SNP/SNP and relying on the SGP came close in 2016 to placing this in jeopardy.

    Regards, Ian

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Show me this “different analysis”.

      There may be only “one viable contender”, but there will be a currently unknown number of contenders. The pro-independence vote taken from the real parties won’t be shared evenly among those contenders. But it doesn’t have to be. The chances of even the “one viable contender” getting enough votes to take a seat are already vanishingly small. The others only have to take a relatively tiny proportion of the vote and your “one viable contender” becomes just another fucked contender.

      The point you clumsily side-step, however, is that while in any remotely realistic scenario none of the pop-up parties takes enough votes to win a seat, in aggregate they are quite likely to take enough to knock out either the Greens or the SNP. And those are the seats needed to maintain the two things that are a fair bit more important than the egos hiding within #RISEinDisguise – the pro-independence majority and the SNP administration.

      If you are promoting #RISEinDisguise then you are, by definition, putting those two things in jeopardy. You are, in fact, more likely to get Jackson F Carlaw as First Minister than any #RISEinDisguise MSPs.

      And, of course, even if you do get those #RISEinDisguise MSPs, there are no circumstances in which they can can serve any useful purpose. As explained in my article. As NOT refuted by you – or anyone else. Maybe that “different analysis” will do better. If only it existed.


      1. I don’t agree that the ISP is RISE in disguise. RISE failed because independence voters were astute enough not to be taken in by them.

        I’ve looked at modelling from those who support a smaller independence party and I find their arguement compelling. Not so with the likes of Scot Goes Pop. Yes, the ISP may be a threat to the SGP but they will be more of a threat to unionist parties and they know it. They will not be a threat to the SNP because it is obvious to all that doing so would be self-defeating.

        The tories and labour work together to defeat independence, seemingly without criticism, because it is the only way to achieve any sort of result in the d’Hondt system. The SNP have no choice therefore, but to find a partner and it looks like they might have one. As long as it furthers the cause of independence, who cares. I believe that it is absolutely essential.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. How the fuck can #RISEinDisguise be a threat to the Unionist parties when they’re only taking votes from the pro-independence parties. That’s the sort of asinine assertion that comprises their entire prospectus.

          I have not the smallest interest in what the individual factions call themselves. Collectively, they are #RISEinDisguise. And what they are doing is exactly the same as RISE tried in 2016 – with maybe a few tweaks to the sales patter.

          That last paragraph is that sort of thing that brings on my stupidity allergy. Of course the British parties work together! Both formally and informally. But why the fuck would you imagine that what works for them must automatically work for us? Are you really so daft as to be unable to see the differences in circumstances? Try thinking about how long the British parties have been established. Try thinking about the fact that they are defending and we are attacking. Try thinking about the fact that they have the support of the entire British establishment. Just try thinking!

          I just don’t have the patience to deal with this kind woeful shallow-mindedness. Have yourself a wee whine about my tone and my language and my attitude. Whatever you need to avoid looking at your own stupidity.


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