I see what you did there, young Stephen. You maybe thought you were being subtle and clever, but from where I’m sitting your efforts look rather crude. All of this is just another smear job targeting Stu Campbell and Wings Over Scotland by associating him and his website with a catalogue of far-right groups and a Who’s Who of notorious bigots. Yeah, Stephen! I see what you did. And I expect everybody else does too.
At least Stephen Paton’s wee hatchet-job manages to be considerably less shrill and demented than some of the attacks on Stu Campbell we’ve seen of late. The following serves as a particularly nasty example of this spittle-flecked vituperation notable because it comes from one of the people now running the SNP from his seat on the party’s National Executive Committee. Glasgow City Councillor Graham Campbell (no relation and I’m pretty sure they’d disown each other if they were) is a leading figure among the group of righteous radicals weaponising minority status – their own and others’ – as a device to hijack the SNP as a vehicle for their own ‘idiosyncratic’ ideology and the perfectly justified grievances of those on the disfavoured side of our myriad social imbalances as both a shield behind which to hide when challenged and a cudgel with which to beat down any who question the righteousness of their brand of radicalism.
We shall let Graham Campbell speak. Although this is a privilege he is less ready to extend to others.
I can’t divulge what’s said on NEC – however my own position accords with yours, Mike Smart’s and Neil Murray’s – WOS is an alt-right fascistic platform. Supporting, retweeting or writing for is incompatible with left social democratic, civic nationalist or socialist politics. I believe it should be made incompatible with SNP membership.
Forget the opening part of this comment in which he manages to get two names entirely wrong. It’s the outpouring of bilious invective railing against Wings Over Scotland (WOS), Stu Campbell’s website, that is of interest to us here.
I should mention at this point that I have this quote at least second-hand from an image (above) published on said website showing a screenshot taken from Graham Campbell’s Twitter feed. I have no reason to doubt its authenticity. But I’m sure there is already a conspiracy theory building around the picture.
Mr G Campbell describes Rev S Campbell’s blogsite as an “alt-right fascistic platform” – almost as if he were giving Stephen Paton a cue. It’s a bold allegation for someone who not only seeks to whip up the mob into a frenzy of mild annoyance at unspecified content on a massively popular pro-independence website, he reckons on taking to himself and his associates the power to dictate what sources of news, information and comment may be accessed by ordinary party members such as he isn’t, on pain of dismemberment. (Not really! That’s a wee play on words there.)
Levity aside, this is seriously presumptuous stuff. Normally such overblown rhetoric might be dismissed as a bit of the hyperbole that’s allowable in social media. If that’s not what Twitter’s for then who knows what purpose it might serve. As we prepare to dismiss Graham Campbell’s diktat as some momentary silliness, a disturbing thought occurs. What if this were a serious suggestion? What if rather than just an episode of spleen-venting this were actually a declaration of intent? Could Graham Campbell and his allies on the NEC actually do this? Could they actually make it a breach of party discipline to write guest articles for Wings Over Scotland? Such a rule would see people like Councillor Chris McEleny and even Kenny MacAskill MP stripped of their SNP membership. (Dismembered! Get it now?) Surely not!
Were Graham Campbell to get what he has revealed as his wish then a similar fate would befall any party member who shared Wings Over Scotland content or any found guilty of “supporting” the site. A term sufficiently vague to take in a large part of the membership; but evidently intended to cut off Rev Stu’s funding. But could such a rule make it into the party’s code of conduct?
A better question might be to ask what would prevent Graham Campbell’s intemperate outburst becoming a decree. When we look at what the NEC has been doing in relation to candidate selection in the name of positive discrimination, it becomes all too easy to believe that the righteous radicals on the committee could impose whatever rules they wish and there would be very little anybody could do to stop them. I don’t know about anybody else but I’ve come to dread the next leaked report of the NEC’s deliberations and proceedings. I can certainly see why Graham Campbell would want the goings-on kept strictly secret. I almost wish he might succeed in this. But that’s a fleeting lapse. Mostly, I much prefer to be informed, even when the information causes me pain and distress.
Here we find what motivates Graham Campbell and the clique of crazies who’ve taken charge of what I persist in regarding as my party in spite of the fact that it gets less and less recognisable as such with every new revelation published by Stu Campbell. It is these revelation which motivate Graham Campbell’s desire to shut down Wings Over Scotland. Or at least deter party members from accessing the site’s content. Not because there’s anything wrong with that content. Neither Graham Campbell nor any of the others seeking to silence Stu Campbell ever produce any evidence the vileness they assert fills the pages where the less bitterly prejudiced of us and those without anything to hide find only incisive, evidence-based forensic journalism of the highest order.
Stephen Paton, while lecturing us about the folly of conspiracy theories, is reduced to attributing malign intent to mentioning that somebody is Irish in his effort to find the culpability which might justify an ongoing campaign of vilification against Wings Over Scotland. In fact, Stu Campbell’s only ‘crime’ is that of throwing a light where the clique of crazies would have we plebs kept in the dark. He commits the heinous offence of purveying facts where the SNP leadership and senior management would rather promulgate a fiction in which they are ever the heroes. Stu Campbell’s villany consists of telling the truth. That this might lead us to conclude the Empresses fine raiment is but an illusion disguising a state of embarrassing deshabille is understandably discomfiting for the courtiers with whom she exists in a state of interdependence.
But for Wings Over Scotland we would be less aware and less informed and therefore less able to make judgements about those directing the SNP or the direction in which they are taking our party. When someone in a position of power seeks to silence a dissenting voice then the assumption tends to be that this someone has something to hide. That assumption is seldom if ever wrong.
Those who would limit our ability to make informed choices are those who have reason to fear our judgement. The role of the media in a democratic society is to expose to our judgement those who fear it. Those who would resort to draconian measures to escape our judgement. Those who would grind under the heel of censorship the right to freedom of expression even while proclaiming themselves the bold defenders of principled journalism. A democratic society needs sources of news, information and commentary which speak truth unto power. Perhaps more importantly a truly democratic society tolerates no attempt to prohibit or restrict access to truth – as many versions of it as may be freely published.
Bear that in mind as you read Stephen Paton’s article. Think about it as you read Graham Campbell’s words. Consider that the freedoms both of those people depend on to say the things they say in the way they say them is the very freedom each in their way would disallow others in whole or part. The same freedom that allows me to publish this. The same freedom that allows you to read it. Guard that precious freedom against all threats explicit or insidious.