Trawling through the list of websites which are part of my regular intake of news and views I encountered one which seems to typify the dangerous, opinionated ignorance that infests discussion of what is now regrettably but ineluctably label the ‘Sturgeon/Salmond affair’. I decline to link to the blog site in question because I have no way of knowing what other ignorance lies there waiting to infect the minds of visitors. In this instance I unapologetically offer no attribution for the following extract from a short article posted yesterday (25 February).
The Tories, kid-on-Labour, Wee Wullie Rennie’s mob, the usual news media presenters, the (Not) the Scotsman, and the HeraldEngland are all piling in on the back of the wrath of those who concur with the theories, and allegations, of underhanded conspiracy around the investigations into the behaviour of former First Minister Alex Salmond. ‘Ya dancer, sleaze and corruption’, calls the grinning ermine-cloaked Colonel Ruth from atop her Challenger tank, ‘evil separatism is crumbling and we don’t even need to do much to help it on its way. The Nats are eating themselves. Rule Britannia!!!’
As even moderately well-informed individuals will be aware, there are no “investigations into the behaviour of former First Minister Alex Salmond”. There is an investigation into the behaviour of the incumbent First Minister and there is a separate investigation into the behaviour of her administration. There are no “investigations into the behaviour of former First Minister Alex Salmond”.
It will doubtless be protested that Salmond’s behaviour was under investigation. This may be true, but that investigation has been concluded and Salmond has been acquitted. The only inquiries ongoing at this time are those I have mentioned.
This is far from the only and perhaps not even the worst example of an all too prevalent fallacy that portrays Alex Salmond as the perpetrator of a vengeful campaign against Nicola Sturgeon. He is accused of pursuing this vendetta without any explanation ever being given as to exactly how he might do this. I have seen numerous comments which imply – at the very least – that one or both of the current inquiries is an instrument of Alex Salmond’s retribution. Some seem even to believe that these inquiries were initiated by him. Ask how he, as an ‘ordinary’ citizen, might go about initiating two formal inquiries one by a Parliamentary Committee and one by an independent QC, and you will get no sensible response. Because there is no way he could have done this.
Alternatively, or additionally, it is claimed that Salmond is using the inquiries even if he didn’t start them. Again, the question is how. What has he actually done, other than provide the testimony that has been required of him? He has held no press conferences by which to launch personal attacks on Nicola Sturgeon. Neither has he hijacked any press briefing on a totally separate matter in order to launch such an attack. All he has done is provide written testimony under oath about the issues being investigated. That is all!
Another assertion that is depressingly common even though having no basis in fact is that Salmond has been ‘awkward’ with the Parliamentary Committee – constantly agreeing to appear and then calling off at the last minute. None of those making such assertions trouble themselves to consider the reasons for the postponements. In every instance it has been because the Committee or some other agency has unilaterally altered or breached the terms of the arrangements made for Salmond’s oral testimony. Often with little or no notice.
Salmond is also alleged by some – I have seen this – to have repeatedly altered his written testimony. In fact, his original submission remains unchanged by him. The only changes to it have been the redactions insisted on by the Committee or the Crown Office or whoever. Text that was agreed was subsequently deemed unpublishable. Again, as often as not at the eleventh hour. Salmond had no choice but to postpone his oral testimony as these alterations to his written testimony significantly impacted on what he was and was not permitted to speak to in his oral testimony. He postponed the sessions because changes to his written submission meant that to testify would be to place himself in legal jeopardy. He withdrew on very strict legal advice.
At no time has it been made clear to Salmond or his lawyers what he is and more importantly is not allowed to talk about. And yet he is threatened with legal action if he says a word out of place. It’s ludicrous!
This abysmal ignorance of what really going on is being actively encouraged by those who are pursuing a vendetta – against Alex Salmond. Absolutely nothing that is now happening with regard to this affair is his doing. And yet he is being blamed for all of it. That is some serious ignorance. Dangerous ignorance!
Why is it dangerous? Because to function effectively democracy requires that the people be enabled to make informed choices. Choices made in ignorance can only ever be the right choices by some miraculous chance. This is also why Nicola Sturgeon’s remarks during yesterday’s Covid briefing are so deplorable. Juries do make informed choices. They reach their verdict having heard and seen all the evidence. To impugn that verdict is attack the very foundations of law and justice on which our society stands – a shameful act. For the First Minister of Scotland to cast aspersions on a jury’s informed verdict represent an appalling display of contempt for our system of justice and shames the entire nation. That justice system may not be perfect but it will not be made better by undermining the public’s trust.
Ignorance is strength! So, in part, goes the motto of the grim totalitarian government in George Orwell’s 1984. And it is true! Ignorance is strength! But it is not the ignorant who are strengthened. The ignorant are weakened. They come to lack the tools with which to counter the efforts of those who for their own malign purposes would seek to keep them ignorant. When people are ignorant they become empty vessels waiting to be filled with prejudice and misdirected anger. Knowledge/information is power. Ignorance is the opposite. To be ignorant is to be powerless.
And yet so many choose ignorance over readily available genuine information. That is truly dangerous.