Ruth Wishart dismisses the term #WheeshtForIndy as just another of the “slick clichés littering social media“. The words “social media” here being used as a pejorative intended to provoke diminishing associations. Other terms are used in a similar manner. It’s not real journalism if it’s just a blog. It’s not real information if it was sourced from Wikipedia. Even the entire internet/web can be dismissed as an irrelevance if the right scoffing tone is used when referring to it. The term ‘media studies’ has come to be lazy shorthand deployed by the intellectually indolent to imply studies with no useful purpose. Or people who make no contribution to society and are therefore in a lesser category of human beings.
The shallowness of all this would be evident to those who use language in this way were it not for the shallowness which bids them use language in this way. The term ‘media studies’ can only be synonymous with effete pointlessness if you are so shallow as to fail to appreciate that every one of us spends our entire lives immersed in an ocean of mediated messages. ‘Media studies’ is only a term of rebuke to those who don’t appreciate that it is every bit as important to understand how mediated messages work as it is to understand how the human body works. It is as essential to know how mediated messages affect the recipient is it is to know how viruses affect the human body.
If you understand that the internet/web is among other things a universally accessible and potentially infinite repository for every idea there is, ever has been and ever will be then you will never dismiss an idea by some sneering reference to it having been found on the f***ing internet.
If you know how to do research you will appreciate that Wikipedia is the greatest research tool that has ever existed and will afford it the respect that it is due rather than use it as a metaphor for unreliable information. All research produces results that are reliable only to the extent that the research has been thorough and the research tools used with skill.
If you are aware of the creative process of writing then you won’t suppose the worth of that process to be dependent on the medium used. It matters not at all whether the words appear as ink on paper of pixels on a display, it is an attempt to convey ideas or information or feelings from one human mind to at least one other human mind. It is not whether it is a column in The National or a post on a WordPress blog that determines the worth of the writer’s work but the content of what is written.
If you are too shallow to appreciate that the catch-all term ‘social media’ encompasses the most democratic means of expression and communication ever to exist, only then will you use it as a catch-all term for obnoxious expression and hateful communication.
A slick cliché is a seed of truth which has acquired a covering of slippery simplistic associations. The trick to avoiding shallowness in this context is to seek out that seed of truth and bear it always in mind when using the cliché or encountering it in use by another. Dismissing a term as a “slick cliché” is shallow. Dismissing the term “wheesht for indy” is shallow because it neglects – or avoids – the seed of truth which gives meaning to that term. It may be that the constraints of micro-blogging platforms such as Twitter have given rise to a proliferation of shorthand terms which has led to a devaluing of the ideas the terms were originally coined to express. Shallowness is failing to resist this trend. It is shallow to suppose that because a term has become trivial that the idea it expresses must be likewise.
Ruth Wishart writes,
So this is not about “wheesht for indy” or any of the other slick cliches littering social media. This is about taking a long hard look at Scotland’s future at a moment of maximum danger for her prospects of self determination.
She writes this apparently without realising that what she is actually advocating is a very selective “long hard look” that has already excluded everything that is encompassed by the shorthand term #WheeshtForIndy. What she is really saying here is that we should take a long hard look at anything other than criticism of Nicola Sturgeon and/or her administration and/or the SNP leadership and senior management and/or the current approach to the constitutional issue and/or the internal problems of the party that is supposed to be the political arm of the independence movement.
It occurs to me that this is a helluva lot to exclude from consideration. It occurs to me that if one is genuinely and mindfully concerned about Scotland’s future one would have no choice but to be concerned that the party and government and leadership which are critical in determining that future should be fit for purpose. It occurs to me that one would have to be surpassingly shallow to dismiss out of hand criticisms which if justified would imply that the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon are failing Scotland’s cause. It occurs to me that anyone truly set on restoring Scotland’s independence would want to address those criticisms so as to ensure that all the parts of the machinery by which independence will be restored are functioning as effectively as possible.
What #WheeshtForIndy implies is a commitment to Scotland’s cause absent any regard for the means by which this cause will succeed. It refers to those whose commitment to independence may be as profound as anyone’s but whose consideration of the mechanics of the process takes shallowness to the molecular level. To demand that we #WheeshtForIndy is to demand that we neither talk nor even think about the mechanics of the process. It is to insist that we make no effort to identify defects in the apparatus. It is to denounce any effort to identify and rectify such defects as the worst defect of all and the cause of all other defects as well as being a betrayal of Scotland’s cause.#
Obviously, it is much easier to dismiss as a slick cliché all that is implied by the term #WheeshtForIndy than to deal with the issues being this excluded from our “long hard look” in whatever manner is the opposite of shallow.
Look at where this shallowness leads.
The hostility of those purporting to be independence supporters is something else again. It’s not just that the level of vitriol poured over the current First Minister is both vicious and sustained, but that there seems no recognition that they are actively helping to burn down the house they long claimed they wanted to build.
I have no doubt that there is an element of “vitriol” in the criticisms of Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP. That’s what happens when you have a democratic medium. Different people express themselves in different ways, Social media doesn’t filter to anything like the same extent as other media. That is what makes it democratic. We are expected to do our own filtering. The hope is that we do so thoughtfully. Sticking everybody who doesn’t share your mindset into a category defined by the worst of what is expressed on social media and/or the category reserved for your opponents is not thoughtful in any way. It is shallow. It is shallow beyond anything I would expect from Ruth Wishart. Which merely confirms for me that even normally perceptive and insightful commentators can trip and fall into the comfortable viciousness of the #WheeshtForIndy mindset.
I mean no offense by this. I confess to having been there myself. A year or so ago you would have found me denouncing Nicola Sturgeon’s critics in much the same terms as Ruth Wishart uses. I was if not a fully paid-up member of the #WheeshtForIndy mob at least loitering on the fringe. I was saved from falling further into that pit of mindlessness by my compulsion to question.
I’m certain Ruth Wishart will also pull back from that precipice. I certainly hope so. Because it is not just the independence movement which is at a crossroads. Scotland is similarly poised. This is serious. As serious as anything can be. We cannot afford to simply assume that everything is going our way and that we are adequately prepared for the task ahead. We must be able to trust our political leaders. We must have reasons to have confidence. We must not fall into the fallacy of faith – belief against evidence. We must be fully aware of the condition of all the components of the machinery which we hope will serve our cause and be ready to repair or replace any that are failing.
We must actively resist the shallowness of #WheeshtForIndy worm-tongues who tell us there is no need for concern. There is every need! There is never more need for concern than when some elite or clique or faction is telling us they have everything under control. Because it may just be true. If they have everything under control it almost certainly means we have none. If we have no control how can we be sure we’re being taken in the right direction?