Remember how I warned about the danger of the Alba campaign message spilling over to the constituency vote? Once the idea that It’s OK not to vote SNP is ‘out there’ it’s simply not possible to confine it to the regional ballot. Regardless of how smart individual voters may be, the electorate is a dumb beast. It is a reckless campaign strategy which assumes the electorate will hear anything other than the shortest, simplest, most immediately striking part of any message.
The part of the Alba/Alex Salmond message which will have the most impact on non-anorak pro-independence voters is the idea that it possible to register an effective pro-independence vote while not voting for the SNP. When that message arrives at minds already disinclined to vote SNP for any of the myriad reasons Nicola Sturgeon has provided, the effect is amplified.
The fact that a psephologist such as James Kelly feels the need to so urgently beg people not to “put the pro-independence majority at risk by mucking around on the constituency ballot” rather suggests that the impact of this ‘contamination’ of the constituency vote by the Alba/Alex Salmond election message is already detectable. How much worse will this spillover effect get if/when Alba succeeds in gaining better access to the mainstream media? It obviously worries James. It should worry everyone who cares about Scotland’s cause. It won’t worry the electorate in the slightest.
There are vastly more bad gamblers than good gamblers. This is necessarily so because a gamble, by definition, offers many more ways to lose than to win. So there are massively more ways to be a bad gambler than there are to be a good gambler. Whether you are a good gambler or not is almost entirely a matter of chance. With just enough space left for judgement to appeal to an individual’s conceit of their own cleverness. The worst of bad gamblers are the ones who are convinced that they are not even gambling because their cleverness alters the odds. The best of the good gamblers are those who really are not gambling at all but rather exploiting the various follies indulged by bad gamblers.
Possibly the most common of these follies is the notion that the cards communicate. In some form and to some extent this notion afflicts all gamblers. The notion that some force other than random chance influences outcomes and that this force can be harnesses if one is clever enough. The worst gamblers don’t consider themselves gamblers in the true sense of that term because they are persuaded of their own ability to reduce the randomness of outcomes.
The gamble being taken by Alba/Alex Salmond is informed by the folly of supposing the electorate to have intelligence. They suppose themselves clever enough to reduce the randomness of what the electorate understands by means which are themselves defeated by the randomness of what the electorate understands. If they have considered the contamination effect at all they suppose the way to reduce the spillover of their message is to get that message to more voters in order that the message will spread throughout the electorate. But they’re not communicating with voters. And voters aren’t communicating with one another. The are communicating with the electorate.
The electorate is not a network. It does not possess intelligence. It is an inert lump. Complex messages cannot and do not penetrate or permeate. What may penetrate and permeate is only that part of the message which is left when all complexity has been stripped away.
The more effectively Alba/Alex Salmond broadcasts its election message the greater the number of individual voters whose choices are infected by the bit about how it’s OK not to vote SNP, rather than informed by the complex part of the message – the part with all the ifs and buts. That number is as intrinsically unknowable as the outcome of a true gamble. But Alba/Alex Salmond campaigners would not acknowledge that they are gambling on that number being close to zero. If they think about it at all – and vanishingly few exhibit evidence of such reflective thought – they think they have it under control. It is not a gamble because they are clever enough to know and/or manipulate the outcome.
They’re not that clever. Nobody is.