The following started off as a reply to somebody on Facebook wanting to know what they could do to put pressure on Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government in order to force them to act on the constitutional issue. I had been meaning to write something about this anyway. This will serve.
Other than shrugging your shoulders and walking away from the fight, what are you prepared to do? Not just you, everybody in the Yes movement. I see very little sign that folk in general are prepared to do very much. All too many are like yourself – content to moan about how difficult it is, but not ready to do even the simplest thing.
Hashtags are simple. And they can be very effective if they are properly utilised. I often use the example of hashtags to illustrate how the Yes movement has lost what Alexis de Tocqueville called the knowledge of how to combine. The knowledge which he maintained is fundamental to democracy.
Try getting the Yes movement to use a common hashtag such as #DissolveTheUnion. You won’t succeed. The vast majority won’t take even that tiny amount of trouble. Some will do it once or twice before deciding it’s too much effort. A third group will insist on altering the hashtag in some way to ‘improve’ it, thus reducing its effectiveness. (For instance, #DissolveTheUKUnion. Apparently because nobody will be able to figure out for themselves what Union is being referred to.)
If 10,000 Yes activists were using that hashtag on every social media post or comment every day, it would attract the attention of the media. Which in turn would put pressure on Nicola Sturgeon. Yes! She is good at dismissing such things. But why make it easier for her to do so rather than making it as difficult as possible?
There will inevitably be some moron who responds to this comment ridiculing the idea that hashtags might be the way to put pressure on Sturgeon and the Scottish Government. There will always be those numpties who can’t understand that what is true of hashtags applies to everything else the Yes movement might do. If we cannot combine for something so simple as using a hashtag what chance is there that we will be able to act in combination in any other way?
Everybody is waiting for a campaign effort to be presented to them ready made. They need to realise that if we can’t even agree on a single hashtag to represent the demand for action on the constitutional issue then it cannot be possible for anyone to establish that campaign. Just as there are countless hashtags, all of them ineffectual, so there are countless campaign groups – none of them having any impact because they are simply not big enough. It has to start with individuals, like yourself, doing something as simple as picking up on a hashtag and using it relentlessly.
Powerful movements grow out of simple slogans that express big ideas. It has always been so. The web makes it possible to bring this about faster and on a massive scale. The Yes movement is failing abysmally to exploit that potential – because we’ve forgotten how to combine.
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