However confident an individual may be of their rationality it is always good to get a bit of affirmation. Blogging is a lonely pursuit. You sit, isolated in the bubble of your own mind trying to convey your thoughts to the ghosts of real people that populate the virtual world through the Ouija board of your computer. The ideal is to create a meaningful link to some of the real people behind the ghosts from your mind through your fingers on the keyboard and thence to the potentially infinite connections of the web. Inside that bubble there is just you. Outside is everybody. By the very nature of the thing, you reach out from the confines of your bubble and encounter mostly emptiness.
In this situation it is easy to imagine you are the only one thinking those thoughts. Which almost inevitably leads to the possibility that you’re the only one thinking that way because your thoughts are highly idiosyncratic. From a lay perspective, sanity is defined by the majority. We aspire to rationality. We assume others also aspire to rationality. If lots of aspiring rational minds think one way and you think another then the rational assumption is that it is you who is being irrational. We naturally seek validation of our thinking so as to be reassured that our minds are functioning nominally. In the isolation of the blogger’s bubble, it is easy to doubt the sense of what you’re thinking ─ and hard to find reassurance as you grope around in the vast spaces of the internet.
I am fortunate in having a number of readers who regularly comment on my articles. It is sometimes the case that the below-the-line (BTL) discussion is more interesting than the article itself. There are a few nutters and numpties as well, of course. All part of the web’s rich tapestry. But for the most part the BTL exchanges are interesting and stimulating. The commenters don’t always agree with the thoughts I express. But generally, they are able to explain why they disagree and/or offer their own alternative perspective. It’s all grist to the mills of cogitation.
Good as it is to have these people on board, it can also be gratifying to find affirmation outside the confines of this blog. I’ve mentioned how surprised and relieved I was when my address to the recent Scottish Sovereignty Research Group (SSRG) conference on the subject of #ScottishUDI was received with a level of agreement which allowed me to believe that many ─ perhaps most ─ of my marbles are wherever one’s marbles are supposed to be.
I had something of the same feeling today when, having just made a couple of points in response to a comment on the article I wrote after attending the Perth City Hall Tory hustings demonstration, I encountered in The National an analysis piece in which News and Features Editor Laura Webster recounts her experience talking to Conservative Party members as they left the hustings. It seems that if I am aff ma heid, so is Ms Webster.
In the BTL exchange I mentioned earlier I responded to a comment about how the Tories (and other Unionists) go on about how ‘divisive’ the independence campaign is and how a new referendum will be ‘divisive’.
The whole ‘divisiveness’ thing is an example of the propaganda tactic of taking something normal and turning it into a stick with which to beat ‘the other’. Division is the very nature of human society. We could argue that it’s the very nature of the human species. It is how we deal with division which is important. Despite its flaws, democracy is the best method yet discovered.
The propagandist takes this very ordinary division and associates it with conflict so as to justify denying the democracy which is intended to prevent that conflict. If that doesn’t make sense, the propagandist doesn’t care. Propaganda doesn’t address its target at a rational level. It plays on the base instincts and urges bequeathed to us by evolution.
I further remark on the fact that the same propaganda technique was used to good effect by the No side in the 2014 referendum campaign.
Another example that will be very familiar to you is the ‘uncertainty’ which the No campaign played on so successfully in the 2014 referendum campaign. Obviously, there is always uncertainty. It is a normal part of life. The trick that Better Together pulled was to take the uncertainty that everybody is aware of and associate almost entirely with the idea of independence. The propagandist portrays the ideal of life without uncertainty or division as the normal which is being denied to us by the independence campaign.
Doubtless Laura Webster encountered the parroting of this propaganda from the Tories she spoke to in Perth. But what struck me as I read her analysis was the way she reports with evident bewilderment how these Tories believe things contrary to all evidence. They accept as truth the varnished presentation of the leadership candidates totally discounting plainly evident reality.
One woman insisted that Sunak is “full of enthusiasm, keen to help people at the bottom”. This is the same man who not even a year ago cut the Universal Credit £20 uplift despite all evidence pointing to rising poverty levels.
Others argued Sunak’s plan was the best to take the UK’s economy forward, failing to note that he had been at the Treasury’s helm for two years as the outlook became bleaker and bleaker.
All of which only underlines a point I make in that BTL exchange.
You will hear a lot of people say that our opponents won’t be able to use the same lies and smears again because they have been proved to be false. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! This is a tragic failure to comprehend that truth has little bearing on propaganda messages. […] People don’t vote on the basis of what they know. They vote on the basis of what they feel.
Regardless of what they know about Truss and Sunak these Tories are making their choice largely if not entirely on the basis of what they are made to feel about each of the candidates by the professional manipulators running their campaigns. Add this to the fact that this relatively tiny number of Conservative Party members are in the process of choosing the Prime Minister who will be imposed in Scotland demonstrably contrary to the wishes of the vast majority of Scotland’s people and you have a situation which is more than just “worrying”. It is bad enough that a “fascinatingly silly quirk of the British electoral system” can place such power in the hands of so few people. It is very much worse when you realise how utterly deluded these people are. Laura makes the point.
According to the Scottish Election Survey, some 55% of voters think the result of the Holyrood election provide a mandate for indyref2 – but one of the members we spoke to gushed over Truss effectively saying “no way” to a vote.
Asked if that would not just push people to keep fighting for independence, he branded the cause a “busted flush” and denied it would happen.
But people voted for an independence majority very recently, and it would be naive to assume that strength of feeling would disappear under any prime minister – no matter what action they take against it.
Although she is ─ for obvious reasons ─ more restrained in her language, Laura Webster seems to have been somewhat taken aback by the ‘otherness’ of the Tories with whom she spoke. As she puts it,
The sense after speaking to members for half an hour was that this was a group of largely older, affluent people whose views were significantly out of step with the majority of Scotland.
Whereas my own account was as follows.
What was separated by the barriers and police presence at Perth Concert Hall yesterday was not two opposing viewpoints with the possibility of some middle ground where minds might meet, but two states of mind which are totally incompatible and completely irreconcilable.
What I note in Laura Webster’s analysis and elsewhere is that mainstream political discourse seems to be tending towards the more radical, possibly in step with the growing anger felt by the public and expressed at demonstrations such as took place in Perth on Tuesday. I get a sense that mainstream commentators are more ready than is usual to ‘tell it like it is’ about those who would rule us.
I could be mistaken about this, of course. But it is not common for me to find my thoughts and conclusions being echoed in the traditional media. Maybe it’s me who’s mellowing. Nah! That can’t be it. Can it?
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