Beware of the trolls!

I expect we are all familiar with online trolls. For those who may not be, a troll in the context of social media, below-the-line comments etc. is a person who intentionally antagonizes others online by posting inflammatory, irrelevant, or offensive comments or other disruptive content. Most of us have developed strategies for dealing with the trolls we encounter in the course of online discussions. Most commonly, we follow the maxim which has long advised us not to feed them. In other words, ignore them. Do not interact with them.

Generally speaking, this is sound advice. What online trolls crave is reaction. Their aim is to provoke a response. Preferably an angry response. But there are also those who apply the techniques of trolling to political discourse, seeking to mislead and misinform and undermine opponents’ arguments by misrepresenting them. I am aware of no research which substantiates this, but I suspect this form of trolling is responsible for most of the behaviour which gives platforms such as Twitter and Facebook a bad name. See how many initially rational and productive discussions breakdown into acrimonious disputes about who said what and what they meant by it.

For scribblers such as myself ─ particularly those who permit comments ─ this latter breed of troll is a particular irritation. The usual advice to simply ignore them is less appropriate because the lies they tell quickly spread and before long you are inundated with messages disputing claims you have not made and condemning views you have never expressed. What these trolls do is create a sort of Bizarro World version of their victims attributing to them views that are actually anathema to them and claims that not only have they not made but would never make.

What happens then is that others start responding to you as the troll version and referring to the troll version when they mention you to others. Of course, if any of these people bothered to check the articles that you’ve published, they’ll find a totally different person. But an alarming percentage of people simply don’t take the trouble to check. That takes effort. It’s easier just to accept the troll version of you as genuine. Many people are naive. Many more are just lazy.

A case in point is the following comment on my recently published article Sturgeon’s Citadel. In this article I give a brief account of how the SNP changed after the 2014 referendum and how this affected my attitude to the party ─ ultimately leading to me resining my membership of the party. Picking this comment apart will be useful in two ways. It will illustrate the dumb dishonesty of these trolls. And it will be an opportunity to clarify my views for the benefit of anyone who might have been misled.

YOU deride and denigrate mbp for his inability to see the glaring evidence of betrayal in front of his eyes , and how sturgeon has no intention of fighting for independence , take a long look in a mirror , YOU sir are a hypocrite , as you in your promotion of one more vote snp is effectively the same thing , give sturgeon another 5 years in power to complete her total destruction of the YES movement

YOU have the audacity to post a link on your twitter to a post by Stuart Campbell of WOS that highlights the continued depravity and threats still to come to not only our womenfolk but to ordinary people across Scotland from the very FM and party that you INSIST people should vote for

MBP do yourself a favour COPY all Peter’s excuses for not seeing the betrayal of Scotland’s independence cause for 7 long years , when you finally awaken to the sabotage of the independence cause by sturgeon and her perverted deviants you will be able to quote them back at him

The first paragraph appears to refer to the 2021 Scottish Parliament election ─ these comments are frequently quite incoherent. The claim is that in the run-up to that election I was promoting the SNP. That is to say, I was campaigning on behalf of the SNP. This is entirely false. I am neither a member nor a supporter of any party. I did not campaign for any party in that election. What I was promoting was the idea of a ‘supermandate’. Having demonstrated that the ‘supermajority’ idea being peddled by Alba Party was utter nonsense, I was asked what was my alternative. That alternative was a ‘supermandate’.

The claim made by the troll is dishonest in a number of ways. Not only does it dishonestly state that I was promoting the SMP, it says the purpose was to “give sturgeon another 5 years in power to complete her total destruction of the YES movement”. Quite why a lifelong independence supporter would want to do this is not explained. But trolls feel no obligation to make sense. That the ‘supermandate’ idea meant the reelection of the SNP was entirely incidental. It mattered not at all to me what party held the ‘supermandate’. But the political reality was that it could only be the SNP. The SNP was always going to be reelected anyway. The Alba Party’s proposal recognised this. It didn’t envisage anything other than an SNP government because their plan only made some kind of sense if there was a pro-independence government, and only the SNP was in a position to win enough seats to form that government.

What the ‘supermandate’ idea did was ensure that it was a different SNP that was elected. So, the claim that I just wanted to return the same government with the same priorities is another lie. What I envisaged was a mass campaign to force the SNP and other pro-independence parties to adopt the #ManifestoForIndependence in some form. This would have meant that whatever pro-independence party won the election it would be totally committed to a specified set of actions intended to initiate the process of restoring Scotland’s independence. So, not the same SNP at all. Further to this, the idea was that if we were electing a government committed to the kind of actions set out in the #ManifestoForIndependence, the stronger the mandate held by that government the better it would be. The ideal would have been a government elected on a #ManifestoForIndependence with a safe working majority and over 50% of the vote in both ballots. This was at least possible and would have been very effective ─ in stark contrast to the plan offered by Alba Party which could achieve nothing for Scotland’s cause.

The second paragraph is more of the same dishonesty. At no time did I “insist” that people vote for the SNP. I merely point out the political reality that the SNP is the party of government at this time and that no plan for restoring independence could succeed without the support of the Scottish Government and the First Minister. This has to be seen in the context of a time frame defined by the next UK general election. As this must be held earlier than the next Holyrood election, there is no opportunity to elect a different party to govern Scotland. If action is to be taken before the next UK general election, as I am persuaded it must, then it will have to be taken by the government we have now. That this is an SNP government is not my choice, but the choice of the electorate. The Yes movement had the chance to force the adoption of the #ManifestoForIndependence, but chose not to bother.

The third paragraph comes up with a new lie. As I explained in the article to which the comment relates, I saw the rot starting to set in even before the 2014 referendum and was always aware that it was getting worse after the vote. So, to say I didn’t see “the betrayal of Scotland’s independence cause for 7 long years” is a brazen lie. I saw it very clearly and new where it was headed. It was only ever going to get worse. Which is one oof the reasons I pushed for a new referendum to be held no later than September 2018. It was part of my thinking that to leave it later risked precisely the kind of fractious fracturing of the Yes movement that we’ve seen. It also risked problems developing within the SNP. But it was politic not to talk too much about such things at that time as the priority was to counter the British propaganda campaign and such talk from a Yes supporter would only add fuel to that nasty fire.

I was not unaware, as the troll suggests. I have stated that I was perfectly aware of the SNP stepping away from Scotland’s cause. I saw it. But I chose not to take precipitate action. I stuck with the party as long as there was the slightest possibility of getting it back on the independence track and so long as I could be a part of the efforts to effect change from within. It’s easy with hindsight to say these efforts were futile. But some of us were prepared to try rather than just give up and walk away.

I’ll end with a bit of general advice. If you want to know what a person’s views are on any matter then ask them. Do not take the word of any third party. Beware of the trolls!

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16 thoughts on “Beware of the trolls!

  1. Some people have an axe to grind and debate with a view to reach an agreed conclusion or even just to agree to differ is simply not the objective. Whether it be a British Nationalist or a hard-line emotional Unionist there really is very little point in interacting as their position is fixed. The same can be said of a number of those belonging to factions within the Independence supporting community.

    As far as I am aware you have always adopted a policy of ‘no banning’ of comments on your blog.

    Given what you have said about the time-consuming nature of addressing problematic comments do you intend to stick with this or will you be taking a different stance going forward?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s not a strict ‘no banning’ policy. I have blocked about half a dozen people. Mostly, if memory serves, for things like blatant threats or serious abuse of other commenters. There is a line. It’s just that you have to be really trying to get over it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think the problem – yours, mine, even the trolls’ – is that the SNP is doing nothing, in reality, to bring about independence, Peter. You are right that they are the party of government, but if they refuse to behave like the party of government and respect the wishes of their supporters for independence, then they are worse than useless and need to be removed. That could open the door to the Unionists, but not if we accept that another party, given time (and time is no longer running out in any real sense for independence via the SNP because the SNP is doing nothing anyway with that time except introduce policies few want) could, conceivably, replace the SNP and actually push for independence. I do think this is where a lot of the frustration felt by many comes in, and that frustration with what you say – quite legitimately – segues into trolling, but it is not meant as such, I believe, no matter how irritating it is.

    On the other hand, there are trolls who are either SNP or Green or Unionist apologists who use any opportunity to belittle and misunderstand and who do not want anyone with a brain to see through the machinations of the ruling elites at Holyrood and Westminster. They are the worst kind because they offer nothing but more of the same. Yours is an honest blog, Peter. Sometimes very uncomfortable reading, but never less than honest. Honest political discourse today is not a concept that those in power want to hear, and even less their acolytes.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I thank you for the compliment. If it is deserved then I’m doing no more than I should.

      The problem is that removing the SNP from government is not a realistic option. The next Holyrood election isn’t until after the UK general election that will all but certainly mark the end of the road for any parliamentary route to independence. The logic is inescapable and undeniable ─ which, admittedly, hasn’t prevented avoidance and denial. If the deadline for effective action is the announcement of the date of next UK general election; and if the effective action can only be initiated by the Scottish Government; and the SNP is the party of government; and there is no way to change this before the deadline, it follows that if the effective action is to be initiated then it must be initiated by the SNP/Scottish Government.

      That’s pretty conclusive to me. And it follows from all of this that if we are serious about restoring Scotland’s independence then every last particle of our energy should be bent to the task of ‘persuading’ the SNP/Scottish Government that it must act immediate and as required. At the same time, we must assure the SNP Scottish Government of our support if/when it does take effective action.

      I fully understand why many people are uncomfortable with this state of affairs. I am distinctly uncomfortable with it. But I have sense enough to know that my feelings on the matter don’t alter the facts as I have presented them. I can follow my heart and set out to punish the party for its failures and failings, knowing that by doing so I am putting Scotland’s cause in great jeopardy. Or I can follow my head and resign myself to the fact that if my commitment to Scotland’s cause takes precedence, I really have no choice but to use the SNP as the tool it was always intended to be.

      My discomfort at this is somewhat lessened by the knowledge that I must accept my share of the responsibility for allowing this state of affairs to arise. Like countless others, I trusted Nicola Sturgeon far more than I should. Collectively, we put the SNP in a position of power in order that it could serve our cause. Then we left it to get on with the task. Some time ago I wrote somewhere that in order to have Scotland’s independence restored we might have to put an extraordinary amount of power in the hands of a single party in order that it should be equipped for confrontation with the British state. I cautioned that this party would have to be kept under the most stringent scrutiny and that we must ensure the means to remove from it the power that it had been given. We gave the SNP a lot of power. Then we took our eye off the ball supposing it to be in safe hands. We are now paying the price for that mistake.


  3. Sgròbadh

    “For scribblers such as myself”, knowing others exist
    Very encouraging to know: another’s articles persist

    I’ve been a scribbler since my primary school times
    In his jotters, a wee boy’s writing’s OK, sometimes

    “Please Miss”, inner page scribbling can’t be Ewen’s
    His drawings are much better than his handwriting is

    Copperplate writing meant nothing in Primary school
    Seanair’s (grandfather’s), memories do provide fuel

    Closing here, with thanks for your time, as I rhyme
    Bilingual writing’s interesting… perhaps sublime?


    © Ewen A Morrison

    {Sgròbadh (act of) scribbling}


    Please excuse my own scribbling here, however, it’s almost impossible to be serious about today’s politics in Scotland… I ended my SNP membership sometime after Alex Salmond stopped being our First minister, and for the first time since that happened, I’m seeing a gradually more positive move towards supporting a return to Scottish independence; and this time, European support IS going to influence many, many more of our uncertain Scottish electorate!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m sorry but you’ve all lost the f….ing plot.
    Trolls, gaslighting etc etc. Yet more imports from the Good Ole USA.
    I have this vision of a conference in either Langley or Silicon Valley.
    “OK guys, you’ve won your bet. You’ve proved you can brainwash everyone into using made up words. Now it’s my turn I bet you a hundred bucks that I can get all the limeys to start sentences with “SO” within six months”.

    Oh crumbs I guess that makes me a troll. Oh No, what am I going to do?

    I’m away to have a wee lie down in a darkened room.


      1. Point taken Peter although I do note that the term only came into being in the mid 2010’s as per your link. So it came into being round about the same time as Twitter which could also, at a push, be used to reinforce my point.


  5. “… The problem is that removing the SNP from government is not a realistic option. The next Holyrood election isn’t until after the UK general election that will all but certainly mark the end of the road for any parliamentary route to independence. The logic is inescapable and undeniable ─ which, admittedly, hasn’t prevented avoidance and denial… ”

    Your logic is infallible, Peter. However, it far too late now for trying to force them to do anything. The GRR is just the first step in a long, winding road of changes that are set to create even more division over this issue, so there is not a chance that they will start to concentrate on independence now or ever. That, too, has to be accepted or not (denial). Only then, can we hope to get ourselves back on track. I may well be wrong, but we need to change tack now and do what needs to be done regardless of time. Time is immaterial if the SNP/Greens will do nothing. Either years of dithering and cul-de-sacs has wasted time that we will never get back. I keep harking back to the Irish example. It took approximately five years for Sinn Fein to be in the ascendancy from the demise of the Redmond faction. ALBA has been in existence for around a year. Sinn Fein’s task was far greater than ours: we have around 48-50% support in Scotland; they had around 10% or less in Ireland.

    As for the SNP, I wouldn’t vote for them again ever. Even if they dangled a whole field of carrots in front of me. Voting for a Scotland with this dangerous stuff still rife would be tantamount to suicide. Kept saying it had to be removed before independence. All I got back was: nothing is more important than independence. Really? Germany was independent in 1936; the Soviet Union was independent in 1917. China was independent when Mao came to power. Cambodia was independent when Pol Pot came to power. Do I want to live under a totalitarian regime that views females as expendable and ripe for sacrifice? Nah. If that makes me a troll, Peter, sorry, but there is no way back for me now unless the SNP is removed or enters into a coalition with ALBA and the other independence parties and movements. Preferably, I want the SNP removed, but I’d settle for the second option.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, given that Labour, who are fully bought into identity ideology, look set to win the next WM election, it looks like you have no option Peter but to start campaigning for the tories and save us all from totalitarianism……. oh, hang on a minute, hasnt Braverman just ditched fixing the “windrush” clusterf**k, and arent the tolies running down the clock on all EU legislation such as paid holidays until such protections disappear in a puff of smoke on 31.12.23, and workers deemed essential will soon be effectively banned from striking. What to do?

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t know, Peter, but without the female vote, it’s oot the windae unless a different path is taken. I’m not claiming that all females will withhold their vote from the SNP, but many will, and most of those rUK females who might have been persuaded to vote for independence will not touch the SNP with a bargepole now. Talk about denial. So many men – those sending letters into The National – still see this as a minority and women’s issue. You’d think that sheer pragmatism would change their minds, but, hell, no. I’m afraid that this will be so contentious that it will obscure independence. Queer Theory has an end point and we are just on the starting blocks. Said this five years ago or more: we had to get these people out first.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I think Peter’s facetious sarcastic comment to your reasonable measured comment is indicative of the contempt he holds for other people’s opinions , as I have said previously Lorna your patience is admirable , you put your point across without rancour or disrespect although on many occasions the person you are responding to doesn’t reciprocate

      Mr Bell your raving diatribe in response to my comment highlighting your infantile childish name calling only exposes further that you are a self opinionated boor who has no concept of self reflection , it is not my problem that you have comprehension issues when you replace in your mind what was actually said for what you imagined I said , however you have no need to BAN me because your inability to move on from being a party apologist to a REAL Scottish Independence Supporter who will protect our womenfolk no matter what shows the selfish deluded person you are


      1. TwatHater.

        On just about any other privately run blog on the internet your posts would have been deleted and your presence barred long since.

        You persist in abusing your host.
        You persist in misinterpreting and misrepresenting what was meant by what was said.
        You persist in misrepresenting what has been said.

        You really have been taking the piss here.

        To the extent that any fair minded observer really would have to wonder if either
        a) you have some sort of mental deficiency or subnormal condition?
        b) you really are doing it on purpose. i.e. behaving in a way almost indistinguishable from what a malicious troll might.

        It is a testament to our hosts fortitude and strength of character that your ‘contributions’ are visible at all.

        Plenty of other site admins would have purged you and all trace of you long since.

        Have a bloody look at yersel man!

        If you really do wish to achieve any sort of positive change, this has very clearly been Not The Way To do It!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I don’t want to get into the specifics of your disagreement with Twathater , Peter , but just to say ……I have never met either of you , but have formed very favourable impressions of you both based on your writings here and elsewhere , and it’s regrettable your mutual antipathy has reached the degree it has .

    FWIW ….I don’t believe Twathater is a troll in the vexatious , commonly understood sense , in fact , I don’t believe he is any kind of troll . Just someone at his wits end regarding the disaster THIS SNP are making of – just about – everything , most grievously , Independence . He’s not alone !

    Liked by 1 person

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