12 January 2010

The Gray Fox and the Sour Grapes

I’ve encountered a raft of greenies on my travels. Hard-boiled to soft, occasional and professional, dread-locked to coiffured, wonderfully bright to pretty dim (perhaps a side-effect of the lights being on, but running off an energy conserving light bulb). I was reflecting on this ragtaggle coalition on Sunday as I spend six-odd hours on a train, whizzing through the snow-scaped north of England. My lap was warmed by a copy of the Sunday Herald, majoring on the Beauly-Denny powerline decision, and a queer tale which was largely lost on me, about the burly ex-copper who haunts the Maximum Eck’s footsteps. (Answers on an e-postcard, if anyone is able to explain its significance to me.)

A pervasive theme in the periodical was the extent to which the approval had “divided the green movement”. Not being close to that movement, I can’t take a sociologically informed view about the plausibility of that thesis. This said, its easy to detect the clear theoretical issues which might cause tensions in the many-coloured greenie ranks. Cognitive dissonance is broadly defined as the tensions arising from holding incompatible ideas simultaneously. Conservation, beavers at liberty, ungnawed trees, renewable energies, craggy-faced glens unspoked, landscape to remain like a Scottish smile, jagged and squint, unbraced by metallic structures – huzzah! While sustainable preferences in isolation, eventually the tensions will be concretised by a situation, a proposal, and have to find some resolution, yea or nea. The more sagacious Green Party folks I know have a ready answer to these problems – they’re public policy utilitarians. What are the consequences? Lets admit the negatives into our ledger and using some sort of felicific calculus (however imprecise), decide what to do. You can see just this sort of thinking at work in James ' WWJMD? piece on the subject over at Two Doctors, echoed by Duncan McLaren of Friends of the Earth Scotland who suggested that “the potential environmental damage from climate change was much greater than any caused by the new line.” A new greenie blog to me, Suitably Despairing, voices a similar sentiment. An unwillingness to enter into this sort of calculation can pose real problems for local developments. “I support renewable energies, but…” becomes increasingly implausible, increasingly shrill, if it isn’t associated with the insight that willing the end sometimes means willing means which wont always have unalloyed positive consequences.

Among greenies, I’ve long wondered at the stark differences between the hard-nosed policy professionals one encounters (I like to think of the men as alfalpha males) who are urbane, urban and tart-up in the modal business dress of smart suit – and the more raspberry layby strand of Scottish environmentalism. Perhaps an insider might give us a bit of insight. Aboard the train, however, I was mostly struck by the amazing virulent piece by Muriel Gray in the Sunday Herald. Referencing slurs which she claims to have encountered on the t’internet, Gray suggests that ‘thousands of people found themselves being called all kinds of childish things, as bloggers, opinion writers and internet trolls began their systematic mocking of those who are anxious about the fragility of our Scottish landscape.’ (Interesting order of priority, I thought. Still, nice to be distinguished from our mere trollish compadres).

Curiously, and without concrete substantiation, Gray implicitly references recent notions of cybernattery. Those accusing dissenters on Beauly-Denny are styled by Gray as “pro-SNP posters”. These posters apparently have one dictum, directly quoted as saying “these idiots who don’t know where their power comes from, and should have their electricity cut off”. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but a net search didn’t reveal the origin of that phrase, if it was ever typed. Its perfectly possible of course, but how did she determine that its author was broadly pro-SNP? Put it another why, is it pro-SNP to support the consent to Beauly-Denny? If so, someone should tell Patrick Harvie. He might be rather upset to discover that his support is simply a factor of another party’s ideology. Later in the article, she is even more explicit, referencing “the government’s internet henchmen”. Given his post I mentioned above, I can only assume that James Mackenzie is one of these henchmen, an honourary cybernat.

Wearied from her exertions, Gray ends thus. “Where do we go from here?” she sighs heavily, before a twinkling mote of hope glisters in either eye. Her voice more confident now, she crashes to a resounding close … “I really don’t know. Shall we try the ballot box?” Heaven knows who she plans to vote for once she gets there.


  1. "-landscape to remain like a Scottish smile, jagged and squint, unbraced by metallic structures-"


  2. On Sunday, for the second time in her column, this harridan criticised Salmond's physical appearance ("puffed up LITTLE man"). For the second time I thought "pot calling kettle black" as well as "people in glass houses etc".
    She is anti-SNP on any subject, but she should, for obvious reasons, ditch the personal attacks.

  3. Come on Eck, no need to post as 'anonymous'!

  4. Yes I did read that article but was not surprised by the content. I noticed her change of tone over a year ago - he who pays the piper calls the tune perhaps? Pity though as at one time she did write some good stuff.

  5. Honestly Alistair I'm not Eck! I only posted anonymously as it's my first post on this site and although I have a Google account sometimes that doesn't work.
    Moira (still snowed in at Strichen)

  6. Come now, Alistair, I'm sure the Maximum Eck has people to ensure that his girth receives is due recognition. It'd be a public scandal if he was forced to stoop, or slump, to rattle out the comment himself.

  7. Oh, and thanks for your contribution Moira. Remarks are always welcome.

    Hopefully the waxing warmth of the new year has dug you out of Strichen by now.

  8. Dramfineday (excellent name),

    Historically, I would have tended to agree with you. Certainly, Ms Gray always had the capacity to notch her authorial voice up an octave or too, listing towards the shrill. Nevertheless, I've appreciated some of her commentary in the past. As to her anti-Nat position, alleged by an anonymous Moira - that I couldn't confirm or deny off the cuff.

    Ho hum.

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