22 January 2014

Verruca Gnomes

In Terry Pratchett's Hogfather, the disappearance of the Discworld's porcine equivalent of Father Christmas throws Hogwatchnight into disorder. Stray belief fizzes around the universe. A casual aside by the Arch-Chancellor of the Unseen University - glingleglingleglingle - and puff, the anthropomorphic representation of the Verruca gnome, his sack burgeoning, manifests in reality. The same procedure called up the Hair Loss Fairy, the elephant-schnozzled Eater of Socks and the Oh God of Hangovers. In our world, it isn't quite so easy for humanity to summon our ideas into actual existence, but language can and does exert a similar effect.   

The term "cybernat" has very recent origins. Coined by Lord George Foulkes, and first referenced in the Sunday Herald in 2008, I've written before about the popularisation of the term in Scottish political discourse.  A quick look on LexisNexis suggests that its usage is still rising. The Daily Mail devotes a frequently absurd article to the idea this morning.  According to Alan Roden, apparently "we don't want to be part of your neocon country where the poor get poorer and the rich richer" represents an "abusive attack". The mind boggles.



In the early years, usage was marked by its hesitancy and diversity. Was it to be "Cybernat" or "cyberNat"? Informality seems to have won out, and the capitals mostly droppedToday, the term is used thoughtlessly by most commentators, as if we all knew what it meant, and who it referred to. By talking so incessantly about cybernats, we're summoned them into a largely taken-for-granted existence. The cybernat is treated like Pratchett's Verruca gnome, sprung fully-formed from the mind of Lord George Foulkes.  But it is worth taking another look.

In its original Foulkesian sense, "cybernat" had a clearly negative connotation, denoting not just an independence-sympathetic soul's manifestation online, but striving to substantiate a class of folk whose activities and comments could be constructed as abusive and illegitimate.  This isn't a terrible peculiarity. You needn't be a linguist to know that we constantly traffic in laden terms without being entirely explicit about what we mean. Politics is a particularly fruitful domain for this sort of constructive vagueness in terms. "Social justice", "fairness." Etcetera, etcetera.

But the term cybernat performs a number of useful functions for its proponents. Firstly, it structures the ordinary abusive and critical demotic of the internet as a particularly pro-independence pathology. The innumerable tweets and comments online from across the UK, raging against various members of the coalition government in colourful and personal terms, suggest that "we're all in this together" in terms of the childlike pleasure of tweeting that a cabinet minister looks like a dyspeptic Vogon with a scone blocking his colostomy bag. 

Anyone who has ever had occasion to pop their phizog on telly should know that doing an Ed Balls, and searching the subsequent Twitter stream, is an expedient only for those prepared to experience disagreeable accounts of just about everything about you, from what you said, to how you said it, to how your hair happened to be styled that day. After my Newsnicht outing in 2012, I seem to recall that some friendly soul said that I represented everything that was wrong with Scottish nationalism. Its silken, suggestive edge was the killer touch. The same, it seems to me, is true of every country and every political system where passionate beliefs and passionate hatreds are held by folk with few inhibitions, low empathy for their opponents, and an iPad.   
 
But through the cybernat lens, we see things differently. The universality of the characters of the troll and the flamer are elided, in favour of the specific claim that online villainy is a particular Yes-inflected phenomenon. If you dismiss Alex Salmond a fat wank whose melon face you'd like a pulp with a two-by-four before drowning him in a barrel of tonic wine, you're at most a disreputable, isolated individual whose conduct tells us nothing about the party or campaign with which you are associated. 

If the cybernat describes a pro-Union columnist as a "Tory tool", by contrast, you're part of a disgraceful, organised and ultimately leadership-controlled campaign to silence those who disagree with your constitutional preferences. This isn't whataboutery. I have no interest whatever in developing a parallel whine about the "cyberbrit", whose infractions against decorum can be thrown back in a tu quoque. The simple fact is, the lay of the cybernat allows an identical catalogue of abuse to be interpreted in radically different ways, depending on whether its author favours independence or continuing union. 

It's a double-standard, and one with fairly explicit, and broader political purposes. The generalised figure of the "cybernat" is a way of hanging on – increasingly desperately – to the "pathologised" figure of the Scottish nationalist. If the mainstream SNP didn’t exist, the cybernat wouldn't have to be invented. The metaphors characteristically associated with the cybernat are significant. "The mask slips". "The sinister underbelly of Scottish nationalism, revealed".  "The darkness at the heart of the nationalist cause". 

Often implicit in all of this is the insulation: Look at these folk. They're really all slightly loopy, unpleasant head-bangers, no matter how reasonable and orderly Alex or Nicola contrive to appear on telly.  You can't trust a Nat. They're all itching to gulag you, somewhere in the foetid swamps of their imaginations. This kind of discourse has already had a profoundly distortive effects. Sing a few songs and barrack Nigel Farage in Edinburgh? Dark signs of authoritarian ethnic nationalism on the march. Clatter Nigel Farage over the head in Kent? Er. Gosh darn those hate-filled Anglophobic. Um. Kentish.  
 
None of which is to say that some of what folk are saying online isn't unpleasant, moronic - or actively counter-productive for the campaign they claim to support. Of course it is. But how we construct the illegitimacy and legitimacy of political speech is important. And I'm always suspicious of self-appointed arbiters of taste. Particularly those who, as recently as a few months ago, ran a front page against a political opponent, claiming that his dead dad "hated Britain".  Or perhaps exaggeration, scurrility and abuse is only objectionable when you undertake it on a freelance basis, with limited circulation. 

In the hands of some of its proponents, the idea of the cybernat seems increasingly to be deployed to represent perfectly reasonable but contrary and critical perspectives as beyond the pale. Today's Daily Mail piece is particularly revealing in this respect. The article is accompanied by a sidebar of shame, recounting particularly outrageous cybernatty responses to a recent article, critical of some aspect of the SNP's independence platform.  Amusingly or appallingly, depending on your viewpoint, it includes many perfectly respectable, critical responses to the article under the aegis of cybernat abuse. 

One lackwit called its author a "quisling", but according to Alan Roden, it is now an illegitimate scandal to compare the authors of articles you disagree with to Rob Brydon or to criticise the ideological direction of the UK government, and its attendant privatisations of public services.  There's much more colourful stuff out there. Just search for Alex Massie's name after yesterday's turgid BBC Question Time inspired independence debate. Yet the Mail pluck out these examples for special villification, and then complain that it is the amorphous crew of cybernats who are striving to stifle legitimate comment. If reasonable participation in the constituional debate is to be defined as excluding passionate points of view about the limits and vices of our current government, count me out too.

I have friends - good, smart people - who have stopped writing about Scottish politics because they grew tired of the endless negativity, the idiotic foul-mouthed denunciations and allegations. And female friends from across the world, who feel slowly bled dry by the barrage of misogyny awaiting their writing. I lament that. But legitimate criticism and pointed differences of opinion also tend to sting. It is a tried and tested debating strategy, not to answer the arguments actually advanced, but to strive to undermine them using other tools.  

Like Pratchett's accidental anthropomorphic personifications, the cybernat has been conjured into recent life by our imaginations. It is beyond question that the Scottish political debate online - like all political debates - will have it share of impolite, irreverent and sometimes downright ghastly participants. But like the Verruca gnome, this household god of the independence debate is smuggling iffy material in his sack. Handle this popular little fellow with care.

62 comments :

  1. Absolutely spot on. This bizarre notion that Scottish politics is somehow unique in attracting angry words and bad tempers on the internet really bugs me - I've been called worse things for pointing out that Oasis are the shittest band in the world and the complete antithesis of good music. I didn't start calling people Cybermancs in retaliation.

    One thing I would add though - I don't think the situation has been helped by the readiness of some quarters to go along with the term, despite ostensibly being on the same side as those it gets aimed at. That simply validates it, and encourages the likes of Roden(t?) to then demand they do something about it, thus passing the onus onto them, and leaving them to silence people they're supposed to be arguing alongside. It's classic divide-and-conquer tactics, which is particularly ironic given that such people tend to rail against right-wing media and government types using divide-and-conquer tactics in their war against the poor. And I would also suggest there's more than a hint of class snobbery about it.

    But fuck it. If folk think they've seen cybernattery, just wait until we win in September. I'm a notoriously bad winner, and I've already got the next day booked off work as a holiday. I'm going to be tweeting and emailing till my fingers bleed, and it's going to be 100% pure schadenfreude.

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    1. Crack open the internet, and you find thousands of pedantic and charmless Comic Book Guys in every corner.

      Given the increasing traction which general problems of online threats, insults and the like are receiving, the idea that this is limited to politics (and Scottish nationalist politics) is curious. As we've seen (and not unproblematically, to my mind) the polis are increasingly coming knocking for folk who push the boundaries of taste and good humour online. The UK evening news the other day was full of the stuff, after Stan Collymore said summat about it (whoever he is).

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  2. A fine piece Mr Worrier. I agree with Douglas - the term has been validated by some (many?) on the pro-independence side. There's no getting rid of it now. But my God there's so many more REAL instances of "vile internet abuse" pointed out in the national papers every day (see today's Telegraph piece on Beth Tweddle, it's just horrible stuff).

    As for that television debate last night, you're correct - turgid is the word. We need some imagination from the broadcasters (we've had a little from STV and Scotland Tonight) when it comes to covering this important issue. Crap Z-list Question Time events are not the way to go.

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    1. You're absolutely right about the TV debate. When the camera panned out to show the whole panel, it suddenly struck me that this was indeed essentially a mini Question Time, right down to the same formula for selecting guests, i.e. media commentator, celebrity, and then politicians. We even had the "light-hearted" ending question. So this is the fruits of the extra funding given to the Referendum Unit? Really?

      At least STV have tried to do a few more interesting things, like the format of their debates with Sturgeon (the "winner stays on" aspect is a great idea - that's intentional, right?) and the thing around the launch of the white paper where they got a group of ordinary people together with a pollster to gather their opinions.

      It's pretty obvious which channel is an independent entity, and which one is just a regional outpost.

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    2. I'd echo much of that. STV are giving new things a try - borrowing from other formats used elsewhere, to be sure, but at least showing a little spirit. Good on 'em. They've been pipping the BBC for a while in terms of their political work, IMO. In the Peat Worrier household, we were united in the view that the network's coverage beat the BBC's hands down during the 2011 election. So I'm not entirely surprised to see them being a bit speedier on the referendum.

      As to the debate: what to say? The partisan audience, I think, didn't help. If I want to hear the SNP or the Labour line (or the Daily Record or the Newsnet Scotland line for that matter), I'd prefer to go straight to source rather than filtering the argument through a not-so-ordinary punter doing a passable parrot impersonator. My unreasoning antipathy to Anas Sarwar spiked the programme from the get go - but it is sad when the punter-element, which at its best disrupts a pre-determined elite agenda - just serves to reflect it in the way it did the other evening.

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  3. As one who has abandoned comment on Scottish politics for the moment in response to the insufferable whataboutery and tribalism (and, I suppose, if I may be so bold, one who thinks of you as un esprit parenté intellectuelle), I am deeply sympathetic to this. I wrote once about the insufferable illegitimacy complex that underpins much Scottish Labour and Scottish Tory (if such a milieu exists) comment on SNP matters, i.e. that anything the Nats do is illegitimate because it's all a smokescreen to distract you from their REAL intentions, which are always dastardly. This is, of course, what you are referencing here, except you are concentrating on what Yoons use to bolster this complex.

    The cybernat is to Foulkes and Roden what counter-revolutionary royalists were to Robespierre and the Abbé Sieyes, what British Loyalists were to Sam Adams and Paul Revere and papists were to Alexander Shields and Robert Wodrow (to return to matters Scotia). They are the ever-present, shifted yet assuredly *there* threat hovering just over the horizon, ready to sweep in and destroy everything you've built if you waver for just an instant. Just as James, Duke of York was deemed personally responsible for the Highland Host that raped and pillaged the Lanarkshire countryside in 1679, so must Alex Salmond be deemed responsible for today's online warriors.

    The thing that continues to baffle me, however, is the cognitive dissonance. I offer no answer to the following query, I only pose it to demonstrate its continuing relevance. Why can't these people see that the SNP-types-as-dangerous-subversives has long since stopped working on the Scottish electorate?

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    1. The most perilous thing for all political outfits to my mind: believing your own myths, and assuming everyone else shares the creed. I've written about this before. As is often the case with things you take for granted, I think we tend not to notice the features you rightly identify, and their silliness (and sometimes, their pathology). I still remember when I first read David McCrone's Understanding Scotland: Sociology of a Stateless Nation. Full of familiar ideas which slosh about the Scottish political scene, what was remarkable about the experience was the - I struggle to find the right phrase - the slight angle on all of this which McCrone took. You could analyse these stories of Scotland, not as taken-for-granted, naturalised features of the political debate, but as interesting and significant subjects for critical reflection. Like Bourdieu's Distinction, it slapped the most banal, quotidian features down under the microscope and insisted - look more closely. These things have more to tell us. So much is obvious to many folk, but it was new to me.

      A task, still incomplete, but a small revelation for a fellow who'd spent the last four year, buried in Scots law.

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    2. LPW: 'The most perilous thing for all political outfits to my mind: believing your own myths, and assuming everyone else shares the creed.'

      Yes, a universal truth, and perhaps especially applicable to Scotland, with our traditions of the Godly periodically prodding the Unwashed and the Infidels; and I think there is a strong element of that in the Yes campaign - a sense of outrage that Scots can dare to argue against independence.

      Wholeheartedly agree that 'Cybernat' is not a useful term for anyone to use, especially with the presence of false flags on both sides (a parallel can be drawn with Spurs fans and the use of 'Yids' - Baddiel is good on this).


      It seems reasonable to assume, for example, that a poster using the name 'Hawdyirscrotum' or some such and banging on about the English is likely to be someone who is not what he claims to be (all you can be sure of is that the poster will be male and have a comic collection).


      And yet undoubtedly genuine nationalist sites carry grotesque caricatures of 'John Poultice' and the like - what this means is that normals stay away. (Are there in fact many cyber voices? I go to here and the Burd and Ian Smart and Sub Rosa and that's about it.)


      Another odd thing that strikes me is that some of the most passionate posters seem oddly ignorant of Scotland: I have seen Walter Scott described as 'a well-known fascist' by a prolific nationalist poster - another one didn't pick up a simple reference to 'Athens of the north'. I am sure these posters are not false flags, the phenomenon just demonstrates that many of us live in imaginary Scotlands.


      Alex Salmond said something a wee while back about the Scottish independence debate being 'inspirational' - I think he added for the world. Well, whatever the world thinks it's not a very inspirational debate in Maryhill or Portree. Certainly not a lot of good humour.

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    3. the presence of false flags on both sides (a parallel can be drawn with Spurs fans and the use of 'Yids' - Baddiel is good on this).

      I'm not sure I follow. Are you suggesting that some of the proudly self-identifying Yiddos are deep cover NF types? Not something I've noticed.

      (Are there in fact many cyber voices? I go to here and the Burd and Ian Smart and Sub Rosa and that's about it.)

      Och, how is Rosie? Still running an online dating club for the over 60s?


      ~alec

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  4. Brilliant post, my lallander.

    "I have friends - good, smart people - who have stopped writing about Scottish politics because they grew tired of the endless negativity, the idiotic foul-mouthed denunciations and allegations."

    I was particularly disheartened by the BBC debate precisely because it devolved into the same tired, stupid, petty tribal points-scoring.

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    1. Much obliged, Taranaich.

      And ibid on the debate front. Disheartening that much of what you identify also emanating from the audience.

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  5. Excellent post, Mr Worrier. It's an interesting question, to embrace Cybernat or to reject it and whine about its use?

    I fall into the 'embrace it' camp. While the Daily Hate may try to pretend it's only used against 'the lunatic fringe', any pro-independence person who has dared to put finger to keyboard online for more than ten minutes will have been called a Cybernat by some Cyberbrit.

    I also like the idea of embracing a term originally coined by a vermin-clad member of the Establishment to denigrate ordinary citizens treading on territory he saw as the preserve of the 'entitled' professional political classes and the 'entitled', house-trained mainstream media.

    By embracing the term we take the sting out of it and turn it back against those who would use it to denigrate us. "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they come to fight you, and then you win." Gandhi and all that.

    I recorded my own journey into Cybernattery last May here:

    http://logicsrock.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/a-foray-into-cybernattery.html

    Like it or not, the term is here to stay. I say that by embracing it we neuter it for those who would use it to denigrate us. Help yourself to a Proud Cybernat badge.

    http://logicsrock.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/get-your-proud-cybernat-badges-as.html

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    1. I've often used the cybernat tag in a neutral - and self-identifying sense - "frumious cybernats", after Lewis Carroll. If I never hear the term "cyberbrit" again, it'll be too soon...

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    2. That said, there is a strain of pro-indy comment which partakes in an unhealthy way of the logic of the conspiracy theory and the denigration of those articulating critical perspectives as being closet Unionists in the like. I've episodically being subject to this kind of thing myself - usually in the course of pointing out one or other of the Scottish Government's less than credible legal evasions or misrepresentation. That much of the media is agin independence doesn't mean that every criticism of the SNP government is ill-founded or rooted in disreputable animus. That way uncritical numptydom lies.

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    3. Yes. Putting aside all the "spluttering from behind a frilly handkerchief" antics of the unionist media, there is a healthy population of querulous wackos in the Scottish nationalist fold. The internet is a great amplifier for loud arseholes.

      Maybe we could use the neutral term "cyberbam" for any internet nutter, nationalist, unionist, communist, Paulian, Ukipper, etc.

      So for example: "Ian Smart is a right unionist cyberbam when he's got a drink in him".

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  6. As fine a piece on the budding science of cybernatology as one could wish to find.
    As one of those non-anonymous folk selected for inclusion in Wee Ruthie Davidson's select band of cabernats, I confess to being particularly interested in this topic as a result of yesterdays events. Leaving my house in Sussex yesterday en route for the London bound train, I was surprised to be doorstepped by a journalist representing the Scottish Daily Mail. He wanted some background and my views as someone identified as active online about the indyref and the debate around the use of the term cybernat.

    In truth I'm still unsure about the wisdom of even interacting with a title whose whole outlook I find both morally bankrupt and politically loathsome. I may come to rue the decision of course. However I decidedr to give as good an account of my conversion to the cause of Scottish independence as the 10 minute walk to the 8.40 AM train allowed. I explained why I thought it would be a good thing for both Scotland and the rest of the UK, my personal disillusionment with the prospects for change within the UK and my distaste for the current political environment with UKIP gaining support and an EU exit increasingly likely. He asked me general questions about my background, what I thought about being labelled a cybernat and if I thought it was a negative term. He even asked me if I'd ever thought about being a politician (to which the answer is "Hell, No!).

    I also expressed frustration with the main stream media and its perceived anti-independence bias and highlighted the recent University of the West of Scotland media report, and my view whilst online abuse came from both sides it seemed both more copious and more vitriolic from the No camp. I wondered why politicians, party hacks and their media supporters from the unionist side appeared to get a free pass from the media for some extraordinarily negative or even abusive comments, whereas any nationalist or pro-independence commentator would be crucified for much less.

    Finally I pointed out that in general the weighting of many debates and indeed general media coverage, appeared fatally skewed in favour of the unionist side because they frequently field representatives of the three unionist parties versus one from the SNP, which is hardly representative of the binary choice facing Scots in September.

    All in all I was somewhat taken aback by the experience, although given that my name and profile are public it didn't bother me that they had tracked me down. The journalist said that they would be contacting others and I found out later via twitter that a few other presumed cybernats had indeed received similar visits. What is more interesting however is what the motivation for researching such a piece could be, and why now? Does it show the nervousness of the Main Stream Media at being by-passed by citizen led new media? Are they troubled by the rise of pro-indy sites like Wings Over Scotland, Newsnet and National Collective and their ability to raise funds via crowd sourcing?

    Whether the piece ever sees the light of day remains to be seen. I will await it with interest; all I have to do now is find some way of reading it that doesn't involve actually buying the Daily Mail!

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    1. How curious. Happy to confirm that nobody came knocking at my own doorstep. Though no hatchet-job I've yet seen compares to that the paper dished out to my friend Adam Ramsay after his arrest at a protest I think he may have it framed somewhere.

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    2. I'm expecting the Mail piece to appear tomorrow. They were in touch with me this afternoon.

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    3. Lallands, I'm lost... is Ramsay not a scion a minor aristocratic family 'campaigning' against the sort of tax avoidance and perks which his family makes use of? Furthermore, did he not engage in an act of criminal damage and violent occupation?


      ~alec

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    4. well, my family may be minor aristocrats (mea culpa), but they pay their tax and I don't know of any perks they have which I have campaigned against. They did benefit a bit from renewable energy subsidies I have always been supportive of, but nothing I have opposed. Unless you know differently?

      And no, I didn't engage in any criminal damage, nor in violent occupation. I was found guilty of aggrevated trespass.

      and @peat worrier - yes, my parents have the Mail article framed at home...

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    5. well, I suppose they benifited from inheritance, which I am basically against. And I suppose I benefited from going to private school, which I am against, so I'll give you that.

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    6. Cor!

      but they pay their tax

      So do those all those 'avoiders' you're against, you banana. That said, I'm sympathetic towards tightening such legal provision; although I'd introduce taxes on property.. you can't offshore Bamff.

      They did benefit a bit from renewable energy subsidies I have always been supportive of, but nothing I have opposed.

      You say that as if it's a good thing, and not a confirmation of the same cognitive dissonance which sees other people's money as fair game but yours as to be firewalled.

      well, I suppose they benifited from inheritance, which I am basically against. And I suppose I benefited from going to private school, which I am against, so I'll give you that.

      That's mighty white of you.


      ~alec

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    7. Being a bit childish there, MacP.

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    9. Aye. It's not fair or relevant to use someone's background against them like in the Mail article or your comments, Alec. The implication of your complaint seems to be that those born into privilege should not be allowed to campaign for equality - which is surely not what you really think? So much the better if Adam uses the material advantages he was born with to promote equality, and not to prop up privilege, as so many others do.

      Also, renewable energy subsidies are open to anyone. Nothing hypocritical about making use of them, and the more people who do, the better for all of us.

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    10. Hahahaha! Accusations of such from a skulking coward who 'reveals' my surname when not showing the basic honesty to post even by his forename.

      Please reveal your fullname and place of residence, or/and put a sock in it.


      ~alec

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    11. No, William, what I'm doing to pointed to the contradiction between his personal actions and those which he expects others to follow.

      Building occupations are inherently violent in that they deny full access to their rightful uses and others, in this case including the low paid employees seeing a bunch of yahoos invading and vandalizing their place of work.

      So Ramsay's folks have it framed. I'm sure so did Bertie Wooster's when he was done for knocking off the helmets of Police, or the Bully Boys' when they trashed restaurants as low paid employees cowered in the corner.


      ~alec

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    12. It's almost as if you're saying that it's better for Fortnum and Mason's to avoid paying taxes, and to pay their employees badly (I'm taking your word on that), than it is for those employees to have a day of their normal work disrupted (though presumably were still paid) by activists trying to draw attention to those issues. Almost.

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    13. Oh, I didn't come down on the last haggis boat, William. It's as plain as two upturned egg-cups on an ironing board that you're a set-up... your profile was registered only this month. I would bet my last neep that it was today.

      Why is Ramsay not returning to defend himself?

      Before we get onto the question begging, less of the "almost". That's precisely what you're saying of me, so show some intellectual honesty and say what you mean without hiding behind plausible deniability.

      Fortnum and Mason's pay their tax. It might not be as much as you or Ramsay want them to pay, but they pay as much as they are required to by law. Just as the owners of landed owners of Bamff - and elsewhere - do.

      A few high-profile companies make good agitprop, but in the scheme of things even squeezing them until the pips squeak won't return as much as going after the likes of landed gentry or noveau-aristocratic landowners.

      Ramsay spearheaded a campaign to name, shame and penalize others' private/confidential tax arrangements. He clearly doesn't like it up him to such an extent that he's got you to superciliously defend him.

      And before you accuse me of being all Daily Mail or neo-con blah blah blah, consider the following. It's the DM - or, say, Tory MEPs like Struan Stevenson (who actually does real actual research into environmental issues) which are arguing for the great many who're paying through the nose whilst already wealthy families like the Ramsays of Bamff get sweet tax perks.


      ~alec

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    14. and to pay their employees badly (I'm taking your word on that),

      No, you're making things up. Low pay is commonplace across the un/semi-skilled retail sector.

      You either mean below minimum wage (therefore, illegal), or you're skuttling off from actual substantiating your claim before it even is made..


      ~alec

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    15. Alec McPherson,

      Your esteemed host here Mr Peat Worrier, identified Mr Adam Ramsay as a friend. I am not much given to agit prop, however others believe it is the only way to change a very corrupt society. Your defence of Fortnum and Masons is in the Marie Antoinette league of priveleged deniability of a wrong excused because you don't understand what the wrong actually is. It goes far above Fortnum and Masons to an entire edifice based on excusing the rich from the measures of intrusion that the rest of us take for granted. They do that through privelege and very rich lawyers. Are you defending that?

      -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

      BTW, my surname has been available on all my comments on t'internet thingy for a heck of a long time. Your, ahem, excitement at yours being revealed is a tad odd, to say the least.


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    16. No, Douglas. You're making precisely the same question begging and recourse to a pre-written script as others.

      Labeling me a Marie Antoinette is rhetorically and factually wrong, not least 'cos I'm not the one bending over backwards to defend anyone's sharp tax practice and define special circumstances for my side... such as those employed by the owners of Bamff House.

      It's factually wrong because there is no evidence that Marie Antoinette told starving peasants to eat cake. There is a secondary account of an unnamed Princess doing so, but it dates from when she'd have been nine years old; a 1/4 century before the food shortages of 1789. As a child in the Vienna royal court, she'd engaged in the Easter practice of distributing cake and fine foods to the poor so, if it were linked to her, the worst criticism you could make is a well-meant but somewhat crass remark.

      But most of all, it's a cliché which has little more impact than "something I don't like" like cybernat or neo-con.

      If we must use it, a better target would be William's explicitly stated view - and inter alia your and Ramsay's - that Fortnum and Mason's employees should get on with clearing up the mess and work around the disruption, and just be grateful they still are getting paid (at least we hope, cf. "presumably"). Maybe they got paid overtime, so could buy a cream pie at the end of the day.

      No doubt, at the time, their minds were going back a few months to when another group of yahoos and street thugs had invaded Millbank Tower, setting fires in stairwells and dropping fire extinguishers onto the heads of Police as other low paid employees cowered in their offices.

      All a laugh, innit?

      See also William's risible insistence that anyone can take advantage of tax breaks to install windmills and the like. Well, I suppose I could apply for one in my drying green, but I really do need stuff like a 1,300 acre estate in the Highlands to do so.

      No matter how much youse squirm, Fortnum and Mason is paying their tax. Argue for changing of legislation surrounding avoidance by all means, but retreating behind dull appeals to legality when vocal anti-avoidance campaigners - like Ramsay - are shown to using the same advantages does not wash.

      This disconnect between where the their money comes from and is secured, and pursuing highfalutin ideas of getting others to pay is commonplace across the constituency. From Jimmy Carr's joking about it then being shown to sinking his income into such schemes, to Mo Farah's linking arms with Robbie Williams against tax dodging (sic) firms then relocating to Oregon to secure his soon-to-be lucrative brand name, to Margaret Hodge's going after it in Parliament whilst her family fortune is shielded behind trust funds and the like, to the wheezes employed by tax guru Richard Murphy of UK Tax Research (from having imported Trivial Pursuit via Ireland in the 1980s, to now running a "consultancy firm" with his GP wife so to secure personal earnings).

      On a basic level, most people don't care about tax avoidance. Those who do have an opinion, might think fair game to them... I wouldn't want to pay any more money than I had to. What gets on our tits, however, is that it's a wheeze not open to the great many... mainly to those who, even without it, still would be much richer and wealthier than we ever can hope for.

      Then to add insult to injury, we are told by the above names that others should pay, but their money is different.

      As for my surname, that's another inversion of argument. I'm not in the least bit bothered by its being known 'cos I make no attempt to conceal it (although I'd prefer you at least spelt it correctly). What does tickle me is your and the nameless Commenter's clear delirious excitement at 'revealing' it in an effort to cowl me with the knowledge that youse "know where I live/blog"... maybe youse should grow-up a bit.

      Delete
    17. As for Lallands, he's someone I don't so much respect in disagreement as admire. Bringing-up Ramsay, however, struck as odd. It was unrelated to both the subjects in hand - namely the sense of primeval fear ascribed to comments on Twitter, and the referendum - and seemed little more than "here's someone I know".


      ~alec

      Delete
  7. I (some might say stupidly) responded to a particularly scurrilous accusation leveled against the SNP in the comment section of the Daily Mail the other day and genuinely and without rancour asked the accuser to show evidence of his accusation, to be met with a barrage ranging from imbecile, through vile cybernat troll, to illiterate clown, I did not rise to it.

    ReplyDelete
  8. My memory differs, as it was used against me and several others on the Scotsman site, by a unionist poster one 'Fifi la Bonbon', who then worked as a researcher for jangling Geordie.

    He nicked the term off her and she got a seat in Holryrood. Fair's fair.

    ReplyDelete
  9. According to Alan Roden, apparently "we don't want to be part of your neocon country where the poor get poorer and the rich richer" represents an "abusive attack".

    Is the suggestion that has become like "neo-con" as a lazy shorthand for "something I don't like"?


    ~alec

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  10. Lallans, on a serious note, just how serious/widespread is this? Assuming that it is a rhetorical custard pie, you've cited some few dozen uses in unspecified national newspapers in a year... without more info, it's eminently possible that it's one or two columnists using it in multiple pieces.


    ~alec

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  11. Ha - after my high-horse complaining about the lack of humour in the Great Debate I followed a Guardian link to a Scotlandshire piece on Dead Poets - very funny, very witty, more of this please -

    http://bbc.scotlandshire.co.uk/index.php/city-news/649-dead-poets-to-decide-splittist-referendum.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I never can quite work out if BBC Scotlandshire' is a very clever parody or made in seriousness but lacking in self-awareness.


      ~alec

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  12. I think the term "cybernat" is far more insidious. It is not just a soundbite political point-scoring term for unionist politicians and their MSM patsies. It smacks to me of the deliberate de-humanisation and demonisation of such phrases as "Kraut", "Kike", Gook, "Skinny" etc. It is about fostering hatred for all those who support independence. Today's highly irresponsible and inciteful article in the Daily Mail is beyond contempt but entirely in keeping with the unionist approach to this debate - mark the YES supporter as "sub-human" (or untermenshcen if you prefer your extreme hatred in German).

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    Replies
    1. I don't think Cybernat is anything like "kike"... even "kraut" is stretching it.


      ~alec

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  13. I don't like being called a Unionist but I get it any time I enter into the independence debate, and I'm basically abstaining as in all honesty no matter the result it will not affect me or mine. The use of the word unionist cuts some people to the core, especially the Labour supporters you need so badly. One thing, if the SNP offered the chance of an in or out referendum over the EU it would boost support for the YES vote, but thats not on offer.

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  14. Excellent piece

    And I agree with its core message. The only reason I can see for the Cybernat phenomenon taking precedence in the public mind is that, invariably, there are more indy activists online than there are Unionist.

    Which is understandable.

    What I find deeply ironic though is that this piece has attracted some of the very people highlighted in the Daily Mail's cybernat feature on Saturday.

    I was surprised Doug Daniel didn't appear in it.

    Back in 2012, Doug was your requisite, ubiquitous, reasonable indy campaigner.

    He was always polite, reasoned, willing to take your point onboard and offer his rebuttals in a respectful manner.

    But he's changed for the worse.

    It's now become relatively common place to see him comment that Unionists are thick, insane, deluded etc and tell them where to go in a less than temperate manner.

    I blame the Jedi 'Reverend' and his Wings site. It's plain Doug's been groomed and corrupted by the Dark side of the Force.

    Despite the undoubted writing talent of the Jedi 'Reverend' his polemics are invariably undermined by the polarised and polarising extremism of his views.

    He makes it easy for opponents of Indy to point and scream, at the despicable Cybernats.

    The use of the word "orbit" in the Mail was interesting because it does, to an extent, make sense.

    Doug was a credit to the online indy campaign until he came into the Jedi 'Reverend's' "orbit".

    Now in many cases he fits the stereotype of a Cybernat - hectoring, harsh, abrasive and dismissively contemptuous of those he disagrees with. Some of his comments on the Jedi 'Reverend's' Wings site make me shake my head in sadness and wonder what happened to the poor fellow.

    As for Jedi RevStu. Absolutists always attract a certain type because they provide easy answers to complex problems.

    It's worth mentioning that elsewhere Campbell has openly stated that he wants people to "hate" him so that the "battle lines" are clearly drawn.

    Is that really the type you want to coalesce around when something as historic and potentially glorious as Scotland's independence is at stake?

    I don't think so.

    The Jedi Reverend is a disgrace to what is a noble cause. It's time people like yourselves realised that.

    The exact opposite appears to be taking place.

    And that's a tragedy.

    Regards

    Longshanker

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    Replies
    1. Oh, is it the Church of Jedi that Stu hails from? I can't quite work-out from his weirdly rambling Wiki entry which quite plainly was written by himself.


      ~alec

      Delete
    2. Less of the patronising piffle please, Longshanker. I think you'll find I've been capable of giving people both barrels if they need it ever since I started commenting on Scottish politics blogs (way back when SNP Tactical Voting was still around). If anything, I've become more restrained of late, because I don't even bother engaging with the likes of Hothersall or Ruddy these days - total waste of time and effort.

      Don't confuse my (misjudged) willingness to give you the benefit of the doubt on one of my articles on Bella, when you were claiming to be an undecided voter, with a willingness to offer respect to all and sundry. If someone's being an arsehole, then they'll get short shrift - and they always have done!

      Delete
    3. Yes, Doug, I didn't recognize you in the slightest in that assessment.


      ~alec

      Delete
    4. Doug

      "...when you were claiming to be an undecided voter..."

      It's no claim Doug, I am undecided. The hint's in the name of my blog - AhDinnaeKen. Not too difficult to work out, is it?

      From your reply it could be inferred that the only reason you were polite was due to misjudgement - as if, somehow, No voters were less deserving of courtesy.

      But you did come into the Jedi 'Reverend's' "orbit" around 2012. And you did become more intemperate to the point of fitting into the category of Cybernat.

      The sad thing about individual's who've been 'groomed' is that they're unaware of it.

      You're not hate fuelled. I know that. Your Wingnut buddy is.

      You're smart enough to realise it. You just appear to choose not to.

      Take heed. He'll bring more bad publicity to the campaign. His intolerance fits into the negative stereotype of Nationalism.

      I noted the Mail picked up on his hateful Hillsborough tirade on Twitter with the sister of one the victims.

      How do you defend that without appearing like an apologist for hate speech?

      Regards

      Longshanker

      Alec: You would keep it quiet about being a Jedi 'Reverend' wouldn't you. Especially now the likes of Nicola Sturgeon takes you seriously. :)

      Delete
    5. What colour is the sky on your planet?


      ~alec

      Delete
    6. "What colour is the sky on your planet?"

      Aye, I think that just about sums it up.

      Delete
    7. Doug, what I notice is his focus on single sentence paragraphs. It suggests someone who's thinking only in short, staccato bursts.

      Note also his faux courtesy in signing-off with "regards", and shortbread tin crap of presenting "ahdinnaeken" as some sort of piece of well-crafted dialect instead of poorly enunciated English. I'm getting the image of a 40 year old bloke sitting in his underpants and eating Rice Krispies at 3pm.


      ~alec

      Delete
  15. I think what terrifies the media is the idea that anyone other than itself could ever have control over the collection, production and distribution of information, because essentially that is their profit model, and if you can do it for free, if you can evaluate what media you think is most deserving of your time and money, why buy a paper?
    This is think explain some of the Cybernattery hysteria, distributing information that is not media approved puts the whole system in danger, that the media and elements of the Unionist campaign are alleged to be in cahoots is purely incidental. If political fortunes where reversed and much of the political-media-financial complex that tea's at Checkers was SNP then the tables would be turned. Cybernats are scary to the press not because they are nationalist, but because they are people who happened to collect, produce and distribute information by themselves to others for free.
    Sure some will preach that echo chamber problem, but the internet in terms of the quantity and speed at which it can deliver information is exponentially better than any print edition of any newspaper, ever, in the history of humanity. Statistically you just have to stumble upon and read points of view that you do not agree with, only this time you dont have to regret paying whatever the Herald charges these days. Regardless of the results Cybernats or whatever the next thing to be scared of will still exist and likely remain popular fair in the press after september.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Dear Alec,


    You say:

    "No matter how much youse squirm, Fortnum and Mason is paying their tax. Argue for changing of legislation surrounding avoidance by all means, but retreating behind dull appeals to legality when vocal anti-avoidance campaigners - like Ramsay - are shown to using the same advantages does not wash."

    You have evidence that Mr Ramsay personally benefits?

    "No, Douglas. You're making precisely the same question begging and recourse to a pre-written script as others."

    Not really, I asked you a question, viz:

    "It goes far above Fortnum and Masons to an entire edifice based on excusing the rich from the measures of intrusion that the rest of us take for granted. They do that through privelege and very rich lawyers. Are you defending that?"

    You have a, dare I say, a preconcieved answer to that:

    " Labeling me a Marie Antoinette is rhetorically and factually wrong, not least 'cos I'm not the one bending over backwards to defend anyone's sharp tax practice and define special circumstances for my side... such as those employed by the owners of Bamff House."

    Really?

    You seem oddly ambivalent about the power of the State attacking the poor rather than the rich. This nonsense sums you up exactly.

    "If we must use it, a better target would be William's explicitly stated view - and inter alia your and Ramsay's - that Fortnum and Mason's employees should get on with clearing up the mess and work around the disruption, and just be grateful they still are getting paid (at least we hope, cf. "presumably"). Maybe they got paid overtime, so could buy a cream pie at the end of the day."

    I have a lot of ideas why a minimum wage employee might feel obliged to do that. I doubt it is for endless love of 'Fortnum and Mason's' no matter what you might say.

    Your attack, for what it is worth, is to divide and conquer. You are rather obvious on that quarter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. You have evidence that Mr Ramsay personally benefits?

      Oh, stop it. (And I don't just mean the faux sincerity of using appellations like Mr or opening salutations like Dear.) Not only have I been referring to the Ramsay family, you banana, he's admitted to benefiting from it.

      Truth be told, though, I'm ambivalent towards the tax arrangements of Chez Ramsay. I certainly don't care as much about them as Ramsay Fils does about those of Fortnum & Mason and others.
      Not really, I asked you a question, viz:

      Oh, stop it. My response to that is available in easily retrievable ASCII format (although it might require a bit of close reading and critical thinking).

      You have a, dare I say, a preconcieved answer to that:

      Oh, stop it. That might be 'cos you used a combination of cliché and question begging which, being so, don't merit the compliment of a rational opposition.

      Really?

      Oh, stop it. Ramsay says so. More can be postulated given the likelihood of money being firewalled in trust funds and endowments and so on for the sprogs, as well as property like Bamff. Of course, I could be proven wrong with publication of their tax records.

      You seem oddly ambivalent about the power of the State attacking the poor rather than the rich. This nonsense sums you up exactly.

      As I said to William (who, like Ramsay, doesn't appear to think it necessarily to defend his comments... only for us plebs to listen), less of the "seems". It's precisely what you're saying of me, so grow a pair and say what you mean... oh, and stop it.

      I have a lot of ideas why a minimum wage employee might feel obliged to do that. I doubt it is for endless love of 'Fortnum and Mason's' no matter what you might say.

      Oh, stop it. You're going to have to click your heels together three times to make that true of me. Besides, I was referring to William's views not yours (although you've confirmed they're pretty in concordance).

      Your attack, for what it is worth, is to divide and conquer. You are rather obvious on that quarter.

      Twat. Do you not think these conversations would advance better if you just for once told the truth?

      ~alec

      Delete
  17. This was substantially less than half of what I really think of 'alec'. There are times for word limits are there are not times for word limits.....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Meikle Dougie you say the sweetest things!

      ~alec

      Delete
  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  19. Well, this thread has been a blast. In response to Lalland's proposition that the proposed phenomenon of CyberNats as a combination of vacuous trolls and spiteful, malicious political thugs who've reduced the online - and beyond - discussion to one of monstering opponents, ill-disguised contempt and thread wrecking is erroneous we have...

    ... Commentor's vacuous trolling about my unhidden identity, and Douglas Clark's responses to my argument which are such purposeful misrepresentations of what I said that they are indistinguishable from direct lies... no, they are worse than that. They don't even have the purpose of presenting an alternative truth, they simply are opportunistic expressions of ill-disguised contempt.

    Two plus two does equal four.


    ~alec

    ReplyDelete
  20. First time vistor to the site. Happy to be branded a cybernat if it annoys Mr Ffoulkes, the Daily Mail and their swivel-eyed* readership. It would appear I#m in good company.



    *(c) Daily Mail

    ReplyDelete
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