BlogScottish Politics

This has gone on long enough, it’s about time we knocked this cyberNat myth on the head

The BBC’s James Cook received a few colourful tweets over the weekend, which left him – quite rightly – a bit peeved. Cue a spree of articles and comments on “cyberNats” and “the ugly side of nationalism”. The Spectator’s Fraser Nelson said this:

“the problem with nationalism, [is] it stirs these kind of sentiments: the idea that if you don’t agree with the SNP (or, even worse, rank amongst the 500,000 Tories in Scotland) you are a somehow a traitor [sic], un-Scottish – even anti-Scottish.”

Of course this is nothing we’ve not heard before, it became one of the central planks in Better Together’s referendum strategy last year. The – rather successful – campaign to paint online supporters of independence, or even just the SNP, as a rabid angry mob whose outpouring of vile bile shames the pro indy movement, has been adopted as fact by many who really ought to know better.

Now, at this stage in an article such as this, it seems to have become mandatory to state that any and all online abuse should be condemned – as though omitting such a statement-of-the-bleeding-obvious offers some sort of tacit support. So there, I’ve done that. The whole thing is a nonsense though, it’s a weird propaganda war which will always favour democracy’s losers. You see, the human race has a certain percentage of idiots, quite regardless of political leaning.

Lets say for example’s sake, that 10% of the human race are idiots, with no reliable gauge of what is and isn’t okay to say in public. That would mean that one person in ten is an idiot. Now, we could sit here and trade examples of so-called “cyberNat abuse” against equally offensive counter examples from non “cyberNats”. Indeed, many have argued – quite convincingly – that the intolerant language used by “cyber-unionists” is often far more violent and intimidating in tone.

If one in ten Scottish Labour Party supporters are abusive online, you’re not likely to notice, as you could fit the lot of them onto the top deck of a bus these days. If one in ten Scottish Tories are abusive online, you’d be lucky if that even comprised one person! But if one in ten SNP supporters is “abusive” online, that’s well over ten thousand people, and that’s the perspective that is lacking when people point the finger at so-called “cyberNats”.

The most dangerous thing about these sorts of smears, is that they make debate more and more difficult, and they turn people against one another. You’ll quite often see anti independence commentators on Twitter being quite venomous and reactionary towards pro-indy folk, yet when they’re called on it, they simply throw their hands up and say: “that’s a bit rich coming from you abusive cyberNats”. The really worrying thing is, that they believe they are justified, and it blinds them completely to their own unacceptable behaviour. But why wouldn’t they? When high profile MPs, lords and journalists promote an idea, most people tend to give it the benefit of the doubt.

The thing about the human race, is that it’s deeply flawed, and there are idiots everywhere. There is no more underlying “dark side” to the independence movement online, than there is an underlying dark side to humanity. Anyone who claims otherwise, is at best poorly informed, or at worst knowingly demonising around half the population of Scotland for their own political ends.

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