Friday, 19 September 2008

Ubiquitous Cybernats

I had been meaning to post on this for a while, but was beaten to it by Scottish Unionist and Kezia Dugdale.

I have been quite concerned at the tone of some comments on The Scotsman and Herald websites. Douglas Fraser, in his parting post on The Herald's blog states:

"These online discussion forums have taught me quite a bit - rarely about politics, but much more about the disturbing results you get from the interplay of anonymity, group psychology and bullying. This is not unique to The Herald's website, or to Scottish politics, but as the content and tone of this conversation represents a daily injection of poison into the well of Scottish public life, we are all worse off for it."

Some of the comments seem a little less aggressive just now, but in the very recent past, some of them have been disconcerting in the language used by the commentators. Anyone not sharing the Nationalist view could expect to be called a traitor among other things, whilst some could be viewed as veiled threats to Unionists 'come the revolution'.

Perhaps the worst one I have seen however refers to a post I did on a 'house' someone had built into the caves at Arbroath. It was a fun story that caused a lot of interest and speculation locally.

After some footage of the cave was posted on youtube, two local wags (not the footballing variety) decided to dress in gorilla suits and 'buy' the cavehouse (complete with an estate agents sign with a 'sold' sticker on it).

You can see it here. Fairly harmless stuff eh? Well you'd think so, scroll down to the comments though and check out the 'contribution' from someone calling themselves 'Cybernat 1745'. He/She states "well it could be worse,at least they arent WHITE SETTLERS!!


Click on 'Cybernat 1745' and it takes you to his/her profile where he/she, somewhat unsurprisingly, has a picture of Mel Gibson as William Wallace in 'Braveheart', which is where I suspect some of these people get their knowledge of Scottish history.

Has it really got so bad that a simple, fun video on Youtube attracts comment from the ubiquitous and venomous Cybernats?

As one American said in a comment on The Herald "Is this what Scotland the Brave has become?"


Jeff said...

Hi Jim,

I don't understand why you give such idiots the oxygen of publicity?

For me the problem is like the BNP; they are really nasty and unnecessary but the more you talk about them, the more the problem spreads.

The Scotsman and Herald should implement a strict moderation policy. Yes they'll get criticism for denying free speech but I susepct that criticism will be from the same trolls and flamers who uglify the online columns so regularly.

The sad thing is, out of the 100 comments you often get one or two that are very interesting but few people (myself included) ever scroll down that far...

Jim said...

Hi Jeff,

That's a very good point.

The reason I have posted on the subject is that I feel if enough people talk about it then newspapers may be forced into taking the kind of action you describe.

I don't for one second tar the SNP with the actions of these idiots, but the sheer volume and nature of their 'contributions' frankly makes me concerned, and I'm not alone.

I honestly don't believe that this can continue, and it shouldn't be allowed to either.

I have given up reading the comments on The Herald and Scotsman websites. It's depressing reading and worse still, embarrassing when you think they can be read from anywhere in the world.



Jeff said...

Absolutely, I cringe when I think of outsiders looking and reading that muck.

You make a good point in that case, make a big enough clamour and get The Scotsman/Herald to change their policy.

Sooner the better I say... An IP blocking approach may work perhaps?

As for tarring the SNP with the same brush. As much as I would like to claim these loonies aren't all independence-seeking yahoos, I sadly can't. So although they're not representative of the SNP, I can't think of a better name than "CyberNats" so I can have no complaints with the terminology.


Anonymous said...

Your “Cybernat 1745” actually sounds quite tame compared with various others. Here are a few (just about) publishable examples:

“I just think people in scotland will look at the struggle of the freedom fighters in afghanistan and think "its time!"”

“there are numerous reasons to hate the English and race alone is not one of them… so if race alone is not the cause of the hatred then we cant be racist for hating 'them'...”

“If it would gain independence I would fight the "british" army myself”

“Can we start a list of those traitors to dance the Tyburn jig??”

“Don't deny people their rights in a democracy - because once pushed too far then the roads will turn red. One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, I've seen it in my days in "The Andrew" mark my words. SAOR ALBA”

“The SNP position here is the ONLY legitmamate one. Any other view is anti Scottish people ,not anti SNP !”

“useless excuses for human beings, better known as unionists”

“sounds like you need a hot breakfast of jacobite cutlass-red coat.”

“Do Unionists have the right to argue and fight against [this] country becoming Independent—NO”

“Why don't the Scottish regiments get themselves together & give us a military coup”

...and so on. Such posts generally fall into one of these categories:

- unionists are less Scottish, less intelligent, immoral, subhuman etc
- unionists are anti-Scottish, traitors etc
- unionists should voluntarily or otherwise leave Scotland
- Britain is a fascist state
- Scots are genetically distinct
- unionism is inherently racist against Scots
- Scotland is under imperial occupation
- England is a foreign country
- Scots are superior to English
- England rules Scotland in some colonial sense
- England would be damaged by independence, ha ha
- English ties and culture corrupt Scotland
- independence is a right which is being denied
- non-Scots in Scotland should have fewer/no political rights
- nationalists are “true Scots” and unionists are “Anglos”
- unionists should be murdered / we should start an uprising.

Incidentally, regarding your observation that the Herald and Scotsman forums are somewhat less toxic that they have been, I note that fewer unionists are even bothering to post these days. It takes an uncommon level of resolve to subject oneself time and again to the inevitable onslaught of rudeness and abuse.

The Aberdonian said...

I do have sympathy for Douglas Fraser as he is hardly the most anti-SNP journalist on the block but has been subject to some nasty tirades from the cyber-nats.

Whilst not condoning the activities of these people, I tend to think it is symton/reaction to lets be honest quite harsh, even vindictive treatment, by the media of the SNP and the independence movement in general - regardless of their tactics. Unfortunately if you beat something long enough, it will bite back.

Pace Labour post 1994 after its treatment at the hands of the press in the 1992 election. Mandy and Alistair bullying the press, journalists etc to get "New Labour's" message across. The cybernats have unfortunately taken the same path to get their message heard however abusive. (Mr Campbell it must be noted was not considered to be a graduate of any charm school).

I am not suggesting that there should be a "quota" of newspapers supporting each party but lets be honest, the media pack largely pulled out the stops last year. Even the Scottish broadsheets only backed the SNP on condition they formed a coalition with the Liberal Democrats and because they were sick of McConnell.

The sort of bile (not just restricted to McPravda) being flung at a movement with fairly strong support in the country without any respite is bound to provide a reaction and both sides (cyber idiots and hacks) ideally should maybe pull back and contemplate what is happening here.

Unfortunately there is strong thought within the nationalist movement that the party is the country and an attack on the party is an attack on the country. This is obviously wrong-headed.

However maybe certain elements within cyberunionism should maybe consider that saying Scotland is too small, rubbish etc at everything is just as wrong headed and counter provokative.

As Mr Fraser noted, it is not just Scotland where such vicious behaviour happens. The cyberight (to use the term) have been quite vicious about the Prime Minister - from his Scottish background to the fact he is blind in one eye. A common insult in cyberspace for the PM is that he is a "cyclopean - add offensive terms" etc.

Braveheart - the greatest piece of cinematic faction of the 20th century. Inaccurate with its Highlanderism (invented by Tory W. Scott circa 1810), the sack of York and of course the Isabella "She-Wolf" of France affair. Allegations over the Bruce involvement in the whole shabang are "Not Proven". To pick on the main points.

As Joyce McMillan said a few years ago, Braveheart is the result of not dramatising Nigel Tranter's books and neglect of broadcasting of Scottish history in general.

No doubt in another couple of years time I will have to look forward again to another dramatisation of the Tudor monarchs. All very interesting but surely done to death?

If Scots banged on about certain period in their history on screen I am sure it would be described as "parochial", "backward" and "myth-making" by the critics kicking up about the SBC report.

Am I suggesting a "Braveheart - the TV series". Not in the near future. Actually I would like to see a drama about the life of James VI and I as there would be less cross-border controversy over such a project.

Son of Mary, cousin of Elizabeth, father of Charles I, patron of Shakespeare, persecutor of the Pilgrim Fathers, target of the Gunpowder plot, executioner of Raleigh, machavellian during the Armada, instigator of the King James Bible. Hardly a dull character and would make good TV if it was written well enough.

Dougie Henshaw or Tony Curran for the king in his later years. Billy Connolly playing John Knox.

Certainly better than "Gunpoweder, Treason and Plot" where Bobby Carlye played Begby playing James VI.

Jim said...


Thanks very much for your well thought out comment.

Personally, I think the media have given Salmond a pretty easy ride post election.

There wasn't too much comment when they tried to bail out of their promise of an extra 1000 coppers.

Even less when they claimed they could not keep their promise on wiping out student debt.

And little comment has been made on their proposal to reduce class sizes which now appears be ill thought out at best.

When the bank crisis hit, what we got from Salmond was in effect 'it wouldn't have happened in an independent Scotland', which was exactly the same line we got from the SNP in the council chambers. The fact is, I strongly suspect it would have, and it is ironic that whilst Salmond condemns short selling in Holyrood, his financial advisers are accused of doing just that.

You make an excellent point about the thought within the nationalist movement that the party is the country. I agree with this, but then nationalists can hardly be blamed for this when the First Minister seeks to promote himself as the voice of Scotland. The only backlash to this he has had so far was when he talked about Thatcher's economic policies.

With regard to Braveheart, I actually can't watch it, it's so bad (though I have seen it all the way through). The story of Wallace is one that would make a brilliant film without bastardising the story for cinematic effect. It speaks volumes to me that SNP activists jumped on the back of this crap and used it for political ends.

Scotland's history is extraordinarily rich and should be tapped into more by programme makers. There is much that remains unexplored by the media and I'd certainly like to see more, such as a programme on William the Lion or Queen Margaret.

Scottish history or its flag should not be the preserve of one party or another, but sadly this seems to have happened.

The Aberdonian said...

The problem with broken election promises is this -

"Politician breaks election pledge - Pope inclined towards Catholicism"

In the cynical view of the public anyway. That does not excuse breaking promises of course.

I remember the Lib-Dems pledging there would be no student fees in 1999 and would use this as a condition for forming a coalition. But people ended up paying something - albeit at lower rate than south of the border.

The Kingfish has been spouting a lot of hubris on the bank situation. However I would rather he, Swinney and Mather are in charge during this situation than what goes for the Labour frontbench.

Concerning broadcasting of Scottish history - unfortunately the Anglo-centricity and indeed metrocentricity of the broadcasting sector in the UK is an extremely high hill to climb. I think it will need a bit more pressure from such things as the SBC and elements of the Scottish establishment to get off their backsides to improve the situation.

I forsee more programmes on the Tudors in the next five years made in the British Isles.

Productions about Bess:-

Elizabeth the Golden Age - 2007
The Virgin Queen - 2005
Elizabeth I - 2005
(Admittedly Scottish orientated centred around Mary and James VI) -Gunpowder, Treason and Plot - 2004
Gloriana - 2000
Shakespeare in Love - 1998
Elizabeth - 1998


The Tudors - still running
The Other Boelyn Girl film (funded by the BBC I remember) - 2008
Henry VIII - 2003
The Other Boelyn Girl TV series - 2003
The Prince and Pauper - 1996

(I have excluded US TV productions from the list).

As I said earlier, if Scotland churned out productions obsessed with a single period, it would be condemened as "parochial" and "backward looking".

The Queen Margaret thing would be ideal. Unfortunately I fear that south of the border there is little interest in Scottish history or the Scottish side of British history and care even less.