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Are Scottish pots allowed to call kettles black?

We all have our own ways of using social media. I use Facebook mainly to share my articles with various groups and I use it to talk to people I know as I prefer it to Skype.  I’ve rarely if ever had any trouble on Facebook. Most of the people you come across are friends or people who have similar views. Twitter is different.

When I first started using Twitter, I thought you had to answer every Tweet on your timeline. I quickly realised this wouldn’t work, but still treated it as a sort of conversation where the task was to reasonably discuss issues such as Scottish independence. Quickly I realised this wasn’t going to work either.

As I began to gain readers during the indyref campaign, I also came across people who objected to my writing arguments against Scottish independence. They most frequently did not argue in a pleasant way, but rather attacked me personally.

Most people haven’t really experienced this sort of thing. At least they haven’t experienced it on the scale that I have. For a long time, I allowed comments on my site. I also would answer some of the comments. But first I felt I had to give up answering. It took too much time and then I had to switch off the comments because I simply couldn’t bear to read them anymore.

Writing is a solitary activity and it depends on confidence. Most of the comments I received were trying to undermine my confidence and diminish me as a person.

People who make such comments have no idea what damage they might be doing. I would sometimes wake up to find dozens of vile comments from Scottish nationalists on my site and hundreds of swearing snarling comments on Twitter. It is damaging.

There have been a few times when I have stopped writing. Sometimes I just lose all inspiration at other times I find that it just isn’t worth it and that I don’t miss it. But during these breaks I have come up with strategies to function on Twitter.

I never ever contact Scottish nationalists. I sometimes respond to a Tweet that is polite, but I never initiate a conversation with someone else. If there is a full-blown attack where suddenly hundreds of Scottish nationalists start ranting and raving about what I write I go down my timeline and block every single one of them. Sometimes I begin blocking them indiscriminately just because of their picture. Muting may work for you, but it doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t stop them.

I have no tolerance whatsoever for people who are impolite. Jokes are fine, but any sort of insult and you are gone.

Some Scottish nationalists maintain that it is only a minority that behaves in this way and that anyway the Pro UK side is just as bad. This is not true. I know of no private individual who supports Scottish independence who is subjected to mass organised attacks. Pro independence web sites are not full of Pro UK people writing insults.

SNP politicians and journalists use the mob from time to time. They may sometimes condemn abuse from “both sides”, but they also know that with their large number of followers that a Tweet or a mention in a pro-independence newspaper or website will have an effect.

Like everyone else I have said silly things on Twitter. We are human beings and we all have lapses in judgement. But I don’t swear, and I try my very best to be polite to everyone I come across. I use humour, reason and sometimes polemic in writing but my arguments are not personal.

A few days ago, I wrote a piece about Humza Yousaf’s Hate crime bill. There was nothing in my article that was insulting about him. I just disagree with the concept of hate crimes.

A few days latter Mr Yousaf described my article as ludicrous and linked it with Islamophobia. I responded politely as a follow up question asking whether Salman Rushdie or Charlie Hebdo should fear prosecution in Scotland. I genuinely want to know this because I’m not sure what we are allowed to say or write about the groups that are protected by Mr Yousaf’s legislation. I got no response. The purpose of Mr Yousaf contacting me was clearly not to answer my question. So, what was the purpose?

A little later I was described in the National as a notorious unionist troll. I neither contacted the National nor the person who wrote the story about this. She was doubtless just following orders has very few followers and anyway I have been called worse.

But who has been trolling whom? All I do is write articles and share them with other people. I didn’t contact Mr Yousaf on Twitter to tell him to read my piece. I didn’t insult him or anything about him. I didn’t contact the National journalist because I don’t contact anyone and anyway had never heard of her.

Trolling is not writing articles that Mr Yousaf or the National or independence supporters in general disagree with. Rather trolling is when someone somewhere says, “Cry Havoc, and let slip the gnats of war”.

But this was a gnat that didn’t buzz. What I got instead was quite a large number of SNP supporters who agreed with my article and said that if Mr Yousaf’s bill became law they would never vote for the SNP again.

Perhaps Mr Yousaf could clarify if in Scotland pots are still allowed to call kettles black.

This post was originally published by the author on her personal blog: https://www.effiedeans.com/2020/05/are-scottish-pots-allowed-to-call.html

About Effie Deans

Profile photo of Effie Deans
Effie Deans is a pro UK blogger who works at the University of Aberdeen. She spent many years living in Russia and the Soviet Union, but came home to Scotland so as to enjoy living in a multi-party democracy! When not occupied with Scottish politics she writes fiction and thinks about theology, philosophy and Russian literature.

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