Kenneth Macdonald, during his wonderful Sunday morning program on BBC Radio Scotland – Headlines – referred to why he ended up reading more tweets from Yes Campaign supporters than from the No Campaign, or ‘Bitter Together’, as they prefer to be called: we are the ones who tend to use Twitter. Does anyone know why this is?
To the best of my knowledge, there has been no attempt to explain this interesting phenomenon. This blog post is my attempt – first attempt – to address this. Feedback would be welcome.
I won’t waste anyone’s time rehearsing how I ended up on Twitter, but when I did this initially I dismissed it as a bit of a joke. All it was for me was an opportunity to indulge my mischievous side. What can we say in 140 characters that anyone is interested in? What about jokes?
Initially, I found that the best thing to do with Twitter was to engage in wit. I did it with a handful of cyber-friends. And then, as I climbed out of a tomb of anonymity, I started to use twitter to engage with real time events in the world of politics. Hashtags let me engage with everyone glued to the television – or radio – sets as we all listened attentively to the justifications for what is going on in our name, or the speculations and analyses of allegedly objective broadcasters.
We all make, or try to make, serious points. And we all spice up our individual take on what is going on with humor, with wit. At any rate, the most popular tweeters tend to rely on this a fair bit. And this is in my opinion key to explaining why Better Together are nowhere on Twitter. The Yes Campaign is made up of those who are enjoying ourselves, notwithstanding our still being significantly behind in the polls. Given how much time we have to turn things round, we’re having a ball. Better Together provide us with hilarious entertainment. They are our court jesters.
One of Kenneth Macdonald’s guest on his show yesterday – Sergio Casci – said he thought this was a terminal problem for Katie Grant’s side: everyone is laughing at the Better Together leadership, including all their own supporters who appear on Ken’s show.
Headlines has been accused of bias against Better Together. This is totally unfair. What it is is fair to both sides. This one hour program between 9:00am and 10:00am on Sunday morning is the only program on the BBC – television or radio, on either side of the border – that is fair towards the Yes Campaign. Every edition of Headlines has supporters of Better Together. However, they tend to have as much fun as the rest of us because they find the running of their campaign as bizarre as the rest of us.
It is good that Ken’s guests are now identified as pro or anti-independence at the start of the show. This is the only way to prove that those who are attacking Better Together are their own supporters. If Better Together want to put unapologetic cheerleaders for their campaign on Headlines, they too would become the butt of the jokes. And my guess is they wouldn’t like that one little bit. Their problem is a total sense of humor bypass.
Does the dominance of Scottish independence supporters on Twitter depend solely on better understanding of how to use wit? Actually, no. There is more to it than that.
There is a second reason why the Yes Campaign is dominating Twitter. We are united on everything we need to unite on. BBC Scotland’s Glenn Campbell and Brian Taylor revealed themselves to be absolutely livid with Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon and the entire SNP membership for not focusing on their divisions at their last annual conference before the referendum. These people are desperate. Hilariously so.
The Yes Campaign are divided over so many things, and have never pretended otherwise. We have real differences over a shared currency, over membership of NATO, over the Monarchy, the timescale for getting rid of nuclear weapons, economic policy. Do any of these differences matter? They do matter for us after the referendum on 18th of September this year. Assuming Scotland becomes independent, those who won and who lost the referendum will see many realignments within both camps. I am up for that. Every supporter of Scottish independence is up for it.
I do not expect to convince every single socialist to vote alongside me at the referendum. Nevertheless, I do expect the many I do convince before the referendum to fight alongside socialists who didn’t vote for independence to fight for similar positions on the other side of the referendum. I am more than happy to work with others to secure Scottish self determination, to bring within the ambit of all democratic decision-making everything that matters: tax and spend, welfare or warfare.
Only proportional representation mushrooming out from Holyrood’s devolved straightjacket to embrace the entirety of politics will safeguard the Scottish people from the nightmare visited on us at every United Kingdom general election. David Cameron or Ed Miliband? You must be joking.
The Yes Campaign are patient. And we are, if we know what is good for us, respectful to everyone who shares our willingness to let the Scottish people decide everything, including whether they want the SNP to form a majority government, and whether they want Alex Salmond to be First Minister within a Scottish government. These are questions for the voters. That is what democracy is all about. And that brings me to the relationship between Better Together’s absence (relatively speaking) from twitter and their virtually total absence from the world of flesh and blood human beings.
Better Together are unable to engage with the arguments on twitter for the same reason they are unable to set up public meetings. They know that if they do that, the Yes Campaign will turn up to challenge their arguments, to subject them all to careful scrutiny. And we would wipe the floor with them, as would be revealed by the switch of voter intention from before and after the meetings. Better Together’s leaders are, in other words, chicken. But there is even more to it than that.
Even if Better Together could get away with excluding supporters of the Yes Campaign from their ‘public meetings’, which they obviously cannot, they would prove unable to sing from the same hymnsheet, descending into bitter acrimony, an electorally damaging and very public civil war? Aww. Bless.
Johann Lamont tells voters to vote against independence because Ed Miliband will liberate all Scots, as well as the English and Welsh and Northern Irish, from the hated Tories and their Liberal Democratic lapdogs. Not an easy sell when David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s cheerleaders are sharing a platform with you, ready to shout you down. Any attempt at a united message will fall at the first hurdle: the first question from a member of the audience. And it is all downhill from there. And Better Together know it. So they run away from their own campaign.
Johann Lamont, Alistair Darling, Lord Robertson, George Foulkes et al run away from public meetings. They rely on the broadcasters to do their work for them. This won’t save them. At any rate, I don’t think it will. Having said that, we are talking about generations of deeply embedded United Kingdom propaganda. There is a built-in inertia that the Yes Campaign has to chip away. This is what explains the slowness with which we are making progress. We are witnessing a snowball on the verge of precipitating an avalanche.
To the extent that the biases of the BBC, SKY News, Channel Four News, ITV and Channel Five are exposed by a Yes Campaign that is taking to the streets, in tandem with Better Together getting more and more angry and irrational, attacking each other for their latest faux pas… It is possible that the dam will burst and the Yes Campaign will cease to be fighting for the majority. It is possible that very soon, we will be fighting to remain the majority with months still to go.
One of the reasons the Yes Campaign have for being confident is that the undecideds can see that of the two campaigns ours is the only one that is having fun. And laughter is infectious. And laughing at the Better Together court jesters is enormously entertaining. Come join us. You won’t regret it.