By Derek Bateman
I fear there is an atmosphere being created in the media bubble which could have unforeseen consequences. The calculated smearing of Wings Over Scotland for example has developed into a witch-hunt, an idea given force by the reported attempt of Mike Dailly to compose a list of supporters for use by the mainstream media…whatever that means.
The daily publicity and denigration of pro independence supporters in the Press has the potential to generate a sense that they are society's enemies. (In fact that is explicitly their intention). Identifying individuals who, whatever their politics, are merely citizens like anybody else and publishing their picture, describing their work or suggesting their residence and portraying them as a danger to society sets a worrying precedent.
We already know that when tweeters are identified they are soon after abused by any manner of cruel and inhumane individuals who deem them fair game as a result.
When we include rabid outpourings of extremism, blanketed in the assumed respectability of the Express, for example – as their Kerry Gill showed this week calling for the BBC to be biased against independence because it was on Britain's side against the Nazis – it is, in my opinion, tantamount to incitement.
There are enough inadequates out there who will read such foolhardy claptrap not as the ramblings of a journalistic bigot but as a green light from the national Press to express themselves in the only way they know how. To the deranged, the idea that nationalists can be compared to the Nazis – and every nutter in the universe knows what they did – will be all the excuse they need.
It would be a tragic indictment of the greatest debate of my lifetime if one single court case hears evidence of how some unhinged malcontent was inflamed to violence by anti-independence rhetoric.
It isn't just that this has been an inspirational, invigorating national conversation which has drawn Scots from all classes and corners out into the open, it's that it is overwhelmingly civilised, witty and informed. To me, 99.9 per cent of social media has been within the bounds of what is reasonable given the type of forum it is.
It provides people with a kind of an online pub conversation, removed from the artificial constraints of the BBC and the studied correctness of the politicians. It is authentically real and uses the robust language we all do in private.
I make no apologies for being direct and at times rude because that's how it works and, although there is a line, everyone knows what is acceptable. To ridicule someone is not to encourage others to do them damage. Ridicule is what politicians do every day to each other. It's what newspapers do every day to anybody they please. The sanctimony of the self-selecting Solomons of the print media stinks to high heaven.
But they are campaigning hand-in-glove with the No side to quarantine Yes supporters outside the mainstream. Interestingly, this week I asked Better Together if they would nominate people from their side to be interviewed on batemanbroadcasting.com.
In 'reply' I received a No Thanks icon and a link to a Darling lecture…that'll be BT humour, then. But there is no personal message from the person in charge of broadcast – no 'Dear Derek, no thanks…' Even at the level of a formal request to give them airtime from what is a small but so far it seems, respected online radio project, they are incapable of displaying respect. It is the first campaign I remember in which the normal protocols do not apply.
At the height of fractious campaigns like that in Monklands in 1994, each side acknowledged the other and separated out the roles of attack and that of public interest. That meant that however tough the language and however bitter the claim and counter claim, Labour could deal one-on-one with SNP officials and vice versa on matters of mutual and public concern. You respect your opponent.
That is not happening here in the same way and the result is a deliberately contrived venom that vilifies an opponent instead. Better Together can't even communicate with an online radio station, can't provide a single person to put their case.
I have no obligation to impartiality because I am unregulated online but I am genuinely interested in all points of view and respect them. It's a pity I won't be able to bring the views of those proud Scots who prefer Britain because their own campaign is so blinkered. (I'm sure I can persuade a few I know personally).
Within hours of making the request, you'll be glad to know, I was being trolled on Twitter by the Better Together 'Director of Communications' Rob Shorthouse. It's a short step it seems from making contact with BT to being targeted by their smear machine.
He was following the Mike Dailly 'I'm composing a list of Wings supporters for the media' conversation which makes an intriguing connection, don't you think? Labour lawyer starts anti-nationalist witch-hunt for mainstream media and Better Together Director of Communcations pops up taking his side on Twitter…Is there a tie-up? Is BT behind the Dailly witch-hunt?
Shorthouse disappeared like a rat up a drainpipe as soon as I pointed this out, realising too late the implication for his campaign. When he re-emerged later it was to claim he had no idea what the original Dailly conversation conversation was about! That was my biggest laugh of the day and shows how the mindset is to treat everyone as if they're dim. Either the BT Communications Director can't compute basic information or he was – what's the phrase? – making it up.
It might be worth watching this one as it develops. Or it may be after the event that someone at the No offices goes public with what really happened inside. That could be a great read.
Meanwhile let's hope none of us have to read of some personal catastrophe befalling a vilified participant before this is over.
Courtesy of Derek Bateman