I don’t often comment on Guardian articles, but did the other day. It was in reply to a particularly annoying and persistent clueless Unionist who wanted to know what independence supporters were “most insulted by”. I replied I was most insulted by Unionist trolls who are all over the Guardian’s Scottish comment threads like a manic depressive Ian Paisley at a Gay Pride march. The comment was removed, no doubt because it was considered an example of egregious cybernat monstering, or possibly was considered offensive to Ian Paisley, or both.
But I was telling lies, evil cybernat lies, lies of the sort you’ll never ever find in the august pages of a respected national newspaper, oh no. Not the bit about Unionist trolls being like a manic Ian Paisley at a Gay Pride march, because that bit is true, it’s the bit about being most insulted by the hobby Unionists who post below the article. All too often the article itself is way more insulting. This is especially true if it’s a Guardian editorial, a paper which dishes out insulting flavoured with extra seasonings of hypocrisy and a crunchy topping of sanctimonious. I was being unfair to the troll, because whoever writes Guardian leaders is like Fred Phelps after snorting a line of speed the length of the M25. Which is also the circumference of a Guardian leader writer’s mental universe.
On Friday the Guardian published an editorial which managed to squeeze into one short article just about every slur, stereotype and lie about the referendum campaign, and which – without any apparent shred of self-awareness – was entitled Scottish referendum: Accentuate the positive. It then went on to accuse yes supporters of whipping up anti-English sentiment, abuse, and general nastiness, praised the “grassroots” Vote Nob Orders astroturf, and called on Unionists to start making a “more” positive case. Which makes it sound as though they have a baseline of positivity to work from. Not that the Guardian’s leader writer attempted to give a positive case, he or she was just making another addition to the increasingly lengthy list of politicians and leader writers who call on someone else to make a positive case for them. Now we know what a collective failure of imagination looks like. Just read a Guardian editorial about Scotland.
There’s little point deconstructing the piece. It would be like deconstructing soiled toilet paper. You already know it’s full of shit. Poking through it only makes you feel dirty, even with marigold gloves and a claes peg on your nose.
Some people insist that printing such lies, misinformation and arrant nonsense is evidence of a conspiracy against Scottish independence. That’s not to say that the British state is not secretly pulling whatever strings it can behind the media curtains, because it certainly is. But those with a direct line to secret services handler are relatively few in number. Most of the crap originates in the universal human propensity to focus on any auld shite that happens to confirm an existing prejudice and ignore everything that doesn’t.
It’s like the anti-gay bible bashers of Ian Paisley’s and Fred Phelps’ ilk, they scream verses from the Bible which prohibit marching down Bath Street waving a Rainbow saltire hand in hand with your same-sex beloved, but then they’ll go to McDonalds and munch on a cheeseburger. The verses in the same chapter of the Bible prohibiting eating meat and dairy products together don’t apply to people who think Jesus tells them to hate. Better Together works in a similar way and so its message is eagerly lapped up by those predisposed to believe it, and who have a vested interest in continuing to believe it – such as Guardian leader writers and certain Labour party cooncillors.
Ah but ah but, our Ian Paisley impersonating Unitroll would say – all that applies to independence supporters too. You just believe what that alicsammin tells you and he’s a liar and he eats too many pies and wears tartan troosers that you’ve paid for with no currency because you can’t use the pound so he can go on holiday with Putin and plot how to rid Europe of bearded Austrian drag queens who win the Eurovision Song Contest – because that’s how evil he is and so must you be as well. Ah ha. Or words to that effect.
There may well be a small minority of people who would still prefer independence even if it did mean we’d all be living in caves without any friends. Not that I’ve ever met any. And I’m sure there is also a tiny minority of people who believe every single word that a politician utters. Not that I know any of those either, but they do exist. Usually they’re politicians’ grannies. Although with some even that’s a stretch.
The real difference is that for most people who want independence, a belief in it is something that they arrived at after a period of doubt and questioning. They sought evidence, they compared sources, they reflected upon it and discussed it with people whose opinions they trusted. We’ve been lied to by the mainstream media and politicians so often and for so long that they no longer enjoy the authority they once did, and the Internet allows information to be searched for, sourced, and made accessible in a way that was never possible before. And then that information can be passed on.
The Unionist position is the default position. It’s a position that went unchallenged for so long that those who hold it no longer realised it was a position at all. It was like heterosexuality. It was the normal against which everything else was judged abnormal. Scotland’s learned that other normalities are possible. And achievable. While supporting independence is not like being gay, it is a lot like taking the decision to come out of the closet. It’s taking a leap of faith in yourself and in your own possibilities. Scotland is the country that’s coming out of the closet.
The Unionist media is reacting in the same way now as the homophobic editorials of old. The media demonisation of independence supporters is a surreal experience for those of us who have been here before. Gay and lesbian people lived through all this in the 1980s. Newspaper editorials then were full of wilfully ignorant fulminations about evil pariahs who wanted to break up the traditional family. Now take the preceding sentence and just add the words “of nations” – and you’re describing 2014.
But when the establishment demonises and misrepresents you, when it issues increasingly hysterial threats and bluster about all the dire consequences that will come to pass, the wrath of Ian Paisley’s God that will smite you for being a drag queen with a beard or a supporter of Scottish independence, it tells you something important. It tells you that you should not be afraid. You are scaring them. They are afraid of you. You are the powerful one in this equation.
I’ve made this point before, but it bears repeating. Gay and lesbian people are always going to be a minority, but we won the campaign for legal equality because we came out of the closet in large numbers from the 1980s onwards. We faced up to those who demonised us and refused to be afraid. And in turn that meant more and more straight people who previously had no reason to think about the homophobic attitudes of the law or social convention found that they actually knew “one of them”, and were often related to “one of them”. For the first time they had to examine their own attitudes. And that’s what wrote a new normality.
Independence supporters are not a small minority. We’re everywhere, we’re in everyone’s family. Independence supporters can be demonised in the pages of newspaper editorials and television studios. But they can’t be demonised where it matters, in the social circles and networks of family and friends of independence supporters. Those are the people who’re most likely to have a vote. The more of us who come out of the Unionist closet, the more we establish the new normality of a Scotland where other paths can be trodden. Where, dare I say it, we can dae it oor wey.
So say it loud, say it proud. I’m out for indy.