They’re male, they’re pale, they’re angry and intolerant and by God, they loathe the SNP.
Meet the anti-SNP ‘indy’ bloggers. A more curious assortment of irascible and irritable bunch of contrarians you’re never likely to meet. Over the course of the past couple of years they have become an easily recognisable social media community and to their followers they are legion.
There are of course numerous independence bloggers. There are those who offer justifiable criticism, who raise legitimate concerns, who wish to discuss salient issues and want to share their insights. Then there are our friends the anti SNP ‘bad’ bloggers. Their incessant cynicism, their limitless negativity, their determination to bring down the SNP’s leadership sets them well apart from the rest of the independence supporting community. These are the SNPbaad bloggers and if you come into contact with them or their followers you will recognise them immediately.
‘Yes’ social media is their territory and they walk it like angry behemoths devouring all and anybody who gets in their way. Over the course of the past few years they have built up a formidable and loyal following. With an output that can only be described as ‘industrial’. They are not for the faint hearted.
Such has been their success the bloggers and their followers practically own Yes Twitter. If you dare to oppose them you will be variously branded a ‘traitor’, ‘in it for yourself’, a sell out. Your character will be dissected and traduced and found wanting. Pile ons will be invited, abuse is the common currency dished out angrily to the ‘unbelievers’. I, of course, am a familiar target for their ire simply because I am one of the few SNP politicians who dares to challenge some of their assumptions.
To them I am the hilarious (now try not to laugh out loud, and hold on to your sides) ‘cosy feet’ or ‘pension Pete’. Humour, as you can see, is not a huge feature of the ‘bloggers’ angry discourse… Most politicians observing the special attention dished out to those of us who have the temerity to challenge them stay well away, save they get the same special treatment. There has also been a general belief in the hopeful ‘just leave them alone and they will go away’ maxim. That of course has been an absolute disaster leaving them an uncontested space which they have readily occupied and greedily made their own.
But what is their agenda and what exactly do the baad bloggers want? Over the years they have gone from being a comradely part of the Yes movement and ally of the SNP, to full on loathing of everything the SNP leadership is about. I’m not entirely sure if the main objective is to replace the SNP but what they seem to want to achieve is to impose their own unworkable indy strategies on the SNP and have us adopt their deeply held social conservative values.
If you look at them closely there seems to be three distinct but curiously complimentary strands that sustains them. The first is obvious, and that is progress towards independence. In the Yes movement there is a justifiable impatience and frustration about securing independence. We all wish we were independent already and we all wish that there was some easy quick fix that would just get us there. Cue the bloggers. They have quick and easy fixes by the shed load and all of them are conveniently a lot easier than the hard work that is required. Impatience is the food and drink of the bloggers and it is devoured hungrily. New recruits are served up the panaceas and unworkable dead ends like some cheap indy one star a la carte restaurant.
To them all we have to do is ‘use the mandate’ ‘get off our knees’ and ‘just do it’. The ‘plebiscite’ is their favourite just now but if that’s not dead end enough for you then there are various UDIs aplenty. The only thing that is ruled out is the one thing that will actually get us there and that is a legal and constitutional route recognised by the international community. This above all else has to be totally disparaged as the work of the reviled gradualist ‘SNP’. So ‘there will never be a section 30’ and absolute faith in the word of Boris Johnson has to be almost carved in blog of stone. We could soon be knee deep in the next referendum and the bloggers will still be swearing blind ‘it will never happen’.
Then there are the wedge issues. This is a bit more complicated but has been an absolute triumph for the bloggers. It is no coincidence that to a ‘man’ they are opposed to GRA reform and that they all hold deeply social conservative views raging against the ‘woke’. They seized on the opportunities presented by those with genuine concerns about these complex issues and went to town. They quickly debased the whole debate with all sorts of erroneous disinformation and gratuitous imagery to help build capacity for their cause. It is no accident that of all the liberal democracies in the world dealing with these complex issues Scotland seems to have more problems than most. The bloggers (and one in particular) can take a round of applause for helping to achieve that.
The third has been an absolute gift to them, a gift that they could only dare dream about, and that is the trial of Alex Salmond and the inquiry into the handling of complaints against him. Here was the ultimate wedge issue. An issue that could be neatly divided right down the middle and a side chosen. For the bloggers there was no dubiety. Alex Salmond was the ‘innocent man’ fitted up by an all consuming absurd conspiracy directed by the wicked Nicola Sturgeon and her team of plotting leadership lackeys.
This threesome of misery has allowed the bloggers to divide, depress and attack, and I have to reluctantly concede that they have made the most of all of this.
What do they do now? With an election coming you would think that they would maybe take a break for the sake of victory, but not a bit of it. Their advice is to not vote for the SNP on the list and to abstain on the constituency vote. To them the SNP is no longer a party of independence and Nicola Sturgeon is no longer interested in the cause she has been fighting for all her adult life. In their fantasy world the only people who care about independence are the bloggers and their followers. Their fantasy world has also become just that little bit more sinister and deranged with their followers adopting all sort of rightist QAnon imagery and conspiracy theories, with the threat of ‘storms’ descending on the unbelievers. Their nosedive into this weird symbology suggests that cultism has become firmly established and more of their behaviour has become that of the bizarre. The simple fact is they have now become a menace and a threat to our independence ambitions.
Will they succeed in bringing down the SNP leadership and blunting our independence hopes?Where support for independence and the SNP has dipped this is more likely down to all the negative attention the party has received over the Alex Salmond inquiry (though the Bloggers joining in the attacks with the right wing press certainly hasn’t helped). Their campaign against Nicola Sturgeon would also seem to have failed as her personal ratings remain sky high and many more people believe her than their own champion. The biggest difficulty for the bloggers is that they are exclusively confined to Twitter and Twitter bears little resemblance to the real world. For all their rantings and ravings very few people are paying attention to them.
At some point the bloggers and their followers are going to have to decide whether they go out on their own and form their own party or continue to try and divide and depress the movement as an unaligned force. They will probably wait to see how their proxies in the ‘pop up’ list parties fare in May before deciding their next course of action, but opinion polls do not present good news for them on that front.
The bloggers just now are a cross we simply have to bear. They will swear and they will curse, they will huff and they will puff, and they will attack and they will traduce, and they will give all sorts of reasons why people shouldn’t vote for the SNP. But the movement is resilient and has survived much worse than the bloggers. Even in the last couple of weeks a number of their followers have at last started to see them for what they are and what they are all about.
The days of the reign of the bloggers might be coming to an end just as they think it might be taking off. It can’t come soon enough.