The Daily Mail is proving an even more consistent source of comedy than usual of late, nowhere more so than its superb “Cybernat Watch” column (which we were delighted to find ourselves in this morning, on only its second day). Today the collection of partial, out-of-context quotes from random tweets was nestled into a bizarre piece about Labour’s shadow something, Jim Murphy.
As with most articles from the Mail’s Scottish edition it isn’t available online, but we’ve attached the text below so you can digest the full disturbing madness.
Keep web trolls off TV, says MP
FORMER Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy has warned that abuse from ‘cybernats’ could spread into TV debates and public meetings unless there is urgent action.
The Labour MP, who is set to become heavily involved in the campaign against independence, is the latest politician to call on Alex Salmond to help tackle the online trolls.
Mr Murphy said that without a personal condemnation from the First Minister, the army of pro-independence supporters could start targeting public events – causing more misery for victims.
The East Renfrewshire MP has recently been branded a ‘Judas’, a ‘traitor’, a ‘w*****’, a ‘p****’ and was even urged to commit suicide by people on Facebook.
‘There is a real worry that these anonymous cybernats who hide behind the safety of their computer keyboards in their bedrooms will come out into the public as the referendum comes closer,’ Mr Murphy said. ‘The last thing we need is their personal abuse and vindictive insults thrown around in public meetings or TV studio audiences.
‘I hate the fact that this stuff takes place at all on the internet, but it’s an entirely different thing if it’s brought into the living rooms of decent Scottish families.
‘These people are as determined as they are obsessive and they will think nothing of attending every meeting and getting tickets for every TV and radio debate.’
He added: ‘It’s time for the SNP and the First Minister to finally rein these people in. Washing their hands of them and pretending they don’t know who they are will no longer do.’
Pressure has grown on Mr Salmond to tackle the cybernats every day this week, with all three Unionist parties and Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael calling on him to intervene.
A spokesman for Mr Salmond has this week insisted that ‘denigration’ of people has ‘absolutely no place’ in the debate, although the First Minister has not personally spoken out.
It’s a remarkable piece, even if we leave aside the former Scottish Secretary’s delicate-flower sensibilities, which we can only assume saw him break down into floods of private tears whenever anyone had criticised him on the floor of the Commons.
At first we’d assumed he was demanding that no wicked “cybernats” should be allowed to feature on the panel of TV debate shows. But on reading further it became clear that in fact this professional politician, this tribune of the people, wanted to vet the audiences.
We’re not quite sure how that would work. “Are you now, or have you ever been, a cybernat?” forms to be filled out before Question Time attendees were admitted to the venue? Showing would-be participants a picture of Jackie Baillie and seeing if they reflexively swore before they could stop themselves? Or just a nice, simple flash of your Labour Party membership card?
Speaking as cybernats ourselves (according to the Mail, that is), and indeed as people who’ve asked a question on Question Time, we can confirm for the record that we’ve never taken any instructions from Alex Salmond or anyone else in the SNP, and that if he tried to tell us what we could or couldn’t say we’d invite the First Minister, much as we respect him, to take a long walk off a short pier.
Jim Murphy, of course, knows perfectly well that the SNP don’t control independence supporters on the internet, because he’s not a complete imbecile. The party has around 25,000 members, and according to opinion polls an absolute minimum of a million people – 40 times as many – will vote Yes in September.
Murphy’s intervention, enthusiastically embraced by the right-wing MP’s ideological brethren on the Mail, is in fact an attempt at pre-emptive intimidation of broadcasters – exactly the sort of thing “Better Together” wails piteously about as “bullying” when advocates of a Yes vote comment on the activities of neutral parties.
It’s especially transparent because even Murphy admits it hasn’t ever actually happened. Numerous TV debates have already taken place without any signs of such sabotage from the mythical cyber-wreckers. All that’s happened, in fact, is that the likes of Anas Sarwar have been occasionally forced to confront some Labour voters angered at his betrayal of Labour values, or, as with this week’s BBC2 debate, had their lies openly laughed at by the studio audience.
That, not “cybernats”, is what Jim Murphy is really scared of.