Step 1: Write an offensive, provocative piece of trollbait for the Daily Mail, describing your opponents as “kilted bum-barers who bellow ‘freedom’ whenever an English person hoves into view” and suggesting that a Yes vote is an abdication of morality.
(If you can then somehow get the Guardian to reprint it, bonus!)
Step 2: Whine like a baby when you get the response you wanted all along.
Step 3: Find some way to make it all Alex Salmond’s fault.
We’ve retrieved the full bleat below, so you don’t have to buy the Mail to read it.
How I became a victim of the Cybernats, the online yobs who shame the SNP
His passionate defence of Britain sparked a nationwide debate. But it also exposed the darkness at the heart of the Nationalist cause
When the history of the Scottish Civil War is written, I’m pretty sure it will record that ‘Chris Deerin started it with that f****** piece’.
So said one Twitter user in the rather turbulent aftermath of an article I wrote for last Saturday’s Scottish Daily Mail. And, in truth, it has seemed at times over the past week as if that might not be too far from the truth.
I had tried to set out what I termed a ‘moral case’ for Scots to vote to stay in the United Kingdom in this September’s independence referendum. It was a piece I’d wanted to write for some time.
Having recently moved home to Scotland from London, I felt that Better Together was in danger of living up to the ‘Project Fear’ nickname used by the Yes campaign – that the focus on economic and legal arguments, important though those are, was a little bloodless.
There was a risk that the deeper reasons behind why I and others regard themselves as Scottish and British, and are keen to stay that way, were being obscured.
I said, in short, that I regard Britain as a force for good in the world, as a beacon to those countries that lack many of the rights we take for granted – a disputatious democracy, freedoms of speech and association, solidarity, fairness, stability and free-standing institutions.
We are very far from perfect, of course, but tough decisions and significant responsibility come with our position as a front-rank power with a seat at the top tables of the UN, the G8 and Nato, our close relationship with the United States and our influence as one of the largest members of the EU. This should not be tossed recklessly aside.
I also argued that our 300-year Union has been good for Scotland and that Scots have been good for Britain. We can take credit for many of the country’s economic, military, scientific, humanitarian and intellectual achievements.
The world would be diminished by the United Kingdom breaking up. There is no alternative Utopia on offer.
The article made a bit of an impact. For those in favour of maintaining the Union, on both sides of the Border, it seemed to scratch an itch. In the days that followed I was – I’m not exaggerating – swamped with supportive messages, emails and tweets from politicians, commentators, friends and strangers.
Some said that Better Together should begin framing the argument in the terms I had outlined. One former Cabinet minister said he intended to send the piece to Downing Street. A few people confessed it had brought them close to tears – always nice to hear you’ve stirred the emotions.
‘That’s the piece I’ve been yearning for someone to write – the arguments for the Union must be moral & emotional as well as bean-counting,’ said the noted historian Tom Holland.
Another, Dan Snow, tweeted: ‘What a brilliant article. Could not agree more. Thank you.’ The Guardian asked to reprint an edited version in its UK edition.
I don’t mean any of this to sound selfcongratulatory. My point is simply that many people passionately share my view and are happy that it has been aired.
And what of the other side? I have Nationalist friends and colleagues. They disagreed with my conclusions, obviously, but most appreciated that at least I’d tried to set out a positive case for Britain, rather than simply knocking the idea of independence. I’d been careful not to say that if I regarded maintaining the Union as a moral idea, I viewed the alternative as immoral.
If we might interject for a moment: what you actually wrote, Chris, was “When my girls put the question to me, I hope to be in a position to tell them that when the moment arrived, Scots – Scots, of all people! – did not opt to go small, to lay down the moral role conferred on them by history, to turn their back on the difficult and painful decisions”.
That seems to be a pretty clear implication that a Yes vote is a moral abdication. After all, your piece was entitled “We Scots have a clear moral duty this year – to stay British”. If you duck out of – or indeed, outright oppose – something that’s your “clear moral duty”, what is that BUT immoral? What else can it possibly be?
[???] independent Scotland would work perfectly well, even though there would be bumps along the way. I can see that there is a strong moral and emotional case to be made for it. I don’t condemn anyone for wishing for, or voting for, separation. It’s just that my values, identity and choices lie elsewhere.
Some people made reasoned criticisms of my argument: I hadn’t taken account of the bad bits of the British EmpireX they were disillusioned with successive Tory and New Labour governments and felt that their political view would be more accurately represented by an independent Scottish state the idea of ‘Britishness’ no longer had any purchase – although why then, one might ask, is Alex Salmond so keen to maintain the Queen as Head of State and assert that the social and cultural union will continue?
I had tried to add a bit of humour to lighten a long piece, by saying that the Yes campaign was ‘ struggling to convert the greater mass of Scots into kilted bum-barers who shout “freedom” whenever an English person hoves into view’ – a fair number took offence at this characterisation.
Fair enough, and it is not actually how I think of Yes voters. Some switherers said that I had chosen the wrong moral argument – if they voted No, it would be because they didn’t want to abandon their pals in the South in the fight for ‘social justice’.
And, of course, inevitably, there were the Cybernats.
These repellent individuals are independence ultras who roam the internet in search of Unionists to duff up.
They are the football casuals of the independence movement. I’d seen them in action before – they tend to be arrogant, unreconstructed socialists, whose chosen tools are vitriolic abuse, bad language and absolute intolerance of alternative viewpoints.
They rarely use their own names and descend like a plague of locusts.
It was fascinating, if a bit unsettling, to be on the receiving end of days of their verbal violence. And when they were joined by the mob that dominates the Guardian’s online comments – for whom nothing Britain ever does is worthy of praise or understanding – it all got a bit farcical.
‘Chris Deerin is clearly one of the very few Scottish Tories who of course will say and write any antireferendum Central Office propaganda that he is asked or maybe told to do if he was to stand any chance of a medieval trinket in return. I would say this piece is worth at most an MBE…’ one conspiracy theorist havered.
That was quite measured in comparison to some of the other comments. Here’s a sampling:
‘You say this with pride, akin to a Nazi laying claim to the ingenuity of his concentration camp.’
‘Stuff like this was all the rage from the Nazis in the 30s. Evil, pure insulting evil.’
‘The author sounds like a white supremacist.’
‘Utter drivel from a cap-doffing lickspittle. It feels like someone s*** in my porridge.’
‘This man’s children are at school in Stirling – my advice to them? “deny thy father and refuse thy name”.’
‘If you like to “live under the yoke of English domination” that might be correct. But to any Scot with a sense of self and worth, independence is the only way. Why do you think our ancestors spilled their blood on the battlefields?’
Here was ‘Wings Over Scotland’ – the pseudonym of an ageing video game journalist called Stuart Campbell – accusing me of being a ‘ridiculous cringing joke of a human being’.
Um, it’s not a “pseudonym”, you dolt. I don’t write articles under that name, I use my own. It’s like saying the Daily Mail is your “pseudonym”. Still, bad news to learn that I’m “ageing” – is this happening to anyone else? – and also quite surprising to discover that I’m still a video game journalist, when as far as I can recall I haven’t written professionally about videogames for at least three years.
Another, @bikey99, wrote: ‘If we vote YES @chrisdeerin will presumably head back South… do we need any other reason to vote YES?’
Yet another: ‘The good news is, that although unfortunately he has moved back to Stirling, after the YES vote, this creep will most likely f*** off back to London, good riddens’ – a fair number of them are borderline illiterate – so much for the fabled Scottish education system.
‘Kilted Uncle Tom’, ‘utter moron’, ‘Bitter Traitor’, ‘racist’- I could go on.
Now, given the accusations of negativity aimed at the Better Together campaign, you may detect a smidgen of hypocrisy in the statements I’ve reprinted above. I certainly didn’t see anyone from the Yes campaign condemning them.
But what concerns me more than this is that it exposes the problem with extreme nationalism of any stripe, Scottish, British, whatever: a total lack of tolerance of the views of others, the inability to understand that decent people can fairly hold views in opposition to your own, and be entitled to express them without attracting a poisonous response – a separation of people into ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ – a belief that there is such a thing as ‘thought crime’.
Sorry, hang on a second – is that REALLY someone from the DAILY MAIL talking about “intolerance” and a “poisonous response” to people expressing views they don’t agree with? THIS Daily Mail? Goodness gracious.
I even recall one independence supporter demanding on Twitter a few months ago that, in the event of a Yes vote, there should be an official inquiry into Scottish Labour politicians and their attempts to save the Union.
History has shown us where, if left unchecked, this kind of sentiment can lead.
I’m aware that there will be a fresh round of abuse following this article’s publication. But it should be repeated constantly by the responsible and the civic-minded on both sides of our national debate: whatever happens on September 18, we will all still have to live together on September 19.
If there is a vote for independence, I have no plans to ‘f*** off back to London’ – like other Scottish democrats, I will accept the majority view and do what I can to make the new polity work.
I believe anyway that the Union needs updated for the 21st century and that the most likely outcome of these events is a looser, federal arrangement for Britain. I think this would probably be good for both Scotland and England.
Will the Cybernats say the same? What if, as every poll shows to be the most likely outcome, Scotland votes No? What do they do on September 19? Accept the democratically expressed will of fellow citizens, or carry on their campaign of hate and abuse?
And if the latter, what is it they hope to achieve? What will that do for Scottish identity and the integrity of our Scottish nation?
By all means let’s have a robust debate over the next eight months. Let’s test each other’s arguments, call out rubbish when we see it, rib and tease each other, put our case as passionately and as eloquently as we can.
But let’s also remember that, whatever our view, we all inhabit the same little section of rock at the top end of the British Isles, and will continue to do so.
You’ve got your referendum – let’s try to keep it civil.
“Your”? Shouldn’t that be “our”, dear? Whoops, there goes that mask again.