Because it’s extra-specially dismal to see grown adults whimpering and whining like primary-school children in a playground when the Scottish press has spent most of the preceding weeks excitably hyping them as belligerent, aggressive “bruisers”.
Because in what appears to be part of a co-ordinated campaign of petted-lip clyping to teacher from the No camp, the latest middle-aged professional politician boo-hooing about “bullies” all over our newspapers and screens about people being mean to him is the new Secretary of State for Scotland, Alistair Carmichael.
The context was set earlier in the week when a quite staggeringly innocuous query from Scottish Government minister Shona Robison about the neutrality of a figurehead of the supposedly neutral “Five Million Questions” organisation chairing a “Better Together” meeting was blown up by several newspapers into some sort of brutal totalitarian crackdown – the Express actually used the phrase “North Korean tactics” – on freedom of speech.
(The irony of this claim appearing in a media that had previously conducted sustained, near-hysterical witch-hunts against the likes of Martin Sime and Elliot Bulmer for daring to voice favourable opinions about “devo-max” and independence respectively seems to have slipped past unnoticed.)
Scene ready, the Scottish Secretary stepped onto the stage, in the form of last night’s Newsnight Scotland. As reported by the Herald, he complained of being “targeted” by “Twitter Trolls”, who he alleged were encouraged by the words of Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon.
Now, the foundation of this allegation is disingenuous to say the least. It’s based on comments made by the Deputy First Minister when she accused Carmichael of acting like “the Secretary of State against Scotland” when he appeared in the Portsmouth News apparently suggesting that the UK’s orders for Type 26 frigates should be taken away from shipyards on the Clyde if Scotland voted for independence.
(In the Evening Times he went further, saying “There is a business case for shipbuilding on the Clyde as long as the Clyde is part of the UK”, inescapably implying that there wasn’t otherwise and that only UK charity was keeping the highly-skilled, efficient and experienced yards in business.)
That seems an entirely reasonable thing for Nicola Sturgeon to say – the Scottish Secretary probably ought to be seen standing up for jobs in Scotland, not Portsmouth. But Carmichael turned Sturgeon’s remark into an ethnic slur on his very Scottishness, which he angrily asserted couldn’t be in any doubt because he drank whisky and ate Tunnocks Teacakes and his father spoke Gaelic.
(We’re not making that up – check the broadcast for yourself. As a definition of Scottishness it’s right up there with the comments of Carmichael’s fellow Unionist, the dimwitted Texas singer Sharleen Spiteri, earlier in the week identifying Scottish culture as Jimmy wigs.)
But more to the point, we wondered what these awful comments that had Carmichael so upset actually were. After all, we’ve learned from experience that evidence of alleged abuse hurled at anti-independence campaigners on the internet can be rather hard to actually pin down.
So we got to searching to see what “the names I get called” at the hands of “Twitter Trolls” actually were. And we have to tell you, readers, our efforts didn’t turn up a whole lot. In fact, we went all the way back to the beginning of October when Carmichael took over his post from Michael Moore, and we couldn’t find a single instance of what’s invariably described in the press as “vile cybernat abuse”.
We managed to find one person calling him a “troughing bastard” (and worse), but that was in connection to foodbanks and his bedroom tax vote, not independence, and in any event the tweet was posted this morning, well after Carmichael’s allegations. There were a couple of “fat” comments. But that’s about it.
If that’s all it takes to upset Westminster’s brand-new “bruiser”, we feel it might be rather irresponsible to place him in the middle of a debate as heated as the independence one. (An assessment Mr Carmichael might agree with, as he doesn’t want the post of Scottish Secretary to exist at all.)
Still, we’re no defenders of personal abuse, so if anyone can point us to anything more upsetting, we’re ready and waiting to condemn it publicly. Otherwise, perhaps it’s time he dried his eyes and got on with the job.