We haven’t said much about the huge furore whipped up by the Guardian in recent days around spurious allegations of racism/online abuse by supporters of Scottish independence, made first by Sadiq Khan and then by a deranged “Better Together” activist who also thinks all vegans are racist (or something).
Partly that’s because we covered the initial speech by Khan and the fallout from it pretty extensively, and partly because we didn’t want to feed the Guardian’s clickbait.
However, when the activist who was allegedly “hounded off Twitter” in fear for her life – fear caused by supposed comments that nobody has actually seen – miraculously recovered her bravery less than a week later (coincidentally just in time for the launch of her book), we thought it was probably time someone started keeping some records.
Because Claire Heuchan isn’t the first person who’s wept all over a salivating Scottish media about how they were “forced” off Twitter because of supposed abuse from vile so-called “cybernats” only to suddenly bounce back in finest Alan Partridge style when they noticed nobody was paying them any attention any more.
(Perhaps some kind soul could explain Twitter’s blocking facility to them.)
There are, in fact, several precedents, most of whom have sought to make capital out of the issue in one way or another. So for future reference here’s the current league table, ranked in reverse order of the shortest self-imposed exiles from publicity.
5. CLAIRE HEUCHAN (Better Together activist and Proud Brit)
Elapsed time: fractionally over six days.
(Just long enough to wipe over 16,000 old tweets, several of which had exposed slightly embarrassing previous opinions for someone aggressively positioning themselves as an anti-nationalist person of colour.)
4. CHRIS DEERIN (Daily Mail columnist)
Elapsed time: two weeks
(Deerin subsequently made several claims to be “off again”, but none of them were marked by any discernible break and he now tweets prolifically.)
3. DAVID TORRANCE (ubiquitous pundit)
Elapsed time: one month
(Coincidentally just in the nick of time to get back before Twitter would have deleted the account permanently – it allows accounts to be “suspended” by the user for up to 30 days.)
2. STEPHEN DAISLEY (grandchild of socialist)
Elapsed time: five and a half months
(Daisley’s disappearance from public view was the most-ballyhooed of all, leading to an avalanche of articles decrying in hysterical and luridly paranoid terms the SNP’s fascist, one-party-state suppression of dissent in the Scottish media, a phenomenon which will come as a very considerable surprise to anyone who’s ever read the Scottish media.)
1. NEIL OLIVER (staunch haircut opponent)
“Forced off” Twitter: 17 August 2016
Return to Twitter: none
Elapsed time: permanent
(Weirdly, despite Oliver being a very light Twitter user – around one tweet a day, with the last recorded one being in September 2015 – and there being no actual evidence of his being abused, he’s the only person we can find to have actually flounced without bouncing.)
As we noted some months ago, the formula for this sort of thing is now extremely well established and predictable: write the provocative and usually offensive article/s, receive (or invent) the desired angry response, flounce off claiming victimisation, “silencing” and threats, trigger series of articles by yourself and/or others attacking the SNP/the Yes movement, leave a pause, then slink back quietly as you always intended to do all along.
It seems only fair we should recognise the most skilled practitioners of the art. Claire Heuchan, young and inexperienced, was just a little too artless – the pause too short, the evidence too suspect, the timing of the return too transparent.
We salute Neil Oliver for carrying the task off with professionalism, although with his income stream being unaffected he had by far the least to lose. We look forward to the next challenge for his title, which we suspect won’t be too long in coming.