You can never accuse the Scottish media of being knowingly underhysterical.
Tonight the Daily Record snuck out its semi-apology for telling the Scottish people the biggest lie we’ve seen on the front page of a newspaper since its parent the Mirror published fake pictures of soldiers urinating on Iraqi prisoners.
You can tell they’re not awfully pleased we forced them to make that “correction” by reporting the lie to the Independent Press Standards Organisation, because they even reference it in the editorial above.
Speaking of which – well, heck, where do we even start?
We ran two posts today about a Scottish Labour NHS leaflet. The Record has apparently only seen the first one, in which we dared to suggest in passing (while making a much broader point about political advertising) that a nurse pictured in it might be an actress, on the grounds that she had an NHS uniform on and you’re not allowed to do political campaigning in the uniform of a public-sector organisation, in case it’s interpreted as that organisation supporting a particular political party.
(And also on the grounds of a coincidentally-named actress of about the same age, who happened to have said something in her casting bio that would have been amusingly apt if it had been her.)
“This brand of politics isn’t unique to Scotland, though it has no parallel in the rest of the UK. It has echoes of far-right US Republicanism that seeks to undermine anyone with an opposite view by inciting online mobs, hatred and vilification.
This is a world of conspiracy theories, hatred and paranoia. This is a brand of nationalism that seeks to peddle falsehoods and unfounded allegations against anyone who isn’t a believer. It is nasty, sewage politics that debases public life.”
Jings. Some lunatic on Twitter even accused us of endangering the very NHS itself.
Remember, readers, what we’d done was suggest that someone MIGHT be an actress posing for a picture in a leaflet, before going on to talk about something else. The most vicious thing we’d said about her was:
“While they have very similarly-shaped faces and features, we have no idea whether the two Suzannes are the same person or if it’s just a strange and potentially amusing coincidence.”
It’s not exactly “BURN THE WITCH!!”, is it?
But then things got really weird. As well as the editorial, the Record ran a full-blown shock-horror outrage piece about the first article. It made our comically innocuous comments sound as bad as it could (tacking on a run-down of our vile-cybernattery Greatest Hits in a classic tabloid monstering), and accused commenters of launching a “disgraceful” and “outrageous” attack comprising “a shocking series of unfounded rants and personal insults” at the poor broken woman.
Of these, the worst the paper could find to quote was:
(A play on a line from a traditional American folk song about a banjo.)
The Record claimed she was called Suzanne Hunter, which was curious as she’d twice been named by “Better Together” last year as “Suzanne Duncan”. It said she’d worked as “a nurse for the last eight years at Forth Valley Hospital in Larbert”, which is also strange as Forth Valley Hospital only opened in 2010.
We have no idea which of the names is right. Both could be, of course – people get married, or un-married, or change their names for other reasons. But one of the people who identified her as “Suzanne Duncan” was Craig Miller, a parliamentary assistant to Labour MSP Richard Simpson, who’d started the lynch-mob.
And Craig Miller seems to know Suzanne pretty well.
So to be honest we’re none the wiser. All we know is that by so prominently exposing Suzanne Duncan/Hunter’s real identity, Scottish Labour and the Daily Record have recklessly put her in the firing line for breaking the rules about campaigning in an identifiable NHS uniform. Any chance of the issue blowing over now is surely out of the window.
We haven’t said a single mean thing about her, nor did we reveal her identity – it turned out she’d been appearing on No-campaign leaflets as “Suzanne Duncan from Forth Valley” for months, so if the name was some sort of attempt at a disguise it was a pretty feeble one.
The Record’s deranged reaction to the mild passing suggestion that political parties might sometimes employ actors reveals nothing more than how incredibly annoyed they are at having been caught red-handed in an appalling lie. The attempt to blow something so absurdly trivial into a multi-page scandal on the same day they had to print a humiliating apology is nothing more than a decoy aimed at distracting readers from the declining paper’s own embarrassment and shame.