We spent much of yesterday evening trying to actually track down the “vicious barrage” of vile cybernat abuse that Labour and “Better Together” activist Clare Lally says she was subjected to after being revealed to be rather less of an “ordinary” member of the public than the No camp presented her as at its recent Glasgow rally, and which has received wall-to-wall media coverage.
As yet, we’ve drawn a blank. We’ve made repeated requests, some to people who’ve contacted us angrily claiming to be her friends or family members, for evidence of any abusive comments at all. All have been met with an abrupt outbreak of silence.
Scotland 2014 devoted almost its entire 30-minute show to the issue last night. To depict the terrible onslaught, the above tweets were all they could come up with. The entire affair, readers might feel, is starting to smell distinctly piscine.
The decision to blur the names of the “offensive” tweeters is curious in itself. These people have posted something in public, so it’s hard to see what purpose is served by obscuring them. One of the tweets – the Panini sticker album joke – is actually one of ours. Curiously the BBC has edited part of it out:
If we now live in a world where jokily pointing out that someone’s been photographed with a lot of Labour politicians is beyond the pale of civilisation, goodness knows where that leaves most political discourse. We’re pretty sure everyone involved with Have I Got News For You ought to be looking at some stiff jail sentences, at least.
The middle one, of which the BBC have only shown one of two parts, came from a tweeter called Craig Wright. It wasn’t directed at Clare Lally at all, but at “Better Together” campaign director Blair McDougall, who’d been complaining loudly about supposed “attacks” on her:
We suppose, at a real stretch, calling someone a “Labour Party minion” (even when they ARE a member of the Labour Party) is, on an extremely mild and trivial level, a bit pejorative. But doing so in a conversation with a third party, not visible to anyone not following both people, is some way short of a campaign of intimidatory terror.
We also managed to track down the one tweet – so far, the only one we’ve found on the entire internet – that could actually be construed as an “attack” on Clare Lally. It was made by a user called Dave McCloskey:
Again, the tweet happened in a personal conversation, so wouldn’t normally be visible to other people. In any event Dave McCloskey has just 17 followers, and the tweet was re-tweeted only once, by an angry Unionist.
It’s very difficult to trace how any of these tweets could have come to Clare Lally’s attention at all, let alone reduced her to a quivering, tearful wreck. None were directed to her personally. Even if she’d gone onto Twitter and actively searched for her own name, it only appears in one of them, a light-hearted joke about football stickers.
Yet the media has uniformly presented – as an absolute unquestioned fact – that she was subjected to an intolerable outpouring of abuse, apparently without feeling any need to substantiate the assertion. It’s a step up even from the infamous Susan Calman incident, in which abuse that even Susan Calman herself said she hadn’t seen was reported as definite fact.
(And continues to be used to this day in “cybernat” witch-hunts.)
This site has always condemned the use of words like “Quisling”. They’re stupid and crude and counter-productive. Nevertheless, one idiot with 17 followers tweeting it to someone else who isn’t even the target of his ire does not a “barrage” make.
Our request remains open. If anyone has any evidence of ANY abuse being directed at Clare Lally we’d like to see it, and we will unequivocally condemn it. Until then, we reserve the right to call foul. In its absence no rational conclusion will be possible other than that “cybernats” – a pejorative term in itself – have been vilified and excoriated by politicians and journalists, yet again, on the basis of phantoms.