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2012: Paid Troll of The Year

Posted on December 27, 2012 by

With very few exceptions (notably the Guardian), it’s almost unheard of for senior media commentators to ever participate in below-the-line (BTL) discussion on their own articles. Less frequent still is for articles to be amended with provocative challenges expressly soliciting abusive comments from readers. (“PS This article has been up for five whole minutes, without me being denounced by Cybernats. Where are you all?”)

Yet such was the extraordinary spectacle that was served up to startled readers of the Spectator (annual subscription: £111) back in October of this year.

In an outburst so bizarre we genuinely suspect it can only have been motivated by an office bet of some sort, the magazine’s editor Fraser Nelson embarked on a critique of the SNP’s autumn conference unencumbered by such trivial inconveniences as having attended it. The piece itself was some pretty standard right-wing bombast of the sort more often peddled by Alan Cochrane on sister paper the Telegraph, notable only for a more sneering tone and the mind-boggling assertion that “Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reform agenda could yet make British poverty history”, but Nelson’s numerous interjections in the comments below took it to a rather less mundane level.

No pleasantries, straight in with the “East Germany” line. Good work.

This one came after our own Scott Minto (aka “Sneekyboy”) had challenged the article’s blatantly false claim that Scotland’s state spending was 53.6% of its GDP, “one or the highest in the planet” [sic]. Scott provided the accurate figures, which showed a reality of 41.9% – in fact far lower than the UK’s 47.3%.

Nelson then attempted to justify his figures by suggesting an independent Scotland would be granted just 8.4% of current-UK oil revenues, rather than the approximately 95% due under international law and disputed by absolutely nobody sane. And when everyone laughed at that, he came back with the standard Unionist-troll response:

To be honest, by this point in the discussion we were increasingly sure that Nelson had had an unusually refreshing lunch, and his final considered contribution to the debate before sliding onto the floor and sleeping it off under his desk for the rest of the afternoon added some weight to the theory.

Fraser Nelson was formerly Political Editor of the Scotsman. We’ll say no more.

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    30 to “2012: Paid Troll of The Year”

    1. Macart says:

      Never really followed Mr Nelson’s editorial before, but he sounds like a real beezer. Any chance of extending your Zany comedy relief column? 😉

    2. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      He’s been in it for ages.

    3. Macart says:

      Oh I wasn’t thinking of Mr. Nelson Rev. We’ve surely got one or two more candidates this year? Mr Gardham has surely earned a by now much coveted place for instance and howaboots Mr Carrell? They’ve both been quite busy this year. 🙂

    4. John White says:

      I wonder if engaging with trolls in forums is a self-destructive act that doesn’t advance the YES campaign or nationalism one iota. While I enjoy poking the afflicted with a pointy stick, as much as the next cybernat,  doesn’t it just wear you out? These people are either true believers or cynical mercenaries. Wouldn’t a better use of resources be to send every Britnat hack a bottle of 12 year old  malt every week until the referendum in the fervent hope of keeping them shitfaced and incapable for the duration?

    5. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      “I wonder if engaging with trolls in forums is a self-destructive act that doesn’t advance the YES campaign or nationalism one iota”

      The answer to that question is “Yes”. That’s why I’ve almost entirely given up attempting to reason with the likes of Dunc Hothersall and good old Councillor Braveheart this year, and urge everyone else to do the same in 2013. Their only purpose is to soak up our time and stop it being put to better use.

      The only exception is, as Scott’s done on that Nelson piece, to put the true facts out there to counter the lies in the article. Apart from that, it really is best not to rise to the bait.

    6. John White says:

      Rev Stu,
               I agree with the idea of engaging with lies, but I don’t know to what degeee making comments on forums of  the Barclay brothers titles is useful. I have seen the circulation of the Telegraph put at 12,000 in Scotland and the Spectator has a miniscule circulation UK wide. Perhaps all we are doing is giving them money. Conversely we should engage with the wretched Scottish national titles as they are considerably more likely to influence the vote, despite their circulation flushing down the pan.

    7. Peter A Bell says:

      One wonders if the British state would be so keen on population-based allocation of oil reserves if this was applied in the case of the Falklands.

    8. James Morton says:

      Don’t know him, never read anything by him. Another nabob shouting in an echo chamber for others of his ilk? That’ll be why I never heard of him then.

    9. ianbrotherhood says:

      He’s not so much a nabob, more of a nob.

    10. scottish_skier says:

      Scotland a “Brand New East Germany” says he who advocates a UK state where the government can dictate with an absolute majority of MPs on 35% of the vote. That’s the kind of election ‘result’ you get in Iran or Yemen. Oh hold on of course it is, they use the same FPTP electoral system. Silly me. Incidentally, in Iran the ‘church’ also has unelected representation in the ‘upper’ house. I must say, the parallels are quite startling!

    11. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      “the Spectator has a miniscule circulation UK wide”

      It does something in the region of 65,000 an issue, which is better than most Scottish newspapers.

    12. DougtheDug says:

      This is how the Spectator describes itself.
      “The Spectator’s taste for controversy, however, remains undiminished. There is no party line to which our writers are bound – originality of thought and elegance of expression are the sole editorial constraints.
      Certainly Fraser’s piece showed great originality of thought by describing a conference he hadn’t attended but it did lose points for being totally disconnected with truth and fact.
      I don’t think of him as a troll, because the whole point of trolling is not to be spotted as a troll, but more of a Lunchtime O’ Booze journalist. Not only did he admit in twitter that he hadn’t gone to the conference but he knew he would be picked up on it in the comments and got his preemptive “where are all the cybernats” line into the article as a way of getting his retaliation in first. He never bothered to reply to the salient point raised several times in the comments that he hadn’t actually been there.
      If that was the output of the, “best British journalists, critics, authors”, as the Spectator puts it no wonder the sensible and informed are turning away from mainstream journalism for their news and opinion.

    13. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy) says:

      Oh, I’d forgot about that one…

      Especially the “precious black gold” comment. Bitter much???

      The only other articles I see such bile on is old cochers but I dont comment there as theres no point. Its a bear pit and I dont know how the conans and others there post to counter the constant trolls, flamers and downright anti-scots racists.

      Unfortunately I think its only going to get worse and the Guardians new nesting system is especially suited to the trolls. It discourages making informed points and instead encourages clogging a “conversation” with unsubstantiated assertions and allegations.

      By the time someone has got to the next substantive post, they have lost the will to go on. Its no good for the undecided if they think its just a bitch fest BTL, and we need them to come BTL to get the links and facts.       

    14. Dal Riata says:

      Hadn’t been aware of this piece of right-wing unionist comedy gold! Thanks for bringing it to our attention Rev. 

      An excerpt from Wikipedia:
      “Editorship of The Spectator has often been a step on the ladder to high office in the Conservative Party in the UK – past editors include Iain Macleod, Ian Gilmour and Nigel Lawson, all of whom became cabinet members – or a springboard for a greater role in public affairs, as with Boris Johnson (1999 to 2005), the Conservative Mayor of London” 

      Fraser Nelson shows the level of the Vote No ‘voice’ in ‘persuading’ us of the ‘positives’ of the Union…[sigh]

      Better Together, eh….ROFL!

    15. Marcia says:

      One thing I have noticed when reading various twitter accounts is the amount of time some people seem to spend on it. Some seems to have no outside life other that twitter. It is good to read some comments but I see a lot of people who are campaigning for a Yes vote spending hours conversing with the NO people. These peoples minds are closed and no matter of correct information will open them to reason. Is it a tactic of the No side to divert a lot of Yes people from active campaigning? I seem to spend a lot of time these days stuffing letters with Yes cards for the Yes campaign for distribution (and we are getting the best response of any survey yet) and I am glad I am doing it although it can be tiring. Yes, put up good positives messages on twittter for those undecided but why waste your time with these twits from the No camp. Door knocking, stuffing envelopes or tele canvassing instead will help the Yes campaign much better.

      and now a music interlude

    16. dadsarmy says:

      I think the important thing is to correct articles with provable facts and figures, giving a URL if possible, if not a google searchable description e.g. Act of Union 1707 legislation section III.

      Engaging BTL with trolls is strictly for kicks!

    17. dadsarmy says:

      I read that spectator thing, what a laugh! Sneekyboy has the right approach for rags like that which doesn’t care at all about the truth, wouldn’t know it if it hit them in the face with a wet fish, preferably a well-rotted one filled with all sorts of noxious diseases, while their mouth was hanging open with disbelief <smack /> <smack /> ooh, I feel better for that already.

      Yes, just hit them with UNCLOS, 95%, a web reference, and leave them to wallow in their own mire, their cesspit, their pile of ordure, their dirty stinking …. oh, I’m at it again <smack /> that’s better. Only needed one that time.

      Is that the difference the 1998 Dewar giveaway makes – from 91% to 95%, so the north-east line past St Andrews contains 4% of UK oil? Dirty stinking thieves! Was this done BEFORE the first sitting of Holyrood? Might be “legally” important if Holyrood hadn’t actually had a chance to debate and approve it.

      I wonder if that robbery can be used to great effect by the YES campaign – showing ill-intent from the start, to demonstarte an intention to continue such robbery after a NO vote? My second motto is “always make a good thing out of a bad thing”.

    18. muttley79 says:

      So Fraser Nelson joins the diehard No list.  This includes luminaries, such as Alan Cochrane, Ian Smart, Michael Kelly, Terry Kelly, Brian Wilson, Duncan H, ‘Grahamski’, ‘Braveheart’, Alastair Darling, Gordon Brown, Ian Davidson, John Ruddy, Gemma Fox, Jim Murphy, Margaret Curran, Michael Forsyth etc.  What a crew… 😀

      Maybe we should produce a mock ‘Warning: Communication with this lot will seriously waste your own time’ poster… 

    19. John White says:

      It does something in the region of 65,000 an issue, which is better than most Scottish newspapers.
      I guess most of them in England and are flint hearted Thatcherites who we will never persuade.
      I wonder  if Marcia has the correct solution. Earlier today I was rude to a Lord on Twitter, but I can’t say it was much of an achievement.

    20. Seanair says:

      Tucked away in one of his diatribes recently was a sinister reference to him ” having something”  on Alex Salmond. More smearing? Hope AS has put his solicitors on alert.

    21. pmcrek says:

      Ah yes, Scotland, the only country in the world that is not allowed to add Oil revenues to its GDP figure to placate racists.

    22. If Frazer is going into ‘Zany Comedy Relief’, can we be moved to ‘Scottish Politics’? I don’t think our satire could stand the comparison.

      In any case, don’t miss our latest: “Scottish Labour are lamentable but not simply lame, says Think Tank”

    23. Aplinal says:

      @BBC Scotlandshire
      From the CRAP Report:
      “So the order has gone out to Johann Lamont to attack everything which Scotland does better than England, in order to support Labour’s bid to win the 2015 general election by persuading swing voters in southern England to vote for the red Tories, rather than the blue ones.
      “This is known as the ‘too poor deception’.

      “The second tactic employed is to imply that Scotland can only survive or prosper as a region on the UK, as our institutions would be too insignificant if we became independent, and that we would be over reliant on volatile commodity prices.
      The implication is that having control of our vast resources would be terrible for us as there could be good years as well as bad. Both Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown have ‘predicted’ that an independent Scotland would eventually need to come back under UK rule, but under ‘collonial’ terms and conditions.
      “This is termed the ‘too wee fallacy’.

      “The third tactic is possibly the most significant. By making Scottish political debate as ridiculous as possible, the Labour party can debase the parliament and the political process to the point where voters will not only lose interest, but will lose trust in the very institutions which would inherit power after independence.

      “Put simply, the worse the Labour party behaves in opposition, the more afraid Scots will become of a future independent parliament which could be run by Labour. In a sense they are taking one for the team by committing political suicide in this way.”
      This is called the ‘too stupid subterfuge’.
      This is FAR too close to the truth to be satire!!

    24. scottish_skier says:


      That tactic might have worked if Westminster was itself a picture of astutely competent governance. However, amid the chaos of a ruined UK economy and societal breakdown,  I imagine it hasn’t passed you by that there’s a Scottish independence referendum due in 2014. I might hazard to suggest that this implies the Scots electorate consider Westminster governance well, somewhat lacking shall we say.

    25. Aplinal says:


      So THAT’S what all the fuss is about in 2014!  I did wonder 😉 

    26. Indion says:

      ‘Twas the Bairn from Nairns bawls rushed out in a cut and paste job, 
      harried by the polling news announced that same weekend:
      And in alarm hurried too, in failing to spot a missing ‘would’, redundant ‘in’ and ‘them’, and an ‘or’ for ‘of’ when retaliating.  (Who edits the editor at weekends?)      
      All to deflect criticism and get to his – move along, nothing to see here – conclusion:
      ‘But judging by the SNP conference, the union looks pretty safe.’
      However, it’s not the ‘No’ Better Together unitary union.
      Begat by cause and effect, union and the UK are not one and the same. The cause of sovereign independence for Scotland could effect transformation of the UK into a confederal union for our family of nations.
      Come the day, voting ‘Yes’ for independence and union should look increasingly like a Best Together win-win for optimal autonomy all round.
      There’ll be no pleasing some folk though; the Bairn from Nairn would still find something to cry about.

    27. uilleam_beag says:


      Shings, never realised he was from Nairn. On behalf of all Nairnites around the world, I can only apologise profusely while hanging my head in shame.

      Surely Dollar Academy’s to blame… 

    28. Macart says:

      Don’t know about paid trolling, but here’s a hoot over on NNS concerning some over egged twittering.

      This whole nazi bollocks is getting more tiresome by the day. The opposition are truly desperate to start dusting down that old suit.

    29. Peter says:

      Ah dont feel too bad, I never realised he was from Nairn not with that strangely false accent he seems to use!!!

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