Tuesday, 7 May 2013

The Perfect Storm, The Shit Storm and Der Stürmer

The morning of 1st May was surprisingly dreich as the Edinburgh summer of 2013 faltered yet again, so having merely gazed at the garden I sat down at the computer with my egg roll and cup of tea and started browsing friends' posts on Facebook.  I had no idea that I was about to be assailed by the perfect storm of celebrity pap and unionist churnalism that would see me initiated as a Cybernat. I clicked on a link to The Scotsman, hereinafter referred to as The Hootsmon as it bears no discernable relationship whatsoever to the Scottish organ of record that I used to persuade officers' mess committees should be ordered wherever I was posted in days of yore. 

The headline screamed Susan Calman: Death Threats For Independence Satire.  The foregoing link points to a screenshot rather than the Hootsmon website for reasons that will become clear. I'd listened to the edition of BBC Radio 4's The News Quiz as I'm a fan and, to be honest, I'd found Ms Calman's token-jock, Jimmy McCrow contribution rather grating and just not funny.  However, the notion that she should be subjected to a "shitstorm of aggression" or indeed "death threats" had my blood pressure rising. The Hootsmon also published a leader by Brian Wilson (yes, the ex-Labour MP) on the subject.

However, I'd come a cropper with the Hootsmon once before when my friend Karine Polwart had penned an excellent article for the Hootsmon on Sunday on why she was for independence but they couldn't resist tacking on a headline which implied some non-existant stooshie between the Greens and Yes Scotland or The SNP.  They later relented and replaced it with a non-contentious headline which actually reflected the content of the article.  So I read the article again.  I noted that the only substantive allegation it contained was actually reported as hearsay by Ms Calman:

“I’ve been told that someone has written a blog which is pretty abusive towards me after my performance on News Quiz (there’s probably more than one, no need to point them out to me).  I haven’t looked for it, and won’t.”
This set my bullshit detectors flashing red.   She had been told by someone unknown about a blog which, without looking at it, she was able to characterise as a "shitstorm of aggression" and this had prompted two articles in The Hootsmon.  I thought I'd google her blog, the source quoted in The Hootsmon.

Interestingly death threats were nowhere to be seen on her blog but further details of the abuse were given: 
"After the show was broadcast I was accused of betraying my country, of being racist towards my own people and of being a cunt (that was my favourite)."
The Hootsmon article gave the following details of the alleged abuse:
"She is the daughter of Sir Kenneth Calman ... accused Ms Calman of “lying” over the currency issue, “talking down” Scotland, making “insulting” comments, “hating her country” and “self-loathing”."
A friend directed me to the excellent article by Rev Stuart Campbell on Wings over Scotland entitled The Phantom Menace which is well worth a read.  I discovered I was by no means alone in having my suspicions about the Hootsmon article. 

Furthermore, I discovered that 17 out of the 22 minutes of BBC Scotland's flagship Newsnight Scotland programme had been devoted to this issue the previous night.  I watched it on iPlayer and noted Gordon Brewer's introduction spoke of "and other comments we simply can't repeat."  Note the plural - I can see only one comment that would be unrepeatable on the BBC.  Gordon Brewer also described Ms Calman's News Quiz contributions as "satirical."  For an excellent examination of this point see Peter A Bell's Beware the Language Police.  Needless to say, Brewer and the talking heads he interviewed blamed it all on those evil Cybernats.

Not being a man to take things at face value I took to Google, Twitter Search and Facebook to find this "shitstorm of aggression."  Like everyone else who tried, I failed miserably. A twitter search rendered nothing from 23rd April to 5 hours after the story broke.

Her Facebook page showed no signs of abuse and despite testing Google's servers to destruction, I couldn't find the elusive blog about her with the comments shown in The Hootsmon article.  I watched her Twitter feed all that day and there was no sign of abuse. I did watch an exchange between Rev. Stuart Campbell and Susan Calman (sadly I didn't capture it) which went along the lines of:

Rev: Um, has ANYONE actually seen this "barrage of abuse" @SusanCalman was subjected to?
SC:  @wingsscotland Dont you dare suggest I'd make this up. Do you want to know how many times I've cried in the last week?
Rev: @SusanCalman Yes. Yes I do.

SC: @wingsscotland Then you are the vilest possible person.

Given previous experience, I had been prepared to consider that Ms Calman was an unwitting Patsie, after all the "death threats" only appeared in The Hootsmon albeit in a direct quote from her and nowhere did they say that she had been the recipient of death threats.  However, her melodramatic treatment of an honest request by Stuart Campbell got me wondering.  This was the feminist who had made much of how both her legal training and growing up as a lesbian in 1980s Glasgow had given her a resilience. A feminist resorting to tears (real or otherwise)?  This woman had appeared nigh-on naked as a sexually aggressive green goblin and had done a sketch about golden showers neither of which would be remotely funny to anyone over 17. (WARNING: Don't click either link at work, if children are present or if you've just eaten). Now she's shedding cybertears because a nasty Reverend has asked her for the evidence?

Her blog was posted on 29th April and by 30th April Newsnight Scotland is devoting most of the programme to it, then the following morning The Hootsmon has 2 articles and the Scottish Daily Mail another?  Assuming, I think correctly, that BBC Scotland, the Hootsmon, The Daily Mail and even Better Together don't all have churnalists scouring minor comic's blogs daily on the off-chance that something juicy has been posted, she, or someone acting on her behalf, must have solicited them.  She later melodramatically announced on Twitter that she'd been forced to delete her Facebook page due to abuse. However, it's still there to this day with nary a sign of abuse on it.  I formed the impression this was a publicity stunt by a Z list sleb.

By late afternoon the only evidence of anything remotely disparaging about Ms Calman that had been found on Twitter was a tweet by @LeCreusetFiend who is apparently a Tory and may or may not be Scottish.  Any combination of those two attributes make him an unlikely Cybernat. In any event, it's hardly abusive.

Back to basics. She'd said it was a blog, so no point in any further searching of Twitter or Facebook. I decided to search for her name and the phrases in the Hootsmon article and her blog, changing case where appropriate and alighted on Have We Got Friends For You, once again on Wings Over Scotland. So it wasn't a blog about Susan Calman at all (a wee delusion of grandeur there, hen?), but about a Have I Got News For You (HIGNFY) episode in which she didn't appear.  However, some commenters on the article had gone on to comment on her performance on The News Quiz.  I've cut and pasted all the comments that refer to Ms Calman below, highlighting the text that was quoted on her blog and in The Hootsman.  They are, of course, out of context and readers are highly recommended to read both the original article and the comments in context.  Far from being po-faced about the comedy as Newnight had broadcast, the tenor of the artice was that the HIGNFY programme had been a boon for the pro-independence cause and highly uncomfortable watching for any Better Together activists.
  • In addition to HIGNFY, on the wireless we also had the News Quiz on R4, which can be quite entertaining, except when, as last night we had their resident cringing jock, Susan Calman getting stuck into the currency question. I switched off after a few minutes because I can’t be bothered listening to such unfunny, patronising guff.
  • Radio 4′s much superior “The News Quiz” had the same sort of question, with the same kind of audience laughing loudly at us. The slightly unwholesome feature of the radio version was that Susan Calman, a Scottish comedienne, milked the English audience for laughs at her own country’s expense and lied about the currency issue.  It can probably only do us good though, as people on the edge feel insulted by the disdain in which some of the English hold us.
  • I have just heard Saturday’s repeat of The News Quiz and couldn’t believe my ears when Susan Calman started her mocking rant.  At least she refused to be drawn on how she would be voting as no doubt she doesn’t wish to lose half of her fans.
  • “Isn’t Susan Calman the offspring of the same Calman who had the Commission?” Coo, so she is. Didn’t know that.
  • Susan Calman is the daughter of Kenny Calman of that report.
  • It’s a shame that Susan Calman (daughter of Ken) is on the News Quiz so much these days. I used to quite enjoy it but can’t bear her. I think it’s meant to be self-deprecating, but I have heard her talk Scotland down too many times. She’s quite happy to play to stereotypes for the benefit of a metropolitan audience and she isn’t funny anyway.
  • And as for Susan Calman, dear oh dear. It’s a shame R4 thinks Fred Mc and Ms Calman are the only ‘funny’ people in Scotland. Though both do very well, I’m sure, from the BBC, north and south of the border.
  • Can’t be bothered with Susan Calman, there is nothing clever or witty about her ‘comedy’, it’s all put downs and self loathing.
  • Susan Calman needs to take a good look at herself and her soul. Fame and money at the expense of her fellow countryman is not ethical. I hope she has the courage to respond to this criticism and explain why she hates her country so much?
  • Susan Calman is ripe for the Mrs Merton proposition:  Susan Calman (daughter of Sir Kenneth Calman, regular panellist on BBC’s The News Quiz & BBC’s HIGNFY with frequent appearances on shows including BBC’s MacAulay & Co & BBC’s Matt Lucas Awards and with your own show aired on, you guessed it, BBC R4) what first attracted you to the British establishment?
  • I’ve just watched it and have moved HIGNFY from my ‘PishList’ to the new category of ‘Twat TV’. Contributions to broadcasting by the likes of Calman, MacAuley, Andy Nicol etc will also be recategorised.
OK so none of them are particularly complimentary, but a "shitstorm of aggression and abuse"?  They strike me as fair crits (not that I agree with all of them) and, given that she had melodramatically recategorised them as abuse I suspected she (or her unnamed, hearsay informant) had translated twat into the more Anglo-Saxon cunt for dramatic effect on her blog.

Twitter erupted with both unionist politicians decrying Evil Cybernats and airheads (who've probably forgotten who she is by now) posting pictures of cats and cyberhugz to Ms Calman.  The Cybernats looked on bemused, occasionally asking for any evidence of the alleged abuse.  By now nigh-on every unionist politician was quoting that Ms Calman had been subjected to death threats.

It was the following morning (2nd May) that we got to Der Stürmer. This cartoon was published in The Hootsmon: 
Cybernats are lampooned as an ugly lynch mob with a noose fashioned in the form of the SNP logo while the SNP politicians look on powerless and dismayed. Furthermore, the original Hootsmon article had disappeared and been replaced with a tolerance plea from Fiona Hyslop, the SNP Culture Secretary, later to reappear in edited form.  The disappearing article saga is dealt with on Wings Over Scotland in The Memory Hole.  

 All this despite the fact that there had been no abuse whatsoever on Twitter or Facebook, just a few unappreciative but anodyne crits on a blog that wasn't even about The News Quiz or Ms Calman. Above all no evidence at all that the commenters had been members of the SNP, let alone which way they intend to vote in the independence referendum.

Ms Calman deleted her Twitter Account and twitter erupted with more airhead cyberhugz, cat pictures and even people tweeting that they had seen the non-exisant "vile abuse" on Twitter and that Ms Calman had been bullied off Twitter by Evil Cybernats.

Douglas Alexander waded in with one of those So-and-So will today articles that shows the churnalists for what they are, mere recyclers of press releases. The Telegraph announced that the SNP were Set on Smearing Opponents, The Times, The Sun, The Herald, The Daily Record and The Express all touted the party line set by the BBC.  Even the SNP were bounced into issuing a press release condemning the non-existant abuse.

All this from a hearsay publicity stunt by a third-rate 'comic'? 

The dead horse received another flogging in the Hootsmon on Sunday.  But that's not all that happened on Sunday. Cue a twitterstorm started by Ian Smart from Kilsyth, head honcho of LabourHame, long-time Labour Party Apparatchik, failed candidate and a former President of the Law Society of Scotland.

 Given the opportunity to retract, he followed it up with this:

Asked to condemn the racist language Lord McConnell, former First Minister, perversely blamed the Cybernats for Smart's apparent racism and invited the Twitterer to "Grow up".

Lord Foulkes later added his support for Smart. By last night there were threats of lawyers flying about.

What that spat reveals is the staggering smugness and sense of entitlement of the 3 of them. Firstly that Smart could use such language in this day and age, secondly the better 100 years of Tories shows how shallow his socialist principles are. Scottish Labour is a means to self-advancement for these people, nothing more.  Thirdly, they plainly believed that, such was their control of the Scottish Media Establishment, none of this would reach the public consciousness. 

The Daily Express has reported it this morning. I won't hold my breath waiting for the BBC or the Hootsmon to pick up the story. [Later edit: I stand corrected! The Hootsmon has picked up the story, but couldn't bring themselves to mention his Labour connections.  On the downside, the Guardian has this afternoon promoted the Green Goblin to Britannia. Give me strength!]

There has been much bemoaning of the lack of satire in the referendum debate, despite the excellent offerings of National Collective and BBC Scotlandshire.  Heres my wee effort:

The Declaration of Kilsyth

For as long as there’s the faintest chance that Labour may return to power in Scotland, we would rather see 100 years of foreign Tory dominion, as it is only the leaden hand of Wasteminster that keeps the feral Scots from beating up their [expletives deleted], ahem, immigrant communities. For it is not for honour or socialist principles that we fight, but for our personal self-interest alone, and a worthy Labour man would rather give up his life than the chance of an ermine robe, imperial bauble or public expense account.

Ian S Smart, Apparatchik-in-Chief and wannabe Lord Smart of Glenfiddich

Supported by

Lord McConnell of Glenfarclas
Lord Foulkes of Glenmorangie

But possibly questioned by

Anas Sarwar (Hereditary Labour MP for Govan)

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