Well, folks it's out. The result of the week-long, UK-wide, witch-hunt by the Scottish branch of the Daily Mail, the paedophiles' favourite paper. While your friendly, neighbourhood Cybernats have taken it on the chin, celebrities' 6, 14 and 9 year old daughters have gone unmolested by their leering lenses and sexualised bodily comments. I've spent 69p so you don't have to.
First off we have a puff piece at attempted intimidation which actually refers to dealing largely with threats of violence, by far the great majority of which come from the Unionist side on Twitter and Facebook. Note none of the "Prosecutors" mention Cybernats at all.
As Mail unmasks cybernat trolls and Sturgeon condemns internet abuse, prosecutors warn:
FIVE YEARS IN JAIL FOR THE ONLINE BULLIES
Scottish Daily Mail 25 Jan 2014 By Graham Grant, Home Affairs Editor.
INTERNET trolls who spread hate online face being locked up for five years, prosecutors warned last night. The intervention by the Crown Office comes amid growing concern over online activists allying themselves with the proindependence movement.
The Scottish Daily Mail today unmasks some of the worst ‘cybernats’ to highlight the way they have poisoned the national debate ahead of September’s referendum. In a wide-ranging investigation, the Mail found some of the most prominent cybernats are not even based in Scotland and have no right to vote in the historic poll on its future.
Last night, as calls escalated for the SNP to intervene to curb the wave of online abuse, it emerged that the Crown Office is planning a shake-up of prosecution guidelines to ‘get tough’ on the trolls. The Crown [sic] said anyone found guilty after being prosecuted before a sheriff and jury for offensive or abusive tweets or online comments faces being imprisoned for up to five years.
Meanwhile, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has made her first comments on the growing controversy. Asked directly about the increasing problem of cybernats, Miss Sturgeon said: ‘I deplore abuse on the internet and social media, wherever it comes from. ‘It doesn’t just come from one side, though, I could show you some of the abuse I get on Twitter. ‘You get people on Twitter who are not associated with either side of the argument.’ Miss Sturgeon added: ‘Everybody in politics has to lead by example and I am absolutely clear that Twitter and Facebook are a place for positive debate. I would condemn anyone who falls short of that.’
A Crown Office source confirmed the shake-up. The source said: ‘ We are currently working on plans to publish further prosecution guidance relating to offensive comments made on social media and are in the process of consulting with stakeholders. ‘We have been considering it [the shake-up] for a while as social media and the evidence obtained from it plays an increasingly important part in the prosecution of cases.’ A Crown Office spokesman said: ‘We presently have offence - specific guidance which deals with these types of offences. ‘Each case is considered on its own facts and circumstances and we take a robust approach to such comments if they are criminal in content regardless of source.’
The tougher stance comes after Scotland’s top law officer, Frank Mulholland, QC, last year warned that people who post offensive comments online about the Clutha bar tragedy could be jailed for up to five years. Mr Mulholland told prosecutors there is to be ‘a strong presumption in favour of criminal proceedings’ wherever it appears postings were motivated by ‘a hateful reaction to the events at the Clutha bar’.
The guidance meant such cases will be heard before a sheriff and jury, giving sheriffs the power to hand out sentences of up to five years, compared with one year if cases were heard without a jury. The planned changes to social media guidelines could lead to a tougher stance on cybernats in the run-up to September’s referendum.
Among the cybernats unmasked by the Mail are a blogger based in Bath, Somerset, whose wages are funded by supporters, who has no right to vote in the referendum, and a US businesswoman based in Edinburgh who believes Unionists ‘hate’ Scotland.
The cybernats are responsible for a growing wave of online hate and abuse, which critics say has turned online discussion forums such as Twitter into toxic ‘no-go zones’ for ordinary members of the public.
A Yes Scotland spokesman said: ‘We condemn all forms of online bullying and intimidation, regardless of which side of the debate it comes from. ‘The referendum campaign can do without the vitriol and as such, we instruct all staff and volunteers not to interact with Twitter or Facebook trolls.’
Next we have the regular Cybernat Watch feature. Make sure your maiden aunt doesn't drop her tea and scones if she catches sight of this, erm, "vile abuse".
Scottish Daily Mail 25 Jan 2014
THE latest volley of online abuse from the cybernats directed at anyone in the pro-Union camp:
Andrew Abel tweeted: ‘Ah yes, the “proud Scot” racist nationalist types. Vote # Yes to leave racist Unionism behind. #indyref’
In response to Labour MP Jim Murphy criticising cybernats, Gordon Ross ADI tweeted: ‘That London sellout Jim (shipyard killer) Murphy trying to silence free speech on internet. Well he can sod off. We won’t be silenced.’
SNP member Hugh Barclay tweeted: ‘@UK_Together No thanks, I’m no good at lying to my fellow Scots in the hope they vote No, I’m no good at fear bombing or smearing either.’
Tony McAllister tweeted: ‘@UK_ Together Sure, tell lies and spread misinformation from the comfort of ur home... easier not doing it face face.’
Then the Cybernats are unmasked, none of whom were masked in the first place. It seems quite a few of us "don't fit the stereotype". Perhaps because there is no stereotype - we're just ordinary Scots countering the flood of Unionist propaganda in the mainstream media. It's interesting to see the verbal contortions the chimp Grant goes through to try and make these folk seem sinister. One is on benefits (shock-horror!), one is even a Yank and not even Scottish - an appalling prospect to the racist chimp. Best of all, Wings Over Scotland is apparently a cult (I don't think it was a typo). All I can say (as a humble acolyte) is that Stuart Campbell has never demanded cyber-sex of me.
A retired oil executive, a jobless man of 41 who lives with his mum and a Bath-based video games writer. Meet just some of the agitators whose online poison is shaming the Nationalists
Scottish Daily Mail 25 Jan 2014 Graham Grant Special Investigation
HUNCHED in front of the flickering computer screen, Brendan Hynes is hard at work, despite the late hour. The divorced father of three has a look of intense concentration as his fingers race across the keyboard. Like a lot of retirees, the internet has provided him with a hobby, a useful way of keeping in touch with relatives. But the former oil industry executive isn’t tapping out friendly messages: from his flat in a housing complex in a sleepy Aberdeenshire village, he is spilling endless bile and vitriol onto Twitter, the ‘micro-blogging’ website.
Hynes has quickly established himself as a ‘cybernat’ – the army of online supporters of Scottish independence notorious for their provocative and often abusive comments and now at the centre of a growing political row.
Last week, Hynes, 64, tweeted prominent Unionist commentator John McTernan: ‘You are an outright collaborator, conspiring to put Scotland in subjection.’
Defending his comment later, Hynes tweeted: ‘So what would you call a person who seeks to give his country to another country to be lorded over – friend of the people?’ He has even posted altered pictures of David Cameron in a Nazi uniform alongside quotes from Auschwitz’s Angel of Death, the Nazi medic Josef Mengele.
When the Scottish Daily Mail tracked him down to his home in Peterculter, Hynes, responsible for nearly 11,000 tweets, many of them hate-filled, was unrepentant. ‘I send as many tweets as I want,’ he said. ‘I can put out as many as I like – that’s what it’s for. I’m retired, that’s what I do.’
It would be easy to dismiss these outpourings as irrelevant to the national debate on the independence referendum. But Hynes – and many like him – are turning Twitter and other online forums into ‘no-go zones’ for those who want to engage in a rational debate on the country’s future.
Many commentators, including some of the Mail’s own writers, have found themselves facing a tidal wave of abuse from cybernats who seek to poison political debate in this country. Unlike Hynes, many cybernats are more cowardly and hide behind aliases.
Some Nationalists have rightly pointed out that there are offensive tweeters, or online activists, on both sides; and there will always be those who pour out abuse unthinkingly, solely to cause offence.
But what marks out the cybernats is their modus operandi: from their disparate locations around the country, on smartphones, laptops and desktop computers in lonely bedrooms, they operate almost as one homogenous body.
There are central figures who spur on or co-ordinate this activity, binding them together and providing inspiration and moral support. In a show of defiance, they have even produced their own ‘cybernat’ logo for online use. The Scottish Daily Mail set out to un-mask some of them, with surprising results.
Some don’t live here and can’t vote in September’s crucial referendum, or aren’t even Scottish; some are outwardly respectable, professional people, reserving their bile for the internet.
And some, like Jason Dolan, rail against the UK Government, while openly admitting they depend on its benefits system. When the Mail visited his small terraced house in Cumbernauld, Dunbartonshire, he had been asleep for most of the day, only waking at around 6pm.
Dolan, 41, lives on state handouts (he has bad circulation and claims he cannot work) with his 73 year old mother. It is here that he crafts some of his sickening tweets, such as: ‘Be prepared for the Scottish Revolution if you #UK loving c**** try to stop the real Scots from getting independence. #SNP’ In another broadside, he says: ‘@antitoryparty Great tweets! And so true about #Tory scum bags! #IndyRef they are like the #NAZI party. Cameron won’t get in on 2015.’
Dolan is rather more reasoned in person, saying he would be ‘disappointed if people didn’t vote Yes, but I wouldn’t go all Braveheart about it’. His advice for victims of online trolling is simply to ‘ move on’. Other cybernats don’t fit this profile of the bitter, lonely blogger, spewing bile in the small hours.
Melissa Murray is a director of a management consultancy – Darkstar Resources – living in the affluent Bruntsfield area of Edinburgh. More surprisingly, the 45 year old mother of one is from the United States. In her Twitter biography – which also contains a picture of Edinburgh Castle – she describes herself as a ‘Yank living in Edinburgh [who] supports Scottish independence’. Among her tweets, read by more than 1,200 followers, is this observation: ‘ sorry but anyone who professes Scotland is #bettertogether truly must hate Scotland’.
In another tweet, she claims to be ‘ undecided’ about her political beliefs, saying: ‘I didn’t realise so many Better Together folk hated Mandela. As an undecided, I’m shocked by this fact.’ ‘Let’s hear it for the cybernats!’ she tweeted this week amid a growing political row over the way the phenomenon is poisoning political debate.
When the Mail visited her home the day before, she was rather less keen to back the cause, saying only: ‘I’m not an SNP person, so I don’t know what a cybernat is.’ Rather gleefully, she also referred to herself, after our visit, as a ‘famous cybernat’.
One of those she corresponded with this week on Twitter – the favoured medium of the cybernat – was a blogger called Wings Over Scotland.
Wings is in fact ‘Reverend’ Stuart Campbell, 46, a former video games journalist from Denny, Stirlingshire, who has built up a following of around 7,000 subscribers on the micro-blogging site after nearly 50,000 tweets.
‘Followers’ is an apposite term, as Wings has grown into something of a cult – so much so that many of them willingly donate cash to the blog to fund ventures such as opinion polls – and some of Campbell’s ‘wages’. But nothing is quite as it seems with the ‘Reverend’ (a claim no one has yet verified; last night, the Church of Scotland told the Mail it had no record of Campbell as a Kirk minister).
Campbell lives in Bath, Somerset (with his pet rats), which means he cannot even vote in the independence referendum.
‘Wings’ sees himself as a rallying point for the independence cause, urging his readers to try to convert as many ‘undecideds’ as possible.
On his website, he tells his acolytes: ‘they’ll [undecided voters] be hungry for more truth, and then you can send them our way.’ The self-aggrandising ‘ our’, of course, is slightly misleading, as Wings is more or less a one-man outfit, though he does sometimes commission and publish pro-independence submissions.
A self-publicist of the first order, Wings often boasts about his growing profile and Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham is one of his Twitter correspondents. Yes Scotland chief executive Blair Jenkins has previously replied to Campbell on Twitter and accepted an invitation from him to take part in a public debate, though the Yes camp has since distanced itself from him.
Perhaps it’s no wonder, as Campbell is prone to the kind of intemperate rants that have helped to turn Twitter into such a toxic environment. Straying from the topic of independence, he once sparred with the sister of Hillsborough victim Thomas Fox, telling her: ‘If people stop when they get to a wall of human beings instead of ramming it, nobody dies.’ He accused those he holds responsible for the crushing of being ‘c***s’.
This week, he tweeted pro-Union campaigner Andrew Skinner on Twitter: ‘I’d just like you to f*** off to Ireland’ (and then shamelessly revelled in the fact his tweet had been highlighted as an example of cybernat trolling).
In December, Campbell asked an SNP councillor: ‘Is there anyone you don’t like? Fred West? Harold Shipman? Anas Sarwar [Scottish Labour deputy leader]?’
Yet Campbell brazenly told the Mail: ‘The term “cybernat” is an attempted smear intended to denigrate anyone who supports independence and can operate a computer.’ He added: ‘The notion of a Great Cyber Control HQ where thousands of internet users are marshalled, coordinated and deployed in the service of dastardly separatist overlords is a paranoid fantasy worthy of Joe McCarthy.’
Campbell set out to raise £1,500 from his backers for one poll but took in £6,025 and claimed in an interview this week that he had to ask people to stop sending money. For the second poll, he asked for £2,500 but received £5,797, hitting his target in 70 minutes. Campbell also raised just over £33,000 to pay himself a wage and plans to run a second major funding appeal to secure that salary and to pay for further projects.
Last night, a Yes Scotland spokesman said: ‘Stuart Campbell is not part of Yes Scotland and we do not have any direct contact with him.’ But he conceded that ‘as the country becomes more engaged with the independence debate, it is likely that speaking events and debates will be proposed by a variety of groups and individuals’. He added: ‘We will continue to assess those offers on an individual basis.’
In Campbell’s orbit are lesser – but no less vociferous – cybernats.
One of them is Tommy Ball, 29, who recently called a Unionist commentator ‘Uncle Tam’ and has branded the British Army ‘scum’. Rejecting accusations from other angry Twitter users that British soldiers had died ‘fighting for the likes of you’ in 2012, he wrote: ‘There’s no British soldier fighting for anything I believe in. Bunch of child killers.’
Ball claimed to have been an SNP organiser in Nicola Sturgeon’s former Glasgow Govan seat – but after a row over his Twitter comments, he quit the party.
Yet Ball hardly conforms, at first glance, to the stereotype of the cybernat – he’s a lab technician who lives alone in Govan. Speaking at the door of his redbrick top-floor flat, he said he, too, has had had threats ‘levelled against me; people making threats on the internet’.
But Ball then undermined his point by claiming, implausibly, that ‘if someone is threatening on a social network, they’re not likely to pose a threat in real life’.
Andy Inglis, 53, is also an unlikely cybernat. A tweet from his account this week to a journalist said: ‘U have won “scaring & confusing my mother wi lies & propaganda” award. ‘Uras*** of the lowest order & a disgrace 2 journalism.’
Despite his foul-mouthed remarks, Inglis, the Edinburgh-based divorced father of a teenage daughter, describes himself online as a ‘former UN & UK government official’ who has worked in more than 50 independent countries.
He seemed uncharacteristically unwilling to air his views this week, however; Inglis tweeted that he knew the Mail wanted to contact him but he failed to get in touch.
Andrew Ellis, 52, on the other hand, is proud to be called a ‘cybernat’. He is helping to promote Scottish independence – from the unlikely location of his home in Chichester, West Sussex.
Mr Ellis, a commercial manager for computing firm Hewlett Packard since November, moved from Yorkshire to his present home in 1992 with his English wife, 51 year old Debbie. The Edinburgh born former politics student appears to be one of the more temperate cybernats, though at times he is a near-fanatical supporter of Wings, in many of his near-17,000 tweets to about 800 followers.
He told the Mail: ‘I am not a member of the SNP or a supporter, even though I find some of what they say and do quite attractive. ‘I am not a slave to the SNP – there are 800,000 Scots living in England and I’m sure plenty of them would also want independence.’ But he conceded: ‘I appreciate some of the people on Twitter can be quite extreme and unpleasant in what they say – but that is the same from both sides.
‘There is a lot of negativity from the No camp too, which could easily be reined in as well.’
Meanwhile, back in Cumbernauld, cybernat Dolan is in reflective mood. ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have written it,’ he admits, talking about one of his more abusive tweets. ‘But you can’t go back and change it.’
It can only be hoped that other cybernats take note of that selfawareness and contrition – however belated. But many of those who have fallen victim to their vicious broadsides are unlikely to be holding their breath.
And finally, to hammer the point home, The leader comment:
Shame of cybernatsScottish Daily Mail 25 Jan 2014 Probably by Alan Roden (pictured).
We accept there are culprits on both sides of the political divide but, consistently, it is the cybernats who shout the loudest and offend the most.
The Crown Office should be applauded for ordering a review of prosecution guidelines which would see internet trolls jailed for up to five years. Now it is time the Nationalists took a positive stance too – by censuring the odious activists who abuse people in their name.
Yawn! However, at least we Cybernats know how both current and historical Romanians feel: When Rothermere urged Hitler to invade Romania. Hat tip to Joe Kane.
And Finally, A postscript from 31st January
Blair MacDougall soars the heady heights of hypocrisy once more:
Wings Over Scotland: The Bully Pulpit
Wee Ginger Dug: Witch Hunts and Who's afraid of Who?
And Finally, A postscript from 31st January
Blair MacDougall soars the heady heights of hypocrisy once more:
Organised photography filming & confrontation of ordinary volunteers is intimidating & creepy. Any YES people willing to condemn? #indyrefSee also
— Blair McDougall (@blairmcdougall) January 31, 2014
Wings Over Scotland: The Bully Pulpit
Wee Ginger Dug: Witch Hunts and Who's afraid of Who?