A world in which the SNP suffers a schism and is weakened is not viable in this world of social media and is unlikely to survive its difficult birth


A Clegg tries to bite the SNP on the bum


The Daily Record’s David Clegg talked, on BBC Newsnight two nights ago, of ‘it [the Salmond case] having ‘cleaved through the nationalist movement in Scotland.’ This and hundreds of other mainstream media pronouncements are beginning to develop a narrative of schism and of weakening in the SNP and the wider independence movement.

Had this happened only ten or so years ago, that reality might have been born and survived scrutiny, to actually cause damage, but as social media swells cuckoo-like and begins to push the old media out of the nest, like a sad wee marsh warbler, it seems likely the bairn will not survive.

In a world before the growth of social media, with 2.3 billion active Facebook users, 335 million active Twitter users and perhaps 100 million writing blogs including explicitly political ones like this, old media [newspapers, TV, radio] could largely create the reality most establishment-members felt they were experiencing.

Young Christian Unionists in…..Israel?

The interlocking of media and establishment political elites made it possible for that reality to be one which suited their shared interests. Consider the above image to see how that might look in Scotland. Also, readers might remember Kirsty Wark, sharing holiday accommodation with Labour First Minister, McConnell, and her subsequent tribal aggression in interviewing Alex Salmond.

Remember, though, that this requires no conspiracy. It does not require Davidson, Thompson and Dugdale to be telling Clegg what to say and do. Being part of those interlocking elites along with other well-known members in Scotland’s unionist media and political parties, Clegg believes in what he does and says and, crucially generates the required material in a steady, often subconscious, flow. He, like they do, acts in his own interests but those interests are, for the most part, the same interests of his collective. If any of them were to be acting in a fully conscious and conspiratorial way that would be unsustainable and dangerous for their mental health because they would then be open to reasoned contradiction and evidence, leading to cognitive dissonance, changing sides, or breakdown. Only a few, like the late Ian Bell, survive that awakening.

General intelligence matters little in this as we saw when Emily Maitles warmly thanked Clegg for re-affirming what she already thinks is the case in Scotland. McWhirter disappointed her a little by not fully conforming but in the establishment-glare seemed to forget the kind of defence of Salmond’s rights he had been tweeting so bravely before. See:

McWhirter’s stout defence of Salmond fades in the BBC establishment glare

In some ways, there’s a kind of zombie-like predictability in the behaviour of the Unionist media and their political buddies but as in all zombie drama, despite their scary raving and slavering, they eventually lose.

Reporting Scotland staff seek interview with Alex Salmond

Things are different now. The old media are in full retreat with collapsing audiences as social media swarms with alternative constructions of reality being generated in a healthy process of open debate and evidence sharing.

You might argue that I and other independence-supporting commentators and activists are inevitably subject to the same socialisation process, making us zombies too. That can happen, but the more open, raw, anarchic and highly interactive nature of social media means that we are constantly challenged by dissonance and, I hope, retain our freedom to act and to think independently, at least at times, differently from the herd.

Never predict anything, they say, and I agree BUT I predict that the SNP, Sturgeon and Salmond, will survive this and perhaps even grow further in strength and solidarity. We’ll see, I suppose, in subsequent opinion polls and releases of party membership numbers. At worst, I think we’ll see little change as only a decreasingly small number remember these events for long and fewer still act upon them.

Footnote: The Social Construction of Reality and Manufacturing Consent remain seminal reading on this:



I won’t be testing you.


20 thoughts on “A world in which the SNP suffers a schism and is weakened is not viable in this world of social media and is unlikely to survive its difficult birth

  1. tcrosbie20 August 31, 2018 / 9:37 am

    Brilliant piece Prof, a glimmer of normality of the events recently, in this sea of ridiculous unionist media sewer gutter journalism.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. macgilleleabhar August 31, 2018 / 9:50 am

    “Group think “sums up the Unionists/Loyalist thinking, rightly or wrongly, for me and I believe this deprives them of insight into the Indy thinking as they expect a uniform reaction to their media manipulation.
    I see the Independence movement as too individualistic to be swayed much by MSM manipulation.
    The power of free thought greatly aided by the Internet is working in our favour.

    Liked by 6 people

  3. Sooz August 31, 2018 / 10:18 am

    What an interesting read. Sharing.

    There’s a difference in focus, too. Unionists and their media are looking at the short term: the next government, their place in it, their need (figuratively) to beat everyone else to a pulp so they can hang on to that rung on the ladder. The Yes family, on the other hand: the whole diverse, cross-party movement, is powered by a drive to change the entire political system in Scotland; throwing out the ladder and working towards a healthier, more productive form of government that we run ourselves. That’s why we won’t be diverted from the journey, because nothing and no-one is more important than that goal.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Alasdair Macdonald August 31, 2018 / 10:27 am

    You are right in your analysis of this and in your comment relating to people like us – i.e. supporters of independence for Scotland – that we, too, construct our realities.

    What we have been seeing in the mainstream media and amongst unionist politicians (has Wullie Rennie opined? I have not noticed anything,) is the interlocking group which had, and to a fair degree still has, control over the media for public discourse … or rather the public discourse within the parameters which they set. However, as you have indicated, social media has changed that. It is difficult to control – and the msm cadre are trying hard to control it – and therein lies its potency to sustain alternative ‘realities’.

    The Breitbart/Trumpian groups are, also, using these media for their messages and, they are not exactly best pals with the groups who would claim themselves to be ‘centrist’. I am not, of course, indicating support for the ‘Breitbart’ type groups, but using them as an illustrative example. The support which such groups are getting because of their ‘populist’ themes, exemplified in a fair amount of the Brexit debate, also indicates that the kind of hegemony which the ‘centrists’ exercised is weakened. Many will perceive the attempted smearing of Mr Salmond in the same light as supporters of President Trump perceive the criticisms of him. I am not implying in any way that support for Scottish independence is equivalent to the kind of loathesome racism of Breitbart, but pointing out that the narratives of the ‘centrists’ no longer have the potency they once had. LGBT+ people, for example, campaigners for disability rights, and other single issue pressure groups have been able to use social media very effectively to develop their arguments and, to a remarkable extent, get these ideas widely accepted – e.g. same sex marriage,

    Perhaps WB Yeats’ ‘a terrible beauty is born’ is appropriate.

    PS With regard to the second photograph which you have used, are we supposed to be able to identify some of those ‘young Christian unionists …’?

    Liked by 3 people

    • mogabee August 31, 2018 / 10:49 am

      I recognise a moothy MP of the Tory variety on the right (naturally) second from last!


    • johnrobertson834 August 31, 2018 / 10:59 am

      Thanks. I think Clegg, Dugdale and Thumper Thompson are clear but must admit I don’t recognise the rest. It was in a tweet by someone who seemed sure. A ‘source’?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Ludo Thierry August 31, 2018 / 1:11 pm

    I can defo recognise Kezia D and Ross ‘Thumper’ Thompson – Is Clegg supposed to be the guy on the left with the blue short sleeved shirt? – Could be him I suppose – can’t be sure though.

    I wondered if it might be Jenny Gilruth on the right (in the red top)? – (would be before she changed to a blonder hair tint though) – I seem to remember that Jenny and Kezia went (a few years back) on a funded ‘Young leaders’ type course in the USA organised by some US Govt outfit or ‘think tank’ dedicated to protecting plutocracy across the globe.

    I can’t recall ‘Thumper’ being mentioned at the time but it would make sense – it was a cross party trip from the Scottish Parlt. and he was an MSP (fairly briefly). – The kind of tortuous guess-work I’m involved in here is umpteen times more accurate than your routine ESSENNPEE BAAAAD ‘Scottish’ M$M tabloid hack undertakes when preparing their ‘SNP Splits’ headlines and articles.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Ludo Thierry August 31, 2018 / 1:16 pm

    Talking of the ‘Scottish’ M$M print media – the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) figures for ‘regional’ press came out today. See below figures edited from HoldTheFrontPage info:

    A Sunday newspaper which is set to close this weekend suffered an 18pc year-on-year drop in circulation, today’s ABC figures have revealed.
    Its circulation stood at 16,345 over the period, an 18pc year-on-year decline.

    Meanwhile the ABCs show the Herald struggling also as an ‘online’ platform:
    The Herald, Glasgow: Daily Average Unique browser = 78,916, year on year change = -15%

    Paper sales for all the ‘Scottish’ M$M continue to decline – Hold TheFrontPage kindly try to strip out ‘frees and bulks’ from the figures to give a more accurate representation of the situation: Figures are for the 6 months Jan – June 2018: The figures are given as Daily Average Sales (paper copies) and the figure in the brackets is the ‘year on year’ percentage change (all figures show a ‘negative’ growth ie drop in sales):

    Herald: 24,265 (-12.26%)

    Scotsman: 13,739 (-13.43%)

    P+J: 45,550 (-7.21%)

    Dundee Courier: 34,060 (-7.82%)

    Dundee Evening Telegraph: 12,351 (-11.46%)

    Aberdeen Evening Express: 20,957 (-12.35%)

    Glasgow evening Times: 19,130 (-14.59%)

    The slow grinding death of the remaining ‘Scottish’ M$M continues – like a fish they rot from the head down.

    Liked by 2 people

    • macgilleleabhar August 31, 2018 / 9:56 pm

      And the P&J announce a price rise!! Echoes of my ms-spent youth in the 1960s saying of ” Sh1t or bust” from the P&J as “North East Man and City Man ” headlines prepare to turn into headstones. No more scanning of the obituaries page for me to see my status or crossword for “She who must be obeyed ” then. Apologies to the fine Indian people at the paper shop as the Aberdeen Beano is permanently cancelled. The Sunday Mail has already committed Hari Kiri but may be replaced by the Sunday National provided no leftist vacuous airheads disgrace a column.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Brian McGowan August 31, 2018 / 2:34 pm

    Thanks Prof – you express so clearly what many, including me, are thinking.
    I had a short but civil email exchange with MacWhirter. He seems to see the problem this may create for the SNP, but fails to see the role played by the media, and by the main opposition party pygmies, shouting from the gutter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • johnrobertson834 August 31, 2018 / 3:38 pm

      McWhirter, Bateman and some others on our side baulk at Chomsky’s analysis and insist there are still ‘good people’ (old school, Uni, work, friends) in the MSM.


      • Alasdair Macdonald August 31, 2018 / 7:44 pm

        I have some friends who work in the media, who are strongly pro-independence, and whose opinions I value, who concur with the views of Messrs McWhirter and Bateman.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Ludo Thierry August 31, 2018 / 4:35 pm

    Interesting to note that Newsquest saw an 18% drop (from Jan to June) in Sunday Herald (year on year comparison) and took the decision to cease production and move to 2 new papers ie The Herald on Sunday and The Sunday National – It doesn’t take a genius to surmise that the very rapid circulation drop was a response from Indy minded readers (and other fair minded readers interested in press balance) withdrawing their purchasing support in the face of constant editorial ‘knocking’ and, sadly, fabrications/misrepresentations of the actions/intents/hopes of the Indy movement.

    Newsquest is a US based conglomerate and seem more sensitive to the economic arguments and have made a decision to scrap the failing Sunday Herald and replace with 2 more representative titles serving different elements of the population. Proof positive that concerted economic action by the Indy movement can – in particular circumstances – achieve some substantial results. Worth pondering on – How can we better organise ourselves to use the Indy ‘pound’ to curtail the worst excesses of the Unionist project from the Britnat supporting business world – and best support those elements of the business world which don’t thirl themselves to the Union Project?

    Also noted from ABC figures that the Hootsmon is no longer including (freebies) zero-paid copies in their figures. They do however include 3,274 deeply discounted (price) copies. That’s why HoldTheFrontPage count their figures as daily average of 13,839 (rather than the ‘official’ claim of 17,013). Can’t help but wonder whether scrutiny from Talking Up Scotland is partly responsible for Hootsmon dropping the freebies from its figures – they were making themselves laughing stocks and clearly didn’t care for the actualite being broadcast over this issue.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. grizebard September 1, 2018 / 11:18 am

    I can’t help but think that this latest absurdist media attempt to conjure an SNP “schism” out of nothing is part of an ongoing attempt by the British Nationalists to disillusion the people of Scotland. To convince waverers that fundamental change is impossible. A desperate attempt to forestall the widespread tipping point that they fear is now imminent with the slow unravelling of the Brexit con and ongoing UK governmental incompetence.

    All part of a cynical strategy, one suspects, of trying to create an “Ulster-lite” situation in Scotland, in which opposite sides of the independence divide become locked into intransigent stasis, thereby guaranteeing continuing London dominance. The old “divide and conquer” ploy. And is it mere coincidence that people of Northern Irish origin often seem to feature in these attempts..?


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