The Block List: An Open Letter to Wings

Since Twitter suspended the Wings Over Scotland account yesterday there has been a great deal of discussion on the topic of the Rev. Stuart Campbell’s list of blocked Twitter users – the famous “block list.” Who anyone choses to block on social media is no one else’s business, and this applies as much to Wings Over Scotland as it does anyone else. Given that Wings Over Scotland is the single largest pro-independence account on Scottish Twitter, and given that its owner – the Rev. Campbell – has made its list of blocked users shareable and replicable, the question of who ends up on that list becomes a matter of quite considerable interest to the wider independence movement. This letter is not in any way a criticism of Wings Over Scotland; a social media presence we at the Butterfly Rebellion admire, but merely an observation and an attempt to resolve some issues for the good of the movement.

On Monday when Twitter suspended Wings Over Scotland, in what can only be described as a gross violation of civil liberties and the freedom of speech, the Butterfly Rebellion team immediately mobilised – with thousands of others – to raise awareness of what had happened and worked tirelessly to have the suspension lifted. We are delighted that Wings Over Scotland is now free to get on with what it does best. As a journalist and a card-carrying member of the National Union of Journalists the matter of Wings’ suspension was particularly troubling to me. I decided to take the day off work (thanks for that one, by the way) and spent it contacting friends and contacts who might have been in a position to help. I like to think that I did my bit. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Until today I was not aware of the block list, and, having read the website page that contains the downloadable replicable list, it makes sense. It makes sense to block certain people on social media who for one reason or another have become a nuisance. Yes, Stuart has a right to block who he wishes. There is no rule in place to stop him sharing a list of who he blocks, but, however, we would like to question the usefulness of this for a movement that must now be working harder to unify and work together for what we all want the most – independence for Scotland.

Nothing now stops Wings Over Scotland from adding the Butterfly Rebellion to this list, and we understand that this will result in significant damage to the work that we are doing. This open letter then is a serious act of trust – because we trust Wings Over Scotland, and we owe Stuart Campbell and the entire Wings team a huge debt of gratitude. We are loyal to Wings, and sometimes being loyal means saying difficult things. We hope that this is received in the spirit in which it is intended.

So to the Rev. Campbell we shall begin by echoing the words of a famous Palestinian Jew, “Blessed are the peacemakers (Matthew 5:9).” We are writing in the sincere hope of making peace between him and many in the independence movement who are now experiencing the adverse effects of being on this list.

We have no reason to believe that this list was created and shared with anything other than the very best of intentions, but – like many well-intentioned ideas – we suggest that this has had far-reaching and serious consequences for many people who are also working very hard for the common good and Scottish independence. That they have found themselves blocked by so many means that they have been ostracised and kept out of the information loop. Information is the life blood of every movement, and starving members of the movement of it can only ever hurt us all. We must also remember that many people on this list worked their socks off during the Yes Scotland campaign – knocking on thousands of doors, fighting the good fight, and winning Yesses on the ballot. We needed them then, and we most certainly need them now. Many have said that they have lost heart, and some have given up altogether as a result of their online blocking from the wider movement.

Rev. Campbell – We urge you to reconsider this list. Neither you nor we can win this information war on our own (no matter the size of our accounts). We need the work of thousands, and we have learnt that every single activist and vote counts. Please, we beg you to think this over. Give it more thought. We hope that we will soon have another chance to push the door we almost opened two years ago. We want everyone to be on-board and working for Scotland together.

As ever, we at the Butterfly Rebellion are your friends and we will continue to work with you in common cause. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all that you have done and are still doing. Thanks for reading.

The Butterfly Rebellion
Jason Michael
Ayrshire, Scotland

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