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We made a decision at the Butterfly Rebellion to speak out against Common Space for its repeated and ongoing attacks on Wings Over Scotland. We made this decision not because of some irrational loyalty to Stu Campbell and the Wings team, but because we feel that the fight for independence is the most important social and political struggle of our generation. We know that the Westminster government will never defend the poor and the marginalised of Scotland. The only way we can protect people here is by securing independence and making decisions in Scotland for the good of Scotland. Movement solidarity is and has always been essential, and, considering the forces of the British establishment we have arrayed against us, we reckon we need Wings.
Our movement is – and please process this – engaged in a real conflict with Britain. This is the sort of imperialist conflict the London establishment is prepared to kill people over. If you are in any doubt over this, go and Google “Willie McRae.” Of course the independence referendum was fun; it brought a lot of likeminded people together and galvanised the Yes movement, but – really – this isn’t the time or place for student union politics or for meeja types to feather their own nests by carving out careers for themselves. Separatism, be we nationalists or autonomists, is a serious bloody business.
As Common Space continued, on the flimsiest of pretexts, to gnaw on the Wings bone, and only after we repeatedly begged them to desist, we had to make a decision. What it was doing and what it is still doing in its “opinion” columns poses a serious threat to the cohesion and integrity of the entire movement; possibly resulting in the end of ScotRef before it begins.
Since we made that announcement we too have found ourselves at the receiving end of Common Space’s fury. It has done this both directly and indirectly. James McEnaney, Common Space writer and journalist for the unionist Daily Record, attempted to paint our editor as some class of racist, fascist blood and soil nationalist by deliberately misconstruing a piece he had written on his own blog, the Random Public Journal. Jason dealt with this in a response of his own and so there is little need to go over that again here. It is the indirect attack that interests us the most. This is interesting in that it employs quite a nasty astroturfing tactic used against the independence movement by Better Together in the 2012-14 independence referendum campaign.
Out of nowhere we found ourselves the target of jokes from a new parody account, “@CommonWings.” We were being discredited as the “Buttfly Revolution” in tweets – purportedly from a pro-independence joker – which subtly suggested we were conspiracists and crackpots. Perhaps we are. If that were the case, sure, we’d be the last to know. But it interested us that this hostility was coming at us in defence of Common Space. Of course we did some digging. Who was behind this new account, exactly?
He who smelt it dealt it. It’s a general rule of Twitter that the first follower of a “sock puppet” account is its creator, and this account should – following this rule – be the first to publicise it by retweeting it. We clicked onto CommonWings’ followers list and scrolled to the bottom and we found the account’s first retweeter and, lo and behold, it was the same name – “@AngryScotland,” previously “@AngrySalmond.”
Butterfly Rebellion (@Butterfly_Reb) August 01, 2017
Okay, reading this, you are probably as surprised as we were. Angry is one of the good guys, and in the main we completely agree. We have always followed and loved him, but there have been rumours. One rumour is that this dearly loved witticist of the independence movement is not just one wee guy tweeting belly laughs, but a group account run by a number of people associated with what would eventually become Common Space. It is only a rumour, but we had to have a wee poke through his tweets – going back quite a while – for some clues.
Scanning down his most recent tweets it quickly becomes obvious that Angry is the owner the CommonWings – he retweets it as often as he himself tweets – and that he is very much partisan on the side of Common Space in the current controversy. We even noticed that he was keen to get in on McEnaney’s snipe at Jason Michael, tweeting CommonWings saying: “Jason is right. All you selfish marginalised minority type people need to shut up and get to the back of the bus until I’ve won indy.” Whoever Angry is, he/she/they is/are not neutral. So what about a real link to Common Space?
A quick advanced search for “@TheCommonSpace” on Angry’s account reveals that he has always been a principle cheerleader for Common Space’s fundraisers, and – more interestingly – he references his presence at the Common Space office. If Angry’s not a shell for Common Space, he’s as damn close to one as we’re ever going to find.
So what’s the plan? Well the current message Angry is sharing is about “boring blogs.” We can only assume, given his defence of Common Space and his support of Common Space’s ongoing war on the blogs it has annoyed, that he means us and a number of other pro-independence blogs and bloggers. This is where things get really frustrating with what the people behind Common Space and Angry are doing. These “boring blogs” fought an independence campaign against the BBC and the entire British media establishment long before Common Space even existed. Are they now presuming to tell Yessers that they can ditch those bloggers because the “new left” now has everything under control? That is certainly what it sounds like.
If this is what is happening; with @AngryScotland acting as a conduit for Common Space to continue its attacks on pro-independence blogs, then we are looking at some serious and pretty nasty astroturfing – unseen in Scottish online political discussion since Better Together deployed it against us all during IndyRef.
Sure, as we are nothing but a bunch of conspiracist, racist, writers of a boring blog, you are free to stop reading. By all means stop reading all the boring blogs Common Space, Angry, and CommonWings will identify for you. Seek unity and solidarity over a healthy suspicion at what is going on. Do all that and you’ll have leaders for your movement, but very soon there’ll be nothing left of the Yes movement we all built. But, then, we are beginning to think that this is the whole point.
The Butterfly Rebellion