On the relevance of fellow travellers

Almost a year ago, this image was doing the rounds on social media:


It seemed to have been produced anonymously and as a graphic it was amateurish. I commented on it in my other blog, my main complaint being the loaded way in which it highlighted the BNP (or as many Scots might say, ‘Who?’). I concluded, as it turns out presciently,

Watch out for more of this tedious stuff over the next twelve months.

Bang on cue, and on the day before the football world cup final yesterday, the same idea flooded social media, transformed wittily (?) into a football line up:

YesNo football graphicYou’ll spot the differences – the superior graphic quality, the new players introduced on both sides.

What you can’t see is that this time round the image, if not produced by the Yes Scotland campaign, received their official endorsement when they tweeted it. And last time round, while the earlier amateurish image was retweeted by a spoof Nicola Sturgeon account, this time the real one copied Yes Scotland’s image to her followers with the accompanying text – ‘Look who lines up for Yes. And who lines up for No. #indyref #voteYes #Scotland.’

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. The image is biased and partial

  • on the Yes side it includes a selection of the groups that support independence, including business (comforting), women (equal), the arts (creative) and mums (aah). But it omits similar groups on the No side
  • on the Yes side it omits the Scottish Socialist Party (member of Yes Scotland but a bit too scary perhaps) and Wings over Scotland (a Yes campaigner registered with the Electoral Commission – definitely too scary). But on the No side it includes the BNP (not registered with the Electoral Commission and as far as I know has taken no part in the campaign) and something called the Britannica Party which I for one have never even heard of (perhaps they’re based on a yacht).

The purpose is clear – and I don’t claim Yes Scotland is the only organisation to do this – it is to smear by association. Even if they don’t spell it out there are plenty of people on social media who are willing to draw a conclusion that

No = Unionism = Tories = UKIP = BNP =  … [arrange the bêtes noires in any order you prefer]

A slippery slope is inferred. One evil merges into another. And the fellow travellers are all in it together.

The truth is that throughout history you can find people and organisations, good and bad, who at a particular time support the same cause or idea for very diverse reasons. That itself doesn’t make the cause or idea unworthy. The Second World War brought Britain, the USA and the Soviet Union together in an alliance to defeat the evil of fascism. From my reading of history, American President Franklin D Roosevelt was very much a decent man. I’m not sure I’d have wanted to spend much time debating the merits of democracy with Joe Stalin.

There are some unpleasant fellow travellers on both sides of the Scottish independence referendum debate. Each side has its good guys too (and no, it’s not helpful to call your opponent’s good guys ‘deluded’).

So let’s debate the big ideas, question and challenge the facts, point out inconsistencies in people’s arguments. Robustly, even. But, please Yes Scotland, don’t infer that I am somehow an extremist just because some nasty people lurking in a corner happen to feel the same way as me on this one issue.

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One Response to On the relevance of fellow travellers

  1. James Mayfair says:

    I realise this is somewhat late and largely inconsequential as a result, but the pedant in me demands I point out that the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) is included in the yes side. Allocated the right centre midfield position. I’d have played them on the far left wing myself.


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