In which I become (or perpetrate) clickbait

Until today I had scarcely heard the word ‘clickbait’ let alone know its meaning.

I have now been enlightened by no less a person than the Scottish Government’s cabinet secretary for fair work, skills and training. She said


She was referring to a tweet I had sent

gallagherGoogle helpfully provided me with a definition of the phenomenon:

(on the Internet) content, especially that of a sensational or provocative nature, whose main purpose is to attract attention and draw visitors to a particular web page

She wasn’t the first to mention me in despatches. By the time she sent her tweet above I had already received a number of messages about mine. A few were complimentary but most tended towards the views of the delightful Claire Robertson. Having blocked me a long time ago, she unblocked me, sent this tweet

claire and then ran for cover again, reblocking me as fast as she’d unblocked me (note the SNP logo, by the way, on her photo).

Oh well, just part of social media’s rich pattern I mused. Move on.

Then I thought, no, this wee spat is worth just a little more analysis.

To find out what upset so many nationalists (you could tell they were not only from what they said but also, like Claire, from the assorted twibbons their Twitter profiles sported) you’ll need to take Ms Cunningham’s ‘bait’ and click through to see what Tom Gallagher, emeritus professor of politics at Bradford university, actually wrote. I’ll leave you to do that and to draw your own conclusion. Mine, for what it’s worth, is that what he wrote rang true, which of course is why I brought it to people’s attention.

I’ll not repeat all the hostile tweets I received but here are the lessons I drew from them.

First, with one exception (someone who queried the by now much-analysed figure of £7.6 billion Gallagher mentions – analysed here for example) all the adverse comments I received played Gallagher the man (‘British Nationalist’) not the ball, what he actually wrote.

Second I suspect, but have no proof, that from what some people said, they hadn’t even bothered to read Gallagher’s piece before condemning it. Indeed, I’ve had the same response before myself. When someone condemned what I’d said on my blog I asked what they thought of it, to get the answer ‘What? I’d give you the satisfaction of reading that p*sh?’

Third, but I didn’t need reminding, the SNP and their followers do not like criticism and find it difficult to respond rationally to it. This would fit with recent research (the British Election Study 2015 wave 4) which showed that a much higher proportion of SNP members than any other party, nearly 52%, thought that criticism of their party felt like a personal insult. It also plays to the notion of nationalism as more of a faith that cannot be criticised than a normal set of political beliefs.

The most interesting thing in this for me is the fact that a cabinet secretary would descend (yes, I’d accept that word) from the heights of government and leadership to have a go at me, a mere blogger with no party affiliation. Why would she bother to do that, and why would she use the slightly tecchie term ‘clickbait’? I can only conclude the word has gone out that the faithful should not be exposed to ideas that don’t fit the party line, and that senior members have been briefed on the forms that this can take, including ‘clickbait.’ How much better it would have been for her to say something like ‘This is rubbish but read it and you’ll see what I mean.’

As a final thought, what government member of any other party in the UK would even bother to do this? I cannot imagine but would be interested to know whether this level of sensitivity and defensiveness is unique to the SNP.

PS – someone must like me. As I write, my tweet has been viewed over 2,300 times and retweeted, approvingly, nearly 50 times. Thanks folks.

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One Response to In which I become (or perpetrate) clickbait

  1. PaulQ says:

    “Third, but I didn’t need reminding, the SNP and their followers do not like criticism and find it difficult to respond rationally to it.”

    Remind us which group felt strongly enough about nationalism to riot after the referendum result?

    And that was when they won. Imagine if they’d (or you – seeing as you seem to enjoy tarring everyone with same brush) LOST?

    Roll on the next referendum and we’ll find out…. (took two refs for devolution remember; you can’t just make the desire of nearly half of Scotland – and rising as the auld yins give way to younger folk – for self-determination). All the best.


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