If you think blogging’s an indulgence, descend to the depths of Twitter (apart from my own brilliant tweets of course). There hashtags come and go like snow on a dyke and sometimes with as much auditory impact as breaking wind in a thunderstorm.
One of the latest to appear is #SNPbad. This is used by tweeting nationalists to imply that anyone critical of the SNP is merely seeking to blacken that fair party’s name. It’s sometimes added to a straight-forward denunciation of a criticism and sometimes used with heavy irony, as in
My ScotRail train was 10 minutes late this morning #SNPbad.
I invented that one but you’ll get the drift.
A more recent development championed, my informants claim, by Pete Wishart MP is #SNPbaad. Unless he chooses to come on here (unlikely) and tell me I’ve got it wrong I understand this to mean exactly the same as its slightly older sibling but with the added implication that all critics, well unionist critics, are sheep. Get it? Baa.
I really care about this latest efflorescence of social media ephemera as much as I cared about the now venerable, which of course on Twitter means about nine months old, #tictoc. In other words it’s a mild irritation, which is what is intended of course, but it counts for nothing more and like all things will pass.
What is interesting however is what it tells us about the special claim that nationalism makes.
Look elsewhere on Twitter – you won’t have to look very hard – and you’ll find right-wingers hammering socialists and vice versa with as much gusto as any unionist/nationalist ding-dong in Scotland. The difference, and I stand open to correction here, is that they usually seem to be able to do it without appending a heavy-handed hashtag, a hashtag which, in this case, tells you as much about those who use it as their opponents.
It tells you that those nationalists who use it are too defensive, are hyper-sensitive to criticism, and seek a special place for themselves, or at least their political party of choice, above and beyond normal politics. But it won’t wash. If you want to do normal politics like form a government you have to take all the brickbats coming with that.
It’s about as ridiculous as the upset over the 2014 Lewes bonfire effigies of Alex Salmond or, and it gives me pleasure to reproduce it here, Steve Bell of The Guardian’s cartoon about the SNP’s manoeuvring in advance of the 2015 general election:
Both caused outrage amongst more febrile nationalists and both were, bizarrely, dubbed racist by people who were most probably completely unaware of the context of both including, in the Steve Bell case, the origin of the reference to incest and folk-dancing. And if you’re already in a huff about that, no I’m not going to spoon feed you, away and work it out yourself.
So, to subvert another recent Twitter hashtag, I’m proud to say that #Jesuismouton too. The only thing to remember, my nationalist friends, is what long-suffering Aberdeen football fans cried out when their team at last turned the corner of defeat
The sheep are on fire!
Or as we’d say on Twitter #thesheepareonfire. Baa!