‘They must be mad, literally mad’ is how I feel about the tweet above, the person who posted it, and all those who’ve liked it. Their souls and brains seem to have migrated to a far place where sane human beings cannot penetrate.
Here’s the story.
Alison Brown (a.k.a. Alison Rollo, who once looked forward to the demise of elderly unionists) posted this objection on Facebook to Walkers, a great Speyside company, marketing their shortbread in Germany in a tin whose lid is in the form of a union flag.
The Herald newspaper picked this up and concocted a lazy story out of it with the headline ‘Complaints over Walkers’ shortbread sold under a Union Flag’. It was lazy because, in the modern impoverished-media style, it did little more than string a number of Facebook comments and tweets together and add a response from Walkers. By the time they did so Ms Brown’s broken heart had been shared over 900 times (presumably approvingly) on Facebook.
Old social media hands will know what happened next: Twitter for one went into overdrive with approval and denunciations of Brown/Walkers in equal measure, much of it in the intemperate tones we’ve all come to expect.
Some time during the day The Scotsman realised they were missing out and tweeted ‘The firm is set to return to the Saltire after admitting a “terrible marketing faux pas”’, this allegedly based on a claim by one of Ms Brown’s friends that he had spoken to Walkers (full quote in the Scotsman article). [The Scotsman tweet was subsequently edited to remove the ‘faux pas’ statement]
This didn’t quite match the brief factual statement issued by the company which they clarified to at least one enquirer by adding ‘All other comments in the media may not be reliable’. In other words the ‘faux pas’ claim was itself faux. But hey, it’s 2018 and who cares about fake news.
The highlight of the day’s madness (remember this is all about a label on a tin of biscuits) came when an online nationalist claimed unionists were obsessed with flags.
As I write, the row has rumbled on overnight. It’s not the first of its kind (remember the great Tunnock’s teacake protest?) nor will it be the last. It seems hardly a day goes by without someone proposing a boycott of some hapless organisation that has had the temerity to display the wrong flag on its packaging, or even fail to display the right flag. Someone discovers their driving licence has a small union flag printed on it, posts a defaced photo of it and a new round of outrage is set off.
It is a kind of madness. If you doubt me, consider these three examples appearing on Twitter yesterday:
- ‘Rob’ a.k.a. @Ruffheaded who tweeted of Walkers ‘500 of the lowest paid workers in Scotland’. I challenged what I’m sure is a defamatory statement, but of course he remained silent
- @PaulSnowdon5 who referred to ‘Mr Walker’s … Uncle Tam Yoon bias’. I doubt if Paul even knows there are several male Walkers involved in what is a long-standing family business, let alone which one he’s defaming (I’ve never seen any political statements attributed to any of them). Mind you, I hardly dare mention they hold a Royal Warrant as suppliers of oatcakes and shortbread to the Queen in case it sets off another round of scurrilous abuse
- And in a special kind of crazy but clever corner, Glasgow SNP councillor Mhairi Hunter, who tweeted ‘I do feel sorry for shortbread makers. Mind the old days when shortbread was quite a fancy alternative to bourbons, custard creams & the like. Who eats them now? …’ Note how she manages to put down the likes of Walkers without mentioning them by name. As for comparing shortbread to custard creams, as a friend of mine says ‘Nae appreciation and even less understanding’.
Ms Brown’s Facebook message sets the tone for the brighter (the word is relative) members of the online mob who have piled in to support her – their concern, they say, is ‘hard won Scottish branding’ or ‘Scotland the brand’. They confuse national identity (which is really what they’re concerned about) with commercial success. The two things can overlap. But if you want a successful economy, let successful companies decide how to brand their products and services. Do they imagine that Walkers haven’t done their market research in Germany to establish that there’s a niche for shortbread that is branded with union flag alongside the vast majority of their products that shout Scottish at you?
The proponents of ‘Scotland the brand’ might do better pondering why ‘Schotten preise’ (Scottish prices) is a synonym in Germany for cheap, discounted goods, often promoted alongside associated images, as on the Geizkragen website:
‘Geizkragen’ is German for miser in case you didn’t know.
Ex-SNP deputy leader Angus Robertson criticised this caricature of the mean Scot in 2009 but it clearly persists (this image was snipped from the web today).
If the broken-hearted nationalists so protective of Scotland the brand were really concerned, they’d mount a sustained campaign against what a whole nation seems to think of Scotland. But since it wouldn’t involve a tin of biscuits and a flag I guess they’re not interested.
Footnote: Oxford English Dictionary – ‘Madness … a state of wild or chaotic activity’.