Saturday, September 20, 2014

More Post-Referendum Blah

- First and foremost, you'd have to say that it was probably the opinion poll two weeks ago showing Yes ahead for the first time that screwed their chances of victory.  That early warning forced pretty much everyone in the country who didn't agree with Eck et al to come out to the polls, and it was that high turnout that swung it decisively for the No campaign.

That's a particular irony, given the Yessers' focus on the wonders of democraticity and so on, since it was a massive democratic stampede against independence that did them in.

That massive turnout is a back-handed compliment to the Yes campaign, but should also be a bit of a downer.  The Better Together campaign was shockingly poor - in two years, I can't remember seeing a single BT leafleter, stall or door-knocker, despite living and working in the nation's capital city - and their messaging skills were diabolical.

Frankly, I suspect that the unionists could've laid off campaigning altogether and still carried the day... And yet, they still won decisively.  

- I'm not really a big fan of the OMG the massive turnout shows how wonderfully re-energised our democracy really is analysis.  55% of an 85%+ turnout voting against the proposition tells me that the majority of voters came out to say "This is a very daft idea, please stop it".

It'd presumably be easy to replicate this turnout if we had another referendum next week on Do you agree that Scotland should be a theocracy? or Should we rename the country "Bawbagistan".

On "the debate" itself, well, look - a few million people parrotting the party-approved talking points of the UK's political behemoths, or reciting the contents of the day's papers, got really old very quickly. 

- The aftermath of the referendum is now chucking up some fairly revealing stuff, as an old and familiar political refrain sets in for the defeated side - the Party can never fail, and can only ever be failed by the electorate, the bastards.

If you check social media and forums, you can see that the Yes camp's footsoldiers have a thousand theories about why they lost, and almost every one of them is a variation on We Wuz Robbed. 

I'm yet to see even one person flirting with the idea that they lost because millions of Scots found their arguments unconvincing.  Eck himself came close, but then rowed it back with a lot of grousing about those sneaky Westminsterers.

The message I take from the result is that most of us trust Holyrood to empty the bins, but not to run the entire show;  that most of the country doesn't believe we can magic a Scandi-style social democracy out of thin air through a single vote; that most of us don't buy the idea that there's something fundamentally different about a person who lives in North Berwick and another raised in Berwick-Upon-Tweed.

That, to put it mildly, is not how others see it.

- An example.  Irvine Welsh is saying obliquely here what others are stating far more bluntly - namely, that the Yes campaign was a grassroots democratic uprising thwarted by the craven timidity of the people...
"The no voters should take a bow: they delivered the UK establishment a reprieve the enervated, confused and weak campaign of their masters certainly didn't deserve. They have bought time for the union, and many of them, people who will habitually support the status quo at almost any cost, will simply be relieved..."
"At the start of the campaign, a narrow win for the political-class-led no would have been a nightmare result for the establishment..."
Now, sharp-eyed observers will note that the referendum wasn't hacked out of the clay by the common man through sheer grit, but was itself legislation passed in the Scottish Parliament by the Scottish Government; that this campaign was led by the SNP, a political party filled with politicians, that has been in power since 2007.  Had the Yes vote won, it wouldn't have been Elaine C. Smith negotiating the split with David Cameron, yo.

It's unclear to me how the Nats have managed to rule the nation for seven years without themselves becoming members of the political class but they appear to have managed it, as far as Irvine is concerned.

Irvine's rattle about "people who habitually support the status quo" on behalf of "their masters" is a much more polite version of what many of the rank-and-file Yessers are now saying themselves, which is basically that they lost because two million of their countrymen are spinelesss, servile, cowardly traitors*.

This is a pretty bizarre message for people who have spent much of the last year up on their high horses about their foes "talking down Scotland", but it's what lurks at the bottom of the pool that nationalists of all stripes swim in. 

- Which is pretty much why I had little to say about the IndyRef until it was almost upon us.  For all the chat about how wonderfully positive the debate was, it looked rather different to me.  This was probably the biggest political decision of my lifetime, and I went out of my way to avoid getting dragged into it for the last two years.

There's a reason for this. Most of the unionist types I've spoken to regarded the Yes voters with more or less open contempt as a bunch of mouth-breathing fools vapidly repeating a lot of Braveheart drivel, while the majority of pro-independence folk plainly saw their foes as a shower of brain-washed, institutionalised pro-Tory cretins.

You'd think it'd be impossible for these people to civilly discuss the matter, and you'd be right - it pretty much was.  It didn't bring out the best in people and quickly devolved into a hectoring, flag-waving squabble based on emotion rather than reason.

I watched people I've known for years who have taken little or no interest in politics generally go from indifference to sudden fits of blazing rage about e.g. nuclear weapons in Scotland, with nothing but derision and denunciation for any disagreement. 

A debate that energises people towards boiling fucking rage and contempt isn't my idea of a good time, and it hasn't been a very positive experience in my book.  Maybe other people had a ball but for me, it was all pretty unpleasant.  I found our grand national debate shouty, aggressive and belligerently arsey from start to finish, and I'm glad that it's all over.

- Except, of course, it isn't over.  Nationalism generally - British, Scottish, Paraguayan - is largely the collection and stoking of angry grievance, and the manner of this particular defeat is only going to make the Scottish nats even angrier.  The thought of a rerun in a decade or two is both depressing and depressingly inevitable, and I expect the next attempt to be even less enjoyable.

*I could show you countless examples, but my favourite one so far is this football forum, featuring die-hard fans saying that they now can't stomach to attend the national team's games, because they've been ruined by the disgusting behaviour of their fellow Scots.


Igor Belanov said...

As someone who thought 'no' was the best option, the biggest indictment against the 'No' campaign was that they made it look like a choice between change and the status quo.
I'm relieved the thing is over, but I suspect the issue will come around again sooner than we think, and the small-c conservatism of the Scottish Labour Party will serve to hasten their demise in the years to come.

Ken said...

One thing that struck me about the Yes campaign's Radical Bella Collective wing was how many of their art posters featured a young woman with flowing red locks. I have nothing against red-haired women (just as well, being married to one) but every time I saw one of these posters I thought: 'Hmm, the civic nationalism is strong in this one...'

The winning poster in the Bella competion was of a red-haired young woman in full Highland military dress, with bagpipes.

Alex said...

Rodent: Welshy could perhaps reflect on whether denouncing BBC reporters as paedophiles was quite the best strategy to adopt but I gather he hasn't reflected much on his own unique campaigning, apparently he reinvented true democracy. Bawbag Laureate writes from heart.

Alex said...

Ken: what photo did the Grauniad choose to illustrate Welshy's elder statesman act? Got it: basically the redhead version of the classic A-Level Results Blonde photo, with more flag.

Larry said...

For all the talk of national conversations and festivals of democracy, the whole thing did seem pretty divisive and acrimonious - less about rival visions for the future as about mutual accusations of treachery. And that got me to thinking: this must be what US politics is like all the time.

flyingrodent said...

Ken - One thing that struck me about the Yes campaign's Radical Bella Collective wing was how many of their art posters featured a young woman with flowing red locks.

Walked round to the supermarket to get stuff for dinner earlier. In the next street over, somebody had put a Lion Rampant flag in their window alongside a hand-drawn sign saying "Better just obey" in huge letters.

There's also a cartoon doing the rounds of David Cameron driving a cart with a huge bag of oil revenues on it, whipping on a bunch of kilted pensioners, themselves slavering over a small bag with "pensions" written on it. The cart has just crushed a wee ginger girl waving a Scottish flag.

See -

I'm hopeful that this kind of thing is a minority pursuit and will die down a bit soon.

Alex - Welshy could perhaps reflect on whether denouncing BBC reporters as paedophiles was quite the best strategy to adopt...

It's unfortunate really. I quite like the guy but he has quite a lot of manias and fixations and doesn't appear to be overly troubled by self-doubt.

Larry - that got me to thinking: this must be what US politics is like all the time.

God, yes. That would explain a lot.

KB Player said...

Is there a competition for the maddest Yes conspiracy theory? Mine is that videos of supposed voting fraud that people have shown to be fakes are really subtly doctored videos produced by the No campaign so the Yessers will complain about fraud and then will look bad.

It's scary when 45% (sorry 44.7%) of the population seems to have gone off their heads.

KB Player said...

Oh, and the irony meter broke over and over. Fellow I know quite well is lamenting that the tolerant, respectful and compassionate society that Yes was going to usher in was destroyed by the Home Counties Tory, butcher's apron loving, brain-dead, Daily Mail reading fuckwits who voted No.

gregorach said...

KB Player: please don't think that the tinfoil-hatters are representative of "Yes" voters, any more than the Nazi-saluting bams in George Square are representative of "No" voters.

I voted "Yes". We lost fair and square, and it's only a small (but unfortunately very noisy) minority of idiots who think otherwise. I'm embarrassed by their antics, but as reasonable people on either side of the debate can attest, there's unfortunately fuck all we can do about the nutters that give our respective positions a bad name.

KB Player said...

@ Gregorach
You're a nice Yes, and there are plenty about. Just not on my Facebook feed.

The sorest loser now turns out be Salmond, who says that No voters were tricked, are over 55 and who needs a referendum anyway when it could be done via a majority in Holyrood? He's the one who is part of the noisy minority, with the megaphone of leadership to add to the noise.

gregorach said...

Yeah, my FB feed is full of shouty delusional idiots too. I must admit, one of the nice things about losing is that I no longer have to play nice with a bunch of fucking bampots who just happen to agree with me on one specific constitutional question...

Shuggy said...

Why do you hate Scotland, Rodent?

Shuggy said...

Oh btw, re: conspiracy fruit-loopery, interesting observations from my ex, who's SNP and was a monitor at the count:

a) She says people posting these bat-shit crazy conspiracy theories have no idea how a count works. She said if she'd seen anything untoward, she'd have raised the issue there, not post it on the goddamn internet. I didn't need to be told this but her second observation was interesting...

2) I asked when she knew it was lost. She responded that she never thought at any point Yes would win. This was the impression she got from canvassing; there was too many no responses, Nos and don't knows. Puts the whole 'that's not what we're hearing on the doorstep' bullshit into perspective, I reckon. She said those who thought they had the momentum were simply too inexperienced.

She also said 'Jim Sillars is a fucking nutter who should be put out to pasture', or something like that. Not all Nats are conspiracy loons, clearly.

flyingrodent said...

A lot of this is surely just people who haven't had much involvement in politics before, who aren't aware that any mass movement will inevitably attract a fair number of wacky cranks. The biggest political story when I was a youngster was Iraq, and it took me a while to learn how to disambiguate useful information from white noise.

There's also an element of: this is what campaigning looks like, now that we can all speak to each other immediately all over the country via the internet. I always notice the extent to which practically everyone opining about terrifying upsurges in most forms of conspiracism and bigotry does so by pointing out websites and their commenters, rather than real world events. Now that we can all see what we all think, we are horrified by it - back when we couldn't, less so.

And I've seen plenty of people saying words to the effect of - "Once the print media dies, people will get all their news from unbiased bloggers such as ourselves, and then we'll win". Which is the classic rallying cry of the doomed, net-led movement.

gregorach said...

Yeah, I've definitely noticed that a lot of the conspiracy theorising comes with handy labels attached reading "I've never voted in my life before and have absolutely no idea how it all works". All that crap going around about "OMG, they're going to be providing pencils in the voting booths!" beforehand, and now a lot of people surprised that they weren't required to show ID to vote... Nice going dumbfucks, you're a big part of the reason our politics is so screwed up in the first place. Maybe if you'd been a bit less apathetic for the last forty years, we wouldn't be in this mess.

Also, a lot of them seem entirely unable to grasp just how large a margin (in terms of actual votes) we lost by. Or that it was spread pretty evenly across every single polling station in the entire country. (With the expected variations for demographics, of course.) That's not what vote rigging looks like.

From a psychological perspective though, it's been fascinating - you can clearly identify the various stages of the K├╝bler-Ross model going on all around you. Although the stage 4 folks tend to be pretty quiet...

KB Player said...

A friend of mine who doesn't use social media followed the campaign on the telly, saw a couple of days before the vote that No was going to win & bought shares in Scottish companies. He made a few hundred quid. I'm going to use him as my political adviser from now on...

Agree about the stages of grief. Some sane and rational Yes friends are now trying to calm people down, take off that 45 label etc while the conspiracy mongers stick defiantly to their Yesses.