Scotland. It’s a bit like Jesus.

Some of my friends’ Facebook feeds include well-shared images demanding  everybody on social media shuts up about independence. On Twitter there are lots of people – on both sides – urging everybody to “STFU”. “It’s tediously boring,” one says. “I’m all about democracy and using your vote but SERIOUSLY please just all shut up. Overkill.”

I understand the feeling. The independence campaign has been running for two years now, and over the last wee while both sides have been increasingly vocal. The result is that people I follow for one reason – because they’re friends, because I like their books or their music, because I’ve worked with them – are now posting political content, which isn’t what I followed them for.

When it’s content I don’t agree with, it feels a bit like being harangued by the Fast Show’s religious evangelists, ridiculous characters who try to turn every conversation into one about Jesus.

The thing is, though, most of the content people share on social media isn’t content I’m interested in. I don’t give a flying shite about TV talent shows or baking competitions, about football or the festivals I didn’t go to, about music I don’t like or memes I’ve seen a thousand times before. I’m quite sure many of my friends don’t want to know about my music or journalism or the hilarious thing my kids did today.

I don’t get angry about that stuff. I just ignore it, and if it gets too much, if I find that people are constantly posting stuff I don’t want to see, I mute it or hide it or in extreme cases, unfollow or unfriend them.

I understand the annoyance, I do, but this is really important, and really positive – especially when most of the national media is letting us down so badly. As my wife put it:

I’m incredibly grateful for the internet and social media. Less that 100 years ago women didn’t even have the vote and now we have a voice and a place where we can share information and engage with other people’s opinions – and then, decide for ourselves how to vote.

If people are doing the cloth-eared evangelist thing and trying to bring indy into irrelevant topics then of course that’s very rude, but if people are responding to political posts and attempting to engage and debate that’s a fantastic thing. Over the years politicians seem to have lost the idea that they should be scared of us, not the other way round. Scotland’s reconnecting with politics in a way I haven’t seen in my lifetime, and that’s wonderful and very powerful.

Alex Massie, writing in the Spectator, says:

Of course there has been stupidity and dishonesty and some unpleasantness but, on the whole, the notable feature of the campaign has been its civility. There will be some fraying of this decency in the final, fevered fortnight but this vigorous political carnival has been good for politics and good for Scotland. It has also been a revolt against politics as usual: a cry, from the heart as much as from the head, for a different way of doing things.

That’s something to celebrate, not something to silence.

Massie again:

Yessers and Nawers in Scotland agree on little, save perhaps this: the campaign has been a steroid injection for democracy. Not just because tens of thousands have returned to the electoral register but because politicians are talking about big things at last. Things that go beyond a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote. ‘Yes’ or ‘no’, change is coming. This is what politics is supposed to be about; this is what we’re supposed to want.

I think he’s right, and I think that’s well worth having odd thing you don’t agree with appearing in your News Feed.

As ever, my wife gets the last word:

Come the 19th September we can all return to posting cute pics of the kids and jokes about wine, but when your country is about to make the biggest political decision of its life, you can’t expect people to be silenced. Maybe you just need to ‘hide’ us for the next 14 days :)

“Austerity is a lie, and remaining in the UK will continue to feed it.”

An angry and passionate pro-indy post:

No voters are not evil. Voting No is not evil. But voting No is voting toallow evil to continue governing our lives. It is a vote that ensures every millionaire who received a tax break while pensioners freeze to death in an oil-rich country had their pockets lined, in part, by us. It is a vote that ensures every person who died within six months of losing their disability benefits was facilitated, in part, by us. It is a vote that ensures that every bullet that takes an innocent’s life was paid for, in part, by us. 

Stirring stuff.

That was quick

Better Together launched its new poster campaign – “We love our kids/family/Scotland so we’re voting no” – this afternoon. Within minutes, the Yes campaign tweeted this.

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It’s not always obvious from the media, but there’s a lot of humour in the referendum campaign.

Fear

Today’s Herald newspaper front page reports No campaign claims that we’ll experience “carnage” at polling stations because the  referendum campaigning’s turned nasty. It’s bollocks, dangerous bollocks, but I don’t need to write a full post about it because Burdz Eye View has beaten me to it.

If anything told us that they are worried – seriously worried – that the tide in this referendum has turned, it is this little publicity stunt.  Because it is designed and intended to keep the Scottish people in their place.  To put the fear of God in them that if they turn out to vote on 18 September and to vote Yes, then something terrible may befall them.

It smacks of desperation, that the only way they can prevent defeat by democratic means is by suppressing the democratic process.  “We are worried there is going to be absolute carnage”? Yep, I can see why you’d be worried about that.  Clearly, the No campaign’s private polls are telling them things that they really would rather not hear.

Today’s other news, the launch of posters suggesting that only people who vote No love their kids, suggests the same.

Apologies in advance to my non-Scots friends, but my posts will probably contain a disproportionate amount of indyref stuff over the next 18 days. It’s a bit of a big deal here.

The best of both worlds: Spiceworld and Narnia

Today’s Sun says that for the very first time Alex Salmond has admitted that independence won’t be easy and that we won’t have magic taps running fresh water, whisky and oil.  “Was that really so difficult, First Minister?” the leader asks.

As Wings Over Scotland points out, it wasn’t difficult – and wasn’t difficult  when he said the same thing publicly in June 2013, in January 2014 and in June 2014.

It probably sounds like a minor thing, but it’s characteristic of something that’s really shaken my faith in journalism in general over the last couple of years: we’re being told stuff that simply isn’t true and that doesn’t stand up to the slightest bit of fact-checking. It’s not just the tabloids, either.

If the papers can’t be straight about very simple, well documented and easily verifiable pieces of information, how can you trust them on the more important issues?

It’s hard to quibble with Stuart Campbell when he says:

this stuff isn’t (just) cheap, snarky point-scoring about the stupefying incompetence of other journalists. It’s about the people of Scotland being fed a completely false narrative about a dishonest, shifty First Minister who promises the Earth and refuses to acknowledge any possible problems.

Obviously I’m coming to this from the perspective of a (converted) Yes voter, but it’s very clear from conversations I’m having online and off that many people will be voting in part based on outright lies and some very carefully worded claims (so for example the Better Together literature points out that Scotland benefits from transplant deals with English hospitals, implying that independence will mean the end of such deals. It won’t).

I’m not naive. I know that political campaigning means lying, distortion, dog whistle issues and other unpalatable things. But journalism is supposed to counterbalance that, to investigate the claims, expose the falsehoods and to hold campaigners (on both sides) to account. Its number one purpose is to ensure that the electorate are well informed – and from where I’m sitting, much of the media appears to be doing quite the opposite.

Journalism is supposed to be part of the solution, but here in Scotland* it’s part of the problem.

* With some honourable exceptions, of course. 

“The comments have failed us”

Margaret Eby argues that online comments on news pieces “are, most of the time, a disservice to both the writer and the reader.”

It’s true that putting your work out for public consumption requires some heartiness of spirit. But it is now not just tolerated but expected that journalists should suffer abuse at the hands of their audience. This is a relatively new occupational hazard. Newspapers always got their fair share of cranky letters, but no reporter was required to read–let alone publish–all of them. There is no other job, save comedian or bar band, where heckling is so routine.

It’s (nearly) time to get excited about virtual reality gaming

A fantastic piece by Richard Cobbett on what’s great about VR and what isn’t quite ready for prime time. I am *really* excited about this tech.

In an experience like the Museum of Games, you get to see many famous game characters rendered at their actual size – to really appreciate the scale of something like a Left 4 Dead Boomer and why it would be so terrifying to meet one in the flesh, or to stare up, up and further up at a Transformer rendered at a scale that no monitor can do justice to. It sounds like bullshit, but it’s true – VR adds a sense of meaning to things, from turning a series of empty corridors into a place, to making its inhabitants feel solid.

Freelance writer Gary Marshall on Apple, technology, music and too much coffee

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