Trolling, Trolling, Trolling, Dear Ms. JK Rowling…


Dear Joanne
We haven’t met but since we’re both writers, indeed both members of the same writers’ association, I thought I’d drop you a line. We both live in Perthshire, you in a castle, me in a flat.
You used to work for Amnesty International; I used to be a member and still campaign on human rights. I’m sure we have lots of other things in common though my book sales, income and public profile are, well, let’s be kind and say a wee bitty less than yours.

Dear Joanne
We haven’t met but since we’re both writers, indeed both members of the same writers’ association, I thought I’d drop you a line. We both live in Perthshire, you in a castle, me in a flat.
You used to work for Amnesty International; I used to be a member and still campaign on human rights. I’m sure we have lots of other things in common though my book sales, income and public profile are, well, let’s be kind and say a wee bitty less than yours.

I guess neither of us voted SNP; I’m a member of the Scottish Green Party, while you have publicly declared for and donated to the Labour Party. 

I’ve got plenty of friends who are Labour voters and a few who are members; your friendship with former Labour leader and Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been well publicised so I’m going to take a guess now and say the timing of your very public intervention so soon after the initiative taken by your friend Gordon was not a coincidence.

Fair enough.  That’s how these things are done.

My problem is this: Your statement provided a major international platform to propagate yet more misinformation from the No camp.

Let’s take “…a fringe of nationalists who like to demonise anyone not blindly and unquestionably pro-independence” and “that they might judge me ‘insufficiently Scottish’ to have a valid view.”

I daresay a tiny handful of sad pseudonymous trolls do just that.  What this has to do with the hundreds of thousands of serious Yes supporters, campaign politicians and leaders I’m not clear, nor why it seems so relevant to your decision. 

Since you chose to highlight it in your statement, however, can I suggest it behoves you to at least acknowledge the vitriol coming from the other side? Colin and Christine Weir made a similarly large donation to the Yes campaign and were met with waves of vicious abuse from “Britnat” trolls.  More to the point, the Weirs were subject not only to “Britnat” attacks online, but also vile insults and insinuations from No camp politicians and mainstream publications like the Daily Mail.

That, I believe, is of a wholly different order from online loudmouths.  That is politicians and mainstream press giving a lead.

Perhaps you can point to one instance – a single one – where a senior Yes figure has said anything as provocative and insulting as the recent slander by Alistair Darling equating Yes supporters with “blood and soil nationalists”?

Ethnicity is not an issue in this referendum. The Yes camp includes active supporters from every corner of the British Isles, the Commonwealth and the EU. 

Voting is not on the basis of ethnicity; one million-plus Scots who live outwith Scotland have no vote on September 18th 600,000 non-Scots resident (12% of the electorate) here are being fully encouraged to participate both in the vote and the debate.  So when you say “people try to make this debate about the purityof your lineage, things start getting a little Death Eaterish for my taste,” I have to ask – who’s making that part of the debate?  A few online trolls?  Certainly not Yes.

The only side I’ve ever heard talking about ethnicity is the No camp.  Focusing on ethnicity is a deliberate and tactical misdirection by ‘Better Together’ that you appear to have fallen for, a cynical trope used by powerful politicians for millennia including, in recent years, by your good friend Gordon – remember “British jobs for British workers”?

Your passing allusion to the bailout of RBS is similarly misinformed.  Could an independent Scotland have saved RBS from itself?  Perhaps, perhaps not.  Certainly an independent Scottish government would have had to deal with the issue differently.  Perhaps it would have borrowed the majority from US financiers as the British Government did, or from the EU as Ireland did. Perhaps it would have nationalised the bank as the UK did but, unlike the UK, taken control of the business – a far more sensible course of action, I’d say.

Whatever decision it took they would have been accountable to the Scottish electorate.  And if the people didn’t like it, they could vote out the government and elect people prepared to prosecute the guilty – a bit like what happened in Iceland.

That’s a nation of just over 300,000 people who manage rather well with independence, thank you.

Far more relevant to the current debate is this: Will there be another crash? 

In 2008 Westminster – then led by your good friend Gordon and his good friend Alistair – was responsible for regulating the City of London.  Since then there has been no substantial reform to the financial sector enacted, either by Labour or the current Coalition, nor are there any significant new proposals from any of the three largest parties. 

Nor have we seen any attempt to pursue the perpetrators of a raft of criminal acts that led to the collapse of banking across the UK, not just RBS but HBOS, Barclays, Lloyds and many others. Nothing on Libor rate-fixing either, a prima facie case of conspiracy and fraud. And on the “mis-selling” of financial products, insurances, mortgages, etc. over a period of almost thirty years?  Not one collar felt.

Meanwhile George Osborne, the current Chancellor (and, I’d wager my next advance against yours, Chancellor following the 2015 UK General Election) cuts tax credits, child support, disability benefits, and demonises anyone dependent on welfare – you’ll recall that feeling – all while feeding a house price bubble in the South East of England that distorts the economy of the entire island. 

Oh, and the fact his best man made a multi-million pound killing on the privatisation of Royal Mail – just good ol’ Westminster democracy at work again!  If you really believe embedded corruption in the City of London has been tackled, can I respectfully suggest it might be worth discussing the matter with someone other than Gordon. And maybe not Alistair either.

A point on finance and democracy: ‘The Remembrancer’.  Sounds like a character from one of your books, I know, but this man – it’s always a man – is very real and is in fact the only unelected person permitted to sit within the Chamber of the House of Commons.  He sits behind the Speaker’s chair and his role is to remind hon. and right hon. members of the interests of the City of London on any given matter.  He is known to roam around the tearooms and bars, free to lobby MPs on any issue he pleases. 

You may think he might offer political donations, cushy sinecures and future directorships to compliant Parliamentarians – I couldn’t possibly comment.

The Remembrancer is also the only person in the entire country who has the right to bar the way of the monarch – should said monarch wish to enter London’s Square Mile.  So that’s The Remembrancer.  You may well know of him and his works, but 99% of people in the United Kingdom know nothing of his existence, yet he holds one of the most powerful and important positions in the realm. 

A bit like old Voldemort, he’s one “whose name we shall not speak”.  Maybe you could use The Remembrancer in your next book.

One final point: “I’ll be skint if I want to and Westminster can’t tell me otherwise… and I’ll vote yes, just to stick it to David Cameron” – frankly, that’s beneath you. It sounds like a crude caricature of a taxi driver – “I ‘ad that Gordon Brown in that back of my cab once!” – I mean, honestly, where did that come from?  I’d be really interested to know the source, because to my professional eye that is very unconvincing dialogue.  More of a Straw Man, I’d say – there’s another character for you, Jo! – an unrepresentative fiction that can be set up and knocked down again and again and again to distract discussion of real issues.

I could direct you to some real quotes, real people, in fact a real Labour MP like Jimmy Hood stating in the House of Commons that he would choose to stay in the Union even if it made Scotland poorer.  That’s a real person, Joanne, a Scottish MP. Not a troll, not a Straw Man, but a real person, a real MP, with real political power.

Or maybe we could consider No politicians comparing Alex Salmond to Robert Mugabe and Kim Jong Il, or the Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour said Scotland was living under a dictatorship(!), while your namesake Ms Lamont referred to nationalism as a “virus”.  To use your own words, that’s a form of patriotism I’ll never understand.

So that’s democracy in the UK today, the democracy the No campaign asks us to put our faith in, all part of the same unwritten constitution that holds sovereignty lies with “the Crown in Parliament”.  We in the Yes campaign believe in a different kind of democracy, one with a written constitution that begins and ends with the sovereignty of the People.

As far as your judgement calls on Scotland’s economic prospects, oil revenues, doubts over SNP’s fiscal plans and faith in the analysis of neoliberal-leaning think-tank IFS – well, that’s entirely up to you. I respectfully disagree with your analysis.

I only ask you, Jo, to think again – I mean really think, because I know you’re smart – then think again before ever again choosing to become a cipher for the very worst aspects of a deeply cynical campaign.

Yours sincerely

Drew Campbell