Posted by: rosa alba | July 2, 2014

Engaged to Dance: Abstinence No – Say Yes!

Pat Kane and Peat Worrier discussed in a blog the issue of Journalism standards this week. Interesting listening (and Wings over Scotland was mentioned in dispatches, albeit to mixed review). An intellectualised conversation, but which came back to the need for the moral (or social skills) highground in media, mainstream or otherwise, while acknowleding the place of terriers to relentlessly seek and expose truths.   And I would add, a single-mindedness to ask the right questions, persistently.

In context to various aspects of this, and in response to editorial headlines that skew an initial perception of content, we need to keep our eYes on the goal in this debate. A Yes Vote is the goal; the rest (social restructuring and innovative egalitarian policy) will come after that.

With our eYes on the prize, we must not be deviated by inappropriate mud-slinging or witch hunts.  Wiles has had her 15 minutes of ingloriousness.  She deserved less as she was serially unfit to represent democracy or the people (and I would suggest to be an educator): further personal commentary is unnecessary. Not just unnecessary but unhelpful. She does not merit more attention.
What does remain at the frontline,  as a Wings Over Scotland  post today points out, is the need for deep, indepth evaluation and analysis by the Scottish Labour Party as to how the Angus Affiar (and I DO include the vandalism of the SNP Office  as I see a direct correlation) came about, and an assessment as to whether it is likely to happen elsewhere or with other parliamentary candidates.

It is already evidenced, not with Mike Dailly’s promises of McCarthy-like lists of agitating Yes Voters, (or other minor incidents) but with Darling’s comments, and the retrweet on the Kim Jong-il meme by Alistair Darling’s wife.  The easiness with which the mainstream media glossed over or dismissed these unacceptable slurs  of participants in and sullying of legitimate politcal debates is beyond worrisome, particularly from a highly placed member of the establishment, when there was a following up, and rightly so, of the online  skirmishes  over the Ordinary Dumbarton Mum’s engagement, or the Ordinary Wizard Mum’s donations.  It also legitimised this kind of engagement when that highly placed member of the establishment was the figurehead on one side of the Referendum fence.

A failure in transparency on these  matters will amplify the questions already being asked as to the Labour Party’s fitness for governance, on many counts, not least management, discretion (sense and worth, w. apologies to Rabbie) and respect.  Wings raises valid points as to the decision to disregard the easily found out Social Media profile of Ms Wiles, and as importantly whether there seems to be an abandonment of traditional socialist values.  
That she was an ingenue latching on to  the standard of discourse set by Darling might be too favourable an assessment of Wiles, and it is evident that she was  no lamb to the slaughter, but Darlings comments should have been denounced by the Labour Party, an apology issued (accompanied if needs be but a explanation of “undue stress”; not a justification but as commentators other than I have pointed out, the man is cracking up).  Three weeks on a Hebridean Island might have been advisable (armed police notwithstanding).

Social Media have changed the terms of political debate and raised the level of engagement. A’ Jock Tamson’s bairns rightly feel they have a stake worded within  a pithy tweet or Facebook page.  When virtually everyone has their own online presence, it becomes a valid reality. 
So, the tenor of online writing varies widely from uninformed and rumour monger, to satire to indepth analysis, and one specific publicstion is no guarantee of an associated style or register: even the most unabsorbed blogger wants hits (especially if they require income from their writing, in this target driven world) and hits mean being all things to all readers: sometimes satire bordering on witchy, sometimes short and to the point, sometimes legitimate – if longwinded – analyses.
The internet is interactive which means any written commentry is not set in stone but generates evolving responses (and re-edits as seen the online front pages of the mainstream media, in which alarmingly the fingerprints of the establishment can be seen) . It is debate in real time (with the denialbility of delete).   At lenght or in 140 characters. Brevity sharpens the mind, and a mind sharpened hones the point.
Just as the internet has democratised the process and fertilised the grassroots movement beyond the imagination of even, for example, Thatcher: it also leaves few corners for the incautious politician to hide. Whiter than Caesar’s wife is not a (new) aphorism, however politicians today need to be, not just white but M&S, sparkling Daz blue-white. Everyone has a smart phone ready to record literal or metaphorical banana-skins. The private views muttere in smoky backrooms in gentleman’s clubs (or miners welfares) have no place to go.   This can be good when it exposes genuine duplicity, shortfalls or hypocrisy.
Yet the failure to be aware of this, showed either a sense of “above rebuke” or unimaginable lacke of  not just wiles, but pure and simple common sense: for anyone engaged in the debate at a professional level to leave themselves open to comeback as did Ms Wiles and Mr Darling (I am more worried about the man in whose promises we are encouraged to place our trust) is beyond belief.  One would hope every poltician is scrutinising their settings, and double checking everything they post, however that create an in camera venue for views not worthy of mainstream politics, nor morally justifiable: although, we live in the era of not just PhotoShop but screen capture, so even the private post is not beyond exposure.
Ultimately though, it is about trust.  Anyone can write a blog. Anyone can express opinion: all statistics are lies or at least perspectives (even YouGov polls are not beyond questioning) and  checking facts is a moveable feast: online newspapers allow for quick comparison of different versions of the same story, even while they demand of the politically engaged a responsibility to evaluate and analyse our sources (a key Experience & Outcome rightly embedded in the Curriculum for Excellence, for our future citizens). Thankfully the new informed, and engaged electorate tend to be alert and aware of editorial perspectives and the political implications of ownership, not least in the case of the State broadcaster; especially true of the media hounds. Despite the introspection of the latter, there is, no doubt, a post-modernist epithet along the lines of engagement engendering democratisation engendering engagement…

A final caveat is that this political engagement seen online needs monitored and analysed, not by outside sources (or agencies) but by its participants, and in terms of self-evaluation. Talking among ourselves is good, but we need to ensure we are bringing a party with us to the YesParty (or subsequent parties).

The Yes Movement, National Collective and Common Weal are grassroots, are dynamic and people are coming out of their front rooms, away from the limited influence of TV broadcasters to take part – the joyous, festival nature is truly awesome to those of us who remember the hustings of old.

This is the momentum we have to keep up.  Like an old-fashioned snowball waltz,  we come together, sway to the a Bob Marley tune, come apart and seek a new dancing partner, over and over.  Movement of Yes people…


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