THE PRESTIGIOUS FT reported on the ‘phenomenon’ that is Wings Over Scotand today. According to the FT – and Google Analytics – the Wings Over Scotland blog reaches 1.7 million unique users. That’s more than half the Scottish electorate. Is Wings Over Scotland the unrecognised gamechanger which the Yes campaign so desperately needs? AhDinnaeKen soporificates:
By Longshanker aka @ergasiophobe
WHATEVER YOU think of pro-independence blog, Wings Over Scotland (WOS), it can’t be denied that it is a phenomenon – of sorts.
To a particular type on the Yes side of the independence campaign, it is a beacon of hope, a debunker of mainstream media bias, an oasis of refreshing truth in a desert of unquenchable lies. In effect, Stuart ‘Charlie’ Campbell is seen as a righteous herald in the vanguard of Nationalistic ‘Tribune journalism’.
To almost everyone else, who is aware of it at least, the blog is a relentlessly aggressive Nationalist Front diatribe of hate-preaching, false accusation, paranoia, evasiveness, polarising invective, risible inaccuracies, extreme intolerance and “creepy as f**k” coordinated surveillance.
But whether you’re for the blog’s hate preaching demagoguery or against it, it can’t be denied that the monomaniacal ego driven individual behind it has attracted a certain type of attention during the Scottish referendum debate.
A sketch based profile in today’s Financial Times is an accolade of sorts and one which might encourage the Nationalist hierarchy to officially embrace the blog and the blogger behind it.
For the Nationalists to do so would be a strategic mistake. Many of the reasons why are embedded in the FT profile itself. There are many others, but for the purpose of this piece we*’ll stick to the Financial Times sketch.
Consider this from the second paragraph in the FT piece:
“Stuart Campbell, a video game designer and writer, uses his website Wings Over Scotland to demand an end to the 307-year-old union with England, attacking what he sees as the “lies” and patronising tone of the anti-independence movement.”
He’s a writer alright and he definitely knows how to construct a sentence. We*’ll concede that one.
Video game designer is maybe taking things a bit too far though. According to a prominent games industry insider: “He always takes lots of credit for Cannon Fodder 2. Jon Hare, his boss says he just did some level design. But most of those levels were submitted by entrants to a competition. So Stu did little but takes credit for a lot.”
Further investigation revealed that Amiga Power magazine did indeed run a competition in August 1994 for its readers to design levels for Canon Fodder 2. Campbell allegedly took direct possession of those competition entries from the magazine and used them for the game whilst employed by Sensible Software. ‘Alert readers’ can come to their own conclusions.
As for the “lies” and patronising tone of the indy debate”, if only Campbell could see hissel as ithers see him.
It’s worth noting that Campbell is a frequent user of the Thatcherite sounding term ‘WetNat’ which he uses with impunity to attack pro-Yes independence activists who don’t happen to agree with his hate-preaching tone or manner. Presumably, they are also part of the “lies” and “patronising tone”
When it comes to assertion based puffery, Mr Campbell can match and exceed anyone in the campaign – and that includes half witted politicians such as Pete Wishart MP. The FT further reported:
“With just over 100 days to go, Mr Campbell believes the internet has been one of the reasons the Yes camp is still in contention.” – nothing to do with the fact that the Nationalists have the full resources, power and expense sheet of a devolved government behind them then.
The emphasis above, of course, should be on the word “believes”. Tangible evidence is notable by its absence.
Campbell further asserted: “I think we would be absolutely nowhere without the internet. If this referendum was taking place in 1979, when we had the first devolution referendum, we would have no chance. But now people have somewhere else they can go and check the facts.”
The implication is clear, due to his blog, the Yes campaign is still in the running. Phrases such as “ye couldnae make it up” might be more fitting for such a risible assertion, but it’s worth looking at the evidence provided and the wriggle room it gives for Campbell’s ‘ego out of control’ hyperbole.
The FT reported Wings Over Scotland as the “biggest” politically dedicated website in the Yes campaign and cites a figure of 1.7 million unique users.
Impressive sounding stats indeed and, as Mr Campbell is more than keen to point out, that figure is more than half of the Scottish electorate, “If we got 1.7m votes in the referendum we would win.” he said.
But just how much credibility does that 1.7 million figure actually have?
Not much is the simple answer.
Like Campbell’s admission that he does not know the ‘political leanings’ of his ‘alert readers’, the 1.7 million is also a ‘known unknown’ which is effectively a stab in the dark at the true number of actual readers.
According to Yehoshua Coren, a Google Analytics expert, unique visitors are not commensurate with unique people.
He said: “We use the term “visitor,” but technically this means “__utma Cookie.” Cookies are browser specific. So if I, Yehoshua Coren, visit example.com in a 5 minute span from 3 different browsers, GA (Google Analytics) reports that 3 “unique visitors” came to the site. Similarly, if 3 different people in my household visit example.com at different times throughout the day, this is 1 “unique visitor.” Lastly, if I visit a website repeatedly using Private Browsing (Firefox) or Incognito Mode (Chrome), etc, my cookies are cleared on browser close so I’ll be an additional “unique visitor” (with a ‘new visit’) on every subsequent visit.”
In effect, the 1.7m figure is mostly meaningless if you’re trying to base a unique number of actual people visiting the blog. And it’s clear from reading the FT piece that the 1.7m figure cited is a cumulative figure from Wings first foray in the indy blogosphere in 2011. In effect, the 1.7m figure is as big a sham as Campbell’s thinly veiled claim to have helped keep the Yes campaign in the running.
It’s uncommon now for AhDinnaeKen to visit the WOS blog, but over the past three years it’s fair to say that I’ve used three different browsers on my laptop, occasionally I’ve browsed a page from my smartphone or my tablet and I’ve also looked at it from my NetBook.
According to Google Analytics data collation, that counts as at least six unique visitors. And given that I also have Private browsing switched on in Firefox on both the netbook and the laptop, that figure is likely to be exponentially higher.
AhDinnaeKen can make the claim that we*’ve almost reached a quarter of a million unique visitors since Feb 2012 – but the majority of them appear to be spammers. And the rest are visits by people mistaking us* for the “Onion” and finding out we* were “unfunny”.
So, for someone who claims to attack the “lies” and patronising tone of the anti-independence movement”, Mr Campbell really needs to get a better grasp of reality and stop lying to and patronising his own ‘alert readers’ with such questionably meaningless figures.
The £50,000 or so that he raised from Indiegogo is laudable, but given that questions have been raised over whether the lottery winning Weirs had anything to do with it, it’s mostly moot – as well as somewhat diminished.
It was highly notable that Mr Campbell did not hold a press event with a big symbolic cheque proudly displaying the alleged figure of £150,000 raised emblazoned on its front – as suggested by political commentator Euan McColm.
Also worth remembering is the old proverb (in)actions speak louder than words. In this instance, for a struggling Yes campaign, such a press conference could have been a publicity coup and a clear demonstration of the alleged grassroots momentum and passion for the campaign.
As such, the money raised was more of a damp squib than a high flying firework.
Then we come to the real lacking in the whole outlook and persona of Mr Campbell’s Wings Over Scotland campaign: his undisguised anger toward and hatred of the ‘other’ side.
Campbell told the man from the FT, presumably with a straight face:
“I don’t want to find myself living in Scotland if it’s a No vote. I couldn’t bear it. I would feel I was living in the most cowardly nation on earth.”
AhDinnaeKen is incapable of seeing the logic, reason or sentiment behind such a fundamentally zealotous belief. Once you’ve stopped laughing, you realise that such a belief is the philosophy of the extremist. Condemning your nation’s people for taking a democratic decision with which you disagree is what is cowardly. It displays the monomania of the wee boy who takes his ball away because his team urnae winning. We* respectfully suggest that Mr Campbell should dry his eyes.
Such a person would also probably refer to allegedly fellow Scots as “cringing pitiful scum” for voting incorrectly. Er, haud on, Campbell already has.
Whether it’s a Yes or No vote, AhDinnaeKen disnae care. Just so long as it’s a convincing victory and we can all be protected from the raw and ugly forces which inevitably drive Nationalism – whether it’s disguised as ‘civic’ or ‘progressive’ or whatever snake skin oil it happens to be wearing that day.
Campbell and his labelling of non-Yes voters as “cowards” personifies that Nationalist ugliness. If the SNP or Yes campaign embrace Wings, or any of its proposed indyref events, then it will be a sure fire reinforcement of Professor Tomkins recent assertion that the Nationalists had stopped trying to win the referendum and were now merely trying to shore up their core vote.
Wings Over Scotland is now officially recognised by the Electoral Commission as an official Yes campaigner. It means that Wings should face some real and proper scrutiny rather than being mostly ignored by the media as an irritating irrelevance.
The FT alludes to what could come. When questioned on the “reverend” status the reaction of Mr Campbell was described as “sketchy“. Which it would be, of course. He claimed that he had trained for church orders – it’s worth mentioning that the Jedi religion refer to themselves as a church.
Most notably, the word “evasive” is also used by FT journo John Murray Brown in relation to Campbell’s alleged passion for independence and his irreconcilable adherence to living in England for almost half his adult life, referred to in the piece as “two decades”.
Derek Bateman said recently of James Naughtie and Andrew Marr: “The problem here is one of assimilation because after 25 or 30 years absorbing London culture and learning about it, embedding themselves there and bringing up families, they lose some aspect of what makes them Scots.”
The same holds for Campbell. AhDinnaeKen doesn’t recognise Campbell’s aspect of Scottishness. It’s out of date, distant, nasty and not commensurate with anything remotely ‘civic’ or ‘progressive’. The vision of an independent Scotland put forward by Campbell conjures up an image of jackboots, state surveillance, authoritarianism and intolerance.
The SNP should bear this in mind. The unique reader figures cited for the WOS blog are a testable sham. The blog is undeniably popular, but do the figures stack up? The philosophy of Campbell is built on intolerance, ‘othering’ and hateful extremism. If the Nationalists embrace him in the lead up to Sep 18 then they will taint themselves with the same label.
And it will be an inescapably damaging label.
We* await with interest developments on the campaigning front.
* pluralis majestatis used throughout for illustrative unfunny comedy effect.