Wings Over Scotland: The fallacy files #1 Dicto simpliciter – Hillsborough

IT WOULD appear that Nationalist Front blackshirt, Stuart Campbell, of Wings Over Scotland is ‘splitting’ the navel gazing online Yes campaign. One of the most frequently heard defenses of the Wings blog is that it “is accurate and cites sources” – a logical fallacy known as argumentum ab auctoritate. Forgive AhDinnaeKen’s laughter as we use this mini-series of features to demonstrate why the cabal of ever increasing Wings supporters are being sold a pup. In this post, we* take a look at a common fallacy exploited mercilessly by Campbell when ‘proving’ his alleged analysis – Dicto simpliciter:

Paranoia, grievance and conspiracy all rolled into one Tweet. Well done Jeff. We salute you McIndefatigability.

Paranoia, grievance and conspiracy all rolled into one Tweet. Well done Jeff. We salute your MacIndefatigability.

By Longshanker aka @ergasiophobe

JOAN MCALPINE MSP’s, Twitter feed, alerted us to this little Twitter spat.

It’s worth reading through the whole thread. Several relatively prominent online Yes Tweeters engaged in a wee stooshie about the merits or demerits of Wings Over Scotland.

AhDinnaeKen became interested because 1) The Firstminster of Scotland’s speechwriter and ‘special’ aide took the time out of her busy parliamentary day in the run up to Sep 18, to ReTweet it and 2) one of the comments by Jeff ‘Nelson Salmondella’ Breslin, regarding Hillsborough, needed further analysis.

Jeff attempted to defend Wings by stating that he saw “nothing particularly offensive” in Stuart Campbell’s post on Hillsborough.

You don't need to read them forensically. All you have to do is take on board what you're actually reading. Logical fallacy a-go-go.

You don’t need to monitor them forensically. All you have to do is take on board what you’re actually reading. Logical fallacy a-go-go.

AhDinnaeKen has covered Campbell’s Hillsborough treatise twice: here and here (warning – they’re a bit long). The second one is worth looking at in terms of relevance to the above Twitter thread.

The Hillsborough piece by Campbell, ironically entitled, ‘No Justice for the 96‘ is typical of posts in Wings Over Scotland in terms of its narrative style and structure: it’s well written, fairly comprehensive in its selective facts and conclusions – and it’s completely fallacious. So fallacious, in fact, that it undermines itself and is offensive in that it feigns authority in order to falsely legitimise Campbell’s tribal, bigoted hatred against Liverpool fans.

The crux of the piece and the ‘trenchant’ insight into Campbell’s pathology of hate is encapsulated in the following statement written within the piece:

“At Hillsborough, EVERYONE pushing their way into the tunnel KNEW perfectly well that it opened into an enclosed area with no exits, hemmed in by overhanging steel fences, which minutes before kick-off was likely to already be crammed with people, and which took the inherently-hazardous form of a stairway.”

[Our* Emphasis]

The phrase “everyone” combined with “knew” is a lie. It commits the logical fallacy of Dicto simpliciter, or sweeping generalisation as it is commonly known.

Dicto simpliciter is frequently used to fit people into stereotypical moulds e.g. Frenchman are great lovers or short men have an aggressive chip on their shoulder or the average Scot is a drunk – everyone knows that.

In Campbell’s case, he appeals to the stereotype of the time – which was also the prevailing Thatcherite belief – that Liverpool fans were mindless, murderous, thugs. The implication being, despite the reams and reams of contradictory evidence, that the Liverpool fans knew they were killing fellow fans. Such a belief isn’t just stupid, it’s pathologically mind numbingly stupid.

Campbell went further in his hate piece. Having built a case predicated on a lie, he then further blamed Liverpool fans for the enclosed fences at Hillsborough being there in the first place:

“Hillsborough could have happened at almost any ground in the country in the late 1980s, but Liverpool’s fans must shoulder a disproportionate share of the blame for the existence of the fateful fences, which in part arose from their murderous actions at Heysel Stadium four years earlier.”

Another lie appealing to incomplete knowledge and relying, instead, on bigoted uninformed sentiment to fill in the cracks.

The Dicto simpliciter logical fallacy is routinely relied upon in order to appeal to generally accepted truisms. It’s a godsend fallacy for those harbouring grievances against other groups. Put into crude terms, the majority of Wings Over Scotland’s posts tediously and relentlessly build upon the following stereotypes: media bias is bad, Tories are heartless and bad, Labour are sellouts and bad, Better Together are “anti-Scottish” and bad – you get the tedious stereotypical idea.

Garve 01 Cites Sources

A good example of argumentum ab auctoritate – the logical fallacy of the appeal to authority. Wings cites sources and is accurate therefore it is true and authoritative. Forgive the smirk Garve, do you still believe that the earth is flat? There are some accurate and well cited sources out there to reinforce that long discredited belief.

AhDinnaeKen has covered Campbell’s Hillsborough lies before. We’re going to cover more of his lies and falsehoods, and the logical fallacies used to deliver them to his credulous readership. We*’re tired of intelligent apologists such as Garve Scott-Lodge or Jeff Breslin or Joan McAlpine attempting to excuse Campbell’s belligerent blackshirted bigotry.

It’s a stereotype associated with Nationalism that advocates of its creed – such as Campbell and his ‘alert readers’ – are prepared to turn a blind eye to its potential atrocities.

Campbell’s writings are mostly atrocious. They rely on buying into Nationalist stereotypes and cliches for them to be believed. It’s all a part of the groupthink mindset relying on ‘othering’ which has paved the way for Campbell’s, so far, limited success in gaining publicity and financial reward for himself.

In the Twitter spat linked to above, Garve Scott-Lodge also claimed that quotes used against Campbell are taken out of context in order to impugn Campbell. We* invite him to correct AhDinnaeKen on quotes taken out of context in this piece.

In future posts, AhDinnaeKen is going to highlight some of Campbell’s more cliched fallacies, selectively, without sentiment and as temperately as possible, given the tedious nature of the material being dealt with.

Be there!

[ * tired overly used joke based on pluralis majestatis which is as relentlessly tiresome as any Wings post ]


Filed under Opinion, Wangs Watch

14 responses to “Wings Over Scotland: The fallacy files #1 Dicto simpliciter – Hillsborough

  1. jay 2209

    Great to see you back. I was worried you’d been captured by the anti Scots picker McAlpine.

  2. Mark Foster

    Slightly off topic, but I was following something in the comment section on Newsnet Scotland and I think somebody should really call them out on it. They have an article in which they claim to have done an interview with Patrick Dunleavy (the academic who put forward estimates for setup costs), yet as someone has pointed out in the comments, the text is almost word for word for a tweet that the aforementioned academic put out several days ago, only with a few words interpreted in a different way to put a more Yes-oriented spin on it.

    Here’s the article:

    This was his original tweet: “To restate: Set up costs for Indy Scotland = c.£200m. Possible extra IT etc costs from 10 year transition = c.£400m… So £600m in a decade contrasts with Treasury £1.5 bn, maximum possible but not a number I accept. And with their initial £2.7 bn, now toast.”

    Tweet is here:

    As you can see in the article, the comments are almost identical to the tweet, yet they’ve called it “a statement to Newsnet Scotland” and they’ve changed the interpretation. Whereas Dunleavy says “maximum possible but not a number I accept” (i.e. the maximum setup cost estimate of £1.5 billion is possible, but it’s not the number he would claim if push came to shove) they’ve said that his “max” is £600 million and that the £1.5 billion is “not a number I accept” – as if it’s a direct statement to Newsnet Scotland that anyone quoting him as saying setup costs could reach £1.5 billion is lying.

    This is despite Dunleavy himself making a direct statement on his blog earlier this week that: “Scotland’s voters can be relatively sure that total transition costs over a decade will lie in a restricted range, from 0.4 of one per cent of GDP (£600 million), up to a maximum of 1.1 per cent (£1,500 milion).”

    Link to that article is here:

    They’ve clearly just taken the tweet, pretended it was a “statement to Newsnet Scotland” and tried to put words in his mouth to make it seem like he’s intentionally told them the claim being reported in the media that “setup costs could reach £1.5 billion” is wrong. Completely outrageous stuff and someone should really point this out more forcefully. It’s borderline libel if he didn’t actually make this statement to Newsnet Scotland – perhaps someone could contact him?

  3. Yoshi

    Thanks again for your sterling work.

    I was very disappointed when the Scotsman published their ‘correction’ under supposed legal threats from Campbell. He says he never blamed the Hillsborough victims, but if you read his original article, in between feeling like you need a shower, you’ll note that his interpretation of victims are the dead only, conveniently ignoring his slander of the many survivors in the pen in Leppings Lane as being killers. They didn’t die, so in his sociopathic mind they’re not victims. If the Scotsman had bothered to check they could have stood their ground, and even amplified their point by refering to Campbell’s twitter ‘debate’ with a Hillsborough relative.

    Campbell’s Hillsborough article is instructive because you can see in the comments below it sane individuals trying to engage and educate Campbell. A fools errand, of course. When his completely erroneous (as you point out) assertion that Heysel led to the introduction of fences is contradicted with a reference to an actual article from the 1970s talking about 7 feet fences being installed at Wembley, Campbell completely ignores it. It’s almost as if he has a pathological problem with ever admitting he’s wrong – see his Claire Lally ‘correction’ as another example of this.

    Please keep going with this series…you might want to challenge an oft-asserted argument in Campbell’s favour that he quotes his sources. Often those sources are…himself. See for example where a week or so ago he asserted with sources that Scotland unilaterally using the Pound would in fact be better for Scotland than a currency union. The source he linked to was another Wings article. If you actually dug further, you could eventually get to a link to an Adam Smith Institute article extolling the virtues of a country not having it’s own currency because then it could never borrow any money. This is clearly, utterly incompatible with SNP or anything less than nutjob right-wing fantasy, but Campbell is allowed to quote it in a reference 2-levels deep and repeatedly get away with it as if it somehow supports his argument.

    There’s numerous other examples of this on his blog – I’d rather not spend the effort but if you do, you’ll continue to have my respect and thanks.

    • Alec

      Yes, it really is sickening as with Joan McAlpine getting her paying her lover’s duped wife from expenses – then threatening the humiliated women with further ruination if she complained – reduced to matters relating to her “personal life”.

      Perhaps Alan Massie is someone to roll the hand-grenade back at this pig of man.


      • ~alec

        McAlpine is a piece of work. Her mentions for Campbell on Twitter signal what the SNP think of Wings. They not only condone the site, they actively endorse it.


    • I was very disappointed when the Scotsman published their ‘correction’…

      To be fair to the Scotsman, I think they did the right thing. Although it seems counter intuitive, it was a pragmatic move by the beleaguered paper. In terms of pounds and pence it will save them a small fortune.

      I agree with you about the Hillsborough comments by Campbell. The “everyone” is ubiquitous and therefore, by implication, he also blamed those who died. And you’re correct to say that there were even more victims that day than the dead. So, Campbell’s argument, in terms of Hillsborough, committed the logical fallacy of the ‘definitional retreat’ – another favourite of his vacuously moronic debating style.

      On the other issue, the Scotsman were obliged to apologise. They did indeed impugn him. Nowhere in the ‘Honesty patrol’ did Campbell write that he would publicly identify individuals. It was slack reporting from the Scotsman. And they’ve paid the price by giving Campbell the opportunity to force them to apologise.

      The apology published by the Scotsman was notably referred to by Campbell as a “fauxpology”. That tells you all you need to know. It denied him the ability to gloat. It was cleverly worded in such a way that the Scotsman effectively said nothing. I would have been proud of it if I had written it.

      The fact that Campbell, in a follow up to the “Honesty Patrol”, published a picture of Ken McIntosh and named him ,somewhat diminishes his complaint. That’s public identification of an individual plain and simple.

      I’d like to see him take the Scotsman to court. He’ll lose – and all the requisite money donated to him by the Wingnuts or the Weirs or whoever it was, will have been wasted on an egotistical vanity project. Just like his court case at Bath County Court.


      NB: any instances of contradiction or logical fallacy, provide a link. I don’t read too much of his stuff. It’s too samey, dull, contrived and geared toward proving how clever and righteous he is. It pushes all the right buttons for the grievance merchants who think he’s the messiah or whatever, but it’s mostly formulaic and tedious for everyone else.

      • Alec

        Could someone give the text of the fauxipology… I am a regular epistilateer to my local rag and have got in lots of jibes at Stewpit; so, tbh, was glad to be caught in time here. I plan to write an equally po-faced piece now.

        I might slip in “sophorificates”.


      • Alec

        PS Longsanker, you brainy bloke you what with all your Latin, what is the logical fallacy in which an individual self-refers? Such as Stewpit’s using himself as one of those well-referenced links, or someone saying summat is known by everyone to be respected/correct when it’s mostly those in the epistemically closed echo chambers saying so.

        Me, I call it the weasel words of a cockwomble who’s thinks everyone’s ffick, but it might have something more punchy in Latin.


      • Yoshi


        I think the logical fallacy you’re thinking of is ‘begging the question’, or in fancy latin, “petitio principii”. ‘Begging the question’ is commonly misused to mean ‘raising the question’, where in fact it is a specific form of tautology where the conclusion that one is attempting to prove is included in the initial premises of an argument.

        A Campbell example:

        On October 25, 2013, Campbell discussed the SNP by-election loss. He, of course, wished to argue that the Labour had failed, despite winning, So how did he do this?

        He presented his argument thus: ‘We’ve been saying on the record for days now that a 3000 majority for Labour was the barest minimum the party should consider acceptable’. So he is making the conclusion is that a majority below 3000 was unacceptable. What is the premises to support that conclusion? Well, we click on the link included under ‘on the record’ and get the following:

        “I think even a candidate as hapless as Cara Hilton is an absolute shoo-in, and all we should really be looking at is the turnout and margin of victory. If it’s even close (say under 3000), Labour is truly a busted flush.”

        So Campbell’s conclusion is that Labour have failed since they did not get a 3000 majority, and his argument to support that is his earlier assertion that if they didn’t they’re ‘a busted flush’.

        This is a classic ‘begging the question’ fallacy. The size of the majority, 3000, is plucked out of the air, and used to support both the conclusion and the premises of the argument. A non-fallacious argument would require further premises to support why a majority of 3000 was a meaningful target, for example taking into voter turnout etc. One can see that instead, by setting a target majority high enough, which 3000 was, Campbell’s argument was bound to be proven true, without any other premises needing to be introduced.

        I hope this is helpful.

      • I hope this is helpful.

        More than helpful Yoshi.

        It is excellent and just the kind of thing I am looking for.

        If you ever want to post anything in AhDinnaeKen just give me the nod.


      • Alec

        Yes, I think that’s it. I can bore for Scotland when it comes to demanding the correct use of begging the question (not to mention that argumentum ad hominem is neither a personal insult nor inherently bad argument.

        In fact, my first direct contact with Stewpit – when I thought he merely was a gobby blogger – was on just that by-election defeat.


  4. Wings Over Reality

    It’s worth remembering that Campbell’s risible conclusions on Hillsborough are based on having been to a Pogues gig at the Barrowlands, which he says had a similar capacity to Leppings Lane. ignoring the fact a closed capacity concert venue is totally different from terracing, Leppings Lane was supposed to hold 10, 100 people. The Barras takes 2,100.

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