Is it over? Is the end finally in sight for the national call on our support that’s been going on across the media for weeks and which has become unavoidable – the relentless arguments For and Against made by famous faces telling us how our European nation’s future will be shaped. Are you In or are you Out?
Not the referendum, of course, but the Bella crowdfunder.
I can’t decide which has taken up more space on my timeline nor which has irritated me more. Just as the EU referendum should have been a chance to discuss what kind of Europe we want but instead descended into rancour, so the fundraiser should have been a straightforward appeal for a good cause. Instead, others of us out here in the new media have been abused and accused in a totally unnecessary way as the Bella outfit trampled on its own side in the search for cash.
Snide asides and naked attacks* have marked the march of Bella as it positioned itself as pre-eminent…the largest Scottish based site I think I read…(whatever that means…presumably another way of saying much smaller than Wings). According to Mike and Kevin Williamson the rest of us can be dismissed as SNP cheerleaders, we speak in an echo chamber, engage in circuitous arguments, lack ideas and don’t deserve support.
I had no idea we were in competition.
I had thought all of us in the alternative media were equal – part of the same movement for self-government but with different approaches and a different cast of characters. We appeal to different groups and sub groups. Not all readers of my blog also read Newsnet. I ignore some outlets, dip into others, come and go according to taste and think of us all as an organic and complementary service. I have no desire to tell Bella what to publish or how to develop and wish it only success. If it moves into non-indy issues, that’s fine by me. Newsnet has covered poetry, art, broadcast news analysis, refugees and given voice proportionately to more Greens and Rise supporters than anyone else. We even hear regularly from a Labour Party member…!
The tired label of cheerleader doesn’t account for any number of doubts and criticism of SNP policy and approach we publish. But what is true is that I personally think, like half the voting public, that the SNP is the strongest vehicle for achieving independence. No one I know says that excludes other voices. It doesn’t. But we’re all entitled to vote whichever way we like in a democracy and we can do without the judgmental opinions of self-selecting blogging elites when we do so.
I can’t tell how how disappointed I’ve been with the censorious mentality displayed by Mike Small to those with whom he disagrees. He’s even tried to tell us who we should drop from Newsnet. His satirising of my own stance on the SNP budget was just insulting as if he expected us all to fall into line with what I assume to be his personal outlook. It strikes me as weird that someone who publishes such a diverse and creative site struggles to tolerate anyone else in his space…more Philip Green than Vote Green.
I’ve shut up ‘til now for fear of intruding on the fundraising effort and agreed with Alan Bissett’s peace plea, published ironically on Bella. But I’m no doubt that the acrimony has its roots in Mike’s determination, however undeclared, to promote Rise which in turn has curdled into a sour approach to the SNP and those who support it. Well, we can’t expect everyone to agree but neither can he appoint himself the Compliance Officer of the new media and dictate to us all. It may be his burgeoning ambition to be Biggest and Best that leads to getting above himself, as his motto says.
I simply fail to see the need for the trashing of the efforts of others as if only one site truly deserved support. The one-dimensional pursuit of some kind of ‘we’re better than you’ domination is surely a corporatist trait rather than a collective one. Newsnet has never even had an organised fundraiser and gets along on a tiny fraction of Bella’s budget. That’s the way we do it and we know, because it’s low cost, it is sustainable. We don’t have to make Brexit-style threats of closure if you don’t get your hands in your pocket.
Now he’s got the money in the bank** can Mike Small get back to editing an excellent and eclectic website in the spirit in which all this started – people-based, organic and tolerant. More than thirty grand is a huge sum to run a website in Scotland so there should be no further need for smearing others. It’s a real pity it came to this and I know how it disappoints many readers but, as Scotland itself has discovered, the time for shutting up is long gone.
Difference of approaches have opened up between the likes of Common Space/Bella who want to explore ideas and take bolder more radical approaches and the fundamentalist axis of Wings/Newsnet who act mainly as SNP cheerleaders while critiquing the media/Unionists in showboating circular arguments.
The blogs close to the SNP are so devoid of new political thinking they’ll end up circling the wagons around an ever-decreasing readership. Such is the nature of movements when they ebb. Common Space and Bella have a future because they go beyond indyref politics.
Its what makes these websites necessary. Scotland needs radical ideas, fresh thinking and the questioning of power much more than it needs pro-Indy government cheerleaders.
-I suppose where we differ is that some other sites focus exclusively on one party as the road map to independence and we think the issues are more complex than that.
I’d ask you to read the list of writers in the blog above and ask yourself where else has such diversity?
From our very beginnings a decade ago till the end we have independence at our very core. We think it’s fair enough to hold a forum for this debate. Ultimately if people just want to support the blogs and writers who support the SNP exclusively then I guess we will close down. We should know within a few weeks.
-If you want an alternative media that comprises largely of exclusively pro-SNP voices, who often don’t consider any critical thinking or dissent then that’s OK.
–Too many of the existing new media exist just for speaking to their own people. This results in circular self-confirming articles and comments: ‘Great post – I agree!’ The challenge is to reach and engage with new audiences who don’t agree with you. The political challenge is to take a 45% for Yes to a 60%. That won’t happen with closed minds and echo chambers. It will happen with fresh thinking, critical thinking and open forums about how to go forward.