“Claire Lally has been abused online,” opened last night’s Scotland 2014. We’ve all seen people abused online in this debate, so it seems far from unbelievable. There are one or two issues with the broadcast demanding inspection however.
“Gunn says he had not intended a personal slight against Claire Lally, who faced a barrage of abuse…”
A barrage? Eesh. That sounds bad. But it’s not enough, as any journalist knows, to simply claim something. You have to back it up. Where is this barrage? Scotland 2014 moved to do this shortly after the above statement, but not before a VT featuring Ms Lally was shown. Kicking off with, “on Monday, the mother of a disabled daughter…”
I’ve ranted about this kind of crap before. Introducing someone as merely, ‘mother of disabled’ is crass, offensive and demeaning to Ms Lally, and her daughter. It’s like introducing, ‘the Parkinson’s sufferer, Muhammed Ali,’ or ‘the man who’s losing his mind, Terry Pratchett.’ Neither of these men are defined by their respective illnesses any more than Claire Lally’s daughter is. Never in my life have I been described as, ‘grandson to Alzheimer’s sufferer’, because I wasn’t defined by my grandmother’s illness any more than she was. In the context of this discussion, it would be more appropriate to say, ‘member of Labour shadow cabinet, Claire Lally,’ ‘policy-maker Claire Lally’ or even, ‘Carers’ Champion, Claire Lally.’
The full quote went like this, by the way.
“On Monday, the mother of a disabled daughter appeared at a Better Together rally to say why she was voting no in the referendum.”
This is intellectual dishonesty. Technically, the reporter has stated nothing untrue, but by omitting Ms Lally’s political positions, it has already taken (and thus, encouraged its viewers to take) Ms Lally’s position, over that of those who disagree with her. So much for the non-partisan BBC.
“I’m just an ordinary mum from Clydebank who is campaigning for Scotland to stay in the UK,”
Is the next quote from Ms Lally herself onstage. Let’s be careful here. I have not, after more than a little searching, seen anyone criticise Ms Lally for being a bad mother. Given the size of the Internet, I’d be surprised if there weren’t people unhappy with her allowing herself to be marketed as, ‘ordinary mum of disabled child,’ but I haven’t seen anyone say she’s a bad mother. Feel free to point it out below if you have.
Personally, I have no idea if Claire Lally is a good or bad mother and I’m not particularly interested either way, though generally liking to assume the best, let’s go with the idea that she is, and anyone that says otherwise absent hard evidence can piss off.
She’s not “ordinary” though. There’s nothing “ordinary” about being a member of the shadow cabinet any more than being a policy maker for Labour. Ms Lally is not an MP, MSP or MEP, but then neither is Blair McDougall; is he just an ordinary Dad campaigning for Scotland to stay in the UK?
You’ll note I’ve been very careful above to point out that saying someone is not “ordinary” is not an insult. By process of elimination, I am in fact calling Ms Lally “extraordinary” and I’ve yet to meet anyone insulted by such an adjective. Scotland 2014 said that Campbell Gunn had said Ms Lally “wasn’t normal.”
This is different. Despite the fact that we all know ‘normal’ is one of the most boring things to be described as, almost all of us want it applied to us. We think of ourselves as normal, and those who are different as abnormal. No one wants to be described as the latter. “Normal” and “ordinary” may have very similar technical definitions, but in our culture, they most definitely do not mean the same thing. So even if it was an honest mistake (let’s suspend belief and presume so), Scotland 2014 misrepresented Mr Gunn’s comments.
Following the above, the programme showed three tweets which interested me particularly, as they were very much the sort of tweets I’d been fruitlessly trying to find all day long. They were, oddly, partially blurred, so it was impossible to see the name, handle or avatars of the posters. Why?
This blog is subject to, generally speaking, the same laws concerning defamation and the like as The Guardian, Telegraph and Independent. If I post something about you which is demonstrably untrue and would lead the ever popular, “reasonable man” to think less of you, you can take me to court and get the post removed, a retraction printed and more likely than not, some pennies off me for damages.
The same applies to twitter. You might only be writing in 140-character bursts, but if you libel someone, it’s still libel. If you publically state that, for example, “Stuart Campbell kills cats for fun,” Mr Campbell can sue the arse of you.
I mention this, because there’s no reason for Scotland 2014 to blur out the details of the people who posted these tweets. It’s exactly the same as showing an excerpt from the Daily Mail and blurring out the name of the hack who wrote it. Not only is it an odd thing to do, but it’s also pointless, as any one of your viewers can go online and find the article and its author for themselves. Same with tweets.
Or is it? ‘Someone’ allegedly posted,
“A liar now and forever whatever the outcome of the vote, a known Quisling and collaborator. Typical of Labour nowadays.”
This quote probably sounds familiar to you; it’s not the first time it has been reported. Google it though. Can you find it on Twitter? I couldn’t. You can find it in the Telegraph article that kick-started this furore. You can find it on a Vote No campaign page on Facebook. You can find it in the Daily Record’s reporting of the affair, with the author credited as, “one blogger.” You can find it on a forum where no one knows who said it.
That’s pretty much it though (unless I’ve hit the front page with this). And why do I care who said it? Firstly because I’d like to condemn anyone who spouts such rubbish. More importantly though, I’d like to confirm it was said at all. There’s no evidence that it was. Given how fond the Daily Mail is of naming and shaming cybernats, don’t you think they’d happily point out the author of such drivel to their readers? Unless of course, they didn’t know who it was.
There’s two more tweets.
“2/2 why not say she was a labour party minion from the start?” [link]
“We might make a Panini sticker album of “non-political” Clare Lally with Labour MPs/MSPs.” [link]
As you can see, I did find these ones. This is it though? This is the “abuse” Ms Lally has suffered? I’ve known a number of people over the years who have suffered from real abuse, and describing the above two tweets as such is beyond disgustingly disrespectful.
We go back to an interview with Ms Lally in which the most egregious thing she can say about, “a website” which is almost certainly Wings Over Scotland is that they had said she was related to Pat Lally. This was true, it was a mistake, and Wings posted an amendment to the article saying so. At worst this is an error which was properly addressed. It’s hardly abuse either.
Ms Lally goes on however, to add to the mix. “They said I wasn’t a normal person.” I’ve read the Wings article four times, and nowhere is the word, “normal” used. “Ordinary” yes, in response to The Times description of her, but we covered that difference above.
Ms Lally says discussion then moved onto Twitter and the comments were, “really, really bad.” Why can’t we see any of them, then? Why aren’t they being presented front and centre so we can all condemn those who wrote them? Why hasn’t a complaint been made to the police, who do investigate targeted abuse as a serious matter? Or, to ask one pertinent question which I think I already know the answer to,
Did Scotland 2014 take a screenshot of that ‘tweet’ and blur out the name of the poster to protect their anonymity, or did they simply have someone in graphics make it up based on the quotes in the Telegraph article?
Next the reporter gets onto Cambell Gunn and makes the same, weak-willed accusation Ms Lally has, namely that he made a mistake in briefing the Telegraph. Here’s his email that they show.
“You are no doubt aware that the “mother-of-two”, who described herself as “just a normal person” in the Telegraph today is actually a member of Labour’s Shadow Cabinet and daughter-in-law of former Labour Lord Provost of Glasgow Pat Lally…”
What’s so objectionable about that? Where is the “attack” we’ve all heard so much about? Mr Gunn, it turns out, is as mistaken as Wings was when it comes to the Pat Lally connection, but is being connected to the former Lord Provost such a galling insult? The only way you can suggest such is if you are in fact, insulting Pat Lally himself. Furthermore this kind of feedback to printed articles is hardly new. Look below the line on any newspaper site that allows comments and you’ll find hundreds of people correcting the content above and suggesting revisions. Is this suddenly, as of yesterday, unacceptable? Are SPADs all of a sudden not allowed to contact newspapers?
Scotland 2014’s reporter however, was on the case. “She wasn’t exactly a normal mother” is what Mr Gunn is accused of saying, despite the above email containing no such statement.
Back to Claire Lally. “It’s absolutely disgraceful.”
She then goes on to get somewhat emotional, and as I’ve said above, I’m perfectly willing to believe when presented with evidence that with the crap flying around on the internet every day, some of it went in her direction. I’ve yet to see any evidence though. The Telegraph doesn’t point me in any direction and instead references a Tweet for which no trail exists whatsoever. So does the Record. So did Scotland 2014.
Cut to Alex Salmond, because a big part of this story is how the First Minister instructed Mr Gunn to apologise. In clarifying his position, Mr Salmond said, “if any offence was caused.” Coincidentally I made a similar ‘apology’ last Friday and didn’t mean a word of it. “I’m sorry you were offended” is as much an accusation as it is a retreat. “Clearly you have some sort of problem that a reasonable person would have failed to consider.”
Mr Salmond then went on to note that saying you thought somebody was somebody else’s daughter in law is not a grievous insult. Who could reasonably disagree? It was a “misunderstanding” he says, which seems fair enough, “but just to make sure, an apology will be on its way to underline the point.”
That of course could be the end of it, but never averse to talking absolute pish in front of a camera, Margaret Curran graced our tellies last night as well.
“An apology isn’t enough. If you actually see and understand the things that a mother of a disabled child has been called. I don’t think an apology’s anything like good enough. It’s shocking that the First Minister’s office was involved in this.”
INVOLVED IN FUCKING WHAT???
Yes, I’m somewhat perturbed by this. I am in fact, infuriated at the persistant unionist painting of this, “mother of a disabled child” and I do note that everyone using this phrase is a unionist. Nor am I best pleased that after generally being quite empathetic to this new BBC show in the face of what I saw as unwarranted criticism from others, that they ran with such a biased, misleading, unsubstantiated piece-of-crap report as this last night, and followed it up with the presenter happily continuing the lie that Claire Lally is an ordinary woman. You may as well say Better Together are calling for the resignation of an ordinary man in response.
Oh, and Stuart Campbell is the son of former Liberal Democrat leader, Ming Campbell.
EDIT: It turns out Stuart Campbell is not the son of former Liberal Democrat leader, Menzies Campbell. It was a misunderstanding, and if any offence was caused, an apology will of course be on its way.
A REAL EDIT (13:15) Someone has found that elusive tweet. Who? Well, that vicious cybernat over at Wings who quite rightly condemned it. So do I. Note however, that this is one tweet from an idiot with just 17 followers, and it has been (at time of writing), retweeted only once and that by an angry unionist rather than an agreeing cybernat. Read more about the barrage of hate here.