A Very Sorry State of Affairs

The thing about writing occasional blog entries in between what counts for living my life, is that events very often overtake me. I also usually take a while to formulate little snippets of what I want to say, usually mulling things over whilst otherwise occupied, so I often end up hours/days/weeks late with anything like a finished piece… so don’t bother publishing at all. One such event has kind of just happened – but it’s still not resolved.

I’m talking about yesterday’s sorry events, unfortunately precipitated by the sad and untimely death of Charles Kennedy and an element of the political/media sphere that will apparently stop at nothing to attempt to smear and discredit the SNP.

First things first – I haven’t seen one bad thing said about Kennedy over the last 36 hours – either from people inside politics or from people in the ‘real world’, and right throughout the political spectrum. He was a much admired and respected character and politician, and I add myself to that list of admirers. The only thing that could possibly be construed as being at all negative that I saw written about him by a Yes/SNP voter – and I read A LOT of comments yesterday – was something along the lines of ‘I liked him a lot, but he was still a unionist’. There wasn’t even a ‘bad word’ thrown in there. Hardly damning words surely, even if that was certainly a key difference between Kennedy and we supporters of independence.

But the ugly side of the Twittersphere was awash yesterday with people all but calling for Salmond’s head on a stick. In fact, some of them did indeed state that they wished Salmond the same fate as Kennedy. Charming words from those allegedly concerned about ‘respect’.

More disappointing than members of the public though was seeing that some of Charles Kennedy’s own party colleagues and ‘friends’ had jumped head-first onto the hysteria bandwagon. Menzies Campbell and Malcolm Bruce, in particular. Bruce described Salmond’s comments as “churlish and graceless”, after either entirely failing to read Salmond’s words properly or choosing to deliberately misinterpret them too. Where is the respect for his friend and colleague there? Party political and personal bitterness overtook those like Bruce, still reeling from the recent election whitewash. That’s no excuse though. He did precisely what he wrongly accused Salmond of doing.

Former Lib Dem MP, Lembit Opik, breathed some reason into proceedings, Tweeting that he was disgusted with the way Salmond’s words had been tangled and warped to form a political attack. He also Tweeted that he knew Salmond and Kennedy were good friends, asking people to appreciate that fact.

Still, this morning when I woke, I logged on to Twitter and searched for ‘SNP Charles Kennedy’. Every minute, more venomous comments from those either too lazy to read, incapable of reading or just plain pig-ignorant. The facts had been public knowledge since yesterday, and Alex Salmond had even explained perfectly reasonably why he said what he said. His explanation was even, surprisingly enough, in the middle of the Telegraph article that reported the ‘outrage’. But many of the faux-outraged are simply not willing/capable of actually listening to the real story.

At this point, I want to add that Alex Massie, the journalist who it appears first kicked up a stink about Alex Salmond’s words, has today tweeted something of an apology, saying that on reflection and after reading Salmond’s explanation, his piece may have been over the top. I’m disappointed that it took Massie almost 24 hours to come to this conclusion, as many people, myself included, had been attempting to get him to see sense throughout all of yesterday. I knew what Salmond’s words meant when I first read them, as did many others. Others, it seems, needed it spelling out to them several times, and needed almost a full day to digest a few simple words of explanation. But at least Massie has provided a retraction of sorts – it’s a start.

The issue now is when we consider the number of people who were worked up into frothing rage yesterday by Massie’s (among others) article. How many will have since read Massie’s tweet today and thought ‘Oh, okay then. Fair enough’? A tiny proportion, I’d wager. And I doubt that many of that tiny minority will be jumping on to Twitter and Facebook to say ‘Hands up – I was wrong’. How many read nothing more than ‘Salmond’, ‘Kennedy’ and ‘outrage’, failed to read the actual details and have now stuck this ‘weapon’ in their quiver for their next anti-Salmond/anti-SNP crusade?

So it’s not resolved at all.

People like Massie, who should feel some sort of moral duty to be as accurate in their writing as possible, have an unwarranted and largely unaccountable power over their readership. The truth is seldom a consideration for this type of journalist though, such is the nature of our ‘free’ press and media. The only time it enters into their thoughts is when they worry about the possible repercussions for themselves.

As for Kennedy’s colleagues, and those who would call him ‘friend’, who jumped right in there, doing exactly what they were accusing Salmond of doing… contempt is too polite a word, in my opinion.