What is a Troll? In the classical sense it is the big bogie man from the frozen past of Norse mythology, a mythology we in Scotland also partly share thanks to the internationalist aspect of our mutual histories.
In more modern mythologies is the version of the troll as portrayed in the recent Harry Potter films and books. This took the thought process a step further. Who stuffed the metaphorical wand up the nose of our latest itineration of a Troll, the Unionist? Who, or what, has irritated it enough to make it venture forth?
The version of troll now being referred to is described by the urban dictionary as “One who purposely and deliberately (that purpose usually being self-amusement) starts an argument in a manner which attacks others on a forum without in any way listening to the arguments proposed by his or her peers. He will spark off such an argument via the use of ad hominem attacks ... with no substance or relevance to back them up as well as straw man arguments, which he uses to simply avoid addressing the essence of the issue”.
The origin of the word also can refer to a corruption of “Trawling” where a boat somewhat randomly fishes the ocean, hoping for a catch of anything productive and marketable in its nets, often directed to appropriate “grounds” either by knowledge or electronics. “Trolling the internet” has in some ways replaced random wanderings in cyberspace as a preference to “surfing”, although trolling has a decidedly more nefarious undertone to it.
On Sunday the 19th February 2012, there was a tweet at 12:16pm from one George Foulkes, Lord, currently resident at Westminster. The good laird tweeted “CyberNat myth that devolution was forced on the Labour Govt.by EU or Council of Europe (stories vary) is akin to Holocaust denial”.
The essence of the message was simple – Tony Blair, out of the goodness of his heart, despite being very opposed to devolution, just decided to let the Scots “go for it”.
Not required in the tweet was the flagrant and rather ubiquitous reference to the Holocaust – that was trolling for reaction.
Not required in the tweet was the phrase “CyberNat myth”, this is, again, trolling for reaction.
Lairdy Foulkes got his reaction on both counts as the “twittesphere” briefly lit in localized areas responding to this outrageous provocation.
The troll got his reaction, he was fed. Job done!
The troll aspect is additionally re-enforced as the tweet under discussion came about less than forty eight hours after a Newsnet Scotland article on the forces behind devolution. Coincidence? That is a possibility, but then again there is that old Scots double affirmative, “Aye, right!”
This is not the Labour Peer’s first foray into the realm of the internet and social media utelising inflammatory comments and oblique references to actual events. He’s also a frequent user of the coin “CyberNat”. In this turn of phrase he’s been ably aided and abetted by one Tom Harris MP, also a denizen of the halls of Westminster, and some would say erstwhile troll.
Lord Foulkes is in an envious position; he can stir the cauldron at Westminster with no fear of electoral consequences. He has his face firmly in the trough for life, getting more in a day’s allowance than he expects many others to live on for a month. We can’t kick him out. Nor can we get rid of Lord Forsyth even though in 1997 Scots gave the biggest ever electoral thumbs down to the man, he has now been “elevated” without a “by your leave” after we rejected him and also gets to sup at our expense.
Lords Foulkes and Forsyth are the chief Scots trolls in the House of Lords, although they do appear to have their hands full keeping just a nose further ahead than either Tankerness or Sutherland. In case any of the front runners start to slack in their trolling at the trough, Hamilton is pushing from up behind as he reminds us his ancestors were unjustly vilified simply because they found themselves bankrupt after Darien and chose to become a member of the group no known as the “Parcel ‘O Rogues”.
Trolling through legislation at Westminster is no different than trolling the internet. Acting as a Troll at Westminster, where like Hogwarts there are halls and bathrooms through which to prowl, is no different than entering chat rooms or social media sites when your primary result is to cause consternation, upset and strong reaction without a meaningful contribution to the debate.
This is just as obvious at Westminster as it is in cyberspace; the various amendments dragged to the legislative table after being dredged from Westminster’s trough by relevant snouts have no hope of becoming law. They will never be part of any finalized Scotland Bill, as the bill requires assent through both parliaments. That is a political reality.
These amendments, sham protests at vilification, infantile attention seeking and media grandstanding are therefore designed only to produce a reaction without adding to the matter surrounding the constitutional debate. What they achieve instead is muddying the waters and confusing the issues. That is troll work.
The allocation of the term “Cybernat” is one to be worn proudly; it is a badge of honour and pride. The “Cybernat” of which the lifelong benefits claimants of the Lords live in fear, actually represents the nemesis of those benefits.
The “Cybernat” disseminates and refutes the stories of trolling, of deceit, of obfuscation, of betrayal, and these “Lords” no matter their elevated station in life, no matter how rightly or wrongly they attained such station, no matter the fawners, the lobbyists or sycophants that swarm around them, they acknowledge every day they voice their opposition, that they are no match for the truths espoused by the Cybernat.
The Cybernat appears to be a Scots phenomenon, but they’re everywhere, they’re found in every corner of the world, they’re the expats and pats, they’re the average Scot who will no longer be lied to or deceived. At day’s end the Cybernat is a simple phenomenon, it is a representation of Scotland’s voice, muffled for centuries, at last having an avenue of expression.
London’s ignorance of the Cybernat is ignorance of Scotland. This lack of engagement with credible message is the same treatment Scotland has seen for three centuries. Ability to talk, to be open, to be honest and to engage; these are just some of the deficiencies that Westminster and her denizens exhibit when it comes to dealing with the Cybernat. These are the same issues that have made it necessary to gag Scotland since the inception of the Union.
Fundamentally, Scotland and the Cybernat are one and the same; they are proud, independent, loyal, caring and compassionate. When Westminster understands these qualities and puts them before avarice, dominion and gluttony, then its inhabitants will not just have a means to speak as equals to the Cybernat, they will have found a way to treat properly with Scotland herself.
There is an exception, Scotland and the rabid Cybernat are at distinct odds. Our vision of a future land of opportunity and equality has no room for such bigotry. In fact, it appears at such odds to the goal of independence one could be forgiven if caught wondering, do we have modern day Daniel Defoe's amongst us?
Until that time is upon us we should try to minimize the impact of this Troll breeding ground we seem to have disturbed, as if we had poked a hornet’s nest with a stick. The great echoing halls of Westminster seem to be such a den. The near incessant rumblings of Lords Foulkes, Forsyth and others give blunt testimony to this fact.
Today we can recognize this and stop feeding the trolls. In 2014, we can even remove the trough.