I think it is a dangerous sign of our times that conspiracy theory is becoming increasingly prevalent on our Scottish social media, than actual, solid material fact.
Ungagged asked me for my opinion on the state of Scottish politics. I am really not that qualified to do so. I am old, I suppose and I have been a member of a few political organisations in my time, but the only reason I have been, was as a way to seek real, material change in the living conditions of those I wander these cleaner, re-awakening Glasgow streets with. I’ll write occasionally as asked, on the topics I enjoy, art, music and politics, but I offer no real solutions. The solutions come from you once you have gathered all of the evidence, though evidence is increasingly difficult to find.
I have been in Glasgow City Centre every day of lockdown, in mourning for my morning cup of coffee over the papers in my favourite café, and chatting to Jim (not his real name) a homeless guy of around my age who refused to sleep indoors during it all. He had a bed allocated, slept in it once, and decided it wasn’t for him. He has had the same opinion of it all as I have. It has been necessary. It has cleaned up the city somewhat, but it has been incredibly, depressingly boring. Though I suppose because both of us lost the buzz of the city, we found each other, every morning come rain or shine, here on Hope Street.
I Facebook and I read Twitter now. I didn’t really give them much attention until around March this year. I don’t post much. Just the odd funny or two, but I do read the political groups. And boy do they seem to be from a different place than the rest of us. A different part of the psyche that greets you on the streets, from gardens, closes and doorsteps. The anger, the bitterness, the utter hatred that sometimes bleed across lovely people’s profiles and feeds, from the shared memes and themes.
I am pro- Scottish independence. I have been for around twenty five years. Add another five years to that for the years I dithered, as I would have been on the Yes side of the line in an analogue choice. My priority has always been for what is the best for the class I am from. I have fought rightly or wrongly, side by side, shoulder to shoulder with women, men and young people for a better world. With my class, who struggle to create their world, because the world is what is done to them.
And conspiracy theory targets them, sticks to them through the algorithms created by those profiting from these things. It is designed for them. My class are always under attack, from every side. When the state is hounding you from one bill to another, and you are having to jump through every known lake of fire in order to be able to pay your way through life. That really is the life of the working class. That is something middle class people really don’t get. Everything you need as a working class person must be fought for, in the struggle of your every day life.
And now my class are having to learn to fight against lies designed to push their buttons. Designed to profit from their emotional response.
The real struggle, the struggle of every day, every week, every month, every year life can be long hours away from your children, who are left to strangers to bring up, or this struggle can be the fight to live; to feed yourself and your family while almost doubling over and using all of your reserve to push through anxiety and depression every time you make the choices between time saving food and healthy food; food or heat and light; and every time you hear from every interaction with the state and the system that you are just not good enough.
You look up at the monolith and see only hardship that is done to you by that monolith, that society you struggle outside, and when someone tells you that the people who are controlling it are also fucking your kids, or murdering people, or hiding the truth from you in some other way, it seems it could be true. After all, this society has imprisoned you away from the good things in life you see on TV that EVERYONE else has, and you should have as well. Its no huge leap from that struggle to believe that powers ARE conspiring against you and yours, rather than the truth of a broken system, run by people who care only about you when they need your vote to keep them in their powerful, profit taking positions. And those people win every time, increasingly so as they pay thousands of pounds to get a message tailored to your emotions, family, failings, into your pocket.
And these conspiracies are tearing apart the Scottish independence groups I am in. Groups of people who can profit from the fact that working class people really have not got the time to pour over the latest long read in the New Statesman or Scottish Left Review, create distraction from the real. They kidnap and drain minds with their hateful bile, designed to cause splits and disharmony. There are arguments over Qanon, 5G, vaccinations, Pizzagate, Madeleine McCann, BLM, Royalty and of course, connecting a lot of these are antisemetic, islamophobic, racist, sexist, transphobic tropes. I see messages such as, “protect your children,” coming from some of the most hard right, Nazi sources, and shared by some of the loveliest friends. Bile sucked up by warm, hard working, struggling people, who see these memes and themes as kickback against the monolith that has rationed their happiness and relaxation, all of their living days. These vile people who steal their money and pay them little, caught in the headlights of someone who speaks like them. Paul Tommy Stephen Yaxley-Lennon Robinson Harris, Katie Hatey Hopkins, Farage and others, blaming whole swathes of other poor people, and pointing to the jewish billionaires “controlling thought and money.” And all of these awful things are making their way into our movements.
It depresses me that so many on the left could not see the wood for the trees and decided to ignore the fact that Brexit was about taking sides with fascists and ultra right wing racist scum. My friends are mostly of the left and I hear the awful, self defeating unfiltered anti-European dross vomiting from their mouths as directed by Farage, Boris Johnston, and the far right, but repackaged by a left whose dogmatic position did not allow them to see the danger of giving the far right the confidence Brexit has.
And so many of the online Independence movement are moved to make their vote against things that they hate or don’t understand, rather than FOR things. Remember that bright new future 45% of us voted for in 2014?
It is depressing me as I sit here on this step, typing the bare bones of this on my phone, near Central Station with Jim, who is explaining to me who he believes is controlling the world; the covid-19 response; Trump and Sturgeon, over our cup of morning carry out coffee and the Glasgow Herald.