There are investigative journalists and there are investigative journalists. The former send in freedom of information requests and get a cheap quote from a politician to frame up a story for a Sunday newspaper, while the latter get off their arses and put themselves out there.
Louis Theroux is one of the latter and the popularity of his documentaries is a testament to the forensic and thoughtful manner with which he plies his trade. He loves to get stuck into his subjects, usually embedding himself with them for periods of time. He breaks down stalemates and existential distresses, while building strong arguments to challenge his bunk mates. He just loves a good cult and has had remarkable success in cult-busting across the globe.
And that made me think about how useful he may be in establishing the existence of the cult of the SNP ...
With one Scottish independence referendum down and one to go, is it time to fully examine what is really going on with the SNP and its followers? With Nicola Sturgeon floundering around in a post-Salmond-exit era and a pre-referendum “will I, won’t I?” debate, Scotland requires to properly look at why we are being driven to another independence vote and who is driving the bus these days.
However, recently things got interesting as the old leader made it clear he was getting back into the independence hot seat.
He has fallen from grace within certain shards of the SNP. In fact, if this had been the Church of Scientology, Salmond would have been ex-communicated and we would have seen lots of YouTube videos of him online being hunted down as a suppressive. But, the SNP followers are not that malicious are they?
Well, let’s cast our minds back to the last referendum and those scandalous pictures outside St Enoch subway station in Glasgow, where the then Labour MP Jim Murphy and the comedian Eddie Izzard were accosted by a group of separatists. Nicola Sturgeon was forced to deny allegations that they were sent by SNP officials to disrupt the occasion. Nevertheless the abuse and intimidation witnessed that day was frenzy-like and, for many, almost cult-like in its execution and fervour.
Louis Theroux would have had a field day with the participants there I bet. What we saw that day was almost like the Scientologists as these men were shouted down and had to give in and seek safety.
This sets the scene for IndyRef 2. I suspect this cultist behaviour will only get worse and perhaps even darker. But any cult requires backers with cash. Scientology has a cracking business model with blockbuster superstars like Tom Cruise as poster boys. Tom is a thetan and a big stalwart of the Scientology religion. Whether he bankrolls it or it bankrolls him is a mystery. But, while his Mission Impossible and Jack Reacher franchises rake it in for him and his companies, he is still recognised as one of the key players at the top table behind the CCTV-laden fences where Scientology runs its core business in Los Angeles.
Thinking about all that wealth leads me to ask the question about who benefits if the SNP wins? It is true it has many supporters in business, inside and outside Scotland. Many have publicly supported the SNP and are honest about their admiration. But, it is the quiet backroom lurkers that we all need to be wary of. Those multi-millionaires with too much influence on the likes of Swinney, Sturgeon and Salmond. These “followers” no doubt promise cash, endorsements and networks if they get a seat at the cult table in event of the SNP winning big. Louis would do well to pinpoint these people in his sights.
But if Louis has a go at getting past their considerable gatekeeping professionals, he should also look at the sporran-sporting “followers” who go rampaging around the country on walks and marches. It is colourful to watch and putatively wholesome and positive to the naive onlooker.
But, get behind the facade and ask some hard questions and you’d had better be ready for some brutal comeback. The arguments that will spew forth will not be built upon reason, rational thought and commercial sense. No, you will be ground down with nonsensical facts, spurious financial fairy tales regarding oil and a hatred of the Royal family. It really must get on their goat Prince Harry is now the Earl of Dumbarton. That accolade ought to be the right of their own cult leaders to administer.
Maybe I’m wrong here. Maybe I’m reading too much into things. Maybe I’m watching too much Netflix. Perhaps Louis would find nothing wrong with the SNP, its backers and its followers. Maybe he would not suffer intimidation for asking searching questions that require a straight answer. Maybe he would not be shouted at if he stopped a march and questioned the rationale behind the sporrans, tartan hats, flag-waving and beating drums.
Maybe he’d conclude: “Jim, you’re way off the mark here. SNP followers do indeed have tremendously powerful and quantifiable reasons for Scottish Independence. Not simply, ‘the English nicked our lands and all the North Sea oil’. There is no cult here, chum.”
I get the distinct feeling that I’m sitting here being a poor investigative journalist. I’m tapping away at a keyboard without empirical facts and figures. In fact I cannot even claim to be that, simply writing an opinion piece. But, I do wonder if many of you sense that while the SNP is a credible and professional outfit, it also may have a darker side that some would argue mimics cultish behaviour.
Perhaps Louis Theroux will make an appearance in St Enoch Square and find out for himself.