‘Cybernats’ and ‘Unionist Ultras’ must not dominate independence debate – Steve Cardownie

Angus ­Robertson, the former depute leader of the SNP, was right to speakk out against people who think they can “insult, attack and offend with impunity” behind the cloak of online anonymity, writes Steve Cardownie.

Angus ­Robertson, the former depute leader of the SNP, was right to speakk out against people who think they can “insult, attack and offend with impunity” behind the cloak of online anonymity, writes Steve Cardownie.

‘I hope that he dies a slow painful death.’ So said an anonymous keyboard contributor about me in response to something I had written in my column.

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Safe in the knowledge that their cloak of anonymity would shield them from retribution, allowing them to continue plying their vile trade of insults and obnoxious tirades, they plough on.

When referring to online abuse from so-called ‘cybernats’ and ‘Unionist Ultras’ last weekend, Angus ­Robertson, the former depute leader of the SNP, said: “I’m expressly underlining the fact that this is an issue for both sides of the constitutional argument in Scotland and more generally internationally where on social media, often because of anonymity, some people think that they can insult, attack and offend with impunity.

“The immediate challenge for the Yes movement is to reach out to the open-minded and undecided voters. However, if the environment online is poisoned by aggressive, shouty insulting, often anonymous, keyboard warriors, this is unlikely to persuade anybody and is more likely to turn people off entirely and that should be a real concern.”

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Some so-called “keyboard warriors” of course are anything but and are no more than insignificant cowards. Unable to engage in public debate, they are content to hide behind their ­computers dispensing insults and wild accusations with abandon.

There have obviously been occasions when internet communities have grouped together to do incredible amounts of good and social media has provided them with the platform to question, criticise and inform.

Unfortunately their good intentions and positive actions have been blighted by a minority that would rather use the internet as a vehicle for abuse and insult rather than utilising its vast potential to contribute to and inform debate and opinion.

Angus Robertson went on to say: “This can’t go on. People can’t go on thinking that they can sit in front of their keyboards and do nothing but send abuse to people they don’t agree with.”

This unacceptable behaviour is by no means confined to some Yes supporters as there are countless examples of prominent independence supporters being targeted for abuse by some Unionist adherents. But both strands are abhorrent and should be recognised for what they are. As for me, I only read the one that opens this column because someone brought it to my attention.

I studiously ignore such ­comments, and will continue to do so, and whether or not I die a slow, painful death will not be influenced one way or another by some moron with a keyboard’s wishful thinking.