Writings, photos, politics and rants... *Original content - may not be reproduced without my consent.*

Saturday, 12 January 2019

The Christmas Ghost

 

They were standing outside Shirl’s Sweetie Shop in the high street after Dexter had bought his wee sister her Christmas present. He knew she would love the flowery hot chocolate mug filled with marshmallow.

It was their first argument.

“Haunted houses aren’t real!” Sahir shouted.

“Aye they are, and my house is haunted!”

Dexter was really annoyed. His face was bright red from shouting. How dare she doubt him. At this moment in time, he hated her. Usually he enjoyed her company.

Sahir had arrived on Gravel Street, in the house opposite his, just last year. Her family had moved from Syria after, she said, in her words, her house was, “exploded to small bits.” Sahir was usually good fun. She played football, with her scarf and long skirt flying out behind her. The boys got annoyed with her on the pitch because she was always so fast. If she managed to get the ball, that was game over for the other team. She would glide skilfully past everyone, arms outstretched, making aeroplane noises and the ball could not be stopped by any goalie, even Robbie James.

She was the bravest, strangest person he had ever met. And where he met her was just as strange. One night he had looked out of his window to see her sitting on her roof, cross legged, gazing up at the starry night. He had looked at his fitbit. It was 3.30 in the morning. He had opened his window and shouted across at her, “Are you OK?” She had given him a dirty look and shouted back at him, “I am just enjoying the Plough, Mr Nosey neighbour.” He had just shrugged is shoulders and closed his window but wondered who this strange girl was, and what the heck the Plough was.

The next day, at 8am when he was being rushed through his breakfast by his dad, the door bell had sounded. There stood the same strange girl in the same school uniform he was in. She looked him up and down with her brown, shining, sincere eyes and said, “You are coming or what?”

He usually dragged his feet going to school, but when his dad said it was OK for him to walk to school with this strange person, he was ready in two minutes flat. That was when he found out what the Plough was. She told him it was a group of stars shaped like an old fashioned plough – a machine that digs up the ground. In America, she said, the Plough was called “The Big Dipper,” which is what Americans called a soup ladle.

She became his best friend. The mad things they did became legendary in the school class. Like climbing the highest tree, tying a rope around it to make a swing that swung people halfway across the canal was the most famous… even the P7’s were in awe of that one. Well, Sahir had done all the climbing and tying. He had directed her from the ground, letting her know when she was in the middle of the branch.

Another time, just a few days after Sahir had joined the class, the teacher had told them he was just nipping out to the photocopier and would be, “just three minutes!” As always when he had to, “nip out,” he added, “Remember, I can hear you all the way down the corridor.”

As soon as he left, Ashley Gordon stood up and went to the door and peeped round it. “He’s gone!”

The classroom was like a different place as soon as she had said that. The shackles were lifted. Dexter hated these times. It was almost like a little bit of the world had broken. Order fell apart. And Ally Rodgers and his wee crew would start on someone. No-one knew who it would be, but there was relief that it wasn’t you if someone else got it.

Dexter usually kept his head down, either reading or continuing the work they were supposed to do, as most in the class did.

A shadow fell over Dexter’s book, and his heart sank.

“Disaster Williams is teachers pet!” Ally Rodgers lifted the book Dexter was reading and flung it through the open window. There were gasps.

“Oh look what you’ve done, Disaster Williams,” Rodgers sneered. “Everyone saw it… Williams had a temper tantrum and the book flew out the window, isn’t that right?” His little gang all nodded and agreed. The rest of the class, trying not to be the next victim, tried not to react. Dexter knew that if he was not the victim, he would be trying to react in a way that didn't condone what was happening, but wouldn't mark him out as next on the menu. He knew no-one would be brave enough to help him. No-one ever was.

Except Sahir.

She moved like lightening across the classroom. Her face, usually lit up in the brightest smile, looked angry, determined, steely.

She grabbed Rodgers by the collar of his shirt, punched him sharply, hard on the nose, just once, and let him go. He fell to the ground, clutching his face, blood dripping from his chin and hands, wailing.

Everyone fell silent.

She stood over him and whispered, “A girl can beat you.” She turned to each of his wee gang defiantly. “You are wanting to be next?”

To a person, they sat down fearfully, in their seats.

She then walked over to the window and climbed out onto the second floor window sill. She disappeared. Everyone ran over to the window chattering and laughing, ignoring a screaming Rodgers. A few seconds later, her face reappeared and she climbed in, walked over to Dexter and handed him his book.

“Next time, punch the little silly boy good in the nose, Dexter Williams.”

“He’s coming!” Ashley Gordon ran from the door to her seat, and everyone followed, except for Sahir. She walked over to the crying Ally Rodgers, lifted him by his elbow and asked, “Beaten by a girl?”

The teacher walked in and stopped and stared at them. “What happened here?”

The class was in complete silence.

Sahir’s face was back to it’s normal, radiantly smiling, friendly default setting. “Ally Rodgers walks to change his library book and tripping over a chair. I take him to the office to be cleaned up good.”

And she did. Pulling Rodgers past the puzzled, stuttering teacher and through the door.

And after that, Rodgers bothered no one.

Dexter was really annoyed with her when she said she didn’t believe him about the strange noises in his house at night. The noises, although usually soft, sometimes almost imperceptible, sometimes were loud enough to awake Dexter from light sleep. His mum and dad had set mouse traps, but they caught nothing. And when they were in the attic they had found things had been mysteriously moved; cleared to the sides, as if something was making room to walk through the boxes, old toys and bags of clothes they just hadn't got round to giving away to the charity shop – or was that their imagination? Had THEY moved the boxes the last time they were up there?

“Its haunted, I’m telling you! Our house is haunted!”

“Its no a ghost house, you big afraidy,” she said.

He had stormed off, leaving her in the street and running to get home so she couldn’t catch up and change his angry mind.

Christmas Eve, and he had fallen out with his best friend. This made it seem all the worse.

Later, he lay awake, excited for what might be left for him under the brightly decorated tree, but mostly because the argument from earlier was replaying over and over in his mind. How could he have handled that better? Sahir should have been more understanding, he thought. She shouldnt have been so dismissive… or was it just a misunderstanding? Sometimes how Sahir spoke sounded out of place, but that was only because of her being one of the EALs. English as a second language. He lay there for what seemed like hours. Usually he would just switch on his bedside light and read until his mind calmed and he felt tired again, but he knew his mum and dad would be extra vigilant tonight, so he just lay thinking about what had happened earlier. Then it happened.

Then the noises started. Creaking, then what sounded like soft footsteps across his ceiling. He lay listening like he did every night. He didn't want to hear a mouse trap snapping; he didn't like to think of the wee mouse squished to death by those strong springs. But he did want this to stop. At least the snap sound would be some sort of explanation. He thought of Sahir and what she said and he thought, “I’m going mad or else Santa is on my roof!”

A year ago, before he met Sahir, he would have either buried himself deeper into his duvet, or ran in to his mum and dad’s bedroom. But meeting her had changed him. He wasn’t the bravest person in the world, but he was a lot braver than he had been. There were worse monsters in the world, and Sahir had told him about the faceless monsters who had shot her friends and blown up her city. She had, without embarrassment, told him about her fear, her helplessness and her tears when her life and her city was torn apart and he felt stupid being afraid. Whatever this was, he thought, it was not as bad as what Sahir had to go through.




He knelt on his bed and opened his window and looked across the road. Sahir’s bedroom light was on, but no Sahir staring at the Plough or Orion’s belt or the moon.

He climbed up on to his window sill and held tight to the inside of his window and stretched himself up to look at his roof… and he saw it. A face staring back at him from the little skylight window in his roof. He nearly fell backwards, out of his window onto the street below in shock.

But on a second look, he saw it was Sahir, staring back at him with her wide happy smile.

“Did I awake you?” she asked, smiling.

“What the blazing heck are you doing in my attic, you idiot?” He snapped back.

“Sorry Dexter Williams. It’s Jupiter. I love to look at Jupiter on my roof in Syria. I could no see it from my roof here, so I climbed to your house every night. Ghosts not real, Dexter Williams! People real. I miss the people I sat on the roof watching the universe when I is in Syria. But I can stare at the same stars they are staring at… at the same time. Connection. Where-ever they be in big scary world.”

She stretched out and helped him onto the roof.

And that’s where he found out that the Ghost of Christmas knew loads and loads about the beautiful, glittering, friendly, comforting universe…


Monday, 31 December 2018

A few Facebook posts to finish this shitty political year...

... because next year (tomorrow) must be started without sarcasm...

Not sure if my resolution for the new year is to be increasingly sarcastic on political social media, punctuate and spell better on social media, be more angry on social media culminating in daily YouTube videos of me shouting in my car, or to get out more… hmmm...
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Good to see that heroic tory bloke cutting short his holiday as we are being invaded by four or five people in little boats. That is leadership material right there. Our next PM... Someone who doesn't need holidays while small boats with poor people are invading our borders. This is serious. He is concerned. Concerned about protecting our borders. The Tory bloke needs to put his foot down about Brexit. Brexit is Brexit, even if some lefties call it lexit. That'll save us from four or five people invading our great country in little boats. Protect our borders. Protect people. Protect borders from people. Protect Brexit. Protect Brexit from people. Brexit those borders. 

 Image result for sajid javid cartoon
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As the human world circles the plughole, what do you think you are winning, typing frantically, manically, with your thumbs?
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The world takes another loop of the sun. Silently beginning a journey it'll end in the same place next year. From afar, viewed through lenses circling, not much changing, we hope.
The politics of people impacting on the thin layer that protects us. Will our politics help that thin layer continue to protect us? Or will our politics continue down the path of starving, bombing, burning people from their homes to die cold in seas, seeking a life we have stolen? Will our politics leave nothing for children?
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If you don't believe in Christ, you are a sinner. If you challenge the leader, you have fallen. People join to be part of the truth, the arrow, the one true way to God. People join to be embraced, and to be heard. Noone wants to be cast outside, demeaned and be enemies of Christ. The unfortunates are outside, there to be pitied and led by the elect.

If you reject the analysis, you are bourgeois. If you challenge the analysis written by the leader, you are an enemy of the party. People join to be part of the truth, the arrow, the one true socialist party. People join to be embraced, and to be heard. Noone wants to be cast outside, demeaned and be enemies of socialism. The unfortunates are outside, there to be pitied and led by the vanguard. Image result for socialist vs christian cartoon
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Mum: Brexitina and Lexita, time for your bath!
Children: we've voted never to Bath again. Our current knowledge of bathing is that it gets in the way of playing and eating sweets.
Mum: but you'll end up smelling bad. You'll lose friends. You'll get ill.
Children: respect our vote.
Two years later:
Children: mum, Noone wants to play with us and we have open, running sores all over our bodies. We want to reverse our vote.
Mum: no way... The children spoke. I respect democracy. Now keep that bedroom door closed... Noone wants to smell that!

 
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Next year the Queen needs to dress in a hoodie, pyjama bottoms and a pair of Nike or I'm not listening. 

 Image result for angry man on facebook cartoon

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Disaster Selfie

A bit of a debate over this article in a group I'm in. As some know, I lived in Northern Ireland for 27 years, all of which, except for the first three, was during the troubles. I saw bombs going off, and the aftermath of those.

Mobile phones didn't exist in the way they do nowadays. I guarantee you if they did, many of us would have taken photos in front of bombed out buildings, wrecked streets etc. I would probably have done it as a young person or teenager, and perhaps smiled. In fact, I know I would have. The "normality" or "abnormal normality" of these events even sparked black humour, and when I heard or saw bombs go off, sometimes we'd joke "they missed us." Sometimes we'd rush TO bombs we heard going off to see the aftermath /help (though to be honest, there was never much we could help with... 95% of what we did was pure voyeurism) etc. As it is, I have souvenirs of bombs going off in my hometown, including a chunk of metal from one of the cars I saw exploding. At the time, as a 15 year old, I had no idea if anyone was killed or injured. I wasn't. (as it turns out, Noone else was).
Now, of course this kind of souvenir taking and voyeurism is questionable, of course it is. But it was our normal. It was our way of dealing with what was going on around us. A disastrous war that claimed many lives and ruined many, many more. The photos the press churned out of us were of a wretched, miserable people. A two dimensional view.


But when something happens outside your normality, a valid reaction is to record it. Be amazed by it. Record your presence in something locally, nationally or internationally "surprising," different.
Bombs went off at different times of the day, and on one occasion a pub we'd just left was "hit." Again, Noone was hurt, but if I'd had a camera, I'd have had smiling pics of me and my drunken mates after surviving that one, probably smiling, probably beside the small blast (a bicycle bomb outside Gowdy's... Any of my norn irish friends remember that? It was a foggy winters night is all I remember).


So, the rush to judgement to me, is one of privilege. One of "we send our money to help these people, yet they smile." We want our charitable cases to look miserable, and not to be recording themselves happily beside some unusual, abnormal event close to their everyday normality.


Can you imagine... We in Northern Ireland laughed and smiled our way through horrendous events. Some of the jokes we told would make your toes curl... (mild one: 
"The Reverend Ian Paisley was killed when his car hit a tree. The IRA claimed they planted it." circa - 1985).   It didn't make those events better... It just made our lives more bearable. I'd have been really angry with anyone from outside Ireland telling us to be less sensitive and more miserable looking.

I think we should stop being judgemental about people in shock or whatever and hopefully ensure those who need help, get it.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Traditional murder

Today, very rich people will chase a spaniel sized wild canine through fields. The canine will then be ripped apart by other dogs. This will be justified as "tradition." It will also be justified as helping the rural economy (by many who have fucked the UK economy by dragging us all in to a racist, and profitable-tory-Brexit nonsense). In the coming days, very rich people will shoot birds from the sky and stalk deer and put a bullet through their innocent vital organs. At no time in these traditions do the participating animal get a fair go at the Royal or wealthy businessman. It is never a fair fight.

Japanese rich people have been justifying the slaughter of whales as "tradition." A tradition that is costing the planet by totally unbalancing an eco system that has sustained us since our species stood up straight on two legs by killing off huge schools of massive animals that support ecosystems on their bodies, and by the sheer weight of their numbers, eco systems that effect our weather and our resistance to disease, starvation and early death. In fact, the decimated world whale population has partly led us to the ecological disaster that is looming… Our hunting species to extinction for our gratification and the profits of a few - our dominion over the other lives outside our own species, has led directly to the storms and ecological disasters encompassing the delicate earth systems we evolved in.

Tradition is something worth preserving if it is at the very least, neutral in its impact on the world. Taking a life, a life that can never be lived again, is not neutral. Tradition really is no excuse to stick to systems. I was brought up in Northern Ireland… There were, and are, hate filled traditions there that really should never be preserved. Traditions in South Africa and the southern states of America are being dismantled because of their awful impact on people.

Imagine a tribe of people who hitherto had stayed hidden on an island in the Pacific or in a rain forest. Imagine they announced via a spokesperson that they were ready to take their place within the nations of the UN and would like to present the world with something valuable... Something that would create jobs, cure illnesses, move technology on 50 years in a year... Imagine this boon came to capitalism on condition their traditions should be respected... The most important tradition to them being their feasting on one selected first born baby a year... Tradition. Would the UN be ok that? Would you be OK with it if it meant a pay rise of a few quid and huge profits for Richard Branson, Lord Sugar, IBM and Pfizer? Would you be OK if that tradition was just the hunting of pet dogs? Corgis, border collies, dachhounds? Or perhaps the eating of live monkeys? No? So what makes tradition that murders and eventually leads to our own mental and physical demise OK? Civilised? In Thailand some eat dogs… How can those who have other people kill animals for their taste buds or to support Tradition really object ? Caged, scared, disabled dogs for the platter surely are no different than cattle, pigs, deer, rabbits, foxes?

The blood sports economy does benefit a few people. But the land it uses is usually kept devoid of other life. Huge swathes of land in Scotland that could be amazing for a wider, fairer economy are kept barren in order for half drunk men in tweed or women in combat outfits to get a clean shot at birds specially rared to stroke murderous Traditional egos. Killing has a huge impact on our ecology. Killing wild life for sport has a massive impact on us. And killing animals that need our protection, for profit, has a huge impact on us, our future survival, and the mental health of those involved. Tradition as murder and planetary destruction.

Until relatively recently in our history, we lived in equilibrium with the animals around us. We took lives when we needed to. We ate a varied diet of mostly plants… Animals historically, because of how difficult to raise them or hunt them, were only eaten on special occasions. Like kids given keys to the sweet shop, we have eaten ourselves, our mental health and our planet, sick.

I'm an imperfect vegan. I'm not evangelical. But I feel if alternatives to murdered animals and chemical pumped rotting flesh are there, that's what we should really be trying to cultivate to eat.

And murder of anything, anyone, in the name of tradition, fun, or profit is just wrong, damaging for all involved, and millions who arent.

That tribe, imho, would not be allowed into the UN. Decency would prevail. Yet people, are considering giving Japan the OK to upset further an eco system that is becoming so unbalanced, more and more people are dying every year because of a broken planet, in floods, extreme weather and fires.

Traditions like orange walks that have erupted in violence against communities are not worth the preserving. Murder as a tradition, regardless of what animal is murdered, is absolutely worth halting and outlawing like the lynching, cannibalism, and witch hunts of our past. Tradition is no excuse to march us towards our extinction.

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Christmas Pop Memory Hole

Weird.  This link came up in my FB today. With the annual “which Christmas song is the most dodgy” fest now drawing to a close (Baby its cold outside, and Fairy Tale of New York taking the heat), I was thinking of Gary Glitter.

 Back in 1984 I was 18. That year was a seminal year in my life – I had started to drink with my mates the year before, had my heart broken for the first time, then quickly met a new girl I went out with on and off for the next three or so years and had just been sacked from my first real job that September (a story for another time). I was also working part time in a bar at nights and in the menswear dept of a Department store during the Christmas rush.  It was the year of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, U2, and others...And of course, the Christmas song of 1984 was "Do they Know It's Christmas Time," a song we bought more than once to feel good about feeding the world (and rightly so after the pictures we saw on our telly's of starvation and death).

The me of that time... or a few months later.

I loved music. My music taste was very different from my friends. I loved Joy Division and New Order and lots of other what was called “alternative music.” I was in to Roxy Music, The Doors, The Velvet Underground, Japan and one of my favourite all time songs came out that year, Echo and the Bunnymen's "Killing Moon" - the 12” vinyl version I played to death… so Gary Glitter’s new Christmas song, “Rock and Roll Christmas” was nothing but a novelty thing to me - but it was part of a really memorable part of my life, and even though I don't seek it, when I hear it, it brings back brilliant memories of a fantastic Christmas with a superb bunch of friends. When I hear it, the first thing that comes in to my head isn’t, “This guy is a fucker,” but my mind drifts back to The Coach (a local night club), Gowdy’s (local pub), The Downshire (lock-in – and a place I worked part time) and Alan Gallagher, Alex, Colin, Allison, Paula, Andrina, Kilkeel, Houstons," and events that I suppose are memories and feelings most people who were 18 that year in some way can relate to. It’s not something I really sat down to listen to – it never would have made my record player or tapes I made of the Sunday Radio 1 chart show. But, nevertheless, for years afterwards, it was something I heard a lot – and I suppose, partied to in discos and Christmas do’s.

And now like all of Gary Glitter’s songs, it has disappeared. I don’t mourn it’s passing. But I do wonder at the reason for this.

Robert Martin, a boy I went to primary school with, absolutely loved the cartoonish Glitter when we were at school. I remember him being asked up on stage when we were in perhaps P3 or 4 to sing one of Glitters songs – he did with all of the accompanying Glitter dancing. Bang goes a huge part of HIS childhood! Glitter’s songs and I suppose, legendary status in the pantheon of Glam rock – the pre punk cartoonish, tinfoil wrapped pop aimed at young teenagers (when I was a pre teen) – was assured, and he made a bit of a come back with "Christmas Rock and Roll" - and again in the late eighties and early nineties when he was used in advertising by British Rail.

His songs were everywhere… and in those “flash back to the seventies” TV things, he was up there with The Sweet, Marc Bolan, Sparks and others.

He kind of passed me by – although I could understand the attraction to his songs, I preferred First Class’s “Beach Baby,” and me and my friends were into Mud (Lonely This Christmas is still a must play at this time of year), Sparks and playing in mud, making road blocks from rows of stones (I lived in Northern Ireland), and breaking windows with sling shots. Seriously though, I always found Glitter odd, like I did Saville, There was something not quite right about them. They looked old, but were always with children, and their hair was just odd. But I would have sold my family to be on Jim ‘ll Fix It at the time… 



Isn’t it really strange when we watch pop tv histories, these people are now completely cut out? I know pop culture history is as disposable as pop culture, but it is surely a huge part of who we are/were? When I watch TOTP reruns on Channel something obscure, there must be bands we no longer see giving the miming performance of a lifetime because… well, Saville introduced them, or Glitter was on the same show as them. I feel cheated somehow, as if there is a huge black hole where memories once were.

I know Glitter’s heinous crimes. And I certainly don't think he should earn from his massive back catalogue – and I really don't care if he rots in jail - but the other song writers and musicians who worked with him – should they suffer? Many artists of the past, from film makers through to composers, painters and writers have done dodgy and dangerous things, yet society still holds their works up as pieces of necessary art (Polanski (sex with under aged girls), Allen (ditto), Wagner (racist), William Golding (sex with under aged girls), William Burroughs (shot his wife in the head), Patricia Highsmith (ultra racist and someone who thought the holocaust didn't go far enough), Orson Scott Card (homophobe and racist), Ezra Pound (anti-semite), TS Eliot (Anti semite)…)

- is there a culture snobbery involved?

Perhaps the Mail or the now equally airbrushed News of the World couldn't really make much hay from those high faluting people (though I have often wondered why Scott Card is still sought after by sci-fi fans, as a sci fi fan myself...)

As a teacher and a father, the worst crime in the world are crimes against children – against innocents. Glitter - Paul Gadd- committed unforgiveable crimes – some of which he has not been tried for in this country.

Should pop history be erased in this way, or should Gadd’s songs still be played? Should pop history telly include Saville and the other abusers that were revealed in the past ten years (and of course, reference their crimes)? Or should all art by abusers and criminals be erased down a memory hole mitigated by the BBC, ITV and our press?


Saturday, 22 December 2018

Three years ago...

... I resigned from my EC post in the Scottish Socialist Party. My long letter of resignation popped up when I was cleaning an old hard drive. Im adding it here as part of very minor historical record, but for me, a very sad and troubled time (I went on to resign from the ssp after becoming a social media and text target for people who were part of tgat party and some who were part of what became Rise, the failed "left unity" project I speak about in this letter.

If any other posts or literature that isn't already on my blog from tgat time comes up, I'll post here.

Bill and Comrades on the EC.
I am writing to formalise my resignation from the post of Social Media Organiser.  
I will lay out below my rationale for my social media policy and process and also the successes and problems SSP social media has had in the past three years I have been coordinating this.
I will also outline my reasons for standing down.  I will also answer questions, privately, if I have not made my account clear enough.  But From this point onwards, I will not be taking anything to do with the SSP EC or SSP social media (I have taken nothing to do with our website or our social media accounts since Friday).
I do not make the self deceiving claim I am objective.  I always feel it is laughable when those on the left quote Marx or some principle doctrine to prove they are.  Nothing created by people is objective, even “raw data.” This is my account. I will add send full personal discussions I have had with people as texts, Facebook messages and email threads if the EC would like to see them.  Scott MacDonald also has access to “Chat” and other message logs. I was going to add these as attachments, but some of the files are huge and also I would have liked to edit out mentions of people’s names with nothing to do with any of what I will say below, but to be honest, I sat for two hours doing that and I hadn’t got a fraction of the way through.
I also apologise in advance for mistakes etc, I have been typing this in the rubble and disarray of my house as it is being renovated and also at the same time as trying to look after our very ill wee dog.
The sectioned headlines I have come up with are not in any specific order.

1 Social media policy.
My approach to social media has been guided by my immersion in social media from its crude forms back in 1983, when I first started working on computers, through the nineties through the development of the internet and through the late nineties and 2000’s when I took part in social media experiments and used the internet to converse, discuss, interact, debate etc with people across the world.  I have written for various publications both on the internet and in the traditional media and back in the 2000’s I wrote an article for the Voice, urging the SSP to be an early adopter of such developments as Facebook and YouTube. When Twitter started, I created an account for the Campsie Branch and through that account, the SSP became involved in discussion again across the world. I also set up the SSP’s first foray into Youtube – and the account I created as one of the early adopters of the site, was given special “Director” status as we were producing and presenting political videos again one of the first political groups in the world to do so.
As someone who not only participates widely on social media, I am also someone who studies social media – relationships, flame wars, reach etc, are all aspects of social media I understand – and I also understand how social media seems to break down relationships – initially as people’s beliefs are challenged – but in the longterm, brings people together and can moderate behaviour and also ignite passions etc. Lawrence Lessig’s “Free Culture,” and Paolo Friere’s “Pedagogy of Hope” are two books that guide me and where part of my rationale while SSP Social Media Organiser.
Friere believes in education as something both teacher and pupil are seen as equals in a process.  I fully believe that. I do so in my professional life as a teacher and as an activist in a Socialist Party. And in taking over the SSP social media mix (which had come to a halt under the previous social media/ web EC comrade) and in a much diminished SSP, I wanted to use social media to ensure our voice was loud across the net and also use it to empower new members and potential members.
With that in mind, after recognising his interest and skills at our 2012 conference, I first brought new member, Scott MacDonald to help me with our Twitter account and also chat to him about progressing our very diminutive reach etc.
I then brought other new members on board.  Liam McLaughlan, Sandra Webster, Connor Beaton, Tommy Ball and others were all brought in and I would say that the experience of learning how to talk on behalf of a party with policies and constitution etc did help in their political development. (I will come to Tommy Ball later in this account).
Through introducing new people to our social media and through their help, we built a sizeable, respected and effective social media presence throughout the Yes campaign.  There were mistakes – but on the whole, our social media campaign which through dedication of those involved was nearly 24 hour coverage across the net for nearly two years – was hugely successful.  The weakest thing in the mix (and not something I was responsible for) was our website. The results in the social media campaign (and of course the superb series of public meetings we helped with (and advertised/ live tweeted and also had live streamed through contact and my weekly meetings with Kevin Gibney of IndyLivestream) was of course, the influx of people interested in the SSP during the campaign and of course the massive contact list we built on the Friday night after Thursday 18 september 2014, through the rudimentary website “give us your contact details” page.  Unfortunately our website was not on par with the other parties who had the income from this interest straight away.
Over the past few months since being elected in October as social media organiser (and then social media and website organiser) I, along with Scott, have tried to address the shortcomings of our website.  Scott has designed a “join us” page that has ensured we do get payment, and the look, responsiveness and the updates on our site are *coming* up to standard. There is a wee way to go with on that yet – but the first aim since May was to ensure new articles and content for the site at least three times weekly and archives showing our progression and history since the SSP came online there for interested parties to read.
2 Internal Chat
It became obvious after the indyref, we needed an outlet for members to come together online to discuss/ debate etc.  This became immediate when new members began enmasse, to attack socialists like Keith Baldassara and Nick McKerrell for having different views on our decision to participate in the General Election (I class new members as those who came into the party since 2010 – because lots of them were/are unaware of history and the identities of those involved with our party in the past etc).  The attacks across social media were despicable – but only happened because I feel, some new members did not know how to depersonalise argument and discussion. This does not excuse the attacks – no one should undergo attack like that.

Baldassara and McKerrell are passionate debaters, but know how avoid personalising argument – and it was embarrassing to the party that lots of our newer members did not seem to be able to do this as they launched vicious attacks on our ex party, founding members. It was during these attacks and because of these attacks, I created SSP Chat.
When I created “Chat,” I brought all of the people floating about on Facebook etc and was able to explain that we should not be attacking others publically like this.  Certainly we can have different opinions and give reason for that. But to name call etc in the name of the SSP is unacceptable. The attacks subsided.
My intention was then to create a forum – but time constraints, and spending a lot of my time ensuring our twitter acc, facebook, some blogs I help with, the website was being looked at, helping to direct conversation etc  - and knowing that the process should be done properly having went through the various previous SSP forums of the past – meant that this forum would have to be something for further down the line. In the mean time attacks etc were limited to people attacking each other on Chat, but not being out in the wild west of the WWW.  This became important again when the Tommy Ball incident also came about (I will explain this down below). When Tommy, someone a lot of new members respected for his outspoken views online, and a party branch organiser, began attacking Frances Curran publically online, I was able to use Chat to tell people not to react to his nasty comments on Frances page.  I also was able to use the Chat to ask people to show solidarity with Frances by sending messages to her Facebook.
My intention over the past few weeks was to close Chat down (as discussed with the National Secretary) and get our new forum up and running (as well as handing over complete running of this to moderators as huge amounts of my time are spent on helping moderate this dialogue and dealing with complaints).  I knew that if we did not have a controlled space, scenarios like the attacks on Baldassara and McKerrell would repeat themselves.
I closed Chat down on Sunday 16th after giving a two week warning (my last act as SSP Social Media Organiser).  I have left it to Scott and the Moderators who have been testing our new forum over the past few weeks to ensure it is up and running as soon as possible.
3 Tommy Ball
As I have said, I will supply chat logs etc if needed.  What follows is an account of where all of them fit in with each other.
Last year, on the lead up to Christmas, just after an EC, Frances Curran texted me saying she had concerns about Tommy Ball, and she had been given information at work about concerning tweets regarding an SNP/ ex SNP member, George Laird.  I recognised the name Laird, but I didn’t immediately realise from where. (I remembered later that Laird was someone who “trolled” the SSP account in the early days of me taking it over – constantly criticising the SSP etc).
At the same time Frances texted me I was on a Messenger group I had set up with those who were involved in our twitter account.  Tommy Ball was one of them.
I asked the question, “Who is George Laird?”
Another comrade on this chat and also on the EC, then said, “You have been talking to Frances, Neil?”
The fact that George Laird was connected with something Tommy Ball had done was also divulged by another comrade on the social media list.  So – contrary to accusations later during the resulting controversy, I can assure EC members, I did not reveal the connection between Frances and the accusations against Tommy Ball.
When I asked Tommy about this, he said all of that had been dealt with over a year previous.  I related this back to Frances via text (at this stage not knowing what the allegations were).
At no time did I divulge to Tommy that Frances had been asking me, and only acknowledged it after others who had been approached by Frances about the same thing revealed it to him.
Tommy, on numerous occasions either took himself from our social media or I suspended him because of criticism of his tweeting style by EC, or because of his attacks on Kezia Dugdale (for which I was led to believe we as a party received a cease and desist letter?).  On all occasions, he assured me he had learned his lesson and would not succumb to the same style of tweets (usually personalising debate etc).
During these times I came under attack from members of his then branch, Glasgow South.  I received personal messages and also public attacks from young comrades in that branch in defence of Tommy and because they thought I was attacking their Branch Organiser.  I spoke to Katie Bonnar a number of times on the phone about this (and Tommy’s attacks on Frances in his Branch and on our chat etc). A lot of what acerbated Tommy’s attacks on Frances and his intense dislike for her was the fact that just before the Independence Referendum, she rebooted the “Glasgow” branch of the SSP.  This upset a few SSP members not least for its claim in its title that it was the Glasgow Branch. I spoke to Frances about this and helped her set up the social media accounts, and she suggested they were called “Glasgow Central.” I also set up an “All Glasgow Branches” Facebook account to try to help in ensuring all branches in the region had equal access to Facebook and came together, rather than bickered.  Control of the twitter and Facebook accounts was given over to representatives of the branches. I stayed on as a “contributor” but did not use the accounts at all.
After Christmas, when the extent of Tommy’s attacks on George Laird were revealed to me, I phoned him and told him I would be removing him from the team.  He assured me he would not go on the attack on social media etc.
At 2.30am that night, my phone buzzed.  Ross Greer of the Green Party had texted me with the odd statement, “Hasn’t Frances had enough court appearances?”  I texted him back asking what he meant and Tommy’s public social media attacks on Frances were related to me. I then asked on our “Chat” messenger thread that people refrain from commenting on Tommy’s attacks, and the next day I urged members to send messages of support to Frances via her Facebook, which quite a few did.  Again I came under attack from some members of his ex- branch for “starting all of this,” and for “talking in riddles” etc. I did not feel it was appropriate that I relate the whole story to those individuals who attacked me as I felt this was something that needed to be dealt with by EC (and needed, as Frances said, to be properly dealt with).
I had numerous conversations about Tommy with the now SSP Party Secretary and with other prominent members of the EC.
On speaking to prominent members of our EC about Tommy, they agreed with me that trying to educate him and keep him on board was a good stance and indeed at branch level they had tried to do the same thing – but the last straw for everyone was the disgusting tweets he had sent to George Laird (or sent out in George Laird’s name in a “spoof account”) and of course his treatment of Frances Curran online.
4 The SLP
My view on “Left unity,” is as complex as the topic. Primarily I believe real unity – ie everyone agreeing on every point, will not ever, of course, happen.  I do believe unity of sorts can be achieved by uniting behind a democratically decided programme. I believe the SSP’s programme was more or less come about through political engagement and through debate and discussion and agreement.  I don’t believe the SSP is fully democratic, but I have always believed it was the best of a bad bunch of left parties in that aim.
With that in mind, I totally disagreed with the way that the SLP said it was going to try to form itself – ie, not by talking to organisations of the left, but by talking to individuals.  This was made explicit in its statement some people signed online.
I also disagreed with how our newer members were targeted and told half truths about and by, this small band of people, most of whom I have worked with or spoken with over the years.
My biggest concerns however, were highlighted at conference.  I don’t believe a genuine Left Unity can be brought about by deceit.  Again, I refer to my comments about deceits that have happened in the formation of this new entity.  Trust is everything – and there is huge distrust of individuals and processes throughout this process.
I believe Left unity and a real movement will only succeed when everyone is honest and is participating out in the open and a real acceptance of differing viewpoints, experience etc.
I really do not believe that has happened, and in fact having contacts who were part of the initial group and who were part of the RIC internal organising core, know that it hasn’t.  I have related my concerns (and conversations with key members of the ISG/ RIC/ SLP) to people on the EC.
I was also concerned as Social media organiser that representatives of our party, before any negotiations with this small group had begun, were undermining our party negotiations.  Proclaiming the SLP as the future, EC members placing SLP badges on their personal facebook and twitter accounts and also branch twitter accounts almost constantly tweeting without question – sometimes very dubious SLP articles etc as ones the SSP supported – made the SSP look weak and that what the small core SLP group had proclaimed they were going to do, as a “done deal.”  The official SSP main accounts only put out SSP policy and agreed positions on this. Again, I was accused of being biased by this small group in Glasgow South (I think my refusal to retweet their constant SLP promoting tweets also wound them up. I did, however, on occasion when they tweeted something relevant to the wider party, copy the tweet and send it out without the references to the SLP).
Personally I agree, as some warned in May, that the past few months have damaged the new found credibility the SSP had fought tooth and nail for.  Not least because of the constant attacks on people with a view outside the “SLP good; SSP dead” narrative that has persisted since before the referendum.  
Having said that I do agree that the behaviour online of those on the “anti-slp extreme” has been as questionable – but the difference is that their view is NOT backed up by any official or official looking, SSP account.

5 Allan Grogan
The conclusions I have come to over the past few weeks are that sadly the SSP is in decline (hopefully in my opinion temporarily) and we should engage in the tentative Alliance as best we can.  I felt the best way to ensure the extremes of the party came together were to help manage the narrative (alarm bells were sounded when a group of SSP folk hired a mini bus to go to NC and talked about fighting and disrupting).  
Allan Grogan sent me a link to his article.  I felt that regardless of what Ken and Colin and other “objective thinkers” say – this article bridged the gap between those who were hanging on by a thread in the party.  Yes there were disparaging remarks in it – though not remarks that many members I have spoken with disagree with. As a matter of fact, some Pro- SLP’rs congratulated Allan publically on his Facebook feed for a great article.  
I took the decision to publish this in order to calm some of those who were saying unreasonable things about the genuine attempts by those in the SLP; SLP/SSP and the SSP to try to create something new.
The outcome of this was the final straw.  As I said above, I don’t believe the SSP is fully democratic.  Colin fox has admitted this himself in a phone call with me when he spoke about the “leadership” – I was not included as an elected member of the EC in his talk of the “leadership” (I do not have a record of this conversation, but his words were, “Do you not trust your leadership?”  I told him I wasn’t aware we had a leadership. This part of my account can be disregarded in the general scheme of things – but I wanted it on the record).
“The Leadership” – or parts of the “Leadership,” tried to contact me while I was in school last Friday, teaching we’ans.  Either before, during or after these attempts, Ken and Colin also put pressure on Scott MacDonald – who was not elected as anything to do with our web/ social media – but who I ensure has access to all of these aspects as his dedication and skills are invaluable – to take the article down.  I sent a message to him, during my class, to say, “Let me deal with it.” Before I got the chance, the pressure on Scott was so much that he took the article down. The “Let me deal with it,” from the elected Social Media Organiser was over ruled by Scott’s mistaken, but understandable, perception of “The Leadership.”
For me, this was the last straw, as were the dreadful messages on the EC thread (and personal messages from an EC member I will also share with EC if called for).
6 Comments on EC about our Social Media.
Regardless of our massive social media successes, throughout my terms as Social Media Organiser and subsequently, Web coordinator, the EC have never congratulated me or the team for the mammoth effort we put in.  The only times we are mentioned if there is a mistake. “Shambles, “disarray” are some of the words that have been used by the perceived leadership of the party on EC to describe a social media campaign that was copied by most of the major political parties.  A social media campaign that got our name out to millions of people. And engaged with thousands in conversation. As most of the social media team were on the EC – this has meant a reluctance to “put themselves out there” and our twitter account has been kept dripping along over the past few weeks by Scott and I.  
The “disarray” and “shambles” at times referred to the mediated and moderated “Chat,” in which some people, including moderators I had to speak to, could not tolerate differing views from them (to the point where Katie Bonnar, acting as a “moderator” shut down conversations on SLP, Sheridan and the OBFA).  Some could not tolerate the fact my views were different from them, so I was attacked both in personal messages and on Chat. Four member of the Glasgow South Branch have said to me in public messages and private messages that as I had only won by two votes at AGM, they would not be taking guidance from me (and some of the tweets that they were putting out as their SSP branch directly contravened our positions on things – and at times made us into a laughing stock – eg the infamous “Westminster is funding ISIS” tweets that came from their branch).
I met Bill Bonnar twice about Glasgow South and their attacks on me.  He said he would speak to them.
On the second time I met him just before the last NC, he said he would deal with them.  He dealt with them by congratulating them at NC. This was a huge kick in the teeth. They were “guilty only for building the SSP.”  The comments of shambles and disarray aimed at me and my social media team were different of course. We must have been acting at all times against the party.  This is the only logical conclusion.
7 Our trad media policies etc.
Our party and any left organisation we are part of have a huge problem when “the Leadership” is made up of people who look down upon or do not understand the 24 hour, 60 minute an hour, second by second changing and demanding new news cycle.  Our Party does not understand it.
I asked on many occasions for press releases on aspects of the news cycle.  We set up a very underused “press release blog” and twitter account. I was told that there was no point because the newspapers rarely took up our releases.  This shows a real lack of understanding of social media. Tweets we put out go to an audience of many more than read the Morning Star, The Herald and the Scotsman put together.  An archive of positions on various aspects of the news, shows we are relevant etc REGARDLESS of the whims and political acceptances of the traditional media. Our facebook page has a reach of sometimes over 25000 a week (on average it hits around 17k a week). Our podcast had an audience of around 4000 an episode and live streamed events can get into four figures.  
Hopefully the party changes this and a team of political savvy news dissectors, disseminators and mediators is created AND the international committee release statements on various aspects of international news.  
Also, in my opinion, the EC really need to have policy broken down to having spokespeople for each main aspect of UK/ Scottish policy.
All of this needs to have a relationship with social media that ensures we are relevant across the many thousands of people and organisations who follow us.

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After a lot of reflection on all of this, I am standing down.  I did my best to try to ensure the SSP social media accounts were cohesive.  Some of this cohesion was thwarted by some members of EC and branches. Again, chat logs can be made available.
I did my best to ensure the SSP message and policies were tweeted and promoted.  I did my best, regardless of my personal view, that all views were taken into account (but our negotiations with ISG etc were not hampered by early (ie before negotiations conclusions etc) adoption and promotion of something most of our members knew nothing about etc).  I tried to ensure SSP tweets/ facebook or SSP facebook posts were not peppered with personal views of those who were tweeting. I tried to ensure all views within the SSP were represented on my teams – people I passionately disagreed with were on the team, as well as people I agreed with.  I disagreed with both extremes (those anti SLP and those totally pro SLP) – but as outlined at conference, briefly, it is well known that I had huge doubts about the processes towards an alliance – and still do. I tried to gender balance- and in fact wanted this post to be gender balanced, but some on the “Leadership” thought that was not something we as a party should go for.  SSP members and my digital team did become despondent about the fact that we were never told about new developments in negotiations, yet some SLP (and some close to the negotiating team) received updates through text etc – and announcements about the negotiations came exclusively from the SLP website, twitter and facebook accounts.
I have had MANY sleepless nights after online attacks on me and the party, and over what has been going on online in the name of the party I have been part of since early 2003 (and supported before that).
As an aside, personally, I am still not confident that this new Alliance will make any inroads next May, or subsequently.  I was fully of the belief the building we had worked hard to do during and after the indyref would ensure an SSP MSP, who would go into the Parliament with a full programme and party at their back.  I HOPE I am proved wrong, I genuinely do. My doubts, of course, should not get in the way of people trying. I do think some of their efforts have got in the way of SSP success.
I am going to fall back into my branch and continue with the brilliant work SSP Campsie/East Dunbartonshire have done in building our profile locally and with the other parties and local organisations over the past sixteen years. And I hope that through our continued local endeavours, we return at least one Councillor – an SSP Councillor, in 2017.
I wish the EC and whoever takes on the task of Social Media for the party, all the luck and comradeship in the world (and anyone taking up the post is welcome to contact me).  And I welcome PRIVATE questions – I will not be answering questions across threads.

Thanks
Comradely
Neil Scott