Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Abuse, smears and threats

Language and emotion is part of political discourse. We are fighting for things we believe in, and the "other side" is fighting just as hard to stop things we believe in from happening. It's no surprise that emotions run high and badinage is exchanged. 

For the vast majority of us, that's the extent of where it goes. Sure, there's the odd death threat left by anonymous loons on blog posts, or, as one Labour supporter on Twitter drew attention to the other day, threats to "smash in the teeth" of Labour canvassers chapping on doors. Ruth Davidson has received a pile of extreme abuse, much of it homophobic. The most cursory glance through Margaret Curran's Facebook timeline shows the most horrendous, misogynistic abuse directed at her. Several SNP candidates have suffered the most vindictive, spiteful hate campaign, attacking them for their looks instead of their policies, and writing about them so much that it is close to constituting harassment. 

But this is extreme, and outside the normality of political discourse. 

On Twitter, I have a couple of thousand followers, from all sides of the political spectrum in Scotland and beyond. I engage in debate and craic with Labour supporters, Tories and Liberals, with people from Women for Independence and the Greens, with folk from the SNP, and Socialists; with people who just have a general interest in politics. I draw the line at engaging with fascists, although I imagine most of us do.

When you throw yourself into politics, from time to time people can't tell the difference between the political persona and the human being behind it. That's why people are content to send death threats to me on my blog, why female councillors, MSPs and MPs are subjected to misogynistic abuse. People begin to burn with a personal, obsessive hatred for you, and this is when it starts to get worrying. 

One individual whom - to the best of my knowledge - I have met on one single occasion is one such person. 

Last year, this individual was caught out in a smear campaign against me. This individual told people that I was going to be arrested and tried for a spoof Twitter account I operated in 2012. The individual in question actually followed people to the toilet, scuttling around the corridors of a public library and pursued them to the toilet, to drip poison in people's ears and poison opinion against me. 

I made it clear that the smear was without foundation when I challenged it to the person involved by e-mail. I subsequently made it clear by text message that I did not welcome any further communication with the person and that they should desist from contacting me. To this extent, I deleted the individual from my Facebook friends list, and blocked them on Twitter. 

A couple of weeks ago, I found that the individual in question was again smearing me to people I know. And yet again, they were caught out: the person who was the recipient of a text message containing gossip about me - nothing, of course, actionable; nothing concrete that I could point to and say "this is a lie", but a general smear - said that they would ask me about the allegations, on which the bully panicked and pleaded with them not to tell me. The individual prefers to operate in secrecy; bullying, gossiping and smearing.

Their harassment campaign against me didn't stop. Despite deleting them from my social media, they were still trawling through my Facebook. I have been told that the individual is making a quite pathetic attempt to draw up "a dossier" on me using Facebook and Twitter posts. Yesterday, I received no fewer than three comments from them on Facebook, which I deleted without reading. This is harassing behaviour - no more, no less. I have made it clear that I do not welcome communication from them, and still they persist in attempting to contact me. 

I have made a formal complaint to the party of which this individual is a very senior member, but unfortunately, it was not taken seriously. Perhaps if it had been dealt with at the time, it would have avoided events today.

This morning, I received a message from a member of this individual's immediate family. It was an unsolicited message containing abuse and aggression. It contained a direct threat of violence.

Being sad enough to spend your time trawling through someone's social media accounts to try and find something nasty they've said is one thing. Clear threats of violence is on quite another level. 

These individuals - folk who incite and threaten violence against people - have to be called out. 

Some people think online threats of violence are somehow different from threatening someone with a glassing in a pub on a Friday night. They are not. A single incident, on or offline, which is severe enough to cause alarm to a reasonable person, constitutes a Breach of the Peace.

I will be giving serious consideration throughout the rest of this week to taking this threat of violence - which was not a minor threat - to the police and asking that they investigate and prosecute this individual. 

Call me a dick if you want. Don't threaten me with violence. That crosses a line. 

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