Narcissism and Scottish Nationalism

Narcissism and Scottish Nationalism

by Jill Stephenson
article from Wednesday 7, March, 2018

RECENTLY, the classicist Bettany Hughes presented a programme on BBC Radio 4 on ‘narcissism’. Much of what she said struck a chord: what she was outlining amounted to a description of the Scottish nationalist approach on social media. She identified certain characteristics associated with narcissism, including arrogance, a sense of entitlement, a sense of their own fabulousness – especially at other people’s expense. These attributes are similar to those identified by the American psychotherapist, Sandy Hotchkiss, who described the ‘seven deadly sins of narcissism’. These include arrogance, a sense of entitlement, envy, magical thinking and shamelessness. These are characteristics that can be identified in a certain corps of cybernats on social media.

Arrogance is evident among cybernats who are convinced that they know the truth – about pretty much everything, but about Scotland and the UK in particular. These people get their information from nationalist propaganda websites, and sometimes from very dubious conspiracy theory websites. It is pretty clear that they don’t read books by experts. I have noticed this in areas of which I have some professional knowledge. The repetition of their assertions and the manner in which it is done betrays an unswerving allegiance to SNP party propaganda and to online articles written by notorious nationalist bloggers. Cybernats patrol social media and discussion threads with overweening confidence and a refusal to consider information that does not come from their own ‘trusted sources’.

Above all, these sources warn against believing anything published by the MSM (mainstream media), which includes the BBC, a particular target for cybernat vitriol. Cybernats complain about ‘BBC bias’ in the 2014 referendum, when it was clear that the BBC was doing its best to be scrupulously fair and was itself put under pressure by nationalists during the referendum campaign. Who can forget the flag-waving mob that descended on BBC headquarters at Pacific Quay? Or the second leaders’ debate held by the BBC in the atmosphere of a ‘yes’ rally, where an audience member was allowed by the moderator to insult Alistair Darling instead of asking him a question? BBC interviewers in Scotland were reluctant to challenge SNP leaders. On the one occasion one – Jackie Bird – did, she received vitriolic abuse on social media. BBC London was not much better, although Andrew Neil – who does his homework more assiduously than anyone – asked searching questions and did not take glib answers at face value.

In particular, nationalists rewrite history to show the UK up in a bad light, and their followers believe their account. There is much grievance about the circumstances of the Acts of Union in 1707, but particular vitriol is reserved for the Highland Clearances. One nationalist blogger, Jason Michael McCann (who lives in Dublin), has written of it as “A Scottish Genocide”. This view does not accord with received historical scholarship. Sir Tom Devine, FBA, commented: “It is ludicrous to suggest a genocide or anything like it. It’s a bizarre assertion”. Sir Tom continued: “There is no direct evidence at all of any levels of increasing mortality caused by clearances”. Will this deter Mr McCann and those of his allegiance to Scottish nationalism from referring to the clearances as “genocide”? The boundless arrogance of the allegedly omniscient nationalist mindset strongly suggests that it will not. For experts who disagree with them are simply wrong, and probably unpatriotic with it.

Nationalism gives clear examples of magical thinking – a mindset where social media have given a platform to people who are short on knowledge (sometimes downright ignorant) and long on political allegiance. This leads nationalists to disparage any who disagree with the accepted version put out by SNP headquarters or nationalist commentators. One nationalist recently dismissed the judgment of the chief credit officer at Moody’s credit ratings agency as ‘just one man’s opinion’ because he had had the temerity to say in 2017 that an independent Scotland would probably have a ‘junk’ credit rating. ‘Other people there [at Moody’s] and at other agencies think differently’. There was no attempt to produce evidence for this claim. Those who are intuitively ‘right’ do not need to produce evidence.

Nationalists have been instructed by their ‘trusted sources’ to parrot the views on the GERS (General Expenditure and Revenue Scotland) of Professor Richard Murphy, views that are not shared by Ms Sturgeon, members of her government or SNP MPs, far less by economics experts. But disparaging the GERS figures is a life raft for nationalists to cling to. When Alex Salmond acclaimed the authoritative character of the GERS in 2013-14, it was because it showed Scotland’s finances in a good light. Now that oil brings in virtually no income and Scotland’s deficit is the largest in the OECD, nationalists disparage the GERS as ‘estimates’ that tell us nothing about the finances of a separate Scotland. A typical nationalist response is: ‘Scotland is rich in resource and talent. Why would it not be financially sound especially after being relieved of the burden of subsidising England?’ This canard appears regularly on social media. The fact that London subsidises the rest of the UK is not something that nationalists recognise.

Scottish nationalism appeals particularly to those with a sense of entitlement. They feel that they have been discriminated against – or, in natspeak, ‘oppressed’, ‘enslaved’, ‘done down’, ignored’ – by the UK, Westminster, London, Tories, all of which serve as proxies for ‘England’. If their standard of living is not what they feel it should be, if they have not achieved in their life and work, it is the fault of the ‘foreign oppressor’ who has ‘stolen’ Scotland’s wealth and lives high on the hog as a result. If England did not treat Scotland as a ‘colony’, Scotland would be rich and the envy of the world. The SNP encourages this sense of entitlement by issuing propaganda which tells Scots that all their troubles would vanish without any effort on their part – beyond putting a cross in the correct box at elections and referendums.

Associated with that, nationalists tell Scots who accept the GERS and the views of experts on the economy and the constitution that they should ‘get off their knees’ and stop ‘doffing their caps to their imperial masters’. They call us a great many ruder things as well. One suggested that Ms Sturgeon should use the ashes of unionists to grit Scottish roads in the recent inclement weather. The belief that Scotland is a ‘colony’ of England is embedded in the nationalist litany of grievance, with no thought of what a ‘colony’ actually is and no recognition of the extent to which Scots enriched themselves from the colonies of the British Empire. The extent of Scots’ involvement in the exploitation of empire is clearly visible both in Scotland, through street names, and in the former colonies – the sugar plantations of Jamaica and the tea plantations of Sri Lanka, for example. Yet, for nationalists, it is always Scots who are the victims.

This is because of Scots’ own fabulousness, especially compared with the English. Has anyone counted the number of times Ms Sturgeon (to say nothing of her slavish admirers on social media) has deflected a question about problems in the Scottish NHS, education, police, transport by saying ‘But it’s worse in England’? Our fabulousness, in terms of resources and talent, is simply waiting to be unleashed by the one thing that would offer us the opportunity we deserve: ‘freedom’ from the UK. It does not occur to people who write about wanting ‘freedom’ with a straight face that the UK is one of the freest places in the world, and that it is the freedoms that nationalists take for granted that allow them to disparage the UK, its institutions and its politicians with impunity. It does not occur to these people that what being ‘unfree’ means is schoolgirls in Nigeria being taken captive by Boko Haram. The total absence of perspective and reality in this strain of nationalist thinking is akin to the small child’s resort to magical thinking.

All of these illusions, prejudices and misrepresentations amount to a state of narcissism in the mindset of Scottish nationalists on social media. They *know* that Scots have been cheated and exploited by the English who ‘hold us back’ from being as fabulous as we could be, if only we didn’t have the albatross of the UK around our necks.

Perhaps the only solution is to have a trial period of ‘independence’, where Scotland would fend for itself, would not receive Barnett funds and would not benefit from the support systems that the UK provides for all its members: having the British army make it possible for hospital staff to attend their place of work when we are all snowed in is just one example of that. A period under these conditions would soon show the reality of withdrawing Scotland from the UK, and possibly bring home to narcissistic nationalists the folly of their obsession. Then again, it might not.

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