Thursday 14 March 2024

Humza Yousaf has created a nation of informers


I have been writing regularly for over twelve years now and have written around a thousand articles. I’m not a journalist. I don’t get paid. Some kind people make donations, for which I am very grateful as it gives me a sense of being valued and motivates me to think hard about the next topic I’m going to write about.

I have built a considerable following on Twitter/X and my site has been read by over 7 million people, but in doing so I have received a considerable amount of hate.

When I began writing I allowed comments on my site, but after a while I had to turn the comments off as I received the most disgusting abuse from Scottish nationalists. So too on Twitter I began by trying to interact with SNP/independence supporters, but after suffering vast amounts of abuse I decided on a policy of blocking each and every person who used any sort of insulting language immediately and with no warning.

You may think that muting is better, but it doesn’t work for me because a muted person can still comment on my posts. Again, different people have different experiences depending on how many followers they have. I solved the problem by blocking. You can too.

Writing for me only has a point if I can explore issues with complete freedom of thought. If I have to limit my thinking by worrying about what a reader might think or if a reader might object or be offended, I would rather not write at all.

Just as scientists must be free to think the unthinkable and go against the scientific consensus, so too must every other worthwhile thinker and writer. But going against the consensus is bound to offend those who perhaps unthinkingly go along with the consensus.

Most writing in Scotland is very dull indeed because it takes place within a narrow consensus and seeks neither to offend Scottish nationalists nor those who oppose independence. We are left with rather dim minds who haven’t had an original thought in decades filling newspaper columns with nothing much. But at least they won’t be reported for a hate crime.

I don’t hate anybody. I have never shouted abuse at anyone in the street. I have never used insulting language to someone I meet. I don’t hate Scottish nationalists or anyone else I write about. I disagree with them and try to come up with counter arguments. The same applies to any other issue I write about.

I don’t hate transgender people. I disagree with some of their arguments about the possibility of changing gender. I don’t hate Muslims. I strongly believe in freedom of religion. I also believe that Muslims ought to be allowed to live their lives freely without being abused in the street because of the clothes that they wear, their race or their religious beliefs. But I refuse to limit what I say about these issues because someone somewhere might be offended.

I write a lot. It depends on inspiration. I let my ideas flow wherever they want. But every writer will get it wrong sometimes. An argument might be flawed. A misjudgement may be made. Sometimes I phrase something badly. Sometimes I am simply mistaken. But a society which punishes such mistakes is going to end up with even duller writing that it has already.

Humza Yousaf recently responded to a story about his involvement with the Scottish government giving money to UNRWA rather than UNICEF by describing those who wrote the story as racist, Islamophobic and far-right. That sounds awfully like they committed a hate crime. So, would these people be investigated when Scotland’s new hate crime law comes into force on April 1st?

Huge numbers of Scottish nationalists think that even providing counter arguments to their arguments for independence proves that I hate Scotland. The SNP continually conflates supporting Scotland and supporting Scottish independence. Well, all it will take is one of those Scottish nationalists or indeed someone from the Scottish government to find one thing that I have written and say they are offended about it.

I happen to believe that we should use the pronouns that transgender people prefer and the names that they want to be called by. I don’t think it is pleasant to call India Willoughby a man. But I do not believe that men can really become women. Will writing that be a hate crime in Scotland? We don’t know.

It may be that the Scottish government thinks its new hate crime law will allow free speech to continue and writers need not fear being prosecuted for exploring political, moral and theological issues. But what matters is not what the Scottish government or Humza Yousaf thinks about his new law, but how the police respond to it and the courts.

I would be very surprised if J.K. Rowling had a visit from the police for saying India Willoughby is a man. Rowling is a heroine to many people in Britain and is famous the world over. Humza Yousaf will not go after her.

I would also be very surprised if people with a few hundred followers on social media are prosecuted for saying something dubious about any protected characteristic.

Police Scotland have given up investigating many burglaries and what they call low level crimes. Shop lifters will probably get away with it. Class A drug users are unlikely to be prosecuted and even drug dealers are likely to find the police are uninterested.

But I can very well imagine that a lot of Scottish nationalists would be delighted to make life harder for opponents of the SNP.

I will continue to write as I have always written. I will say exactly what I think about Scottish politics and every other issue.

I have experienced vast amounts of hate from Scottish nationalists, but I have never informed on anyone. I don’t care what they write or what they think. I fight back by continuing to write and continuing to oppose. But Humza Yousaf wants to create a nation of informers who will trawl through what people write to find anything that does not conform to the latest orthodoxy, and we just don’t know what will result from their whispers.

Effie called the cat killer murderer Scarlet Blake a man, but she identifies as a woman. Effie is a transphobe.

Effie wrote about Islam and thinks Muslim rules ought not to apply to Christians. Effie is Islamophobic.

Effie thinks that limited migration benefits Britain but opposes unlimited migration. Effie is a racist.

Writing begins to look like a perilous occupation. I should get danger money.

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