Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Edinburgh International Festival stands up to the Referendum bullies

(You’re about to see something unusual in this Blog – an overtly politically motivated post!)

Over the past few months I have become increasingly disenchanted with the Comments section of most media (take that to be newspaper) web sites.

While they used to make a fairly interesting read (provided you kept the ones where the readers actually only bought the paper version to look at the pics on a certain page, or look at the cartoons), and some discussions were surprisingly informed, they have become an increasingly depressing place to visit.


Because almost regardless of the subject matter of the actual item, the Comments area is now being hijacked by those lobbying one way or the other with regard to next year’s Referendum vote.

On a good day, they will just add some politically motivated drivel about their own particular outcome of this vote. Although these Comment areas are described as moderated, the mods appear to pay little attention, and despite having little or nothing to do with the original story, these comments are not binned. Presumably the boss wants to be able to claim big numbers when discussing how many people visit his paper’s comment area.

But on a bad day, the content is little more than name calling, or basic ad hominem insults, directed at other commenters, or the political leaders they clearly support. Again, even though behaviour should breach Terms of Use, mods seem to take little action unless things get nasty.

I’m sure those involved in Yes/No campaigning have taken a leaf out of China’s web manual, and have paid people actively scanning for views opposed to theirs,  posting contrary comments to try and wipe them out or neutralise them.

Edinburgh International Festival director draws the line

With this in mind, it came as no surprise to me to see that the Referendum bullies were weighing in with similar attacks on Sir Jonathan Mills, director of the Edinburgh International Festival, after he announced that he had decided not to include productions addressing Scotland’s independence referendum in next year’s programme, saying that the festival was not a “political apparatus” and its autonomy and impartiality should be maintained.

Writing in the Scotland on Sunday, Sir Jonathan said:

Calls for the festival to engage in an explicit or overt debate about independence are, I believe, a misunderstanding of the role of the festival.

The Edinburgh International Festival is not a political apparatus. It does not propose a particular manifesto or seek a specific mandate.

The autonomy and impartiality of the festival is essential; that includes the ability to determine its own agenda, and choices. It is my job to make those choices and there will always be those who disagree with them or dislike particular performances. That is how it should be.

He also took issue with suggestions the subject had been banned from the 2014 programme, saying its exploration of the themes of nationalism and nationhood, through possible topics such as the First World War and the Commonwealth, would be “highly relevant” at a time when Scotland contemplates its future.

As one who has had occasion to maintain a similar sort of order in Secret Scotland’s own Forum over the years, and received dog’s abuse and insults from those who were asked to refrain, this writer can sympathise with his troubles. I’ve not only had to delete posts, but even had to ban users who repeated the rule infringement. Thankfully, not real members though, but merely activists who thought the fact that the site had ‘Scotland’ in its name meant they would be given the freedom to post whatever they wanted to.

As I expected, he has been given the same sort of irrelevant arguments, together with claims of censorship, as were received in the Forum, as those who were denied access to what they considered a “free outlet” for their biased output tried to argue their case:

But his argument came under fire from other leading arts figures who spoke to the Sunday Herald.

Actor David Hayman said: “This is nothing but censorship of the worst kind. I think Jonathan Mills is sticking his head in the sand and it’s disgraceful.”

Novelist Sophie Cooke said: “To avoid addressing independence is to miss the opprtunity (sic) of exploring a crucial moment in Scotland’s life.”

And Playwright David Harrower told the newspaper: “The immediate, widespread response of incredulity and disbelief to his statement speaks for itself.”

Their argument is lost before they have even started, since they have failed to grasp the subtle difference between politically motivated comments/posts, and those which refer to political subjects.

I’ve tried to explain this to those who can’t see this difference, but to be honest, I think I’d have more success talking to a tin of soup, and expecting an answer.

Via Edinburgh Festival director says no plays on independence referendum | Edinburgh & East | News | STV

And Mills defends festival’s 2014 role – Scottish Headlines – Fife Today

I can only hope his resolve does not weaken.


August 19, 2013 - Posted by | Civilian | , , , ,

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