Editorial: Moray Twitter row shows politics in a bad light

Sunday Supplement

Our detailed look back on the stories that we have been talking about in Moray…..

I swore I would never do it but today I find myself writing an editorial that is based on the forthcoming independence referendum.

As we fast approach the finishing line – just two months away from the referendum itself – it would seem that the nastier side of politics is rearing its head, and most of it, alas, is down to the centuries-old arguments for independence being fought on a very modern stage.

I come from a generation that lived through much harder times (well it seemed as such in any case), where our idea of cutting-edge communications was the news coming through on a crackling transistor radio or on a black and white television.

For many in my generation the internet remains a place of mystery – but for many people of every generation it has also become a source of misery.

My involvement in the ‘immediate’ world of social media came very early in the form of internet newsgroups, where we stared in wonder as our text messages of any given subject could be exchanged instantly and without moderation or restriction.

That last point has remained the cornerstone of social media – people of every walk of life demand that they have the right to say what they like on the internet, it is that freedom that is the very heart of social media.

Except it is not and never has been. What too few people realise is that they are liable for everything they say online as much as they would be in the real world – social media is, after all, nothing more than an extension of the real world.

So what of the responsibility that brings? In the heat of the moment we can splutter out something in conversation that we know is wrong. When we do we can instantly withdraw and only a few in hearing distance are aware in any case.

On social media the same thing happens – but can’t be withdrawn so easily, and before you know it thousands are on your back.

You know where this is leading I’m sure – a local politically-minded and well known lady said something that I’m sure was not meant in the way it came out on Twitter. I’ve personally been on the end of this particular lady’s argumentative style, she is sharp and quick-witted, but ultimately, I now believe, simply passionate in debate and so forgivable.

So when her son, Moray Labour councillor Sean Morton, made a passionate and heartfelt plea I was happy to publish it on insideMoray.

I have been asked – why? Well quite simply because I believe politics has lost its way nationally – but also right here in Moray.

The fact that our MP chose to use his own website as well as Twitter and Facebook to highlight and pillory the error of an opponent’s mother was in my view the reprehensible side of politics that has forced me to take a more conciliatory view.

It may not have changed my personal politics, but it has underlined feelings of disquiet I’ve harboured for some time over the way our political arguments are being fought out in the online stage.

It seems clear to me that politicians and those supporting them in the independence debate – on both sides – need to take a very big breath and consider if the way they are conducting their campaigns is either right for their own cause – or indeed is any way for people to behave in seeking out a future for our ‘civilised’ country.

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