Spannergate 2: Spannergater

Yesterday, for the first time in many years, I visited Edinburgh.  It was a good day; I saw some excellent comedy, was baffled by card tricks, had a scone that I’ve lusted after for a good length time (long story) and saw my sixteen year old daughter, who’s been in the city all week with her Fringe show.

But it wasn’t a perfect day.

perfect day
A perfect day in Edinburgh, pictured yesterday in 1996

It wasn’t perfect for the same reason that stepping in some dog-shit, or being a little bit sick down your good shirt can ruin an otherwise perfect day.

In my particular case it wasn’t perfect because, in the morning, I read an article in Scotland’s leading newspaper for the critically uncritical, The National. As choosing to read one of their articles is exactly akin to putting on your new Italian brogues and then going looking for a really fresh dog turd to tap-dance in, or donning your best white silk shirt and then downing 14 Pernod and blackcurrants…it’s my fault really.

What’s left me with the lingering smell of puke and a tendency to slide on smooth floors is this particular paragraph…


I have come across the “Spanner” name, indeed I’ve followed Brian Spanner for almost all of the time I’ve been on Twitter.  What’s upsetting about that paragraph isn’t that it’s a complete misrepresentation of Brian’s tweeting – anybody following him for his “grotesquely sexual” content or his hatred of female politicians is going to be sorely disappointed – or that it was fabricated by a sitting MP (John Nicolson, the SNP MP for East Dunbartonshire), or even that it passes off as likely a conspiracy theory (that “Brian” is more than one person) that there’s absolutely no evidence to support, other than an obvious in-joke by some of Brian’s followers, myself included, that there’s a rota for who’s running his account…what’s upsetting to me is that pro-independence supporters continue to fake concern about misogyny on Twitter, which is a very real problem, as an excuse to use Brian Spanner as a proxy to attack pro-Union political opponents that they’re otherwise too scared to face.

This happened 7 months ago, when they used exactly the same tactic to lay siege to author J K Rowling (as I detailed in my blog at the time, Spannergate).

This is obvious when you see what they are railing against. One of things I’ve seen touted on Twitter since news of Stephen Daisley’s alleged gagging is the Google image search for “Brian Spanner misogyny” If you have a look you’ll see 4 of Brian’s tweets (from over 100K) and then the rest of page dedicated to tweets from Rowling and Daisely, there because people are trying to make political capital from any interaction they’ve had with Spanner.

Rank opportunism, pictured yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that, and…

There’s no great moral crusade here; personal attacks made by pro-indy tweeters on Ruth Davidson or Kezia Dugdale attract no opprobrium, “across the political spectrum” in this context means all that way from “pro-independence” to “strongly pro-independence”.  Content far worse that a few insults aimed at female MPs, with no evidence to suggest that they’re being insulted because they’re female (the mark of a misogynist), is ignored because it comes from people who don’t have Brian’s intelligence or wit and therefore lack his prestigious followers list, ripe with targets for the SNP.

In a terrible year, when female MPs are justifiably concerned about their personal safety, it’s craven to the use the cry of “misogyny” to try to silence political opponents and disingenuous to suggest, as Nicolson does at the close of that paragraph, that it’s right or normal for STV to scale down Daisley’s content because he interacts with somebody the SNP have deemed to be a troll.

If Nicolson is serious about tackling misogyny then there is more than enough amongst supporters of his own political party, and he may well find it’s a full-time job to give them all the attention that he’s given Spanner.  If, however, he were to make the effort then I suspect more people would be inclined to believe that making Twitter a better place for all women is his actual goal, and not just a partisan springboard.

Unfortunately I won’t know if he even tries because, like his fellow “wolf” criers Pete Wishart and Natalie McGarry, he’s blocked me on Twitter.  Maybe he can put in a word and get The National to block me as well, mercifully sparing me from having to spend another day with the lingering smell of shit.



6 thoughts on “Spannergate 2: Spannergater

  1. It also should be remembered that Nicolson said, of Angus Macneil and Stewart Hosie’s sexual shenanigans, that it simply wasn’t a story; and the he judges by ability not basic moral decency in treating your wife and children with basic courtesy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. No friend of Brian me, but I do find myself agreeing with you about some elements of your argument. In terms of the independence debate, it works both ways of course, with Wings Over Scotland being accused of the same. In fact, if you Google the two along with the term ‘misogyny’ WoS has around double the results Brian does.

    So yes, whenever someone in Scottish public life says anything which genuinely is misogynist, then depending upon the side they’re on Brian or Wings will be brought up to counterbalance it. And this prevents us having the discussion we should have.

    I’m not entirely sure what you’re arguing in the paragraph about Ruth and Kezia though. There have been well publicised occasions when abuse against them had been immediately clamped down on by the SNP.

    And given what Nicolson has been accused of, with no actual evidence, it was perfectly reasonable of him to bring up other reasons why STV *may* have asked Daisley to lower his profile.

    Finally, you seem to be suggesting that the 4 Spanner tweets in your screenshot are not misogynist. I’ve made the same point about some of the things Wings has said – insulting a woman in the same manner you insult a man may be offensive and very bad manners, but it’s not misogynist. When you bring FGM into it though, that’s a bit harder to argue.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I thought long and hard about directly addressing whether or not the tweets were misogynistic, and ultimately decided against it, because I felt it was a subjective call.
      FWIW I agree about the FGM tweet, and I believe it’s one where Brian admitted himself that he’d gone too far and apologised. I also thought the one mentioning “the change” was iffy, but for both of them it’s hard to say what makes them feel wrong.
      Ultimately it doesn’t matter to the key piont, which is that Nicolson’s description of Brian’s Twitter feed is a complete misrepresentation of the actual content, and is being used opportunistically to defend the indefensible.


      • If I remember correctly Brian apologised for all of these, for which he/she/they should be commended.

        As for ‘defending the indefensible’, it’s only indefensible if there is some actual evidence it ever happened. Unless Tom Gordon has some inside info he’s not imparting to us, the case against Nicolson is a figment of the reporter’s overactive imagination.


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