Inwardness of Nationalism

     As some of you may know, the BBC's James Cook was transferred to the United States to become the Corporation's West Coast correspondent based in Los Angeles, California.

     Previously, Cook was the Beeb's Scotland correspondent, during which time he covered the referendum last year, and he - like many other journalists - was met with accusations of bias throughout the campaign. He received abuse from both sides of the debate, but especially from the notorious cybernats who questioned his journalistic integrity and accused him of being a puppet for the Union/Westminster/the Tories/Red Tories, etc.

     This continued during general election earlier this year, but Cook moved to the West Coast of America afterward to cover news for this area of the country.

     So this week, Cook was doing his job covering the tragic mass shooting in San Bernadino which has claimed the lives of 14 people and injured 21 others. Last night, he tweeted out a message about the loss of life with a link to the San Bernardino County coroner's list of the names of the deceased. What followed was this exchange between him and a man named (at least on Twitter) "Angra Mainyu".

     This is one of the worst aspects of nationalism and of what it can do to people. It makes them more parochial, inward-looking, and less conscious/aware of what goes on in the world around them in general and outside their country in particular. Everything becomes about the country without regard to anythings else (and I admit, many of my fellow Americans are sadly guilty of this as well), but of course we ought to be interested in what happens in other places because it may affect us. In the case of James Cook, it is as though Mainyu has contempt for the idea of a Scottish journalist covering a significant story half-way around the world with his question regarding how it had anything to do with "us" - presumably meaning Scots.

     When Cook responds with his reasoning for being there and doing his job (and the nature of it), he is accused of being a "errand boy" who has no say in what he covers or how he covers it - as if to say that Cook is taking his orders from London or otherwise failing to cover news events relevant to Scotland - or at least, presenting the story via a Scottish dimension.

     Perhaps Mainyu did not know about Cook's transfer out of Scotland, but even when Cook made that point clear, the troll made it known that he was "not impressed" with this as "one of the dwindling number" of people paying the license fee which funds the BBC (and therefore pays Cook's salary).  It was at this point that Cook left the man alone and moved on - presumably knowing that this exchange was going nowhere, and that he had more important things to do to, such as fulfilling his duties as a BBC journalist and responding to more relevant social media messages.

     Nevertheless in my opinion, this not only shows how this sort of activity has followed Cook, but also shows how nationalism has affected people by warping their minds in ways that are unhealthy and disappointing. Yes, this was only one person, but it is not hard to find his attitudes replicated in other settings and situations, especially in the world of social media.

     We saw a bit of this in the open with the SNP attempting to use the UK's military intervention against Daesh in Syria to foment division within the UK, claim Scotland is getting "dragged" into it against its will, and fuel their separatist obsessions. Indeed, by having all of their Commons MP's vote against the airstrikes and complaining about the use of Scottish-based RAF fighter jets in Syria, the SNP seemed more interested in making the crisis in that troubled area about Scotland and its place in the Union, rather than about answering the call for help from an old ally and friend victimized by Daesh (France) and the unanimous declaration of the UN Security Council for member states to use "all necessary measures" against the barbaric terrorist group.

     It is probably for this reason (among other things) that Kenny Farquharson of The Times has stated that "the SNP has demonstrated to the world that we Scots cannot be relied upon in an international crisis." The response from cybernats on Twitter was predictable: personal insults against him and his "anti-Scottish propaganda" newspaper - claiming that its Scottish readership is down when its actually up - and accusations of shilling for the establishment.

     Farquharson is likely used to these kinds of messages coming in his direction, as is James Cook, which is probably why he quickly extricated himself from the exchange with the time-waster Angra Mainyu, but it is nevertheless unfortunate that he goes through this in the course of his job. The callousness of this particular individual was so extraordinary that Cook had to explain that he was covering "humanity", something which knows no boundaries, and now there is a strong possibility that this shooting was an act of terrorism inspired by overseas elements.

     If that is not worth covering - wherever it may be - then I don't know what it is. However, I know that I do not wish to inhabit that tiny and narrow world occupied by Angra Mainyu and his ilk.