TLDR: subscribing to a blocklist means letting someone else act as a censor and you only ever hear one side of the argument and assume that everyone agrees with that side.
Reverend Stuart Campbell, AKA Wings Over Scotland.
I’ve been aware and fond of Stuart Campbell long before he joined whatever church it is that made him Rev. Stu. I owned a Commodore Amiga computer in the late 80s and early 90s and a games magazine called ‘Amiga Power’ was regularly purchased so I could read his output and takedowns of the latest games, it was sometimes provocative but always genuinely funny.
I even met him in the Virgin Megastore Glasgow at the time when I took part in a games competition they were running, I did something counter intuitive but the right strategy for the time limited ‘high score’ challenge in ‘Pinball Fantasies’ and he spotted it immediately and commented “that’s very clever”. High praise indeed from someone so sharp minded.
I’m not really aware too much of him over the next 20 or so years until the run up to the Scottish Independence referendum. I’m firmly pro Indy, I’d newly joined Twitter and I saw the Wings output stand out from the wealth of debates around the pros and cons of whether my country should run its own affairs.
Over the years I agreed with much of his output, I’d enjoy his takedowns of the biased media and of unionist politicians. I engaged with him twice on Twitter, once over Hillsborough, his firmly fixed stance that the fans caused the deaths, and then as he started to take up the mantle around trans issues. My main message around that being that whatever you think about trans issues Wings is a significant and influential pro Indy voice and being so provocative towards the trans community harms the cause of Indy. It really turns people off contributing and working towards an Independent Scotland while Wings is pumping out vitriolic bile about this oppressed and incredibly vulnerable minority.
William Elliot, AKA @Willie_Hmmm
Most people around Scottish politics won’t know me because I’m not that active. My most notable contribution was from 2 years ago, catching and calling out media bias around the last Scottish Council elections.
That thread was seen by tens of thousands, the video clip watched over 66,000 times, lots of prominent Indy people liked and shared it, including Wings. A wee moment of pride for me that I’d contributed a little bit to the cause.
Fast forward to a few days ago and Wings was posting another thread about trans issues. He then posts this:
Wings Over Scotland: “The additional rapes and sexual assaults which will inescapably follow are Nicola Sturgeon’s responsibility.”
This prominent and influential pro Indy blogger, Stuart Campbell, says he holds her “responsible” for “rape”. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, the leader of the SNP and of the Indy movement.
Just to be clear, this MAN says he holds this WOMAN “responsible” for “rape”.
I call him out on this appalling take, there’s a few tweets back and forward before he reaches for the ‘block’ button.
Some of his followers engage with me afterwards, pushing his points, but there’s surprisingly no visible support for my position. It is just one way traffic of ‘pro-Wings anti-trans’ messages.
Later that day I see mentions of a tweet Pat Kane (@thoughtland) posted. I follow Pat so I go to look for it but find I’m blocked by him. My only interaction ever with Pat was when he retweeted my ‘BBC bias over council elections’ thread. I finally see a screengrab of Pat’s tweet and it’s something I agree with.
It turns out he takes a massive backlash from the ‘pro-Wings anti-trans’ mob and he deletes the tweet posting this series of tweets to explain his position:
During the build up to the Indy referendum in 2014, the voices of non politicians like Pat Kane, Brian Cox, Kevin Bridges and Frankie Boyle, for me these were what broke through the media bias. Intelligent and articulate voices breaking down the misinformation and bias that was on our TV screens and in our newspapers from an otherwise on message unionist and London centric message of IndyBad.
It seemed strange to be blocked by Pat and when I looked through threads and discussions I’d found that not only had he blocked me but there were whole discussion threads that showed “This tweet is unavailable”. I’d click the next message I could see in the thread and see who they were replying to, click their @name and I’d see they too had blocked me. I was suddenly blocked by thousands of people.
I had no idea what a ‘blocklist’ was or what it did before now, but that afternoon Wings blocking me meant I was now added to his ‘blocklist’, and those who have subscribed to it were part of thousands who also now blocked me, just with one push of his finger.
For genuine reasons of wanting to filter out pro unionist trolls many thousands of pro Indy supporters have subscribed to his blocklist, including it seems Pat Kane. The trouble now is, Wings is using this blocklist to block anyone he sees on the opposing side of the trans debate. I’ve seen polite and courteous people making valid points get told to “fuck off” and they’re gone from the debate on his whim.
That has an incredibly damaging effect on both sides and it not only stifles debate, it kills it. The ‘pro-Wings anti-trans’ group will see Wings threads debating trans issues where it is just all anti-trans voices singing from the same Rev. Stu hymn sheet. His shitty takes about Nicola Sturgeon being “responsible” for “rape” go unchallenged, as I found out as the lone voice in that thread taking him on.
He only ever hears a chorus of approval and I’m sure that’s very reassuring that he’s safe in his entrenched position. No one is around to pick apart his arguments because they literally don’t see them. The very definition of an echo chamber.
Equally the pro-trans pro-equality voices making their own points in their own threads are invisible to those subscribed to Wings blocklist. I believe those concerned about women’s safe spaces are genuine and sincere in their opinions, but they don’t get to voice their concerns or share their opinions in those threads because they just won’t see them. They’ve inadvertently had all opposing voices on the issue blocked by signing up to Wings blocklist.
There is no debate to be had if people don’t listen to and engage with the other side’s points.
The Wings blocklist was once centred around unionist trolls. He says of it “we have a hair-trigger blocking policy, and the main criterion is stupidity. Nobody is blocked for being a Unionist, only for being a troll or an idiot.”
I was blocked for taking exception to and challenging his statement that the leader of the SNP and the Indy movement is “responsible” for “rape”. Doing that, standing up to his appalling take, that apparently makes me a “troll or an idiot”.
The people on his subscribe list also unwittingly blocked me for that, without any consultation from him. One click and me and thousands of other reasonable and rational voices who disagree with him on this one issue are now out of the debate. Or rather the thousands who have subscribed to his blocklist are out of the debate, unable to see and participate in the discussions that everyone else is having.
Sadly that means even people I have enormous respect for like Pat Kane, someone who I agree 100% with on every point he’s made around trans issues and the infighting in the Indy movement, he is only getting half the argument, only seeing the pro-Wings half of the debate.
My own view on trans issues is that I don’t believe Nicola Sturgeon, or the incredibly talented and capable group of senior female politicians that we have in the SNP, I don’t believe they will do anything that places women in harm’s way as they proceed with legislation making trans people feel included, protected and welcome in Scotland.
The Wings blocklist is a massive obstacle to reasonable and rational debate taking place. It’s not an insurmountable task to acknowledge and provide reassurances around sincere fears that women have, while at the same time recognising and protecting the trans community and ensuring that this most vulnerable of groups is also safe from harassment and violence in a modern and progressive Scotland.
I’m in no way an expert on the issues being discussed, but I do believe they should be discussed and debated and for both sides to hear each other out.
Wings output and opinions are available at:
A very good thread on the other side of the debate, and one that I’m more persuaded by, that’s available here:
I despair at what Wings said about Nicola Sturgeon and I despair at him gloating and retweeting those cancelling their SNP membership, he is a pariah.
I know a lot of what Wings posts is to get a reaction, well today I reacted. I’ve never been a member of a political party, but today I joined the SNP. Fuck you Stu.
If anyone is interested in seeing and hearing about issues from a trans perspective, I’d recommend watching this hilarious and heart wrenching take from someone who has lived it.
Thanks for reading and please, please unsubscribe from the Wings blocklist. If you see someone that you find disagreeable and don’t want to interact with them, block them yourself, and that way you get to engage with people you do want to interact with even though they hold an opposing view.
Maybe then we can find some common ground and we can make progress together, instead of having Stuart Campbell control the agenda and decide whose views you’re allowed to listen to. Fuck that guy!