Why Guilt by Association is an Ineffective Political Strategy in Modern Politics

Why Guilt by Association is an Ineffective Political Strategy in Modern Politics

Earlier this week, Edward Mountain, the Scottish Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands, called on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to “sever links” with Jason Michael McCann, a controversial pro-independence political commentator.

Earlier this week, Edward Mountain, the Scottish Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands, called on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to “sever links” with Jason Michael McCann, a controversial pro-independence political commentator.

Known as Jeggit on social media, where Twitter is his preferred commentary medium, McCann has been criticised for many of his online posts, particularly by the Scottish Tories, who have referred to them as “hate-filled”.

Mountain himself stated that “These views are utterly abhorrent and cannot be excused by the SNP because of his belief in Scottish independence.

It’s clear that Mr McCann’s views are currently supported by a significant number of SNP MSPs and SNP local branches, despite his obvious anti-Semitism and endorsement of political violence.”

The Scottish Conservatives produced a list of SNP members who follow McCann on social media in an attempt at exposing the relationship between this allegedly reprehensible individual and members of the party.

Mountain added that “Nicola Sturgeon must urgently sever all links between herself, the SNP and this appalling character. If the First Minister fails to condemn this individual’s hate speech, we can only conclude that she, too, endorses it.”

Now, when a politician or prominent media figure urges people to “sever ties” with a particular individual or group for fear that their views might spread to the wider public – regardless of whom it may be – there tends to be good grounds for at least a small amount of suspicion.

It is especially surprising to see a conservative politician such as Mountain espouse the concept of “hate speech”, one which is typically promoted by individuals and groups on the liberal side of the political spectrum.

Of course, individuals spouting “hateful rhetoric” are not a new phenomenon – there is no question that people sometimes say nasty, hate-filled things.

The concept of “hate speech”, however, is quite different, as it is typically employed as a way to shut down important discussions surrounding what are often delicate topics that require discussion to take place.

When Edward Mountain says that by failing to condemn and cut ties with McCann, Nicola Sturgeon is essentially endorsing his “hate speech”, he is effectively doing nothing more than condemning the PM with guilt by association and shutting down discussion.

Moreover, what is Mountain realistically hoping to achieve by producing a list of SNP MSPs who follow McCann on social media and demanding they sever their ties with the man?

This approach is rarely, if ever, successful, particularly in modern politics. Now, Mr McCann is likely to have a larger following due to media exposure, as well as being emboldened by the ensuing support – and criticism – he has received.

A more effective approach would be the following: firstly, make sure that what you are accusing someone of is accurate. A careful reading of McCann’s statements in regards to the situation in Ireland, for example, will reveal that he is not calling for “political violence”, like Mountain would have you believe.

Secondly, have an actual debate about the ideas in question. Invoking the vacuous concept of “hate speech” is unlikely to bring the desired results in this day and age.

Of course, because the odds point to Mountain’s actions being an attempt at shutting down discussion as opposed to a genuine call for civility and non-violence, it is quite likely that he is not interested in this sort of approach.

Nonetheless, we must continue to call out these cheap tricks aimed at avoiding important discussions from taking place. I may not agree with the SNP on many issues, but that will not stop me from being a free-speech absolutist.

What do you think?

CATEGORIES

COMMENTS

Wordpress ()
Disqus (0 )