Following a Guardian CIF article by Stirling University PhD student Claire Heuchan, The Guardian reported that Ms Heuchan said she had quit Twitter in fear for her safety having been abused on social media. Other media outlets followed-up and we published this. The Scotsman reported: “Attacks, including a comment on her (Claire’s) blog calling her an African who had no right to discuss ethnic white Scottish affairs, were accompanied by calls on Twitter for the University of Stirling to sack her, although she is not employed there”. Today, Commonspace Editor and Sunday Herald columnist Angela Haggerty has written a typically intelligent and wise article framing the affair in terms of her own experience of mysogynystic internet abuse.  There’s more to come, with National columnist Vonny Moyes Tweeting (at @vonny_bravo) that she’s presently writing an article about that too.

GA Ponsonby has written today about how offensiveness properly expressed can be in line with, and even important to, freedom of expression. Rude comments ‘below the line’ is a standard feature of newspaper columns, and sometimes columnists themselves use social media to reply in kind. So it’s important to distinguish rudeness from mysogyny and other unacceptable forms of abuse. Yet of course it’s normally not hard at all to tell when a rude comment is truly mysogynystic.

Where things seem to be going awry in the Claire Heuchan case, however, is that while people will have their debates around what it acceptable rudeness and what is not, open racial abuse via social media is simply illegal.

It is quite possible that people have deleted abusive posts on social media about Claire Heuchan now that the issue has taken on the profile it has, so this website’s simple search for social media messages did not turn up any racist or threatening messages. However, thanks to Vonny Moyes’ Twitter stream we can see the terrible message which is surely at the heart of the original Guardian story. We will not re-publish the message here, although it seems right that for now its full horror is available at Vonny Moyes’ own Twitter account.

The simple fact is that this almost unbelievably horrible and racist message is in serious breach of the law and its sender should be prosecuted to its fullest extent. It is not, frankly, a matter to be left at journalists providing comment, however valuable, nor for the University of Stirling to simply “condemn (racist abuse) in the strongest terms”. The law is clear (see below).

Sir William McPherson’s final report on The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry established the vital principle in public and private life that; ‘A racist incident is any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person’. Acting on racism is a responsibility of us all. There is no doubt whatever that the vile message in question, and any others like them which may exist, will be taken extremely seriously and investigated by Police Scotland. Here is how to make a complaint to them.

 

(1) The document quoted was was issued by the CPS. It is understood that the Scottish authorities employ the same rules, definitions and guidance. 

 

 

10 Responses to The Claire Heuchan case: online racial abuse is a matter for Police Scotland. End of.
  1. The “flounce d’artifice” from twitter has already ended; I’m not sure if that’s longer or shorter than Torrance’s. I suspect it has already achieved its purpose. The whole farrago has accomplished what was required of it; given the Scots (and wider UK) media another opportunity to “other” supporters of Scottish independence as extremists, and sown dissension amongst those supporters by ensuring the more clueless would buy into pitch-fork wielding clamour.

    If it weren’t so transparent it would be funny. Nobody sane condones the kind of abuse reportedly dished out, whether to Heuchan, Moyes or Robert Somyne who wrote a piece criticising Heuchan. Sadly what many on the britnat side of the argument DO condone and indeed encourage, is the differential treatment of abuse doled out by the minority of nutters on both side, and the insistence that it is unique to the Yes camp, and must perforce be condemned by Nicola Sturgeon personally. It’s tone policing of the worst type.

    Heuchan wasn’t criticised for her race or gender, but because she wrote a dog whistle article aimed at throwing petrol on the flames of Khan’s disgraceful attack on half the population of Scotland. I await the publication of the full details of the disgraceful racist abuse, and Police Scotland’s investigation and hopefully prosecution of the perpetrator.

    • Shorter. Torrance managed a whole week, during which he wrote (and no doubt got paid for) a couple of articles about how he was hounded off twitter. I wonder if Claire has missed a trick?

      • There’s a trick she hasn’t missed though. She’s deleted half the tweets she ever sent. About 15,000 of the damn things. Maybe that was the point of it all – to hide her account while she deleted the embarrassing ones. 15,000!

        Bingomouse has screenshots of a whole string of them in which she trumpets how proud she is to be British. She’s not like these terrible nationalists you know!

  2. It will be interesting to find out who exactly this person is who sent the offensive tweet. What are his/her true motives, other than to offend?

    • There was no offensive tweet Dan, that’s been established. No link, no screenshot and not even a verbal description of something that was deleted. All they could produce was a single expletive Stu Campbell tweeted when he first saw the article, but not to her – it was just general comment to his followers. (And she apparently had him blocked anyway.)

      A lot of people tried to cover this up by referring to “a shitstorm of abuse” as if it really happened, but when challenged to produce even one or two example tweets they couldn’t. So this morphed into just “a shitstorm”, apparently blaming the mere number of critical tweets that had been received.

      We were exhorted to restrain ourselves, to bear in mind how it feels for the poor girl to get hundreds of notifications from individuals who were angry and upset about being called racists. Hang on a minute. Claire Heuchan is a longtime Tory activist. She’s from a wealthy family. She’s a PhD student. She had a column in the Guardian. But ordinary people who’ve been insulted by this woman from her privileged platform have to shut up and not criticise her the only way they can, by contacting her on social media?

      And then, bear in mind that her actual PhD dissertation subject is online racist and sexist abuse. The idea that someone with this background and this research interest turns into a cringing wreck when a bunch of people send some critical non-abusive tweets to her is ludicrous. If she’s that sensitive to such things, why the PhD subject? A bit like me doing my PhD (which involved getting up close and personal with a lot of horses) while being afraid of horses.

      No twitter abuse, but she deleted her account anyway. One might be forgiven for thinking this was her intent all along. Poor black lesbian radical feminist is traumatised by all the abuse! Never mind that she’s a wealthy Tory with a specific interest in online abuse, dearie me no. Just like with Susan Calman, the media will take her word for it and assume the abuse happened. I mean, to question whether a black lesbian radical feminist might be making stuff up would obviously be racist and sexist and homophobic so you can’t do that!

      So what does she finally produce? A couple of screenshots shorn of all context sent to her great pal Vonny Moyes who is also milking this for all it’s worth. Anyone who asks Vonny for evidence of the provenance of these screenshots gets blocked. They’re not tweets – too long. Word is that they’re blog comments, but they’re not in the format of her blog. So they’re from the admin pre-approval screen, then?

      So now we’re down to two screenshots of nasty abusive comments she was allegedly subjected to when she attended to the moderation of her blog. That’s why she left twitter? And of course she didn’t approve them, so nobody can find them.

      There’s no date and no IP address. There’s nothing but a couple of pseudonyms. One uses language that suggests the sender might be American. There’s nothing at all to link either of them to anyone who supports Scottish independence. Actually, there’s little to link them to the CiF article or even to that day.

      Eric is delicately hinting that Claire should have reported these things to the police when she received them, and of course so she should. But when did she receive them? What is their provenance? A police investigation would uncover all that, and that might not be helpful to her in this present situation.

      Consider, wealthy privileged woman writes a CiF article to wind up the nasty nats, expecting to receive a barrage of abuse and take it from there. All she gets is a barrage of criticism, some heated, but nothing which, taken on its own, can support an allegation of racist abuse. So she flounces off Twitter anyway. Then she’s under a bit of pressure to produce examples of the abuse. It’s her PhD subject, she’s not going to have much trouble finding some.

      Faced with this absolutely pathetic “evidence” of racist sexist abuse by nasty cybernats (the messages are extremely nasty, but hey, TWO? and no date or context), what do the wet-nats do? Oh, it’s not about whether her abusers were indy supporters or not, the poor girl received these vile words and that’s an issue!

      Well maybe it is, but people the world over are on the receiving end of even nastier abusive messages than that, and we don’t run round every day insisting that this is the critical issue the independence campaign has to address. Indeed, a financially-secure postgraduate student with a specific academic interest in online racist abuse might surely be expected to be in a better position to cope than many others.

      But this is where we are. Everyone sympathise with Poor Claire and self-flagellate in case there’s anyone at all within the boundaries of Scotland who has ever harboured a racist thought.

      • Right so

        1. You don’t believe it (even though it’s widely available on Twitter)
        2. You get to decide what’s racist?
        3. Folk you think might no be poor can’t be hurt by racism?
        4. It’s all a conspiracy?

        • I’ll say the same to you as I said to others trying to make the same point. If these abusive tweets exist, let’s have some links or at least screenshots so we can see for ourselves.

          I think there are other victims of online racism who are more deserving of sympathy than a very privileged individual who has chosen, of her own free will, to immerse herself in that precise subject for three years of her life.

          It hardly needs a conspiracy for one calculating manipulative individual to shout “I’m being abused!” and run away. It’s been done before and no doubt it will be done again and the same useful idiots will fall for it.

          Claire doesn’t even win the prize. She’s back already, having reactivated her account now the Sunday papers have had their outrage fix. When David Torrance did it he managed to stay away for a week which was long enough to write and get paid for a couple of articles of his own on “My Twitter Hell”, which Claire hasn’t. Unless she has and we just haven’t seen them yet.

        • Um, it’s NOT “widely available on Twitter”. That was Morag’s entire point. If it is, show it to us.

      • Excellent dissection of this Morag.

        After Calman I do not trust anything unless there is real evidence. Until it is produced I will declare that Scots are innocent of this.

        What pains me is the speed at which some of our own pro-Indidendence supporters leap onto this faux-story and wound our own side. We have enough trouble with the biased media in Scotland, lead by the Establishment mouthpiece, the BBC, without our own side joining in.

        Before leaping in, I do wish people would ask, “Cui Bono – Who Benefits?” before automatically assuming the worst and dissing our own.

      • Point taken, Morag.


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