There was an interesting wee exchange of opinions on Twitter today:
Susan Stewart (ex-director of communications for Yes Scotland): Step away from your keyboards and talk to people! [...]
Wings Over Scotland: Y'know, whenever people say that I take it personally 🙁
Susan Stewart: don't. But winning the online debate won't win the referendum. Necessary but not sufficient. #yesscot #indyref
Wings Over Scotland: Of course it won't. But it's still invariably worded in an incredibly dispiriting way. Wish folk would take more care.
National Collective: Truth is we need both. 🙂
I'm reluctant to criticise Yes Scotland, because they do a lot of great work, but I don't think they're being helpful when they criticise those of us who are engaged in the on-line debate.
It might well be the case that most people on-line who can be persuaded have already been so, and that it's the off-line population that need convincing now. However, I think it's naive to think that persuasion is a one-off process, as this seems to imply.
The army of Yes foot soldiers aiming to knock every door in Scotland over the next 14 months needs constant encouragement, information about new questions raised in the debate, as well as an opportunity to talk to like-minded people, all of which is best done on-line.
After reading an informative article on Wings over Scotland, National Collective or Business for Scotland, I just feel much more energised than before -- I really don't think I would do more or better door-knocking if I stopped reading those articles. I also tend to write blog postings when I need to get something off my chest, or when I'm in a pensive mood, and in neither situation would I be likely to go out canvassing instead.
Also, many people who have been convinced of the merits of a Yes still don't feel ready to answer the potential questions that might arise on the doorstep, and where will they find the answers if not on-line?
When people criticise the time spent on-line, they need to ask themselves this question: Who will persuade the persuaders? (Or in Latin, Quis persuadebit ipsos persuasores?)
The Yes campaign is a genuine grassroots campaign because new ideas often originate on a blog, get disseminated on Twitter or on Facebook, and only eventually become official Yes Scotland policies. I think this is an immense strength, and it would be very harmful to the Yes side if somebody insisted that grassroots were only good for knocking doors, and ideas had to come from the top or from the (often biased) media.
I haven't met a single person on-line who has called for a stop to doorstep canvassing. All we're asking is that our on-line campaigning gets some respect, too. We're all doing all we can, and there's more than one way to do it!