Escaped from Greenock Prison
August 26, 2009 11:13 AM   Subscribe

Browsing today's newspapers here in Scotland it would seem that there is an anti-Scottish feeling pervading the whole of the USA after the compassionate release of the Pan-Am bomber last week. Question1: Am I right in thinking that this is the case, or is it just right wing neo-con nonsense eminating from the Fox News stable? Question2: If this anti-Scottish feeling does exist, how best can I explain that we the UK/US public have been sold a lie by our Governments and that this guy was merely a patsy?

The usually sound Scots legal system was a victim here and was used and abused by the use of Public Interest Immunity Certificates and dodgy state sponsored witnesses. This system needs rectified, what is the best forum to speak out on?
posted by cameronfromedinburgh to Law & Government (60 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I think I speak for the majority Americans when I say I'm only vaguely aware that it happened, and I know none of the details. So if Scots think it was okay, then don't worry to much about what our right wing media says because they and everyone who listens to them will have forgotten about it by this weekend and will go back to ranting about how an evil black man is trying to give them health care.
posted by hamhed at 11:23 AM on August 26, 2009 [21 favorites]


it would seem that there is an anti-Scottish feeling pervading the whole of the USA after the compassionate release of the Pan-Am bomber last week. Question1: Am I right in thinking that this is the case, or is it just right wing neo-con nonsense eminating from the Fox News stable?

I'm American, and I haven't heard of any anti-Scotland backlash whatsoever from any quarters. Nor do I have any anti-Scotland sentiment. So I think it's just a case of siezing on some of the more aggregious soundbites from the FOX News sources.

Issuing the data point/disclaimer that I also happen to be in a major "liberal-elite" metropolis, and personally have an unspeakably huge celebrity crush on David Tennant, so I may have a bit of a bias.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:23 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think you were correct when you said it was Fox News neo-con insanity. I can't imagine that Americans would ever stop loving Scotland.
posted by Kirklander at 11:23 AM on August 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


Going with right wing neo-con nonsense eminating from the Fox News stable. I was actually somewhere public while CNN covered the story, and the reaction around me ranged from utter disinterest to, "Huh. Okay."
posted by jennyb at 11:24 AM on August 26, 2009


Yeah I think the event tied to this fellow registers so low on the attention scale for most Americans that if they even acknowledge it they can't be bothered to have an opinion unless they get off on outrage and watch too much fox news.
posted by zennoshinjou at 11:27 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


As an addendum I really haven't seen any coverage that was for or against unless they had an agenda for being for or against.. most people just seem to report it neutrally.
posted by zennoshinjou at 11:27 AM on August 26, 2009


The Libyans in an effort to smooth things over with Americans over the atmosphere of celebration upon the return of the bomber (accused) is using its PR machine to remind us that they had nothing to do with the release (i.e., it is the Scottish justice system). The Libyans are trying to deflect attention, anger, indignation, etc. And, for what it is worth, most people I know (NYC educated liberals) understand that the people of any nation is not their governments action. We know this all too well from having to explain this when we travelled abroad during the Bush years.
posted by Pineapplicious at 11:32 AM on August 26, 2009


I've only had one acquaintance make any sort of negative remark about it, and that was on Facebook (that bastion of rational discourse). Most people either really don't care or are already aware that he was quite likely innocent (as it was reported on NPR).
posted by muddgirl at 11:33 AM on August 26, 2009


If you encounter some specific Americans to whom you want to explain the controversy over the trial and evidence, you could do worse than point them to this recent AskMe answer. It has some links to concicse, well-written sources giving background and detailing why there's good reason to doubt the fairness of the original trial.

If you already have lots of links and explanations handy but want to know how to find an audience, that's trickier. I'd imagine that places like Fox News, CNN and larger American newspapers have fora where people discuss the news; maybe look there?
posted by metaBugs at 11:35 AM on August 26, 2009


Most Americans barely acknowledge the existence of a world outside this country. Not many remember PanAm 103. Maybe 0.5-1% realize that Scotland has a government and legal system distinct from that of the UK. Hell, I'd guess fewer than 10% make a distinction between the UK and England.

It's received a modicum of coverage; it's probably mostly forgotten by now.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:36 AM on August 26, 2009


I'm a left-wing lefty liberal. I love Scotland. I lost three classmates on Pan Am flight #103. I'm pissed about the release of the bomber. I'm more pissed at his hero's welcome in Libya. But I still love Scotland. Just a little pissed right now. I'll get over it.
posted by stennieville at 11:37 AM on August 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


I think mostly people on the U.S. have no idea there was ever doubt as to the Lockerbie bomber's guilt. It was new to me when I looked it up.
posted by Kirklander at 11:37 AM on August 26, 2009


I'm guessing that if you did a survey of the whole of the US and asked "What major recent news events transpired in Scotland in the past week" fewer than 1% would manage to mention the Lockerbie bomber was released. While there are right-wing commentators who are airing complaints about it, my impression is that it's just not on Americans' minds.
posted by justkevin at 11:40 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I know nothing about America or Americans, but I do live in the UK, so I've seen the same news coverage you have. The impression I got was that there wasn't really any anti-Scottish sentiment at all, but that the planets alligned in a way where the press and a lot of politicians were in agreement about something for once - that the release decision was a bad idea.

The only talk of anti-Scottish sentiment I heard was from Scottish Labour, the Tories, and the more right-wing press (especially the tabloids, who always explode in rage when someone is released from prison), presumably as a way to slam the SNP (in the case of Scottish Labour) and Gordon Brown's government for their supposed greenlighting of the decision.

In conclusion, I think they're just lying (or speculating purposefully without checking the facts, which is similar) to try and manipulate us.
posted by Dysk at 11:43 AM on August 26, 2009


...or maybe just exaggerating enough to essentially constitute lying.
posted by Dysk at 11:43 AM on August 26, 2009


We love Scotland here. I'm surrounded by descendents of Scot immigrants. And most of the time when something like this happens the default is to blame politicians, anyway, which has little to do with the country in question itself.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:46 AM on August 26, 2009


I guess because of WWII and the politics thereafter, average Americans have a perpetual boner for all things to come out of the British Isles. It'd take more than that to make us stop loving you.
posted by oinopaponton at 11:53 AM on August 26, 2009


I haven't noticed any Anti-Scottish sentiment, either. It's been my perception that people are angrier with the Libyans/Qaddafi, more than anything else.
posted by Atreides at 11:55 AM on August 26, 2009


I haven't heard a peep of anti-Scottish sentiment. Indeed, I haven't even encountered that much coverage about the prisoner's return home, other than to say it happened and it was a little disgusting that he got a hero's welcome in Libya. There was some commentary about the latter damaging US relations with Libya, but nothing about Scotland that I saw.
posted by willpie at 11:55 AM on August 26, 2009


I don't have negative feelings toward Scotland because of this. I have negative feelings toward Scotland because of Golf and Scotch whisky.
posted by notyou at 11:55 AM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, there really is a boycottscotland.com, and #boycottscotland on Twitter. Someone must be pushing it.
posted by smackfu at 11:56 AM on August 26, 2009


In Newfoundland, where there is a pretty decent Scots community, it was commented on. I heard probably a 60-40 split (roughly) towards "I don't think he should have gone free", and after hearing that it wasn't atypical for Scotland to do so, that changed to about 30-70.

In any of the situations, it was your bog-standard "I disagree with the government, c'est la vie". Nobody was incredibly upset over it, just sharing their views.
posted by Lemurrhea at 11:58 AM on August 26, 2009


It's...Fox News. I can hardly think of a situation where you should take Fox News's representation of US sentiment at face value.
posted by asciident at 11:59 AM on August 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Scotland gave us golf and the world's great golf courses. You've earned centuries of good will for that. This latest news was just more good, compassionate karma. Did I mention golf?
posted by netbros at 12:01 PM on August 26, 2009


smackfu, there is a flat earth society, but that doesn't mean that there's any significant or meaningful flat earth sentiment.
posted by Dysk at 12:02 PM on August 26, 2009


The story was featuered on NPR too, not just Fox News.
posted by goethean at 12:03 PM on August 26, 2009


that doesn't mean that there's any significant or meaningful flat earth sentiment.

Not saying it does. My point was just that: I don't watch Fox news, and I don't listen to conservative radio, so I am not going to say that "no one is talking about this" because I don't know that to be the case.
posted by smackfu at 12:07 PM on August 26, 2009


If somebody brings up boycottscotland.com, point out that they are only one font colour away from TimeCube.
posted by Shepherd at 12:09 PM on August 26, 2009


Yes, it's FoxNews neocon warpathing.
That said, if history is any predictor, their insanity will spread to some of their viewers if they keep it up long enough.
So, if the silliness gains any legs, expect some public expressions here-and-there. Like a favorite pub renaming their "Scotch Eggs" as "Liberty Eggs" or something.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:11 PM on August 26, 2009


I think those of us old enough to remember the bombing of Pan Am 103, and the horrible scenes of crash debris from Lockerbie that were broadcast for days afterward, still had some sympathy for the people of that place, that were unwillingly thrust into horrible duty, and made victims of the terrorists, too. Whether there were issues with the trial and conviction of the bomber, or not, many of us feel that releasing him for "compassionate reasons" should never have been on the table, and that choosing that as the cause of release action was insensitive on the part of the Scottish judicial system, particularly when others with lesser sentences for what seem to us lesser crimes, are still being justifiably held. The televised scenes of the bomber's homecoming celebration in Libya were just salt in the wounds, so to speak.

If reforms to the Scottish system are possible, they seem warranted to me, and to others I speak with. Good luck in advocating for such changes, if you choose to do so.

But I don't think that Americans, as a whole, would wish to rebuke Scotland, or the UK, in any broad measure. About 1/3 of our voting public is too young to remember much about the times when Pan Am 103 came down (1988), and they have no personal memory of it, or the manhunt that it engendered. 20+ years on, the zeal for justice for those killed doesn't burn as hot as it once did.
posted by paulsc at 12:13 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


many of us feel that releasing him for "compassionate reasons" should never have been on the table, and that choosing that as the cause of release action was insensitive on the part of the Scottish judicial system, particularly when others with lesser sentences for what seem to us lesser crimes, are still being justifiably held.

The law is equal for everyone, and anyone being held for lesser crimes will probably also get released if they have terminal cancer.
posted by Dysk at 12:18 PM on August 26, 2009


As an American whose primary news sources are the Economist and BBC Global News podcasts, I've heard quite a bit about it recently; knew about the questions regarding his guilt, the celebrations in Libya, the US pressure to keep him locked up and about the "boycott Scotland and Scottish products" movement as a result. BBC News featured interviews with relatives of those killed who gave the expected response under the circumstances, but outside of that I haven't heard anything about your average American's reaction. (Admittedly, though, I don't live in the US and started fast-forwarding through the bits about it in the podcast as it just seemed to be rehashing.)

The high-invective, low-attention-span types are going to go on about this for the current fifteen minutes, and then they'll get distracted by something new and run off to moan about that. Relax, as they're the ones you'd probably want to boycott Scotland if anyone was going to.
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 12:23 PM on August 26, 2009


It's a few loud ranters, on top of a wider ignorance of any questioning of the official line. And previously, for the latter half.
posted by holgate at 12:26 PM on August 26, 2009


Question1: Am I right in thinking that this is the case, or is it just right wing neo-con nonsense eminating from the Fox News stable?

There is no discernable anti-Scottish feeling in the U.S. of any kind.
posted by The World Famous at 12:35 PM on August 26, 2009


Fox news does not speak for American. They are in their own little world and like to make things up as they go along. I would have preferred that the mad bomber die in prison but if Scotland legal system felt he wasn't a threat then whatever.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 12:43 PM on August 26, 2009




I particularly like the people on #boycottscotland suggesting adding the crossed out Scottish flag to their twitter avatars.
posted by knapah at 12:46 PM on August 26, 2009


freedom fries! er.. wait.. hmmmm.... Freedom Malt Whiskey?


all in all it is just the wankers who actively want to be outraged who may be outraged.
posted by edgeways at 12:50 PM on August 26, 2009


Question 1: you are essentially correct.

Question 2: almost nobody would care enough about the matter to bother listening to your defense. This doesn't mean it wouldn't be believed, but it's more akin to using this comment to explain the various qualities of galvanizing versus electroplating when selecting mechanical fasteners -- I could go on at length, and you likely wouldn't care one whit for anything I was saying.

Some people care; mostly those directly affected by the bombing, and those who are sexually excited by outrage.

Some people claim to care a little; these are mostly politicians who want to court the votes of the first group, without also alienating everyone else.

A large batch of people are mildly irked; I have seen comments like "Hmm, if you do the math, this seems to mean that I can kill someone in Scotland and get out in less than eleven days! Kewl!". These remarks seem to be mostly on the same level as jokes about executions in Texas.

...and another large batch of people simply don't care, and haven't thought about the matter in the least.
posted by aramaic at 1:05 PM on August 26, 2009


Think of it this way : in the same way that you might want to say "Hey that decision doesn't really represent Scotland or its people!" many (unfortunately not all) Americans would tell you "Fox News doesn't really represent America or its people!" I've not heard anyone mention Scotland, either negatively or positively...
posted by Slothrop at 1:05 PM on August 26, 2009


Anecdotal:

I already had an extremely positive feeling toward Scotland and its people and its McEwans lager. When I heard this I thought even more highly of Scotland, and wished our justice system could be run with the same kind of common sense and basic human decency. (This lessened a little bit when i heard the guy might have been innocent all along.)

If it made me think less of anyone, it was Obama, who I think could have maybe found something better to be faux-outraged about.

It would not be possible for me to think any less of Fox news.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:16 PM on August 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


1. Almost nobody here even knows where Scotland is, or that it's physically connected to England, or quite how it fits into the UK, or that it's part of the UK at all, or that it has a government, or that Scottish people live there (Don't get me started on Wales). Sorry, we're doing some outreach on that.

2. Scotland is easily the third coolest place on earth. If one knows anything about it at all, it has a kind of mystical, vague, automatic coolness attached to it. Just the name is cool. And if people grasped that Braveheart was set there and that it was a real place that's still around, and they just saw a clip of it on the Jumbotron at the hockey game before the power play, they blindly love it even more than Crocodile Dundee made them blindly love Australia.

3. If right wing idiot American media hates you, you get a trophy. And if the drooling, racist, simpleton sluggards that watch Fox News at the Wal-Mart snack bar hate you, it'll only be until Limbaugh or Hannity tell them to start hating some new thing, or until them sweatpants with the built-in snackwarmers go on sale on QVC again. So give it a few days.

4. It will get pinned on Obama sooner or later, so don't worry about it.

Seriously, this really will be displaced and forgotten. There's no harm in publicizing your view of the patsy issue, but don't feel like you need to do PR work to repair Scotland's image.
posted by Askr at 1:20 PM on August 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm pissed that he was releasesed and I'm pissed at the people who released him. I am not pissed at Scotland, and most Americans who are aware of the event seem to feel the same way. Families and friends of victims may feel this more intensely.
posted by spaltavian at 1:23 PM on August 26, 2009


"(...) how best can I explain that we the UK/US public have been sold a lie by our Governments and that this guy was merely a patsy?"

Do you have to speak out? The Lockerbie bombing is a sad story with no happy ending, and this conspiracy theory will not help anybody.

This latest news was just more good, compassionate karma.
Unless it was all for oil deals.

Regarding compassion: "(...) his wife Aisha moved into a five-bedroom house in Glasgow with the couple's five children. This move was facilitated by a gift of the equivalent of $1 million by Gadhafi to buy the house and some compassionate interpretations of visa requirements by the British government. All five children attended schools and colleges in and around Glasgow until 2005, when they were sent home after the London government decided they would no longer be entitled to free education in Britain. But Aisha al-Megrahi stayed on, visiting her husband every week and talking to him every day on the telephone."

Also, how sick is al-Megrahi actually? "Dr Simpson, who specialised in prostate disease research, said: “It is clear to me from the medical reports and the opinion of the specialists that Megrahi could live for many more months. “Kenny MacAskill released him apparently on the advice of just one doctor whose status is not clear and who is not named.” Dr Simpson, a former member of the British Association of Urological Surgeons’ prostate cancer working group, said the minister should have sought a second opinion from a specialist in palliative care."
posted by iviken at 1:57 PM on August 26, 2009


I don't blame Scotland, I think that releasing the man was the wrong thing to do. No one hates Scotland, but it was difficult to watch the Pan-Am bomber arrive in Libya to a hero's welcome.
posted by arnicae at 2:07 PM on August 26, 2009


I tend to feel like, these days especially, that people can't seem to separate the fact that what the government does is not necessarily a gesture from the general public. I know the Scottish governments decision is most definitely not shared by a majority of Scots.

As for my personal feelings, I'm not happy about the decision. But there are several things that keep me from going all wharrgarbbl about this-

1) One of my best friends is Scottish. She is just about the nicest, most compassionate person and generous person you could meet. She is an echo of pretty much every Scots I have ever met.

2) Scotland gave me one of the best travel experiences of my life early this year. Even when blanketed with snow, there is so much beauty there to behold you can't believe it's real.

3) Sean Connery, Gerard Butler, Ewan McGregor, Billy Connolly, and Peter Mullan. Among many others. You can't possibly be mad at the country that spawned such great talent. Or at least I can't.

4) I have the knowledge I wrote about above. I also know this all is beyond my control. So I just get on with things.

So count me in the "Hell no I'm not pissed at Scotland!" camp. :-D
posted by arishaun at 2:35 PM on August 26, 2009


Nobody blames the Scots, aside from those few blowhards trying to score points for their own agendas. Most of the folks (not many) I've heard speak about this topic think that the U.S. is somehow responsible anyway -- the righties say it's our fault because we took Libya off the state sponsored terrorism list in the first place, and the lefties say we probably pressured the Scottish government to do it in the first place.

No worries. We, the people, know all too well over here that what the people want and what the government does are rarely even remotely related things.
posted by Pufferish at 2:42 PM on August 26, 2009


The return of a wrongly imprisoned person and the return of a hero can look quite similar. Whichever is really the case here, I bet more people believe he's the former than the latter.
posted by BinaryApe at 2:46 PM on August 26, 2009


As an American, I would be surprised if most Americans could point to Scotland on a map.
posted by canadia at 2:49 PM on August 26, 2009


Some folks are suggesting that Americans boycott Scotch Whisky as protest. That seems insane to me. I say 'my feelings are a little hurt, Scotland, but I'll get over it'
posted by fixedgear at 2:53 PM on August 26, 2009


The options aren't limited to a) be angry at Scotland, or b) support this person's release. I've heard a fair amount of grumbling about the fact that this person was released, and certainly have heard angry comments about the "hero's welcome," but I haven't personally felt, nor have I heard any anti-Scottish sentiment.

My guess would be that Fox News might put an anti-Scottish spin on the story just to eat up airtime (i.e., they have a segment on the prisoner, a segment on Libya, AND a segment on those horrible lefty liberal Scots).
posted by Meg_Murry at 2:56 PM on August 26, 2009


Dr Simpson, who specialised in prostate disease research, said: “It is clear to me from the medical reports and the opinion of the specialists that Megrahi could live for many more months."

So they're releasing a man with terminal cancer, who will only live as long as potentially several months (notice the wording, "could"). This is different to the compassionate release they're claiming how?
posted by Dysk at 4:14 PM on August 26, 2009


We've been doing something wrong if you couldn't guess that metafilter was the wrong place to preach even before the choir erupted, Scotland's got nothing to worry about from us American MeFites. But rest assured our assorted windbaggery also has even dumber things to rant at.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:52 PM on August 26, 2009


FWIW, it's news to me that the perception of American sentiment registers overseas at all. Here, we get Fox news, so we get a lot of blowback from the veritable shit storm that is their trade in business. Stupid web sites and aggregators pick up the crap they emit and amplify it, and the million or so constant morons who are watching it at any instant are influenced like dogs to strange noises.

These villians would no sooner give any consideration to any factor other than satiating their need for a hate focus, and sadly, my man, your country's ass is in the sights. Intellects like these have no memory, nor scruples, and soon they will content themselves with some other unfortunate target. Be patient, and their energy will wane.

If you are taking heat here, realize that not one of these yahoos has ever done anything more involved than being a meat puppet, and by considering the source, you can innoculate yourself against what might be being sold as overwhelming American sentiment.

Consider also, that our populace is for the most part, illiterate. A significant portion of them do not know where Alabama is, who sits on our Supreme Court, how far away the sun is, what the population of the planet is, or what an integral is. I'd wager most can't add fractions accurately. Don't look to us for approval. Shit, we torture people, for crissakes.

All you guys do that doesn't make sense is eat haggis and export scotch!
posted by FauxScot at 6:35 PM on August 26, 2009


FauxScot, eponysterical?

All you guys do that doesn't make sense is eat haggis and export scotch!

Given the deliciousness of haggis, and the pervasiveness of alcoholism in Scotland, I'd say those are two damn sensible things to do. Especially since I like scotch, and don't live in Scotland.

...and off the top of my head, I couldn't tell you how far away the sun is, other than to say it's a long fucking way.
posted by Dysk at 6:48 PM on August 26, 2009


Browsing today's newspapers here in Scotland it would seem that there is an anti-Scottish feeling pervading the whole of the USA

I think I can safely pooh-pooh this with a link to Google Trends comparing "boycott scotland" vs. "swine flu". As you can see, one of those barely registers.

We could also compare it with a more Scottish-specific topic, such as "boycott scotland, jennifer aniston, gerard butler". Or perhaps against radiohead. And so forth (I did find search terms it has started to beat, such as haggis or Franz Ferdinand). Keep an eye on that and it will give you a sense of whether even a significant minority are really talking about it.
posted by dhartung at 8:51 PM on August 26, 2009


"freedom fries! er.. wait.. hmmmm.... Freedom Malt Whiskey? "

No, freedom eggs.

And no, we do not hate the Scots, you have lots of distant relations here.
posted by Iron Rat at 10:59 PM on August 26, 2009


As a Scot who has lived in the US for almost 15 years there has been a surprising number of people asking me to justify this display. Most got their info from talksportradiofox ( ! live in Orange County , CA ) and related sources and knew nothing of the actual details or Scottish law. It has been a PITA .

Also there is no "e" in Whisky. In Ireland there is but not Scotland.
posted by stuartmm at 11:30 PM on August 26, 2009


My usual news source is NPR (public radio), which has generally one of the less crooked news organizations; for the most part they've covered this story from the 'what an outrage' perspective. Only recently have they begun to mention any doubt about Megrahi's involvement (and still do a miserable job of exploring that aspect). When they have call-in segments, most of the callers have been unpleased with these events, typically reciting the "did he show compassion to his victims" line.

It's pretty shameful. And every other network has been much worse, I'm sure. The politicians resort to hyperbole.

If the Libyans believe Megrahi had no victims, and was instead locked up as a scapegoat all this time, how could anyone find fault with their rejoicing?
posted by unmake at 12:17 AM on August 27, 2009


One (idiotic) government official made an appallingly stupid decision. For this, you want to hate the whole country?

The US started a war, and invited their pals to join in. No substantiated reasons for the war; plenty of outright lies. Many thousands have died, and the US and its pals are less safe from angry terrists.

I'm biased; the 55s emigrated from central Scotland during the Highland Clearances, and we have a nice tartan.
posted by theora55 at 11:48 AM on August 27, 2009


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