A recent BBC Scotland news story about the sighting of a Russian submarine off the west coast of Scotland has sparked a flurry of odd reactions on social media.

Among them, a tweet by @BothyCat53 stands out for its peculiar implications and poorly informed content.

The tweet suggests that Russian fleet movements are somehow coordinated to influence local political dynamics in Scotland, specifically to boost support for the UK.


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This odd insinuation, along with the tweet’s broader dismissal of the strategic importance of the submarine’s sighting, exemplifies the mix of conspiracy thinking and geopolitical naivety that characterised much of the public reaction.

The Story

On 16 June 2024, BBC Scotland reported that the Russian submarine Kazan, en route to Cuba, was identified by an RAF Poseidon P8 anti-submarine aircraft near the west coast of Scotland. Although the submarine did not enter UK waters, its proximity was significant enough to prompt a briefing to the Prime Minister by the Ministry of Defence.

This event was part of broader military manoeuvres by Russia, seen against the backdrop of ongoing tensions with the West over Ukraine.

The story also garnered significant global coverage due to the submarine’s destination and the implications of Russian military presence near NATO territories. The movements of maritime patrol aircraft to monitor the submarine are also easily verifiable through tracking data and official reports.

The Reaction

The tweet by @BothyCat53 encapsulated a prevalent sentiment among some social media users: “Some facts: Havana IS west of Scotland. The sub never entered UK waters. Faslane is an election issue. This @BBCScotlandNews item raises many questions: – Who fed this non-story to BBC Scotland? – Why has BBC Scotland run this non-story? – Could it be blatant scaremongering?”

This tweet and its echoes reveal a blend of geographical simplification and conspiratorial overtones. The assertion that Havana is west of Scotland, while geographically accurate, trivialises the strategic importance of the submarine’s location and movements.

More telling, however, are the questions in responses about the story’s origins and intentions, which suggest a deep mistrust of mainstream media and a suspicion of hidden agendas.

The Responses

@GrahamC12967975 tweeted, “It is blatant electioneering which it is not allowed to do.”

This response overlooks the genuine strategic and security concerns that justify the reporting of such military movements. Dismissing it as electioneering reflects a lack of understanding of the broader geopolitical implications. The accusation of electioneering is unfounded because the monitoring of foreign military assets near national waters is a routine and necessary defence activity, regardless of election cycles. The suggestion that BBC Scotland is manipulating such news for political purposes ignores the global significance of monitoring Russian military activities near NATO territories.

@forfarfred commented, “Nonsense from BBC Scotland.”

Labelling the report as nonsense without considering the context of international naval manoeuvres and their significance demonstrates a simplistic and uninformed view of global security issues. The presence of a foreign military submarine near national waters is a legitimate news story due to the potential implications for national security and international relations. Ignoring these broader implications reflects a lack of understanding.

@Frcola1 said, “Meanwhile the BBC refuses to publish the real stories coming out of Faslane.”

This comment implies that the BBC is intentionally ignoring important local issues, but it fails to recognise that international security events, like the movement of a Russian submarine, are also of significant public interest and relevance. Moreover, the BBC is often the first with exclusives on issues at the Faslane base, indicating that this criticism is unfounded.

@JohnDalton6011 tweeted, “They said it was seen on its way to Cuba, but that information is not in so far as I am aware normally made public. #wato”

This tweet expresses doubt about the usual practices of disclosing such information, implying there might be an unusual reason for the disclosure, which can feed into a conspiracy mindset. There is no inherent reason to assume sinister motives behind such reporting. The movements of maritime patrol aircraft, like the RAF Poseidon P8, are verifiable and routine in tracking potential threats.

@JamesRobertDuf1 claimed, “No ‘could it’ about it, it’s unadulterated scaremongering. There’s also a lot of Russian propaganda about that sub’s capabilities, it can’t launch the missiles it says it can.”

This response dismisses the story as fear-mongering and relies on information about the submarine’s capabilities, which may or may not be accurate. It reflects a knee-jerk reaction rather than a considered analysis of the report’s content. Regardless of the submarine’s capabilities, its presence near UK waters is a matter of legitimate concern and interest.

@ChildOfAlba said, “Of course it is. It is reported with tedious regularity as though we’re facing a Russian invasion. 🙄”

This tweet sarcastically suggests that such reports are routine and exaggerated, minimising the legitimate security concerns that such sightings might raise. The regularity of such reports does not diminish their importance, as monitoring and reporting foreign military activities are crucial for national security.

@BenartyComputer quipped, “From a certain point of view, the whole world is west of Scotland.”

This quip trivialises the geographical and strategic significance of the submarine’s location, missing the point of why such movements are monitored and reported. While technically true, the comment ignores the specific strategic context of a Russian submarine operating near UK waters. The focus on geographical trivia detracts from the real issue of maritime security and the strategic implications of military movements in sensitive areas.

@firnamara commented, “There are a lot of glaikit folk around?”

This tweet suggests that many people are foolish or naïve, possibly implying that believing or caring about the report is unwise, thereby dismissing the report’s significance.

@carolst06m stated, “To try & scare the shit out of Scotland. We will be a lot better off when we leave.”

This response epitomises a parochial and narrow focus on global events. It suggests that the report is intended to manipulate and frighten the Scottish public, feeding into a narrative of fear and control.

The Psychology

To understand why such reactions proliferate, we must delve into the psychology behind conspiracy theories. Scotland, with its distinct political landscape and historical grievances, particularly in relation to Westminster and broader UK defence policies, provides fertile ground for mistrust.

Complex geopolitical events are often simplified to make them more understandable. However, this can lead to oversimplifications that miss critical nuances. For instance, stating that Havana is west of Scotland overlooks the broader implications of military movements in strategically sensitive areas.

When new information conflicts with pre-existing beliefs, individuals experience cognitive dissonance. Conspiracy theories offer a way to reconcile this dissonance by providing alternative explanations that fit better with their worldviews.

Conspiracy theories can reinforce in-group identities by framing out-groups (e.g., government authorities, media) as deceptive or manipulative. This dynamic is evident in the tweet’s underlying implication that BBC Scotland is part of a broader scheme to influence public opinion.

People tend to seek out information that confirms their pre-existing beliefs. Social media algorithms often exacerbate this by curating content that aligns with users’ views, creating echo chambers where conspiracy theories can flourish unchallenged.

The Implications

The mixing of local politics with global events, as seen in the responses, showcases how local political sentiments can colour the interpretation of international events. The belief that Russian fleet movements are somehow tied to local Scottish election issues is a glaring example of this.

Fact-checking these claims and countering misinformation is not only draining but also essential in maintaining a well-informed public. The political implications of such conspiracy theories are profound, as they can skew public perception, influence election outcomes, and erode trust in credible institutions.

The continuous cycle of debunking false claims can be exhausting for journalists and fact-checkers, diverting resources from other important investigative work. Fostering media literacy and encouraging open dialogue are essential steps towards a more informed and less conspiratorial society.

The responsibility lies with both the media to provide clear, accurate information and the public to engage with it thoughtfully and critically.

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George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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Dennis Reeves
Dennis Reeves (@guest_827559)
1 month ago

Ahhhh Cold war v2.0…..takes me back to V1.0….😊

And I’m sure someone has opened a new tin of Agent provocateurs
as well.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli (@guest_827635)
1 month ago

As usual, the enemy within.

Jonathan
Jonathan (@guest_828527)
28 days ago

It’s interesting, the question of what is valid political debate vs what is subversive political warfare against a nation. For the west this is a particularly difficult question as a cornerstone of what we are as a nation is freedom of speech. But this has intrinsically created dangers for both our nation and the wider western world. This danger is profoundly amplified by the internet and social media. It does beg the scary question “can a western democracy with complete freedom of speech and unfettered social media survive in a world in which it has extremist and authoritarian enemies that… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli (@guest_828531)
28 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

If something gives, the far left will a pink fit. Look at the uproar over GCHQ surveillance. They’re not doing it for cheap thrills looking into people’s lives, neither would they have the time. They’re doing it to try to counter this nations enemies, yet from the left the almost endless word is, shut them down, privacy rights, and so on. They’re more interested in the power the agencies have, and their supposed lack of accountability, than the actions of those they try to stop. How can that balance be reached with enemies operating within the freedoms we have that… Read more »

Jonathan
Jonathan (@guest_828542)
28 days ago

Personally I’m with you, as long as we have the correct checks and balances in place to prevent misuse, what is wrong with surveillance…people get upset about surveillance because they worry about an authoritarian state ( far right and far left are for all purposes functionally the same, communism, fascists all go the same way..so I’m just calling them authoritarian)…but our state is not authoritarian and we have checks against that..so we need surveillance to fight the very authoritarians people are scared of.

Hereward
Hereward (@guest_829776)
23 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

People happily hand over data about themselves every single day to media companies via their mobile phones then fret about surveillance. Remember the covid vaccine tracking chips???

Jonathan
Jonathan (@guest_830059)
22 days ago
Reply to  Hereward

Yep it’s odd really.

Jacko
Jacko (@guest_827653)
1 month ago

Don’t you just love ‘social’ media😀

Zephyr
Zephyr (@guest_827702)
1 month ago

Idiots.

Lonpfrb
Lonpfrb (@guest_827958)
1 month ago

So are FSB kompromat attempts a proven mechanism of hybrid warfare or just a conspiracy theory that the security services have no interest in correcting based on their covert information sources?

Given that the US presumptive Republican Presidential candidate has been compromised since 2015÷ and has already said that he plans to revoke the Constitution if elected, the successful misinformation campaign seems to be in plain sight, for those with critical thinking skills…

÷ Eric is on record that TO depends on ruzzian banks and not NY banks.

Deaboz
Deaboz (@guest_831335)
18 days ago

But we forget one thing here? ‘NEVER let the truth get in the way of a good story.’ Truth doesn’t sell papers and with an election coming up, smoke screens of political nonsense make for far better news.

Bill Moffat
Bill Moffat (@guest_834112)
8 days ago

To understand the ongoing ‘submarine war’ – read a few of the books that are available. ‘They’ want to find and track our subs, and we want to do the same. Both sides are particularly interested in ballistic missile boats. It has been going on for 60 or more years…..