ONCE, in a childhood fever dream, Jeremy Kyle saw human civilisation as it really is – a breathtakingly complex, looping, latticed circulatory system conveying the oxygen of ideas and energy over all the Earth’s crusty skin.

This vision of our species’ Jungian collective unconscious made young Jeremy realise that the reactionary xenophobia displayed by some of his fellow tribesmen may be deeply misplaced. The dream then cut to Jeremy as an adult – on stage hosting his cancerous TV show, revealing the results of DNA taken from this planetary network which gave birth to Western civilisation. The English audience booed as the results were read out. Scotland was the father.

It’s undeniable the cultural influence of this lumpy wee landmass is globally pervasive, a ubiquitous presence borne of Scotland’s uniquely curious, rule-breaking ingenuity and devilishly inventive entrepreneurial spirit. Wha’s like us?

This flame not only sparked off the first industrial revolution, but consequently also lit the torch of capitalism – carrying it aloft into a world yet unaware of boom, bust or 120-inch flatscreen models of John Logie Baird’s primitive social media device for 19th-century elites.

And just as TV ultimately birthed Jeremy Kyle, the refinements James Watt made to the steam engine eventually led to multinational conglomerates and 1% of the population owning half the wealth.

Even a fleeting familiarity with the last few centuries reveals this common trope – Scots will wire together a bomb of genius, but fail to predict the explosion’s collateral damage. Our modest reluctance to remain at the forefront of our technological and societal revolutions, and too self-effacing to blow our own trumpets, is perhaps the reason why our vital role in shaping the Western world is not heralded more often.

It’s also true that the best of us, our trailblazers who’d be exalted as demigods in other lands, have too often been yanked back down to grey mundanity by envy in our own ranks – innovation struck by an equal force of hardened conformity, the impact leaving nothing behind but resentment and stagnation. Perhaps it balances some cosmic see-saw with “I Kent Yer Faither” graffitied on the side.

One sprawling landmass in particular has provided much fertile ground for Scottish self-immolation – the USA. And that’s before even mentioning Donald Trump. We’ll get there though.

Nearly half of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence may have been Scots, yet our dominion soon extended to the formation of the tobacco industry, Ku Klux Klan and “Uncle Sam”. Apparently he was from Greenock. No, really.

And, even in 2018, it seems we still can’t escape being tripped up by our own shoelaces in America. Last week, Pinkerton Detective Agency – a firm founded by legendary Scottish detective Allan Pinkerton in the 19th century – tried to sue another Caledonian cultural colossus, Rockstar Games.

The modern-day Pinkertons are apparently not amused at their sinister depiction in Red Dead Redemption 2 – valiantly vowing to protect their founder’s reputation and obviously not caring a jot about Rockstar’s billions.

Perhaps it’s fate that Allan Pinkerton is now being used as a weapon to take down Rockstar as, after all, no-one can rubbish the achievements, skewer the hubris and bring Scots “back down to Earth” like a fellow Scot.


IN RDR2, the Pinkertons loom large as sinister adversaries for the game’s good guy, anti-hero Arthur Morgan. It seems reputational damage is nothing money can’t fix, however – with the Pinkertons making clear in their lawyer’s letter that they’d happily toddle off with their names blackened if awarded a “lump sum”.

Rockstar has no plans to hand over any of its considerable war chest, however. The firm has claimed RDR2 is a “historically accurate” recreation of the Old West – right down to horse testicles that shrink in the cold weather. The firm stresses that if such minute attention to detail is paid to testicular accuracy in the Old West, then it was duty bound to also acknowledge the very real presence of Pinkerton agents.

Of course, the Pinkertons claim that’s b******s. Despite their accusations of defamation, however, there is a wealth of evidence suggesting the negative portrayal is not entirely based in fiction.


IN 1842, Gorbals-born Allan Pinkerton emigrated to the Windy City of Chicago – perhaps thinking it was somewhere he could set up a double glazing firm.

Instead, he was appointed the city’s first-ever detective, and inflamed by that peculiarly Caledonian entrepreneurial spirit formed what eventually became a private policing force bigger than the US Army, working by Allan’s motto “We never sleep”. So, Scots can also justifiably claim Thatcher too.

Along with their exploits keeping the peace in the Wild West, the Pinkertons had a more sinister reputation as the paramilitary wing of big business, and also operated as a private militia for the government when they wanted to crush uppity unions who demanded luxuries such as sleep, pay and no-whipping Fridays.

As strikebreakers, the Pinkertons had many clashes with workers, usually applying the subtle diplomacy offered by dynamite. Many deaths were recorded, few funerals held, but on the plus side the ground was thoroughly fertilised to feed the McDonald’s hamburgers of the future.

By the early 20th century, their “crime-fighting” duties had largely been absorbed by the police and agencies like the FBI. Who still, incidentally, call upon Pinkertons’ services to this day – perhaps because dynamite may be the only thing to remove Trump from office.


IN light of recent revelations over long working hours at Rockstar, it’s perhaps ironic that the Pinkertons are synonymous with “sorting out” employee grumblings. If Rockstar had existed 150 years ago, it’s possible it would have called upon Big Allan’s services itself.

Before RDR2’s launch, CEO Dan Houser candidly admitted that 100-hour weeks had been common during “crunch” time – the frantic few months before a game is released. Houser seemed genuinely taken aback when the world that exists outside his bubble unanimously agreed that 15-hour shifts were not in the best interests of his staff’s sanity.

Developers clearly cannot live on Rock Star (the drink) alone – sleep, sunlight and human interaction are also necessary to resist the urge of going on a spree.

Still, “crunch” time might explain the sluggish difficulty in controlling RDR2’s main character Arthur Morgan – whose slow, unresponsive lethargy is perhaps as realistic as the game’s horse testicles, if you’re a Rockstar employee.

And finally ...

THE PINKERTON controversy is far from the first time Rockstar has been sued for less-than-flattering digital depictions.

“Actress” Lindsay Lohan once claimed Grand Theft Auto V character Lacey Jonas was based on her – simply because Lacey wore bikinis and was a bit of an insufferable attention-seeking waste of skin claiming to the the “voice of a generation”.

Yet, instead of doing what sane famous people would do and mark it up as a sign of having truly made it, the melodramatic Lohan hired a squad of greedy beaks, filing a surreal 67-page document – worth reading online – which rather wonderfully alleges the game character “uses the peace-sign hand gesture, which Lohan has used for years”. Perhaps Neil from The Young Ones can sue too.

In response, Rockstar offered Lohan a reverse peace sign – laudably ignoring her claims until a court eventually threw them out and she lost the case. And, no doubt, several million dollars in legal fees.

As lawyers for the Pinkertons and Lohan know, Rockstar certainly isn’t the only one profiting magnificently from their games.

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