Sunday, 3 March 2019

"Shame it wasn't a brick/grenade": the disgusting social media response to Jeremy Corbyn getting egged

On 19 June 2017 an extreme-right activist and Tommy Robinson acolyte called Darren Osborne carried out a deadly terrorist attack against a random group of Muslims in Finsbury park. During his trial it was revealed that his original plot was to go assassinate Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

On the day that Osborne was jailed for the extreme-right terrorist attack he committed, the BBC took the extraordinary step of inviting one of the extreme-right hate preachers who radicalised him onto their flagship news show Newsnight. The softball interview they lavished on Tommy Robinson (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) is one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the BBC and indicative of concerted efforts to actively bring extreme-right views into the political mainstream.

In March 2019 Jeremy Corbyn paid a visit to the Finsbury Park mosque where he was attacked with an egg. This is no big story in its own right, plenty of politicians have had eggs pelted at them. Anyone old enough to remember the 1990s will remember the footage of Labour stalwart John Prescott trying to batter the guy who egged him.

The story here isn't the egging itself, it's the absolutely despicable social media reaction of the political right.

This is a guy who was the target of an extreme-right terrorist plot who was visiting the site of the deadly terrorist attack the plotter eventually carried out, and literally hundreds of right-wingers have responded to him getting egged by wishing that Corbyn had actually been attacked with a brick or a grenade (the comments in the header image are just a tiny selection of an absolute barrage of violence-craving vitriol from the political right).

What a disgusting country we've allowed ourselves to become where people think it's absolutely fine to publicly wish violence and death on people they disagree with politically.

Labour figures like Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott, and Sadiq Khan are the most common targets of these repulsive tides of right-wing hate, but let's not pretend they're the only victims.

There were the High Court judges who ruled against Theresa May's efforts to scrap parliamentary sovereignty who suffered barrages of abuse and death threats after the Daily Mail's despicable rabble-rousing "Enemies of the People" front page (Theresa May subsequently hired the author of this despicable hit piece as her chief spokesperson!).

There are the constant barrages of death threats against anyone who dares oppose, or even moderately critique the absolute shambles the Tory party are making of Brexit.

And there are the endless waves of abuse and threats of violence aimed at left-wing public figures, and especially left-wing public figures who happen to be female, non-white, and/or homosexual.

This kind of violent extremist mentality has been fostered by extreme-right figures and hate groups like Tommy Robinson and the Britain First hate chamber, but similar outbursts of abuse and cravings for violence can be found in the Daily Mail and Guido Fawkes comments sections, and especially in pro-Tory Facebook groups.

Huge numbers of people have become absolutely normalised to using social media to do stuff like lobbing abuse, craving and threatening violence, celebrating extreme-right acts of terrorism without any kind of repercussion.

Britain has become normalised to this kind of thing that it's a regular part of people's online experience to witness other people spewing bigoted abuse, wishing for ethnic cleansing, spreading absurd extreme-right conspiracy theories, and craving the violent deaths of politicians, journalists, and public figures.

The kind of stuff that would get us ostracised from our social groups, and probably even arrested if we did it in public spaces in the real world is considered normal in the online world.

I'm not here to tell you that there's some kind of easy solution to this because there clearly isn't. Right-wing websites like Guido Fawkes and the Daily Mail have fostered this grotesque abuse-lobbing violence-craving extreme-right ultranationalist mentality in their comments sections for years, and social media platforms have been letting people spread this kind of hate with impunity for years too.

Ordinary people have little power over these companies to stop them from hosting and actively fostering hate, and they've got a perverse financial incentive to allow it to continue, because their business models are based on maximising the number of users, regardless of whether they're racism-spewing, violence-craving, terrorism-sympathising extreme-right freaks or not.

Of course there are things we can do on the micro scale like reporting individual tweets/Facebook comments, or sending copies of people's hateful comments to their employers, asking advertisers whether they're comfortable placing their adverts next on platforms that allow, or even promote hateful views, but this kind of stuff is bailing out a sinking ship with an egg cup.

So what do you suggest. What can be done about the increasingly common normalisation of hate speech and the repugnant hate-fest that so much of our political discourse has degenerated into?

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Unknown said...

I agree with all that is said in this. But it is a shame thst it did not also refer to the anti-Semitic abuse, largely from the far right, that some have been subjected to.

Graham Peck said...

A well written and considered article. I am totally in despair that due to social media being totally unregulated that utter bile can be posted with impunity. We are indeed a sick society that has no moral standards whatsoever, and the horrific hatred expressed is frightening to say the least. I will now start to have a go to those I think are hate filled and unjust. I have been brought up with moral standards and whilst I have opinions on political issues and call a spade a spite I would never be totally viscous. It has to stop as we are bringing up a generation of hate. Our PM wants to unite as a nation. It cannot happen whilst we have a Government that divides us on so many issues

Sven Wraight said...

I fear it’s necessary to speak to those in our social circles who display bigotry: Socratic reasoning for those who might understand they’re wrong; brow-beating and possible ostracism for the rest.

Anonymous said...

23.50 above wrote "A well written and considered article. I am totally in despair that due to social media being totally unregulated that utter bile can be posted with impunity".

Heaven forbid that Thomas should seek to portray anyone who isn't a Marxist as "extreme right"! And then you almost always infer and insinuate that anyone to the "right" of you is almost certainly a selfish, self-serving, racist, bigot.

Thomas, you are part of the very problem you pretend to abhor. Your divisive dismissal of any politician or voter that holds different political views to you (which is the vast majority of people in the UK), is almost always delivered with a sequence of pejoratives and insults.

Pot, Kettle, Black Thoms.

Unknown said...

David Icke as been right all along Orwellian state on its way..sow discord all over the place, get the left Vs right trope simmering,bobs your uncle..start shafting the public and screw them.. welcome to Tory Britain aided by a complicit press,start taking back control, go common law get out of the corporate state don't feed the beast..

Mark Angove said...

Hardly surprising behaviour when they watch TM spewing bile evey week on PMQ's

Unknown said...

I'm afraid main stream media are stirring things's about keeping him out of power, plain as the nose on your face, most news or political programs are weighed with Tory or neoliberal champions,most of the time dedicated to smearing Corbyn or labour with minimum if a by facts..just follow the money and you find the culprits that are stoking up discord, could call it interfering in democracy...

julietsw said...

Angove is right. The abuse the PM spews out when she should be giving positive answers or considering criticism as helpful sets the tone for public discourse.

Simon J Broome said...

I'm ashamed to say that I personally would visit as much as a fist to the face of some Tory politicians. But a brick? A Grenade? No, too far.

Yes, Tories deserve admonishment. Scorn even. Brickbats and slingshots, Rotten Tomatoes and Eggs (and don't get me started on the "Captain Marvel" Nontroversy). But I don't believe that they need to be relieved of their very lives, simply for being Conservatives.

Perhaps if they did actually decide that the rules no longer applied to them, we'd be forced to do something silly. But that's very much a hypothetical right now, and we hope it stays that way.

My point then: If there is violence on Both sides, I believe that we should look at those who wish to murder honest and caring politicians simply on the strength of the slander against them, not those who wish to punish the cruel and dishonest politicians whose true motives are hidden from us.

Anonymous said...

Yes, this. I was linked here by a friend to "fact-find" something I posted about; it didn't take long to come to the same conclusion as you. The facts were there, but I had to focus as to not get distracted.

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