Another incident in Remainerland has put the online community back into the doghouse. Individuals have been harassed, doxed, and insulted. Twitter is not a playground – and more must be done to combat the abuse.
I’m sick to death with writing about the continual drama in the Remain camp. It springs up every month or so, sticks its fat head up like a walrus in a flooded well, and never fails to anger. This time it’s more personal. It’s fair to say that the People’s Vote campaign have fallen to the inescapable tide of Westminster. The situation is out of their control, along with all the major Remain activist groups. For now, they’re in sleep mode waiting to pounce or stand down.
That hasn’t halted the marching armies of Twitter loyalists though. The hashtagged and decorated continue to litter the threads of politicians, journalists, and experts alike. Like any other clique, they’re seemingly omnipresent. A media personality could tweet out a picture of their recent holiday to the Canary Islands, and it’s guaranteed someone would comment, “Yes, but what about Brexit?”
But after an Independent article I wrote in April received mixed reactions, I’d hoped the winds would change course. An incident involving a now-infamous user spiralled into serious harassment. The user, who prefers to adopt anonymous names, replied on a quoted tweet by David Allen Green (a prominent lawyer and writer) with an insulting accusation.
The target of this, who shall remain anonymous, had posted a fact-checking thread on the Boris Johnson domestic incident. But this particular accusation has shone a light onto the troubling online activism which speckles Twitter. Remain and FBPE continue to host an insidious minority of harassers and abusive users. It has a history of ignoring racism and prejudice whilst parroting the opinions of those who harass. To wear a Remain badge and participate in this culture of pile-ons and perjury can no longer be tolerated.
People cry ‘fake Remainer’ as if it’s ever crystal clear just what a ‘Remainer’ is. Judging from the experiences online, it is far removed from the open-hearted and tolerant perception many claim to embody. The user mentioned above has led a formal campaign of sentencing every critical voice to be marked as traitor. But they are not alone in this abuse.
How can a campaign of open-mindedness be adopted by users who persist in this abhorrent method? The curtains are closing on the Brexit saga, but the rhetoric is still as loud. Talks of a People’s Vote are just memories in this new atmosphere of Boris Johnson versus common sense. The target has shifted from wanting a final say on Brexit to just stopping Brexit entirely. The stakes are much higher than at the time of the joyful London marches. But this increased tension is not an excuse to commit concentrated efforts to harangue any self-critical voices. Without criticism, there’s no hope to respond. Without a top-down voice, any political movement would exist on its own words alone.
One particular area with a barbed stem relates to Remain’s attitude to migration. The consensus is strongly in favour of freedom of movement, justice for EU citizens and UK citizens in the EU, and a more open approach to a pan-European identity. The wheels fall off this bright blue car when many have used non-EU migration as a lasso to catch a critic with a ‘gotcha’ moment.
Not only do these arguments differ from the realities of immigration law, they’re also plainly racist. And before a defence is made, as in “Oh, I’m not being racist, it’s the truth, they said so in 2016”, here’s the basic principles: Using a country or nationality as the basis of an argument about entitlement is racist. It creates a hierarchy of who we should accept or simply reject. The fact that people use this to point out flaws in arguments is even more disturbing. I was under a false hope that Remain was a shining lighthouse of tolerance. But from examples highlighting Islamophobia, there’s no hashtag badge which can disguise a bigot’s poison.
Some are treating this as a game, playing an online warrior who fights for a cause but forgets about the real world. Twitter isn’t a forum for commissioned abuse, however much the hellsite seems to be. People forget it’s a world with rules and principles – which, if broken, can and does lead to real life consequences. Regardless of the setting sun, the Remain movement must be moderated. You can’t wear a badge and go unchallenged if your conduct is far from kind.
It’s down to the ‘arch-Remainers’ to call out the abuse where it lands. The formal campaigns like People’s Vote and Best for Britain should work to regulate their activist base. It’s impossible to police the internet totally. But when your profile is naught but Remain, it’s wrong to assume you’re untouchable.🔷
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