Wednesday 7 March 2018

Social Media Abuse and the Framing of the Left

We hear a lot these days about people being threatened, abused and bullied on social media, and the mainstream media stories all tend to be about leftist activists being the wrongdoers. Particularly in association with the Labour party, and those members who support the leader, Jeremy Corbyn, the latest is here, but it didn’t start with Corbyn.

During the Scottish referendum campaign and the lead up to it, ‘cybernats’ were demonised by the media for alleged bullying on-line in favour of independence. Any kind of threat to the established order must be smeared in some way, we know is the tactic employed by those who are happy with the status quo. Curiously there was a split in the right wing establishment over Brexit. The mainstream media are the attack dogs in both cases though.

Two of the main reasons that I started this blog, was to bring reds and greens together and to put out an alternative narrative to mainstream media and right wing social media. Ecosocialist yes, but also a green left take on things like news stories more generally.

Around about 75% of the traffic to this blog comes from Facebook links, the rest come from the email feed from the blog, left politics aggregator sites, twitter, email groups and forums and google searches. I have over 700 Facebook friends and posts are public, and I also link the blog posts in various Facebook groups. These groups are mainly of the green, left liberal, socialist and anarchist type politics. But I also post the links into some more general politics groups and some London based community type groups, it all depends on the nature of the post.

The reaction to my posts in the green and lefty groups is generally positive, with likes, shares and comments from posters. In the more general political groups, there will be some support in comments and likes, but a hell of a lot of negative, and in some cases, downright offensive comments from right wingers.

Of course, you have to have a bit of a thick skin if you blog about politics and share it about on Facebook discussion sites and I just ignore a lot of the condescension. I’m not claiming that I have been abused badly on social media, certainly not like some people are, especially women, but it does happen to an extent to me.

The worst thing I get is the racist stereotyping of me being Irish. I once said in a comment in a Facebook group that I was ashamed to be English (I think I was referring to the Brexit vote) and I was accused of not being English, but Irish. Stereotypes then flowed about the Irish doing anything for money, being thick etc. More recently, in a blog post that explained why I hated the Tories, I was called a ‘Paddy muppet.’

For the record, the only thing that is Irish about me is my name, so much so, that I am unable to get an Irish passport. The rule is that you need at least a grandparent that was born on the island of Ireland to qualify. The last one of my relatives to be born in Ireland was in about 1860!

Most of the time people just post distracting comments, probably because they can’t make a proper argument against what I am saying, which is annoying and reflects the commenters ignorance, although many people don’t seem to mind making themselves look foolish. Racist and sexist comments taunts are out order though, although they are tolerated in many of the groups I post into.

I am not saying that the left is squeaky clean when it comes to social media abuse but you would be forgiven for thinking that the left are the baddies if you are guided by the mainstream media with their smear campaign against the left. The right are just as bad, if not worse than the left when it comes to online bullying, so let’s get real about this.        

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