Saturday, 5 August 2017

The promotion of racists and their allies on social media, a few thoughts

Words have meaning
Disrepute, is a lovely word and one often neglected in modern society, but all more pertinent with the advent of social media.
Would you wish to bring an organisation or a message that you cherish into disrepute?
That’s a question that we should all ask ourselves.
But against the backdrop of social media and the increase of racism in society we must all do a degree of soul-searching. Asking ourselves, is that the right thing to do? Is it acceptable to promote UKIP or BNP, even indirectly?
Do we object when the BBC Question Time habitually gives airtime to fringe UKIP figures?
Are we concerned that the oxygen of publicity given to bigots on-line helps increase racism in the streets?
Tell MAMA previously showed how that can be the case.
So what we do on social media is important, particularly if we are serious about obstructing the growth of xenophobia, racism and antisemitism.
Most sensible or large organisations have written guidelines on the use of social media: what to do, what not to do and they often suggest:
Avoid posting when drunk
Don’t post anything sexist
Don’t post anything racist
Don’t bring the organisation into disrepute.
Be careful whom you link to.
All fairly sensible stuff, but consider a scenario.
Hypothetically, assume you are running the Twitter feed for a large Housing Association, using it to convey the organisation’s policies, feelings and outlook. But one day you find yourself promoting an individual in your timeline, who on reflection, is found to retweet members of the British National Party sympathetically. Not just once but 10+ times.
What message does that convey?
Foolishness? An inability to understand the medium? Or that you are relaxed if the person you promoted likes the British National Party?
What would such conduct say to members of the Housing Association, particularly ethnic minorities?
At that point it would be sensible to apologise, profusely and learn the experience. However, as we know in public life apologies, even when people are clearly in the wrong, are a rare commodity. Nevertheless that would be the right thing to do.
Afterwards you would probably, if you were sensible, carefully scrutinise who you promoted lest another closet supporter of the BNP crept into your timeline, and you’d like a list.
That was just a hypothetical situation, regardless it applies more broadly, to antiracists and antiracist campaigners, who should strive never to bring their organisation or its message into disrepute.
They should endeavour to master the medium of Twitter and never ever helped normalise people who are soft on racism, whatever form it takes.
When you retweet someone approvingly then you’re saying in effect:
  1. They have a point.
  2. They are worthy of interaction.
If you mistakenly retweet a racist it conveys that message as well.
Moreover, if you keep retweeting racists it suggests that you aren’t really that troubled about combating racism on social media. A point worth pondering, assuming you are a serious antiracist that is.
The alternative is, that your reputation is seriously diminished by poor judgement and mistakes. A little time taken to be extra careful pays for itself in the long run.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.