You, dear readers, will all by now know about how our esteemed tangerine BFF in the USA retweeted videos produced by far-right Britain First, the same people who managed to muster as many as 45 protestors not four weeks ago to protest at their Deputy Leader Jayda Fransen having to sign at Bromley Police Station every Saturday as part of her bail conditions. She and her partner Paul Golding already have criminal convictions for religiously aggravated harassment and wearing political uniforms, and Jayda is due in court in Belfast on 14th December for religiously aggravated harassment.
The day before this, when I was in India, I was incensed to see this posted on the Facebook Timeline of a distant relative of mine by marriage.
I’ve seen these before on people’s timelines. One of my hitherto close real-life friends posted a video of Jayda haranguing Muslims on one of her “Christian Patrols” in Luton. I let her know some facts and, sadly, I seemed to be cut out of her friendship until recently. This hurt: we were close at one point.
These far right groups make up a lie that they can promulgate and innocent people are shocked into Liking their page and, with it, their lies. This particular British Freedom page has over a quarter of a million Likes. I think that’s shocking. People who like this stuff are living among us. I wonder how many of them have looked at the page to check the quasi-Naziesque content. Now, I could just have scrolled on down and, in hindsight, this is probably what I should have done, but I am fed up at the insidious way in which these groups worm their way into people’s minds and consciousness. We’ve seen it with our tabloid press and now we’re seeing these lies promulgated among otherwise well-meaning people. And I’m not the sort of person who can shrug their shoulders and pass by on the other side of the road. So, gently, I dipped my toe in. Because, after all, British children ARE taught British History at school. This is how this went:
I could have left it there, but since my interlocutor’s first response was a sly personal attack that reflects some resentment that my children are privately educated, and because I’m all about facts, I researched a more reliable source, that roundly demolished the argument.
But my peripheral relative was having none of this and decided to put the boot in further. Apparently, she prefers the statement of a far-right group to objective facts, which are a “lecture.” And the sly dig at me at the end was buttock-clenching. It reminds me of when a closer relative to me that “Some people are too sensitive,” when he meant me. No-one ever seems to be on my side but it would be better if they had the courage of their convictions and addressed directly. This “Some people,” is craven. Suddenly seeing how people you know see you can be painful.
The chipping in of a couple of her Facebook friends and relatives was precious as well. I felt hurt: it feels as if my world is closing in on me, that I’m being besieged by fascist-sympathisers and apologists. “Look at that arrogant Londoner who thinks that she’s so much better that us.” I encountered this attitude last week, when a Corbynista troll told me that my “attitude” was responsible for Brexit. Actually, before the Referendum vote I, in my naivety, thought that people would not vote to bring economic and social disaster on the country, but I was clearly wrong.
No-one wants to take responsibility for their learning, or the actions, it seems. Confirmation bias leads these people to actively reject objectivity or facts or critical thinking or checking their sources when they can point the finger at someone else with no consequences for themselves. When someone comes along with different experiences that burst their bubble, they react by being defensive and then making personal attacks. To me, this seems terribly immature but I’ve now had too many friendships ruined by simply pointing out facts in a polite way.
Look at my responses here. I’ve fallen over myself to be polite when I could have demolished this person. I could have gone much further: we have a national curriculum and nationally-set exams in History. I could have pointed out that this woman was insulting her own teenage relatives for what she perceived was their lack of knowledge about history. I could have said that I wished I’d learned at school about British Colonialism and brutality all over the world but somehow I don’t think that’s the sort of thing that these people mean. I could also have pointed out that the plural of anecdote is not data, that just because some children she knows don’t have a clue about the sort of history she wants them to know about, she can’t extrapolate that to include all British children. I note, too, that the people who had liked this post in this case have no children who have passed through the education system recently. A Twitter friend, who has encounter the selfsame issue and tackled it on Facebook too reported the same experience.
All of these arguments would have been by any responsible, professional journalist before recent times. Why didn’t I make them? Because I check my privilege and kindness is important to me. I have always thought that most other people have much more knowledge and learning than me. It’s a shock to realise the levels of general ignorance in this country, the world, in fact. I’k not arrogant about this; as I say, it horrifies me and goes against all my beliefs. I never relish making other people look foolish or rubbing their noses in their own lack of learning or their ignorance. I don’t want to be a dick, in other words. This sort of emotional labour, smoothing over and shrugging off the most egregious ignorance is part of daily life but how far must I tolerate these micro-aggressions?
Supporters and sympathisers of different parties can and do rub along well together but this goes further than political allegiance: this is about one’s whole attitude to people of other racial groups and cultures and faiths, to valid of objective facts. Like the Brexit mindset, it’s a completely different and, in my opinion, incompatible worldview. These people know about the far right groups and still choose to publicise and support them by liking their posts on Facebook.
As it happens, the very next day a diplomatic row was sparked by the oafish President 45 deciding to cause a storm by promoting Islamaphobic propaganda to cover up who knows what in his own world. He did me a favour, there can’t now be many people who don’t realise what they’re buying into when they Like a Britain First, British Freedom etc etc Facebook post. Trump’s actions were condemned on Twitter, in the media and in Government but who takes a stand on Facebook?
I have had enough of bending over backwards to smooth over other people’s ignorance that hurts me and others like me. Yesterday I posted on Facebook to this effect. Loads of my friends immediately liked and supported my stand but it’s telling that most of my extended family have ignored the post. Some of them are not often on Facebook, and my own close family have been busy and away this week, I know that. But I have noticed that there are those who use the medium to post their own agendas but have shied away from supporting me on this one. And that’s hurtful too.
As you can see I’ve masked the identities of the other people in this story because it would not be right or fair to show them. The post is still proudly up there, though, on a public account for all to see and Like. That’s quite comforting to me because this person has shown their true colours. Knowing what I do know, I’ll avoid wasting any of my emotional labour on them in future.