We’re a couple of months away from a General Election in the UK, and though we’ve tried to emulate the successes of the US political blogosphere, we’re a few steps behind as I pointed out in a diary last year -. Two recent events (the second happened today) serve to illustrate why.
The first is a humorous story about Conservative Party’s attempts to muster up smear website called Cash Gordon, using a US company that has run sites against HCR and Gays in the military. The site is almost identical to NoEnergyTax.com the Heritage Foundation’s vehicle designed to scupper carbon trading legislation designed to combat climate change….
So far, so familiar to my friends in US Blogistan…
Yes spot the difference!
Unfortunately we Brits aren’t so hot on social media – or rather the conservatively minded among us aren’t.
Though it cost the Tories nearly $30 thousand, they forget to moderate their #cashgordon hashtag twitter feed. Within a few tens of minutes of the site launching people started tweeting anti-tory tweets with the #cashgordon hashtag. The Tories were initially cock-a-hoop because the hashtag was “trending” as the second most popular hashtag in the country. Except that the majority of tweets were anti-Tory.
Someone has made a great graph of yet another campaign misstep from the Tories who, from a double digit lead, find Labour narrowing the gap in the run up to the GE.
I have no problem with any of this. If a political party wants to waste money on US software, and then employ incompetent IT people to run it – then they deserve all the hacking and hassle they get. And I’d say the same if the Labour Party screwed up like this.
But yesterday I discovered a much darker story from the recesses of the British Blogosphere.
A Libertarian Site that Encourages Personalised Cyber Attacks against a 16 year old girl
Basically, since the right has been in opposition, the sites that have flourished have been right wing or quasi libertarian. The epitome of this site is Guido Fawkes – a toxic sewer of personal smear, foul language, unsourced rumours, and a plethora of commenters who seem to be auditioning and failing for an audition for Britain’s Got Comic Talent.
I got to know a lot of these Libertarian trolls in the early days of Labour List (a year ago) when they swarmed the site. Some of them are still there. I checked another blog where some of them consort, run by a masked coward called Old Holborn.
What I saw today shocked and disgusted me like nothing I’ve ever seen on a political blog.
In short, the owner of the site (who is running for Parliament for the seat of Cambridgeshire) found the blog address of a 16 year old intern for a now retired Labour minister. Posting a picture of her, and describing her appearing in sickening terms, he encouraged his reader to visit her unmoderated blog.
What happened next I’ll have to leave to your imagination: suffice it to say, the twitter account of the poor woman reads:
I can’t even describe how upset I am, I really don’t need this.
I didn’t see those posts, but from what I’ve seen of these sites it doesn’t bear thinking about. It even shocked one the bullies who participated in this disgusting attack:
Hands up: I feel physically sick with disgust at myself for what I wrote about Ms Heywood last night. I crossed so far over the line that it’s just a dot on the horizon.
If I could find a way to send this apology to her, I would, because she completely deserves one and needs to know what I wrote was not actually aimed at her. It was petty, spiteful, disgusting, and completely uncalled for. I am 100% in the wrong, and none of what follows is in any way an excuse, just an explanation.
A workmate and friend of mine died suddenly last week, at just 26, and it’s hit me hard. I was drowning my sorrows on the night before his funeral, and in a particularly foul mood at the God damn unfairness of life. I piled in with the mob and lashed out at Ms Heywood without even reading anything about her, or the issue. Just straight to the comments section and vent.
That was utterly wrong, and I feel awful about doing it. What a vile, lousy way to deal with the death of a decent man. Ms Heywood has done nothing but try to serve the public good. She’s done more good in her short life than I have in my wasted one. I am, as many of you have noted, pathetic and sad, and I’m letting this serve as my wake up call.
This will be my last post here. I have got to change my spiteful nature, and I can’t do that in this toxic environment.
I wish you – all of you – the very best, but would respectfully suggest that this blog may be hazardous to your soul.
If anyone can find a way to pass this apology on to Ms Heywood, I would very much appreciate that.
Despite this, the mass of the bloggers there have defended this kind of action, and even give incited the same actions against another 17 year old Labour supporter.
I rarely write a diary feel this disgusted or upset. I think of my own daughter, only 17, subject to such personal hate and vitriol merely for showing enthusiasm for a mainstream party, and I just feel angrier still.
This is the first diary I’ve every written with a call to action: but if anyone can help me bring down this blog and punish the offenders, I would eagerly seek their advice, or encourage them to act too.
UPDATE: I’ve had some interesting contacts via the DailyKos version of this diary, which may go some way to solving the problem.