Back when I was a journalist I used to cover Magistrates’ court a couple of times a week.
It was a mundane list of people charged with minor driving offences with the odd murder thrown in.
There were two characters to look out for. One was ‘Tipton.’ Most of the time he wore a woolly hat because he’d got drunk once and self-tattooed his forehead. Only he used the mirror so the word was written backwards.
Another character was ‘Love and Hat.’ He’d had ‘Love and Hate’ tattoed on his knuckles but an industrial accident robbed him of a vowel from ‘Hate.’
“Don’t laugh when you see him,” I was told. “He hates it when people spot it and laugh.”
In 2016, there is a question to be answered by everyone who uses social media around love and hate I’m not sure what the answer is. And no, not laughing, either.
Undercurrent of hate
There feels like an undercurrent of hate on the social web. You’ll have spotted it in 2015 Asylum seekers, Paris attacks, Charlie Hebdo. Labour leadership election, votes for bombing Syria, Britain First, Katie Hopkins and Donald Trump.
Hate rises to the surface in sometimes unexpected ways. Maybe it’s a colleague or a shared tweet.
In 2016, there’ll be more. Trump (again), the EU referendum. More terror attacks. You know it.
A tipping point
For me, a tipping point came in a former colleague’s Facebook post. Anti-Muslim sentiment reached fever pitch. It was the call to machine gun refugees that did it. This bothered me. A day later as no-one else was I chipped in to counter. No, it’s not alright to randomly shoot people. Not everyone agreed. But I felt better for drawing a line in the sand.
And what to do..?
Of course, one of the good things of holding a politically restricted job was a bar on making political comments. It makes life easy. Broadly, I follow that now even though I’m no longer politically restricted. It’s just easier. I get the advice of not feeding the troll. I also get what Euan Semple was getting at when he said that there is a volume control on the mob. But I’m, not sure that’s enough when it is so close to home. I also get the meme of folk singer Pete Seeger and the words: ‘It’s very important you learn to talk to people you don’t agree with.’
The mass unfollow-a-tron
There’s an application you can use to auto unfollow everyone who likes the Donald Trump Facebook page. Ha! Great stuff, right? Thing is, I’m not so sure. I’ve signed-up for his campaign emails just as I have Hilary Clinton to see what they are saying and how they are saying it.
It’s made me think about what I do. As a conscious attempt, I follow people from all the mainstream political parties. I want to find out what they are saying. I rarely engage on controversial stuff. If you come out with stuff my Grandpa spent four years in a tank fighting you are gone. But I’m wondering if that’s the right path. Or if that’s enough.
So, what are you going to do about hate in 2016?
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