Stop giving hate mongers a platform, for our sake – and theirs

Picture by TheLedBalloon (CC 2.0)

Ifan Morgan Jones

One thing we all have to deal with more and more online, as well as in the political sphere as a whole, is raw, untrammelled hate.

If you spend any time on Twitter and Facebook, in particular, it quickly becomes clear that there are some individuals whose sole goal is to spread misery.

Seldom does a day go by when I don’t see anti-Welsh language bile being shared on Twitter.

But it’s striking that a quick look at their feed will almost always reveal racist, homophobic and/or anti-semitic content.

It’s nothing personal towards the Welsh language – there is a hate towards *everyone* that is probably nothing to do with the target.

They are equal opportunity haters and one of their few pleasures in life is to get a kick out of trying to hurt people online.

This is why it’s completely counter-productive to give these people any kind of a platform.

Most have multiple accounts, in order to give the impression that they’re part of the ‘silent majority’, but almost no followers apart from their fellow sock-puppets.

Like some kind of parasite, they depend completely on those that are shocked and appalled by what they have to say to carry their message for them. There’s a deep irony here.

But giving these hate-mongers a platform doesn’t just hurt us – it hurts them as well.

As James Baldwin said: “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”

Anyone who gets a kick out of spreading hate and misery online is clearly not in a particularly good place. Hurting other people is a way of trying to alleviate the hurt they’re feeling.

By replying or sharing their messages we are rewarding them for their hate – giving them a small but addictive dopamine hit that ensures that they’ll do it again.

Challenge

If these people are parasites, then professional haters like Katie Hopkins are their king and queens.

But just like your anonymous twitter hater, she is completely dependent on those who are shocked and outraged by her content to spread her message.

Unlike the usual Twitter troll, however, she already has a platform, which means that she does need to be challenged.

This presents us with something of a conundrum – how do we challenge her without amplifying her message?

This is the argument put forth by S4C’s Y Byd yn ei Le when it decided to publish an interview with Katie Hopkins: That it’s important to challenger her anti-Welsh comments and expose them as being incorrect.

Y Byd yn ei Le is an excellent programme and has been a breath of fresh air on S4C.

Where I disagree with the programme-makers in this instance is this: There’s a difference between challenging someone and giving them another platform to spew her bile.

Nation.Cymru challenges what Katie Hopkins has to say, but we would never publish an article by her, just as we never publish articles by UKIP or the far-right.

Anyone who thinks that providing a platform for right-wing bigotry in the name of challenging it is an effective tactic just needs to look at the history of the past five years.

We know that appealing to people’s worst instincts is an effective political tactic. People can be easily misled by bigotry.

The best tactic for Y Byd yn ei Le would have been to discuss why Hopkins is completely incorrect with people who know what they’re talking about , without giving her herself a platform.

I, like many others I’m sure, watch current affairs programmes to be informed, not to be misinformed.

And Katie Hopkins telling an audience of Welsh speakers, who use the language every day, that their language is dead is just pointless. She contributed nothing of substance to the debate.

We must condemn, and provide a strong counter-argument. We must battle ignorance with facts.

But don’t become the host the hate parasite can ride on.

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