The other day The Economist described the online response to the Cooks Source copyright infringement as a mob. I disagree.
Do you want to see what a real internet mob looks like? You need look no further than the new Facebook page “Let’s show these poppy burning bastards how many people want them deported”. The crowd has turned ugly and I’m sickened, saddened and scared by the whole thing.
The page was set up to protest a group of about 30 Muslims who interrupted the two-minute silence for Remembrance Day by burning a giant paper red poppy in Kensington in West London. The group of about 30 calling themselves “Muslims against crusades” were protesting the war in Afghanistan and held placards with slogans such as “British soldiers burn in hell” and “Allah is our protector and you have no protector”. The story was widely reported and some reports, such as the one in the mass-selling right-wing tabloid the Daily Mail, were as ever more sensational and incendiary than others.
If you are are familiar with Remembrance Day and the symbolism of poppies, you can skip this next paragraph. I’m told that the term and symbol are not commonly known in the United States so this is a brief explanation for anyone who might be puzzled.
Today was the 92nd anniversary of the armistice that ended World War One. Americans observe the anniversary as Veterans Day, while it’s known as Remembrance Day or Armistice Day in the UK and other Commonwealth countries such as Australia and Canada. It’s usual to observe Remembrance Day with a two-minute silence at 11am and by wearing a small paper red poppy, as a recognition of the horror of war and the sacrifices of those who served. The symbol comes from the poppies that grew over the mass graves in the fields of Western Europe during World War One.
The Remembrance poppy is a deeply important symbol in British culture and burning it is highly offensive – probably just as much as burning the national flag would be. For most Britons this is an unspeakable act, no matter their position on the war in Afghanistan or war in general.
So it’s not surprising that people are upset. Sadly, what is happening now is equally abhorrent. So far almost 240,000 people have joined the Facebook page and the page is being bombarded with hate speech and racist comments. Predictably, people are blaming an entire religion for the acts of about 30 extremists.
Please excuse the profanity but these are direct quotes – if you’re squeamish then don’t read on.
There are thousands and thousands of comments on the wall, many of them being reposted over and over again. The commenters refer to “ragheads”, “Pakis” (Pakistanis) and “filthy Muslims” and incite shooting them on sight, burning them and deporting them. Typical comments are “fuck off home you curry smelling, bomb makin, turban loving, shop owning, benifit spongeing, sandal wearing CUNTS” and “save a poppy burn a muslim”.
As usual, many of the racist comments are poorly spelled. This one is typical:
“What giues them the dam rite to distroy and burn how dissrespectful its not there dam country . I think if we did that to there special euens lol theyd declair war or is that there evil plot plans to try take ouer the uk .fuck you.no way”
Some people have ‘liked’ the page in order to leave more reasonable comments, such as this one:
“There are so many ignorant people in this group its unreal. There were 35 muslim extremists who burnt our poppies in a truly disrespectful and horrific act. HOWEVER, people need to stop being so bloody narrow-minded and realise that it is not all Muslims. Its disgusting to generalise the views of the small minority to a whole faith. When it came to light about the CHRISTIAN priests molesting children, was the whole of the Christian faith condemned? People need to GROW UP and think before they make ignorant comments that are completely ridiculous.”
Or this one (admittedly, also typo prone):
“OK PEOPLE… can we please keep this to the point…. it aint about rasism… its not about all muslims…. its abput the mindless twats that disrupted our celebration of the dead solidiers, airmen, and sailors of this great nation… it aint about killing all asians, “rag heads” or anything else… its about raing awareness to the mindless actions of a few dick heads… please lets not let this group trun into some sort of BNP page? lets stick to the point….. Love to all.”
Meanwhile, the original page administrators are M.I.A. The page was set up nine hours ago with this description:
“I don’t know about you lot, but I am fed up of every single St George’s Day, Remembrance Day and any time there is a parade for soldiers killed in battle; these dirty fucking cunts always turn up to cause as much upset and distress as possible!!”
The last post visible under the Just “Let’s show these poppy burning bastards how many people want them deported” filter was made seven hours ago and said:
“Just to say, this isn’t meant to be an anti-islamic facebook page, it is meant to be anti the minority group of radicalists who burnt poppies today and anyone who ever burns England flags or disrespects our troops!”
Too late for that, I’m afraid.
There’s no sign of any further attempt to moderate comments or close down the page.
Right now the comment deluge is still going strong, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this page got closed down, whether by the administrators or by Facebook. The right to free speech in the UK does not include incitement to racial or religious hatred so there are legal issues at stake.
Sadly, I think the damage has already been done.