Yesterday I went to watch the Britain’s Got Talent Auditions at a theatre nearby. It was hellishly dull and only served to remind me of how much better television is when it has been edited down into snappy entertainment. I left at the interval, bored to death and came home. As usual I switched my PC on and checked Twitter. I noticed a tweet from several hours ago, linking to this blog: http://goo.gl/83Kzp. No one had seemed to pick up on this, it had gone largely unnoticed.
I read it, then reread it. As a gay man I felt personally insulted and reading further blogs by him I began to notice a trend. Homophobia and Islamophobia were prevalent, hate speech at its worst. Foul abuse directed at minority groups. The law is clear about this; it’s a criminal offence.
In the weeks previously, a certain person on Twitter had been making comments about anorexia and causing massive controversy. I refused to comment on this, believing that any further comment would only add to this obvious attempt at publicity seeking. A nobody from a reality show trying to drum up some interest in his sad life is of no real importance and should be ignored, starving him or her of the notoriety they so clearly crave.
This case was different. Richard Carvarth is a member of the Conservative Party. He had stood as an MP in the general election (gaining 0.91% of votes) as an independent candidate, having been thrown out of the Tories. He has since been allowed to rejoin the party and intends to stand again. He wants to represent his local community in Parliament and use that position as a platform for his hate. Although thankfully this is unlikely to ever happen, the fact that he is trying worried me and I felt in this case it was necessary to let people know what was being said, especially those of whom he hopes to one day represent.
Let me just clarify: I am one of those bleeding heart liberals you hear about. I will defend freedom of speech until I am hoarse and truly believe that one should be able to express opinions unencumbered. But the law is there to protect people and oppressed minority groups have that protection for a reason. We have fought long and hard for our acceptance and still have a long way to go.
So I took it to Twitter.
I started innocuously enough, encouraging my followers to read it and comment if they too felt it was inappropriate for someone wishing to become a politician to write with such venom. I am not a big presence on Twitter, far from it. But my followers are like minded individuals who were also incensed by what they saw and started spreading it to their followers. This was great news, but I wanted to go further. I had already reported it as a Hate Crime and emailed the Prime Minister, asking if he would like to comment on this particular member of his party. I decided that I needed to contact some high profile Twitterers to see what sort of response I could get. I was not expecting what happened next.
Overwhelmingly the response was a positive one. People were happy to retweet what I sent them and before long my “mentions” and “retweet” timelines had gone crazy. People from all over the world were contacting me, thanking me for drawing their attention to the vile bile being poured forth on the blog. From local journalists and bloggers to Nancy Sinatra and Russell Tovey, people were furious and wanted to offer their support for my concern. My inbox could hardly cope with the stream of new follower notifications and direct messages. I had to ask my partner to log on to Twitter to reply to friends on my behalf as I was struggling to reply to all the people who were tweeting me. Without wishing to sound gushing, I was genuinely moved by the response. People were offering to report the blog to the police and its hosting site. They were emailing their MPs. They were writing to local and national press. They would start Facebook groups. They would make sure that their friends knew. They wanted me to know that they were from the same constituency and did not share these bigoted opinions. We laughed and shared jokes about the archaic nonsense being written as well as debating the merits and drawbacks of further drawing attention to his blog, all united by a common desire to see this kind of hatred stamped out for good.
Eventually Richard Carvath became a Trending Topic in the UK. I was astounded. Was it the right thing to do? I believe so. Rather than starve him of publicity I feel people need to know that a prospective local politician holds these views and, presumably, would want them acted upon if he were to be successful. As I said, a nobody from Big Brother is a different matter entirely. If I felt for one moment that Richard Carvath was simply trying to be provocative or create publicity for his campaign then I would have ignored him as just yet another “troll”. But it is clear that he is not. These are deep seated beliefs that he holds and wishes to share with the rest of us through government. Not only is this completely unacceptable, it is harmful. And illegal.
Twitter is becoming a very powerful tool for people to use when they want their voice heard and a subject discussed. Recent events in Tunisia and controversy surrounding a certain soap opera have proven this. I feel proud of myself and my fellow Tweeps that we were lucky enough to be able to draw attention to something so unpleasant and potentially dangerous.
So thank you, sincerely, everyone who has been involved and continues to be so. I will keep you updated. In the meantime, should you wish to report the blog yourself, use http://www.stophateuk.org/
Hope not Hate. We shall overcome.
Edit: I’d also like to cross post
Christheuke who has wrote an additional post on the subject of Richard
Carvath – Paul.