Every day it seems my social media news-feeds are fed a batch of images with messages of hate for the poor, disabled, immigrants, those on benefits or just a bit different and an invitation to hit the like button and share if I agree/love my country/believe in freedom, democracy etc. Push button and execute. Many contain lies about the luxurious life that awaits the immigrant to these shores,the level of benefits different groups are receiving, the laziness of the poor; nonsensical statements that were they true it would be hard to disagree with, but they’re not. Hate hate hate all at the push of a button, hit like if you agree – and people do.
It is sometimes hard for me to understand how, in an age where access to truths such as benefit levels, numbers of unemployed immigrants, crime figures etc are so easy to obtain, ignorance is so easily perpetrated. I see friends and acquaintances hitting the like button rather than checking the facts. Indeed one post purporting to show a huge disparity in benefits available to those arriving on our shores for refuge, rather than being a member of the indigenous population, resulted in questions in parliament. Needless to say, the DWP was quick to reassure the House that they were indiscriminate in their miserly allocations, but the fact that members of the UK parliament were taken in by the provocative statement is itself worrying. The report issued by the DWP is not as easy to find as the statement that it was a response to, one that seems to have originated in Australia, and had also been posted in America. Change the numbers, change the currency, hit share and wait, but not for long – a lie these days will travel round the world before the first search for the truth has left the modem.
Of course there is nothing new in this. Word-of-mouth whispers, some bloke down the pub making nasty comments, the newspapers, they have all been the means whereby we have been encouraged to turn against each other, often in the interests of whichever group hold all the power/wealth/resources, and want to keep them. Divided we are easier to manage, and perhaps because our small group mentality welcomes a justification for our prejudices, easy to divide. We live in the age of the soundbite – short, snappy, easily digested statements supposed to sum up complex issues that deserve deeper inspection – and we respond appropriately, we are complicit. The internet is like a vast public house. We sit in it like drunks nodding uneasily in the face of authoritatively stated hate messages, not bothering to challenge because we want to get back to our own circle of friends, and lack the instant knowledge to say ‘no, that’s wrong’. Hate and ignorance spread easily in these conditions, and we are all guilty of perpetrating it.
Hit like if you agree.