By Stephen Hoffman
Across the UK – and the entire globe in fact – hate is sadly on the rise. Whether we’re dealing with antisemitism, Islamophobia, hatred against other religious groups, racism, transphobia and homophobia, sexism, xenophobia – or the many other forms of prejudice – what we’re seeing is quite frankly the worst of humanity.
A key place where such hatred becomes most apparent is on social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter. Here, hidden behind a computer screen, people often feel emboldened to create, share and repeat hate-fuelled rhetoric often based on harmful lies made from conspiratorial stereotypes with no basis in fact. Sadly, some of these “keyboard warriors” may be looking for hope and for something to believe in and as such are susceptible to the influence of bigotry, tropes and stereotypes calling on them to hate other people different to themselves.
Now, despite being morally repugnant, such fabrications are also incredibly dangerous and have the potential to spiral into something much bigger. As the Nazi criminal himself said: “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed” (Adolf Hitler). Now you don’t have to be Jewish to know where this man led his country… In 21st century Britain with the likes of Facebook and Twitter, a modern-day version could perhaps be re-phrased to: “If you tweet a lie enough times, it may get its own YouTube channel”. Yes social media is great, it has the power to share much positivity and love but also to do the exact opposite – depending on whose hands the keyboard, tablet or phone are in!
Yet despite the environment we’re living in, I want this blog to show that we can beat the haters and the lies they base their views on – even when the odds seemed stacked against us. With this in mind, I’d like to draw on the experience I had recently when I become exposed to antisemitic remarks made on Facebook by Church of England lay reader, Robin Rowles – who was later held accountable for his remarks after action was taken [you can read all about the incident here and here].
But what does this short sad story tell us? Well, we all have the power to defeat the haters and make the world a better place and in this blog I highlight five simple ways we can all do this. Read on and no longer fear the trolls!
1. Screengrab and record all evidence
When exposing someone making hateful comments on social media you need evidence of them doing so. Now, thanks to modern technology we can gather evidence quicker and easier than ever before.
So, if you see something hateful, take a screengrab. You can either do this through phone apps such as Screen Master or if you’re using a laptop or PC, these also often comes with free tools for taking screengrabs such as Snipping Tool. If all else fails – you can simply take a screenshot using your phone camera or use the “print screen” function on your computer and copy and save the image using Paint.
The great thing about screengrab is that as you’ve taken it, you have ownership over the picture and someone else can’t claim that it was their work. These images are quick and easy to use, whilst helping creating lots of evidence, which the person in question you are exposing cannot deny. This is exactly how I caught Robin Rowles out and indeed it was my screengrabs which made the story, as you can see from the screengrab above.
Keeping records of all evidence is crucial, so don’t forget to also keep copies of any other exchanges – emails, letters, URLs of websites/sources and if you can get the date and time with the record/snapshot – even better! Beyond simple spiteful remarks, keeping record of potentially illegal incidents is incredibly important, so make sure you don’t miss anything out. On a very serious note here: always ensure you record and report hate crimes (more info on reporting to follow in point #3).
2. Tell the world all about it!
OK so you’ve taken your screengrab, but “what next?” you may be wondering!
Well you could just leave it at that, safe in the knowledge that you discovered a hater. However, in order to be an effective opponent of hate, you need to tell as many people as possible about the reality of the particular type of hatred out there. Now, there are a number of ways you can do this.
- Write a Facebook/Twitter post: Share your feelings and explain why such behaviour is reprehensible. And remember: be real. People love authenticity!
- Tell journalists: Do you have friends who are journalists or in the field? If so, tell them and explain why it matters! Tell a certain paper/online news site who you believe would be interested in it. The worst that could happen is they’ll say no, but if you don’t ask you don’t get!
- Write a blog or record a short video: If you love writing there are many blog sites dedicated to exposing hate and bringing people closer together. Get in touch with one of these blogsites and explain why they should feature your blog. Alternatively, we’re always looking for blog writers at Voice of Salam, so feel free to get in touch!
However, if writing’s not your thing but you are a video whizz, you could always record a short video about the hate you exposed and why it matters and then upload it on YouTube.
- Get sharing: Highlight your screengrab(s) on relevant Facebook groups to amplify your voice and raise awareness
- Tell friends and family: Lean on them for critical emotional support and to share the message
However you raise the volume, the important thing is to raise the message: hate is not welcome here. Even more importantly though however, if the messages you’ve received or have spotted have crossed the line into hate crime: please report (see below in point #3). In all instances, remember to keep safe online. Never share your personal details or any information which could put you at risk.
3. Report the abuse
OK, so you’ve made a lot of people aware about the hate you exposed and how it made you feel but what impact will this actually have and what’s the end goal? Well, you may have received some messages of solidarity and emotional support – and also warned others about the hatred out there but here’s the thing: hate is poisonous and it’s important to act to ensure that this abuse isn’t directed towards any more people. Here’s how:
- Report the abuse: You can report inappropriate content which you come across or may experience yourself on Facebook and Twitter for review. However, if what you’ve experienced actually constitutes a hate crime, please report it to the relevant services. In cases of antisemitism this would be CST. For anti-Muslim hatred, you can contact Tell MAMA. For transphobia or homophobia, contact Galop. Whatever the abuse you’ve received or witnessed, it’s important you report it to the relevant person or group. If you need help, please don’t be shy about asking. These organisations and bodies are here to support you!
- Write to your local MP: If you feel unable to report things yourself or have witnessed institutional discrimination, your MP can also write to the relevant organisation or individual for you. My experience of working for an MP made me aware that an MP’s word really does carry weight
- Gain strength in numbers: Ask as many people possible to share their concern. Make it easy for them by providing a template letter/email which they can send to the relevant individual or group. You’ll be positively amazed by the amount of people who will come to your aid!
- Keep up the pressure: Even after you’ve made a complaint, ask to be informed about the progress of the complaint and what’s being done about the situation
Once again, if someone in a position of trust or authority has implicated themselves – they must be brought to account. Likewise, instances of hate crime must be reported. It’s for the safety and security of yourself and the rest of society. There is a lot of support out there!
4. Keep calm and be polite
A lot of people I know are scared about exposing hate, because inevitably it will often elicit a response from the hater and their allies. When I first started fighting haters this was what I found the hardest, as they could be quite vicious. However you can beat them when they engage with you but you must not stoop to their level. Here’s how:
- Be nice: It’s likely that the hater will be shouting, swearing, angry and rude. Now, although it’s very tempting to respond in kind, don’t as this causes you to lose the moral highground. Just respond factually, don’t personally insult and be reasonable
- Get further support: Don’t stay on your own – tell your friends, family and allies and get them to back you up. Emotional support is crucial
- Show a bit of humour: I’ve found especially on Twitter the best way of winding up haters is through giving a humorous response. This is where great memes come in handy like “love you too” or a short response such as: “It must be awful to live with all that anger!” These kind of responses very much confuses a hate-fuelled mind…
- Don’t get involved: Don’t get drawn into any mess. Simply screengrab anything outrageous they say and keep safe and sane!
- Mute the noise: If it appears the hater has verbal diarrhoea, for your own sanity mute them
- Block and/or report: If said person(s) continue such behaviour, report them to Facebook/Twitter and block them. Again: if they’ve crossed the line into hate crime then please report (see point #3)
Don’t let the haters sap your positive energy. A little humour can go a long way but sometimes at the end of the day, you may have to mute, block and leave them to it!
5. Don’t give up the fight!
OK so you’ve exposed a hater, you’ve written about it or recorded a video, the media has covered it, you’ve successfully complained and dealt effectively with the hater when they’ve she engaged with you – well done! Now think of your favourite food – except this time it’s a healthy fat-free snack (!) so you can have as much of it as you want! You’ve got a taste for exposing haters and you’re clearly good at it. The only way is forward!
Now don’t let your skills go to waste – continue to expose the haters, raise the volume, spread peace and help make the world a better place for us all to live in (and depending on your experiences, brought legal justice). On a side note: it’s also great for self-esteem to feel (quite rightly) that you’ve made a difference (and maybe even got justice for a crime you’ve been victim to)!
So, let’s all start hi-fiving our way to beat these haters based on these top-tips. That way – to quote Taylor Swift: “Haters gonna hate” but we’ll continue to shake them off!