Vixens has learned that some of the threats to individuals named in recent months on the internet in connection to the satirical site LADFLEG has culminated in police complaints, with some of the worst online posters due to be questioned over the coming weeks. Police had previously spoken to two individual tweeters some months back, when they crossed the line repeatedly with similar allegations, but are now probing volumes of online content which has appeared on the internet in recent days.
We think its time that people found that word perspective. Don’t you?
This row has been bubbling since May now, but was given impetus again when the Newsletter published an interview with independent MLA John McCallister and writer Alex Kane last week. The interview was well written, and contained a number of good points regarding Unionism, points which were largely overshadowed, when the newspapers’ political editor, Sam McBride, also wrote a piece on excerpts taken from the original piece in relation to some members of LADFLEG allegedly having worked on the NI21 Election Broadcast video.
LADFLEG may or may not have had a connection to NI21. So what? It’s an online blog. We seem to remember them getting a ‘dig in’ at both Basil Mc Crea and John Mc Allister equally. Politics and news here is always interlinked. How many journalists here have had political connections of their own? Is it mentioned in interviews with members of the Assembly? No. Because in this place, nobody really cares. And considering our high rates of suicide, unemployment, abuse, and cuts to all our services, it’s hardly the biggest deal.
But something about LADFLEG got under people’s skin. Some claimed it bullied members of the Loyalist community. Mostly, LADFLEG posts came directly from people’s face book pages – shameful sectarian and racist comments at times. What LADFLEG did was create a vehicle to take a satirical look at them.
There’s a lesson in that for those people harping on about intimidation. If you don’t want something on the internet, don’t write it. On many occasions, LAD said things about the so called flag protests (like pointing out the cost to the taxpayer) that the majority of the rest of us were thinking.
There were occasions most certainly when it could be argued that LADFLEG went too far. That isn’t right, and we don’t condone it. In the world of online communication, it can always be too easy to hit that button before thinking things through. And there is merit in some tweets that we’ve seen today about making fun of the educational achievements of some sections of this community, and buying in to the stereotype.
Not all Loyalists, or Protestants are underachieving uneducated bigots, although pockets of Loyalist areas clearly suffer more than most from lack of access to education and poverty. Some though, just like sections within the Nationalist / Republican community, are sectarian. What LADFLEG did was expose some of the worst offenders in an innovative way. It also raised money for charity, and broke one of the biggest stories this year when it linked to the Pastor Mc Connell video. But it’s a blog. It’s not Wikileaks, it doesn’t shape policy, and nor does infringe on national security.
And it’s rather ironic, that those who LADFLEG originally exposed for sectarianism, and who complained about being harassed as a result, could well be facing criminal charges for harrassment themselves, if the PSNI do indeed arrest for some of the online threats made.
We could all do well at times to remember that people are human, and that a sustained campaign against any ordinary individual, from whatever source, is stressful and unacceptable. Individual tweets are bad enough. We have read enough public material about this issue to last us a lifetime over the past few months. But, at present, people’s partners, friends and relations have been named on the internet, inaccurate claims have been made, people have been wrongly connected to LADFLEG and leading Loyalist representatives have stupidly whipped up the faithful yet again observing that protests outside peoples homes will “surely follow”. People need to calm down, take a step away from the keyboard and breathe. And they need to stop putting people at risk.
LADFLEG may have highlighted or created a stereotype, that much is up for debate. And they may well be victims of their own success. The only difficulty now is, the people who are squealing the loudest about being stereotyped are now starting to enact it. They would do better to look at bringing in extra resources for their communities, rather than wasting all of their energy ranting at an internet blog. It won’t do them any favours in the long run.