On 29th March, I stood up for Jackie Walker against Rachel Riley’s abuse on Twitter. I find it unconscionable that anyone can attack a black, Jewish lifelong anti-racist campaigner in such a viscous way. I considered the attacks racist, and were attacking Jackie in an attempt to undermine her Jewish heritage. I have no idea of Rachel Riley’s heritage, though her Wikipedia entry claims “Riley describes herself as a “non-religious Jew“. Whether she is Jewish or not, I have no idea. My comment was short and to the point.
The next day, 30th March, someone bought this to my attention:
Now, Wikipedia tells us
“On 22 January 2019, Riley made a speech at a Westminster reception for the Holocaust Educational Trust and addressed what she described as the “hideous abuse” she had received.”
This is interesting given what happened next, because within hours there were nearly 300 posts on Riley’s feed, and several direct messages to me personally, accusing me of all sorts of things from paedophilia, anti-Semitism, mental retardation, and worst of all, baldness. A large number thought my vegetarianism was typical of someone of my stupidity, but even that apparently didn’t make me as bad as a vegan in the eyes of these people. Many questioned my suitability for being a teacher and a father to two girls. Most of these people had between 2 -150 followers, many were American; I would estimate they were 95% white male. I looked up a number of profiles finding football and Conservatism were their most prominent interests. Not one I could see had any serious political engagement. I can only conjecture what it is that makes Riley so attractive to young white male right wing football fanatics. It certainly isn’t politics or the struggles of the Jewish community.
I started receiving personal messages via twitter of which these three were typical:
As soon as I saw Riley’s tweet, I protected my Twitter account. Several rather unusual people then requested to follow me on Twitter, strange names and no interests in common.
As a member of the website Academia.com I get notified when someone searches for me on Google. Usually about 1 or 2 a week from around the world. Suddenly I was receiving numerous notifications that people had searched for me on Google – I looked at my hits and found this:
Within 6 hours around 30 people from around the UK had searched for me
One even searched out my work email address and sent me this. I have no idea who this is, and he clearly doesn’t know I retired a year ago!
Then on Sunday @GodberLennie added me to a #SocialistSunday and I began receiving follower requests from many on the left.
I also had a lovely message from @LabLeftVoice
I have never been one to be very bothered about getting such on-line abuse. I protected my Tweets for several days, blocked over 100 of the worst bone-heads and carried on with my life.
Then on Tuesday I came across this:
You can see Tom’s blog at:
In it he says:
‘They called me a “twat“, they called me “pathetic“, told me I was “blind“, “crass“, “snide“, “pretentious“, a “bullshitter” and that I was “belittling the fight against antisemitism” by talking about my family history.’
This clearly is disgraceful, and the racist and fascist timbre of many of those who follow Riley is alarming. What it does highlight is the insincerity Riley shows towards any fight for justice or diversity when she appears not only to countenance such vile abuse in her name, but to actively encourage it. Quite why a run of the mill TV presenter feels it appropriate to mobilise the abusive, racist and fulminating right in the fight against anti-Semitism might raise questions about her sincerity.
All this as a result of one tweet, to which Riley could have posted an argument as to why she was neither racist nor anti-Semitic. She chose not to, preferring to mobilize abuse. To me this is sad and sickening, but requires little more than a shrug of the shoulders. It makes me wonder though just what level of abuse people such as Jackie Walker and Chris Williamson, and of course Jeremy Corbyn, have to put up with.