Recently, a video emerged of some Chelsea fans in Paris who pushed a black guy trying to get on a metro train and then sang “We are racist”. Today, the Guardian splashed on this story about one of the people present in Paris previously having had his photo taken with Nigel Farage. That’s the story. As the article itself says, it’s not at all clear that this guy was even involved in this unpleasant episode. Even if he was, it still isn’t news. People’s champion Nigel Farage poses for photos all the time. If someone asks a public figure to have a picture taken, most politely agree. People used to ask for autographs, now they ask for selfies.
There’s a more sinister aspect to this story though. It seems to have become part of popular culture now to conduct trials by social media. This guy has now been branded a racist (fairly or unfairly we don’t know). By naming the guy, the Guardian story – whether consciously or not – encourages us to seek out this guy on social media (he’s already had to delete all his social media accounts). People will be trying to find out where he lives, where he works and try and get him sacked. Even id this guy is a nasty piece of work, this is not how justice works. This kind of campaign can quickly turn ugly. It’s very popular now to trawl the social media accounts of people we disagree with to find anything that could be stripped of all context and blown out of all proportion. Here’s what can happen. People say and do some pretty dumb things when they are young. That’s always been the case, but in the era of social media, these things can come back to haunt you in all sorts of ways. It’s a kind of mob rule that I think is incredibly unhealthy, and I think it needs to stop.