THE scenes from Ballymun at the weekend of Irish people protesting against refugees were vile and difficult to watch. The advent of social media means the purveyors of hate speech have numerous platforms from which to preach their disgusting bile.
There is no denying that these people do not speak for the majority of the Irish. We are a people who have built our confidence on the back of having travelled the world and been given protection, shelter and work in times of utter devastation back home.
That irony, in the shadow of these protests, has not escaped the majority. But unfortunately, as in America during Trump’s rise to power, the disenfranchised who want to vent their frustration with a system that they feel excludes them, love the company and misery of others.
And there is no better place to find misery these days than on social networks.
Twitter is not the only cesspit of hate speech. It can be found right across the various platforms and media firms, and YouTube has long been a rabbit hole inside which these conspiracy theorists like to fester.
‘Don’t give them oxygen’ may well be the current advice from the liberal majority. And while there is some merit in ignoring such dreadful racism and misplaced patriotism, it is the very sense of being ignored which often fuels such venom.
The heartbreaking comment this week by a resident of the Ballymun facility, whose child wanted to know if those people were going to come in and ‘shoot’ them, was harrowing. These are people fleeing the horrors of war, in many cases, hoping to find a safe place to rest.
And often this country seems unable to protect them, even from our own citizens. There is no doubt that Trump has a lot to answer for. Watching the leader of what was once the world’s most-envied democracy being allowed to use racist, misogynistic and vulgar language without any deterrent, has certainly emboldened a generation of people who feel increasingly left behind by a society where the gap between rich and poor is widening by the minute.
But that should not be an excuse for the rest of us to turn a blind eye to the rise of these dangerous movements, in our own backyard.
Throughout Europe, a sinister political change is happening. A conservative, narrow, and often fascist viewpoint has found a home in far too many democracies.
In some instances, they hold the balance of power.
Those who voice the ‘it would never happen here’ opinion need to watch more closely the recent goings-on in Ballymun, the East Wall ... but not just in Dublin, either.
The same names and faces are common to many of these protests. The ridiculously named Irish Freedom Party has fingers in many disgusting pies, the length and breadth of the country.
As our article on page 6 this week reminds us, for evil to prevail, we just need to turn a blind eye to it. What is happening across Europe today has so many resonances in history. Yet so few people seem willing to shout stop.
An organisation, based here in West Cork, has very sinister ties to far right groups and its leader has also used the services of the online community to preach hate, misogyny and anti-Semite vitriol. And Irish media this week finally took notice of the disturbingly wide support for suspected rapist and now-arrested Tik Tok ‘influencer’ Andrew Tate.
On Twitter alone, this man who preached a dangerously toxic machismo to his legions of mostly male fans, had 4.4m followers. An Irish community worker told this week how she was shocked at how many young Irish boys she’d encountered who looked up to the man who preaches the importance of ‘dominating’ women.
Every Christmas we debate how soon is too soon to ‘gift’ a child a phone with unfettered access to social media.
That genie may well be out of the bottle already when it comes to trying to limit the influence of dark forces on young impressionable minds.
But the future’s story has yet to be written. The upcoming crime and hate speech legislation offers some hope of a weapon to tackle the mess we currently find ourselves in. It would be a shame if the various arms of the State were not to properly flex their muscles in order to ensure the incoming laws are put to good use.