Sensing a once in a generation opportunity, the far right in Ireland has weaponized public anxiety about immigrants and used it as a recruitment tool.
Ignorance and social media were made for each other. Without public editors working tirelessly to verify or withdraw the inflammatory claims being made daily on sites like Twitter, lies can now crisscross the globe a hundred times before the truth has put its boots on.
Things were made so much worse by Elon Musk's insane Twitter takeover. I say insane for the amount of money he reportedly paid for it and for his decision to immediately fire the majority of his new staff: all the editors, code writers, and engineers who had kept the site functioning and made it a relatively safe space for the majority of posters.
Well, that's all gone now, because have you looked at Twitter lately? Increasingly it's a lodestar of half-baked conspiracy theories, a far-right watering hole, and a place where the accounts you don't actually follow increasingly appear on your feed, promoting narratives you don't endorse but that are now being hand fed to you, for “balance.”
Equally, the accounts that you do still follow now rarely appear on your personal feed. For proof of this just think of the accounts you most enjoy, visit them for a moment and ask yourself why haven't you seen any of their new posts in months?
It's not just harmless discussion that's going on, unfortunately, as the new and frankly unforgivable 'Ireland Is Full' anti-immigrant campaign proved. How do I know that it's a far-right campaign being directed and spread by social media? Because in no sense is it true that Ireland is full. The truth is we take in so few refugees that we don’t even make the bottom of the list of the top 25 nations globally.
But sensing a once-in-a-generation opportunity, the far right in Ireland has weaponized public anxiety about immigrants and used it as a social media-driven recruitment tool.
Fleeing war abroad, the exhausted Ukrainian refugees who have reached our shores now have to contend with hordes of poorly informed bigots holding up threatening placards outside their places of accommodation.
Life has taught me a few important lessons. One of them is never to join a street protest that targets immigrants that is being organized by people who are wearing Irish flags – or any flags - on their shoulders. These are not going to be people who hold nuanced views on any subject, I have learned.
Besides, I'm an immigrant myself. I'm writing this in Queens, New York, the most diverse borough in the world, the place that I live in and love best, and I am surrounded here by generations of older Irish immigrants, all of whom came to this country in search of opportunity and a better life. We should all know better. We all do know better.
We should also remember our own hard history and then fight the kind of social media-inspired vigilantes who have deputized themselves to eradicate newcomers as though they all lived in Mississippi instead of Mullingar.
Around 300 came out for an anti-immigration protest in Mullingar last night.
Locals say they have concerns over plans to move 120 asylum seekers into Columb Barracks.
A lot of the protesters I spoke to told me it was their first time protesting since the water charges protests pic.twitter.com/a0q5Pgd8wt— Barry Whyte (@BarryWhyte85) February 3, 2023
The only thing Ireland is really full of is credulous eejits without basic media literacy. People who believe every dire prediction that they read on the internet being made by faceless, nameless figures citing made-up but scary-sounding statistics calculated to inflame and frighten and mislead.
You'll be told that everyone who opposes the arrival of new immigrants all sing from the same hymn sheet, because they all work together, and are paid by the same paymasters.
You'll be told there is a sinister plan afoot to change the demographics, character and culture of the country. You'll be spoon-fed a daily diet of paranoid inflammatory nonsense because that's how the far right always ensnares you.
So in the coming months can I ask you to do just one thing? Please pay close attention to the people who are appealing to your best instincts and pay attention to the people who are appealing to your worst. They will not be the same people. Ever.
The far-right wants you to be afraid, it makes you so much easier to manipulate. Ireland's far right clearly want to import America's divisive culture wars to the Republic and they are using fear of immigrants to do it. Don't fall for it.
The far-right has to manipulate you because they know you would never fall for their racist theories if you were not. So in the coming months take a close look at who makes you hopeful and who makes you scared – and please choose hope, like every other Irish immigrant before you.