"Today is a day for sympathy and condolence". Those the words of our Prime Minister, David Cameron, in the wake of yet more tragic events in continental Europe.
Unfortunately, for some, that message just doesn't get through.
It didn't take long for some social-media-savvy Neanderthals to craft their careful messages of bile, determined, before the blood of the dead has even dried, to score political points and lead the charge against a considered approach to terror attack response. For them, bombs going off in Belgium validates all their preconceptions that the EU = immigrants, immigrants = Muslims and Muslims = terrorism.
Thus, some Brexit supporters openly used this terrible event to promote an anti-EU message. For them it was clear proof that we should leave the EU, and they’re determined you should know about that as soon as possible.
It started early this morning with Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson who, at 7.45am, tweeted a pro-Brexit message citing Brussels as her motive. “Brussels, de facto capital of the EU, is also the jihadist capital of Europe,” she wrote. “And the Remainers dare to say we’re safer in the EU! #Brexit”. This led Sky News’ Kay Burley to respond that it might be a little too soon to be scoring political points out of a terrorist atrocity.
Then there's the likes of Katie Hopkins who, just hours later, leapt on this occasion to not only attack the existence of the EU but also the entire religion of Islam. She blames the left for not “joining the dots” when it comes to Muslim refugees and clarified with “Merkel – and her ilk – blew up Brussels #brexit”. “Open borders = open season for Isis”, she continued, and her current pinned tweet reads: “Every one of you who said refugees are welcome, if you said ‘let them in’. You are responsible for Brussels. And you still can’t see.”
You may happen to agree with Hopkins and Pearson. I don't, but, regardless of your views, this morning was not the time to argue about Brexit. We don't know anything about who carried out the attacks, and these hastily sent tweets show nothing more than a complete disregard for those caught up in the violence.
Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump was at it, too - a man who advocates the banning of all Muslims coming in to his country. He tweeted how beautiful Brussels used to be, then reaffirmed his call to “shut the borders”.
And then there's Ukip, whose defence spokesman Mike Hookem went as far as a press release just a few hours after the bombs went off, slamming Schengen and “lax border controls”. How classy.
On his LBC show today James O'Brien was a voice of reason, telling listeners he wasn't interested in hearing anything other than “substantive” debate over Brussels, but clarifying that there probably wasn't anything substantive to say so soon after events unfolded. On Sky News, Faisal Islam did similar. When asked what the political reaction had been, he said that now wasn't the time for that discussion.
In reality these bad people in Brussels probably aren't recent immigrants. As we learned from the Paris attacks, they're most likely Belgian nationals. Also, we don't have open borders. We're an island with our own strict entry policy, so that's an irrelevance.
And now I'm being forced to counter your arguments because you couldn't bear the thought of not sending that tweet. I'm no better than you now. I’m joining an argument that shouldn't be happening at all. The more measured among us are, rightly, not trying to score points today. They're smart enough to know that it's deeply disrespectful. But that means social media is solely awash with one-sided bile. As most tweet sympathy, the rest to leap on fear.
They're entitled to an opinion, but those involved are also entitled not to have their grief hijacked for personal ends.
Think before you tweet, and show some respect.
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