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Fionola Meredith

Dancing on somebody's grave - or wishing them prematurely into it - shows such a shocking lack of humanity and an absence of basic empathy for another mortal being

Fionola Meredith


The social media response to Boris Johnson's worsening condition tells you all you need to know about the medium

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson with fiancee Carrie Symonds

Prime Minister Boris Johnson with fiancee Carrie Symonds

Prime Minister Boris Johnson with fiancee Carrie Symonds

How sick in the head do you have to be to wish for somebody's death? It's difficult to imagine being so consumed with hatred for an individual that you hope they actually cease to exist.

But when Prime Minister Boris Johnson was placed in intensive care in London due to worsening symptoms of Covid-19, social media was immediately awash with jubilant ghouls, rubbing their hands in delight, exulting in Johnson's illness. Many actively expressed a hope that he would die.

Most prominent among this crowd of twisted creeps was a woman called Sheila Oakes, who is currently the Labour mayor of a place called Heanor in Derbyshire. "Sorry he completely deserves this and he is one of the worst PM's we've ever had," she tweeted.

What a delightful person Sheila must be. So compassionate and caring. How proud the Heanor people must be to have her as the civic leader of their town.

As I say, Oakes was far from alone. Lots of other hate-groupies chimed in on Twitter, saying things like "we're gonna have a party when Boris Johnson dies", "hope Boris dies", "f*** Boris" and so on.

Of course, we had our own home-grown crop of abusive messages from Northern Ireland courtesy of those eager to see the PM succumb to virulent disease for purely sectarian reasons.

Because if you're not with us, you're against us, and therefore deserve to die, right?

Ian Paisley

It was the same when the late Rev Ian Paisley was rushed to hospital with a serious heart problem back in 2012. "If ever there was man deserved to be struck down by God, this was him," said one post on social media, while a local blogger wrote: "I've just heard the joyous news that Ian Paisley has been taken to hospital after a suspected heart attack and sincerely hope that it marks the prelude to his imminent and painful death."

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Martin McGuinness

Martin McGuinness

Martin McGuinness

When Martin McGuinness took ill in 2017 with the disease that finally killed him, there were similar wishes for his speedy demise.

But, of course, it was Margaret Thatcher who attracted the most vitriol of all. In the run-up to her death in 2013 the ghouls could scarcely contain themselves.

The Scottish comedian Brian Limmond was preaching to the choir when he tweeted: "How removed from reality must you be to not see Thatcher's death as a celebration?"

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Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher

To underline his point he posted a picture of Thatcher with her eyes and mouth crossed out, a blood red line slashed across her throat and the words 'Die Now' written across her forehead.

When Thatcher finally did pass away the haters' joy knew no bounds. Pictures of the former Prime Minister's face were ritually burned, mocked-up coffins were set alight. Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead from The Wizard Of Oz shot up the pop charts, propelled by a campaign to get it to number one.

People even gave parties to celebrate Thatcher's death. Such celebrations got a thumbs-up from media philosopher AC Grayling, who said "an outburst of pleasure at the departure of someone who was deeply polarising and gave expression to callous attitudes is both perfectly understandable and justifiable".

Really? Popping the champagne because a dementia-addled old woman, controversial in her time, had finally passed away?

Let's not dress this nastiness up as anything remotely healthy, understandable or justifiable. None of it is about expressing strong political differences, or critiquing the performance of party leaders, past or present. It's much deeper and dirtier than that. It's the ugly outworking of a visceral, tribal hatred.

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Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson

10 Downing Street/AFP via Getty

Boris Johnson

To say, as Sheila Oakes did of Boris Johnson, that someone's serious, possibly terminal, illness, is a fate they somehow deserve purely because of their political actions and beliefs is not just irrational. It is depraved. It's inhumane.

It reminds me of the foul prejudice we heard from Christian fundamentalists who blamed gay people for Hurricane Katrina, as an apparent invocation of God's wrath. It's a myth that hardcore Christian fundamentalists have a monopoly on bigotry and hatred for those who fail to fall in line with their moral strictures. The secular variety can be just as prejudiced.

Both ultra-zealous Bible-bashers and far-Left extremists share the belief that they and they alone are morally pure, and therefore they can do no wrong and all their beliefs are justified.

Certainly, such poison is not confined to illiberal liberals. "Hope you die of coronavirus" has also become the go-to insult thrown at young eco-activist Greta Thunberg. Do these people really want a teenage girl to die a horrible death, choking for air, because of what she believes about the plight of the planet?

Even the elderly Queen got it in the neck after her recent broadcast to the nation concerning the coronavirus crisis. The spew of vitriol in response to her message from certain parts of social media was unconscionably vicious.

Let me be absolutely clear: this is not written from a place of admiration for Boris Johnson, Ian Paisley or Margaret Thatcher. Far from it. I have always been, and continue to be, in firm opposition to the political worldview of all three.

And while I have a certain degree of respect for the Queen's poise, dignity and tenacity, I am no monarchist. Quite the opposite in fact.

But dancing on somebody's grave - or wishing them prematurely into it - horrifies me, because it shows a shocking lack of humanity, an absence of basic human empathy for another mortal being.

No doubt many of the Boris-haters consider themselves compassionate, open-minded, socially tolerant people. But behind that front of caring liberalism lurks an awful sort of smug heartlessness, and perhaps something even more dangerous - a callous disregard for the value of human life itself.

Belfast Telegraph