We've all been very quick to praise social media and its wondrous benefits, but it has become abundantly clear now that if you say the wrong thing at the wrong time you will be lynched. Sometimes it pays to keep your mouth shut, as author and occasional Guardian commenter Kia Abdullah found out to her peril today.
As you may have read, three young Brits were killed in a bus crash in Thailand this week while on their gap year. Kia's reaction to the deaths was a prime example of classism gone wrong and, I think, indicative of the misguided nature of a lot of class-related prejudice in the UK. Posting on her Twitter account, Kia said:
Is it really awful that I don't feel sympathy for anyone killed on a gap yaar? That's awful, right? Yes, I'm a terrible person.
The obvious thing to ask is why someone would not feel sympathy for anyone killed on a gap year. The answer is rather simple and a little chilling. Kia Abdullah is under the misguided impression that all gap year students are from wealtyh, upper-class families, which is, in fact, a myth. We can derive her feelings from her following Tweet:
I actually smiled when I saw that they had double-barrelled surnames. Sociopathic?
Two of the young men had double-barrelled surnames, which Kia took to mean as them being from privileged backgrounds, for want of a better phrase, and so therefore their lives were somehow less valuable than, say, someone who comes from a working-class background, like Kia Abdullah, as she has written about numerous times.
Here's an excerpt from one of her Guardian pieces:
Yesterday, after reading the storm of comments on a Cif piece about Oxford University, I realised that I have a secret to confess. It isn't one I'm proud of nor that I've admitted in public before, but here goes: despite being rather proud of my working-class background in a chip-on-the-shoulder kind of way, I secretly wish I had studied at Oxbridge.
To make matters worse, Guido has already blogged that all three of the young men were, in fact, state educated. Twitter has come alive with comments calling for Kia to be "fired" (although she isn't a Guardian staffer) and some have gone so far as to wish her dead.
It's all rather ugly, but if we can take anything away from this, it's that the idea of "class" that the UK left wants to shove down our throats only serves to make us more divided as a country. I remember Laurie Penny on Young Voter's Question Time sounding off against the killing of Osama Bin Laden and the way that the powers that be (the mysterious "they") try to frame everything as an us-vs-them scenario. And yet that is exactly what the UK left is doing and it's precisely what Laurie Penny et al try to force on people with their hyperbole. It's the common, working man/woman vs the evil elites.
As you can probably tell, I have a real problem with the UK left, or the radical UK left, I should say. I hate the way the left tries to divide society up into good and bad. I've seen a number of protests staged by the left and at every single one, young men and women with covered faces deliberately tried to intimidate the police. These aren't peace-loving lefties, they're antagonists deliberately trying to cause trouble, trying to give the police a reason to arrest them so they can film it and put it on Youtube as another example of "police brutality".
These idealists are very good at talking up what's wrong with the country, but they rarely have any viable solutions to bring to the table. What they do have is megaphones, repetitive chants and heaps of time on their hands.
So it's perhaps unsurprising that someone like Kia Abdullah, who is admittedly proud of her working class background — and why shouldn't she be? — might draw on her "credentials" as a means of justifying to herself why she can smile at the deaths of three young men she assumed were "not working class".
Addendum: As if the Twitter backlash against Kia weren't enough, the stepmother of one of the dead young men has now taken to Twitter to have her say:
@kiaabdullah I'm the stepmother of one of the boys whose Thai bus coach deaths you laughed at on Twitter. Your words have caused much pain. As the stepmother of one of the boys whose Thai bus coach deaths you laughed at, hope you regret the pain & your career dented. Didn't you realise that double-barrelled names mean a modern family coming together? We had a wonderful family with 4 boys.