Social media can, all too often, be the bigot’s best friend. From cyberbullying to conspiracy-fueled racism, the Internet has allowed hatemongers to spread their filth worldwide.
The Internet also has the power to let us destroy bigotry - through mockery.
Last week, a local politician from the UK Independence Party blamed the recent flooding across the United Kingdom on gay marriage. David Silvester, the councilor in question, held the prime minister accountable for the floods, saying they were occurring due to the recent legislative progress toward gay marriage in Britain. "It is his fault that large swathes of the nation have been afflicted by storms and floods," Silvester was quoted by BBC as saying.
How did Silvester justify his claim? "The scriptures make it abundantly clear that a Christian nation that abandons its faith and acts contrary to the Gospel (and in naked breach of a coronation oath) will be beset by natural disasters such as storms, disease, pestilence and war."
Silvester’s proclamation was motivated by his Baptist faith. We, in the Jewish community, have our own fair share of members who blame meteorological events on the LGBT community.
Rabbi Noson Leiter is one of them. In 2012, he reportedly blamed superstorm Sandy on New York State’s support for gay marriage. One year earlier, Rabbi Yehuda Levin reportedly blamed the Haitian earthquake on the island nation's high AIDS rates, and an earthquake in Virginia on gays.
Such is the power of the LGBT community that they can literally move mountains and flatten cities.
What peaked my interest in this story however, was less the religiously-inspired bigotry on display, but rather the collective response of the good people of Britain. The story broke on January 19. Some prankster created @UkipWeather to tweet about the weather patterns that the LGBT community was causing. Just five days later, @UkipWeather had over 109,000 followers.
EXTREME WEATHER WARNING! Tonight for the first time, just about half past ten. For the first time in history it's gonna start rainin' men— UkipWeather (@UkipWeather) January 18, 2014
A morning kiss between two consenting adults will lead to drizzle on higher ground— UkipWeather (@UkipWeather) January 19, 2014
There is no better response to bigots than public ridicule. All too often, social media is used by bigots to target minority groups, but this time, a moderate majority used social media to amplify their voices and make fun of the homophobe in their midst.
The more outlandish the bigot’s claim, the easier it is to mock him or her, and when it comes to blaming the rain on the gays, it’s very easy to demonstrate the stupidity behind the hate. But it’s harder to beat the bigots when they spread pernicious conspiracy theories, anti-establishment gestures that target racial groups, or just your run-of-the-mill homophobia. In those instances, the bigots usually win.
Fortunately, the Internet has a tendency to amplify stupidity. While not every hater is stupid and often their hate comes across as witty, subversive or fun, we must constantly demonstrate the stupidity that underlies bigotry, and show the bigots for the morons they are. That’s how we can beat the bigots in the Internet age.
Joel Braunold is a Bnei Akiva alumnus and a former staff member of OneVoice Europe who is currently living in Brooklyn.