Pro-Brexit Twitter account accused of ‘dehumanising’ Remainers with ‘vermin’ slur
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The official Leave.EU Twitter account has been accused of 'dehumanising language' after referring to Remainers as 'vermin'.
I am not "vermin". Remainers are not vermin. No human being should ever be called vermin. The official Leave. EU campaign twitter account describing fellow citizens in this way dehumanises opponents and debases our democracy. https://t.co/3P0phqo4P0— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) August 4, 2019
The account made the slur in a tweet congratulating independent Brexiteer MP Frank Field for his decision to contest his Birkenhead seat after standing down from the Labour Party last year.
"Well done to Frank Field for defending his seat at the next election after being ousted from his local Labour party by Remainer vermin," said the Leave.EU tweet.
Field lost a vote of no confidence from his party last year after the MP sided with the government on crucial Brexit votes. After this, he resigned the Labour whip, saying there was a culture of anti-Semitism. He has since continued as an independent and intends to stand as part of the Birkenhead Social Justice Party.
The Leave.EU tweet, which included a video of the independent MP debating with Stella Creasy, was retweeted over 1,200 times.
It's the dehumanising language of 'invasion' and 'infestation' and 'vermin' which can encourage atrocities like #ElPasoShooting. Luckily we are more careful with our words in the UK. Oh. pic.twitter.com/I7HUHLva9l— David Schneider (@davidschneider) August 4, 2019
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But it was the characterisation of Remainers, rather than the point about Field, that caught many people's attention.
Pro-Remain Labour MP David Lammy tweeted: "I am not "vermin". Remainers are not vermin. No human being should ever be called vermin. The official Leave.EU campaign Twitter account describing fellow citizens in this way dehumanises opponents and debases our democracy."
It was seen as a textbook example of rising populism by organisation studies professor and Brexit blogger Chris Grey, who said in a tweet: "I sometimes see it asked: what is 'populism'? Well, it looks like this: the half (or less) of the population who think one thing are deemed 'the people'. The half (or more) who who think something else are deemed 'vermin'. Whenever it succeeds, it ends very badly - for both sides."
Many commentators drew a connection between the use of dehumanising language like "vermin", and acts of mass violence, such as the deadly shooting in El Paso, Texas. Twenty people were killed by a 21-year-old man over the weekend, who said it was a response to "the Hispanic invasion of Texas".
Actor David Scheider pointed out: "It's the dehumanising language of 'invasion' and 'infestation' and 'vermin' which can encourage atrocities like #ElPasoShooting. Luckily we are more careful with our words in the UK. Oh."
Leave.EU has referred to groups of people as "vermin" three times on Twitter, the first two occasions being in reference to jihadi terrorists and ISIS.
The Twitter account is run by the influential political campaign group of the same name, which was founded by Arron Banks and Richard Tice. The group initially aimed to be the designated as the lead campaign during the 2016 referendum, but Vote Leave was chosen instead.
Leave.EU has previously been accused of anti-Semitism by anti-Brexit activist Femi Oluwole for a tweet that depicted Jewish investor George Soros as a political puppet master. Oluwole called the organisation "anti-Jewish" for the tweet.
READ: Brexit Party chairman threatening to sue Femi Oluwole over a tweetRichard Tice, who is now chair of the Brexit Party, has launched a legal action against Oluwole.
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