When Twitter user ‘Miss Pommery 1926’ started the now viral #safetypin campaign two days after referendum results day, I’m totally convinced the move was well-intentioned. But this has been hijacked by delusional virtue signallers.
The concept was that people would wear a safety pin in solidarity with any immigrants living in the UK and to show that they weren’t a threat. Responding emotionally to the truly distressing and disappointing news of an apparent rise in racist attacks in post-Brexit UK, the cause was intended to dispel fear and spread awareness. But what she inadvertently did was prompt a tidal wave of millennial virtue signalling, creating the ludicrous situation where you have to wear a tiny piece of metal as a sign of your anti-racist credentials. I find this wildly insulting.
No, this opinion doesn’t mean I’m racist. No, this view isn’t revealing any xenophobic feelings towards non-white, non-British people. The point is, you shouldn’t have to wear a safety pin to show you’re not a racist. It should be, and I’d argue in 99% of cases it is, the ‘default setting.’ It’s also hugely ironic that since the trend will almost certainly be London-centric, our largely progressive, diverse and metropolitan capital is probably the least likely place you’d encounter racist attacks.
If anything, given the idea is for unaffected people to wear pins as a sign of solidarity with victims or potential victims, it simply serves to create further and more obvious, physical divisions in society, at a time when we should be uniting together.
Even the wording of the tweets that launched the idea is dubious. ‘Miss Pommery’ explained how the safety pin campaign would work: “The idea being that anyone against the sort of nationalistic, racist violence we’ve been seeing could identify themselves as a “safe” ally.” Any decent, honest person would and should consider themselves an ‘ally’ (what a loathsome term) against all forms or violence, abuse or hatred. It is, and it should be, normal human nature to defend others and not stand by when someone is being attacked or hurt. You don’t need a piece of metal in your jacket to do that. The best way to actually help is through action. To intervene if someone gets shouted at on the bus. To report racist graffiti. To tell that racist prick to “fuck off.”
That someone could sit down next to me on a tube, see I’m not wearing a safety pin, and therefore as a potential attacker or racial abuser, is horrendous. Not just horrendous, but also ridiculous. I shouldn’t have to prove that I’m not a threat through the way I dress, but through my words and actions.
Obviously it’s meant as a sign of solidarity, but it’s just not the right way to go about it.
In recent years, young people have blindly followed trend after trend online, and this is another perfect example of that. Just in the same way that last Friday it was virtually obligatory for people to post some generic anti-Boris, anti-Brexit, emotionally charged diatribe on social media, it’s become the same case with #safetypin.
Scrolling through the articles showing endless pictures people have tweeted of themselves wearing safety pins is vaguely nauseating. I acknowledge that the intention is at least consciously a good one, even if it’s done in a rather throw away manner, but it’s a textbook example of virtue signalling. In the vast majority of cases, I would suspect that there’s very little real conviction hidden behind the shallow veil of cultivated social media presence. It’s simple: they recognise this as a ‘good thing’ and thus jump on the bandwagon, subconsciously signalling to everyone around them that they are morally and socially aware, progressive, ‘good’ people.
Furthermore, a campaign like this massively serves to heighten the post-Brexit drama of the last two weeks. It will increase the fear and feelings of being unwelcome sadly experienced by certain groups in the UK. Despite the spike in racially aggravated attacks since last Friday, Britain hasn’t become racist overnight. In writing articles and posting series of pictures or videos on the internet, the media are guilt of hyping up the scale of the problem.