The persecution of Laura Whitmore

In ancient Rome, a few times each year, the populace would troop down to the amphitheatre to take their seats and cheer as a series of animals and people were torn apart for their entertainment. In the modern era, the equivalent happens with more regularity, and slightly less gore. Yesterday, the chosen victim for the social media mob was Irish TV presenter and celebrity Laura Whitmore.

Whitmore’s crime, you see, is easy enough to understand: She works in the British media, and produces content targeted at young British people. She presents, for example, Love Island, and has her own radio show on the BBC. She also makes a podcast targeted at young British women.

Yesterday, she announced that for her podcast, she had interviewed some young British soldiers, who were women, as part of a series she’s doing about the way the role of women has changed over the years:

So far, so banal.

Except, of course, it’s not: Because Laura Whitmore is Irish and therefore, you see, is not permitted to do any kind of work which might risk painting Her Majesty’s armed forces in a positive light. She may not have been aware of this rule – it certainly isn’t written down anywhere – but social media warriors decided to enforce it on her ruthlessly anywhere, up to and including telling her to kill herself:

Needless to say, that was not the only offensive tweet she received: She managed to be the top trending topic on Irish social media yesterday, such was the avalanche of young Irish people tossing abuse her way. Some of it was predictable and slightly amusing (“Laura West-Britmore”, one person called her) but much of it was, of course, downright nasty and horrible.

All of this is made much more rotten by the fact that Ms Whitmore was very close friends with Caroline Flack, the British TV presenter who took her own life last December after a torrent of online abuse. In the aftermath of Ms. Flack’s death, the hashtag “#bekind” was the top trending topic on social media in Ireland. How times change.

Did Whitmore deserve criticism? Hardly. She may be an Irish person by birth, but she is working in the British media. Her job is to find and discuss topics of interest to young people in Oldham and Manchester, not to bear in mind the sensibilities of the “I’d have been in the GPO in ‘16” crowd here in Ireland. Besides, whatever one’s view on the British armed forces, all Whitmore did was interview a member of that army – there are many tens of thousands of Irish people, dead and alive, who have actually served in its ranks.

But none of that matters, of course, to the mob, once it gets going: Whitmore was the victim yesterday of a storm comprising two uniquely Irish vices: Begrudgery, of her success, and rank Anglophobia, where it is totally acceptable to mindlessly hate anything British.

Her detractors should be ashamed.

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