It is a common, and at times cynically perpetuated analysis that those who are opposed to the peace process are by extension opposed to peace. This simple, narrow and broad brush approach is often used by those who seek to suppress and silence anti-agreement or dissenting viewpoints, quite often to suit their own political agenda. Republicans lament anyone from the Protestant community that dares to dissent or resist the pro peace process mood music as ‘sinister elements’ or declare that anyone articulating an opposing viewpoint is ‘hostile to peace’ or that such persons only want to go back to the ‘bad old days’.
Common sense would tell you that Sinn Fein wants to suppress and demean any anti-agreement Unionist voices because the peace process is the greatest weapon they ever had, and they are using it to their full advantage to wage an unrelenting attack on the PUL community.
Supporting this suppression of any form of dissent we have those who self-identify as the ‘silent majority’ or as Brian John Spencer (a blogger) referred to the group he purports to be a part of- ‘the muzzled majority’.
A respected academic remarked to me only this week that when you read Brian John Spencer’s blogs what comes through clearest is his inferiority complex, his need to cram as many unorthodox words or obscure references into his pieces as possible, so as to somehow make himself feel like everything he wants to be.
This need to attach cliché after cliché to everything that comes from his mouth could be best summed up by his car crash appearance on UTV when he left the presenter, and most of the viewing audience, speechless with his horrific performance.
The supposed vehicle for this muzzled majority group of people to unshackle themselves from the so called ‘us’ and ‘them’ politics was NI21- and look how that has turned out. It has largely been left to Basil McCrea, and his assistant at Stormont Gary Kirby, who has went from an administrator of LAD to an employee of NI21 at Stormont- paid with tax payers money!
The muzzled majorities, LAD and NI21’s of this world are acceptable, the sub culture of civic society demands that they have a voice and that their voice is respected- but loyalists are fair game. It is fine for ‘satire’ sites such as LAD to look down their nose sneeringly at loyalists- flag becomes fleg- a community historically denied academic opportunities become the butt of their rather tedious jokes. What those hiding behind this sort of ‘satire’ fail to grasp is that whilst many within the PUL community may have never had to write an academic paper – they are not stupid people.
They are in many cases people with real social skills, real life skills and a sharp brain. On the flip side of that coin I have encountered many of the ‘bloggers’ or online superheros- that have zero social skills, unable to hold a conversation once separated from their keyboard, their online ‘profiles’ are everything they want to be- but in reality never will be. Courtesy of a wifi connection they have succeed in portraying themselves as something they are not.
The most venomous trolls are more than likely people who have sadly been bullied at school or who suffer from deep anxiety. Failures in the real world but ‘managing editors’ of their Twitter account. The same people would cross the street if they saw you outside of the ‘virtual world’.
All of the above feeds into an accepted culture of attacking, demeaning and mocking working class loyalist communities at every opportunity. Would it be acceptable to make fun of how Anna Lo’s accent? Of course not, there would be outrage, but when it comes to loyalists- we are the last socially acceptable group to attack and demean. It is almost fashionable. And when you have a loyalist who also happens to be on the anti-agreement side of the loyalist family- then there is double the amount of legitimacy to troll, demean and ultimately try and silence and suppress those views.
It is fashionable to attack loyalists, and it is even more fashionable to attack anti agreement loyalists.
Being a loyalist is not something to be ashamed of; we are a proud people and a proud tradition. Many within the loyalist community may not have letters after their name, or been given all he privileges in life enjoyed by the like of Brian John Spencer – but these people have real life experience, real stories to tell and legitimate viewpoints. Perhaps some of those who the online trolls or self appointed ‘satirists’ attack.
Some have worked their whole life in the ship yard or a factory, they have life experience and social skills that would dwarf those who hide behind a computer to call them dumb or mock their spelling. Whilst the trolls shuffle along with their heads down and shoulders hunched, uneasy and uncomfortable outside their virtual world- those working class loyalists that they attack, walk with their heads high, greeting their friends and neighbours as they walk to the local shop to get a paper or to the bookies to place a bet or maybe to the pub to socialise with old friends. They make new friends effortlessly using the social skills that they learned working endless hours in the real world, playing on the streets or marching with their local band or lodge.
The trolls, dictionary eaters and satirists who claim to make up the muzzled majority want to present a view of loyalism through the lens of their own narrow virtual world. In doing so they console themselves in the belief that loyalism is an uneducated pack of sectarian bigots who should be shunned, derided and ultimately who are responsible for all the ills of this society. That is the face of loyalism that has been constructed by the so called muzzled majority.
Had the virtual soldiers taken a trip down the Newtownards Road on Wednesday night their virtual world would have been shattered. The true face of loyalism, residing in the real world, was on display. Children playing in the streets waving their flags or throwing their band poles up in the air, the buzz of excitement waiting on the bands, political debates between old men who had forged their friendship over years in the yard or during service in the UDR and families mingling, using the warm hospitality of Ulster loyalists, to embrace new friends and converse with old ones. And no one really cared what the self styled muzzled majority thought.
The virtual world is just that, an online platform for those who themselves feel inferior to create myths and demean those whom they despise, it is a place where you can become part of the online sub culture by joining in on attacking whoever it is fashionable to attack at the time. School yard bullies with no fear of retaliation, a pack of attack dogs, in reality you are really nothing more than sheep shouting baa at lions.
Ulster loyalism is a proud tradition and our backbone is the life experience of the older folk in our community, our traditions, culture and the defiant spirit that has seen Ulster loyalists survive our darkest hours. The Provisional IRA could not make Ulster Loyalism bow the knee with decades of bombs and bullets- with this in mind I seriously doubt our community, or those within it, will falter due to a siege of satirists, trolls and Brian John Spencer, who claims despite all the privileges life awarded him to be a ‘blogger and cartoonist’- which lets face it, in reality is just a middle class euphemism for unemployed.