This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
You don't have to like someone to follow them on Twitter. Quite the opposite, actually; the phenomenon of the hate-follow is well-established. Seeing a stream of thoughts that you are diametrically opposed to in every facet can give you a malicious thrill. You don't need to reply to the tweet, you don't need to acknowledge it with a favorite, you just need to see it and think, Man, this guy's a real cunt.
This is especially prevalent in the world of following celebrities. As the ego grows it reveals more of itself to be maligned. You don't just have to watch famous people on TV to get pissed off by them, you can watch their every move, furiously suckle at their every word online, like an angered wolf pup gnawing at its mother's teat. Someone I imagine to be hate-followed by a whole town's worth of frothing Twitter users is former BNP leader and professional turd Nick Griffin. The monster's social media game ranges from out-and-out bigotry to photos of silly dogs outside pubs in the middle of nowhere. I'm not sure why, but as one of Britain's foremost fascists, I always previously imagined that Griffin's life would have a semblance of glamor to it. But his Twitter puts that theory to rest immediately, his home life looking less Muammar Gaddafi and the golden gun, more your nan and the rusty biscuit tin. Dark, dank carpets, scraps of mess, dogs, swollen old people, strewn newspapers—it's exactly the kind of pathetic grot in which you can imagine our Nicholas slaving away at his whirring Dell PC, opening up an image editor and plastering insanities onto photographs of soldiers.
The image macro has a long and colorful history. It is the cornerstone of internet meme culture, a stone slab of a commandment, but instead of "Thou Shall Not Steal" it reads "Mitchell Henderson Is A Hero." Its trademark thick white Impact font has brought forth the "lulz" on messageboards, forums, and social media channels alike over the years, but in an age where even the most technophobic luddite can Shazam an Adam Levine song, the oldies are catching on and using it to their own ends.
Griffin is a recent adopter. When he's not saying things like the Radio 1 playlist is "hideously black," he's posting photos of rebel fighters in Syria, or limbless squaddies, or Eastern European gypsies cleaning windscreens with scrunched up pages of The Sun. On these photos are messages of typical political enlightenment, such as: "ANJEM CHOUDARY... gets his NHS glasses FREE with all his other BENEFITS." At the bottom of these micro tirades is a message imploring you to "SHARE." "SHARE" if you agree, "SHARE" if you're sick of it, "SHARE" if Johnny Foreigner has stepped on your toes on the bus for the last time. It's taking the spirit of the image macro and turning it sour, a jolly meme format becoming a billboard of racial insensitivity.
But while Griffin's bile is old news, it's bizarre that, instead of penning an article on his website or even uploading a creepy video to YouTube, Nick has opted for this very simple and frankly lax method of distributing information. It's simply not an effective way of transmitting a complicated message. You can only fit so many words into that little colored box, and even then you still want people to see the #hard #hitting #photo underneath, and you want them to know they should SHARE it. The point of your funny image macro is that it's a visual gag punctuated by a quip. It's not meant to have immigration stats in different font sizes plastered over a cartoon of a Romanian in a tracksuit. Perhaps it's to stir emotions, but that can be done more efficiently with something longer than an inflammatory sentence, and you can still get your dodgy pictures in there to boot. He also goes frighteningly off-brand at times, swapping out his usual fare of scary Muslims for cutesy pictures of animals (with deranged anti-capitalist sentiments).
Complicated ideas being expressed in infantile ways has also become a favored pursuit of conspiracy theorist and space lizard truther, David Icke. When not discussing the finer details of the melting temperature of steel beams, Icke is farting an avalanche of photos with words on his Twitter page to 134,000 tin-foil-hat-wearing scoundrels, including, coincidentally, our boy Nicky G. But Icke's ideas about politics, the New World Order, global currency, lizard monarchs, inside jobs, pedo rings, and torture are convoluted and strange. They're just not the sort of things you can express in a single sentence over a grainy shot of Benjamin Netanyahu standing in front of some missiles.
To Icke's small credit, clicking the links that follow the images takes you to his website, where he explains his ideas in a bit more depth. But most people will not click through, because that is not the point of image macros: they are there to transmit a simple and direct message. Most people will just see the condensed version of these complex crackpotteries, and all of David's hard thinking will have been for nought.
It feels as if these two men, once vehement and verbose in their lunacy, have opted to laze in the hot bath of the internet, where everything is done by halves and numbers rule all. Perhaps Nick and David are no longer interested in bringing people around to their respective worldviews. Perhaps now they only care about retweets, manically checking their Favstar pages, like a Weird Twitter user called something like ButtHitler.
Perhaps memery is the only form of communication we'll require in the future. Whole Apple keynote speeches with just an image of the product and "You should buy it lots of RAM" plastered over it. Mothers sending their kids photos of dinner, the words "It's ready eat now" sadly covering a plate of meat and gravy. What a horrible future we've built for ourselves.
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