Remember when letters after a person’s name used to be considered a marker of learning and gravitas? Years of hard work, dedication and effort culminating in a doctorate, or a degree, and the right to add the letters ‘MD’, ‘PhD’, ‘LLB’, ‘BA’, ‘BSc’ or other relevant title to one’s name?
And then along came social media, hashtags, and Brexit – and suddenly a whole host of people on Twitter are adding the letters #FBPE, #WATON, #OFOC and #ABTV to their names or Twitter bios.
Sadly, these letters do not indicate learning, or gravitas – in fact, in many cases, they indicate quite the opposite. Above all else, they are an indication of steadfast devotion to maintaining the walls of one’s echo chamber. And an almost comical belief that as long as that echo chamber remains sound – as long as the only opinions one listens to on a regular basis are those that agree that Brexit must be stopped at all cost – then eventually it will, indeed, be stopped.
It started with #FBPE – which, to the uninitiated, stands for “Follow Back Pro EU”. A very simple hashtag enabling pro-EU Twitter users to easily identify – and, crucially, follow – each other, ensuring that they can all see each other’s tweets and easily engage with like-minded individuals.
And boy, did it catch on! Pity the fool who tries to engage in polite disagreement with any opinion espoused by a user sporting #FBPE in their name. As I have discovered on a couple of occasions when I just couldn’t help myself – it’s simply impossible to have a conversation with just one individual. Oh no! Like sharks circling in the water, they feverishly monitor each other’s Twitter feeds, constantly on the lookout for anybody foolish enough to question any anti-Brexit tweet – and as soon as you attempt to engage one of them, they all pile in. Before you know it, an attempt to explain that the word “let’s” on the infamous Brexit bus was interpreted by most Leave voters as a suggestion rather than a promise, sparks a 6-way debate about Nigel Farage, Grimsby fish processing, visas, blue passport covers, trade agreements and Moroccan raspberries (yes, really). Until finally, once you’ve rebuffed all their arguments, they either block you or accuse you of being a Russian bot. If you’re ever bored and fancy wasting a day arguing with people on Twitter, just fire off a tweet contradicting any one of the more outlandish tweets posted by the #FBPE contingent.
It gets worse, though. Spurred on by the success of the #FBPE rallying-call, now it seems a whole host of further hashtags are being concocted, and commandeered by Twitter users desperate to add as many letters after their names as they possibly can.
And so we now also see #WATON appearing after increasing numbers of Twitter users’ names. Short for “We are the opposition now” it is perhaps not the best choice of acronym, given many of those who choose to use it are also rabid Corbyn supporters and have thus never been anything except the opposition. Maybe a better acronym would be #WWABTO (We will always be the opposition). After all, far better to shout from the sidelines than to actually attempt to move the debate forward.
Next, there is #OFOC (“Our future our choice”) – the latest attempt by certain members of the younger generation to convince the government that they, as the ones who will have to live with Brexit the longest, should have a greater say in the future of the country than the older generation who overwhelmingly voted for Brexit. After all, the argument goes, many of those who voted for Brexit will be dead in two years’ time whereas at that stage a number of 16-17 year-olds will be newly eligible to vote and would likely vote Remain, swinging the overall balance of the vote from Leave to Remain.
Sadly these young voters are not so bright – ignoring, as they do, two key facts.
Firstly, the age at which the majority swung from Remain to Leave was actually 47, meaning given current average life expectancies, many Leave voters can expect to live with their decision for around 40 years.
And secondly, just as in two years’ time some of the older voters will have died and those currently too young to vote will have newly become eligible, so those in the middle will have matured. It is naïve in the extreme not to consider the fact that many of those who, in their early 40s and still in the flush of youthful optimism at the time of the first referendum, will, in two years’ time, have discovered that crucial combination of experience, optimism and “screw it!” attitude that will convince them to vote Leave. ‘#OFOC!’ I hear the students exclaim. ‘We didn’t think of that!’
Finally, there’s #ABTV – which stands for Anti-Brexit Tactical Voting. This is for anybody who still believes Gina Miller holds the answer to stopping Brexit – her “Best for Britain” campaign, launched prior to the 2017 general election, encouraged supporters to vote tactically for candidates committed to stopping Brexit. Bizarrely, despite their best efforts in the general election having made no difference to the overall course of Brexit negotiations, it seems the #ABTV devotees believe that voting exclusively for pro-EU parties in the May 2018 local elections will somehow swing the balance of power in their favour. The fact that they are electing local councilors, who have no more influence in Parliament than any other member of the public, appears not to have penetrated their collective consciousness. Possibly because they’re too busy engaging in Twitter pile-ons against those who don’t share their ideology, while frantically retweeting each other’s posts.
If you’re a true devotee to the cause of stopping Brexit, you will, of course, add all four hashtags to your name. The delightfully loony AC Grayling providing the perfect example. After all, why would he want to be known by his academic qualifications when he can be down with the cool kids instead?
It does get a little complicated after a while, though, what with all those different hashtags after one’s name. Maybe it’s time for them all to be consolidated into one simple hashtag that more accurately sums up the overall position of these anti-Brexit campaigners. I suggest #ADSL – or Anti-Democratic Sore Losers. Just like its broadband namesake, which so rarely lives up to the speeds advertised and is now finding itself outperformed by fibre, #ADSL perfectly encapsulates the ethos of a group of people desperate to cling to an outdated idea of the EU as the ultimate solution to global trade, world peace and social equality, and unable to see it for the protectionist, obstructionist monster that it has become. Just like those reliant on ADSL broadband, who discover that advertised speeds only apply to those living closest to the exchange, the benefits of EU membership accrue only to those closest to the corridors of power. The sooner the #ADSL devotees realise this, the better.