It was make-fun-of-the-conservative day in Sunday’s New York Times, where “digital editor” Palko Karasz filed a strange piece half-filled with insults culled from a Twitter “hashtag” mocking a pro-Brexit British conservative politician, Jacob Rees-Mogg: “Why Twitter Is Cursing A British Conservative Who’s Not Named May.” (That would be embattled Prime Minister Theresa May.) The long subhead: “Amid worries over Britain’s exit from the European Union, Britons took to the social network to unfurl curses against Jacob Rees-Mogg, a prominent supporter of Brexit and a challenger of Prime Minister Theresa May.”
Rees-Mogg is a traditional, upper-class social conservative, a rare thing in England, who has garnered a perverse cool aura:
On the day that Prime Minister Theresa May presented her draft plan for Britain’s exit from the European Union, also known as Brexit, worries about the country’s future spiked across the land and a fellow Conservative politician stood up in Parliament and suggested it was time for a no-confidence vote against her.
The next day, a hashtag began trending on Twitter -- #CurseReesMogg -- as Britons took out their anger not on Mrs. May, but on the politician, Jacob Rees-Mogg, a hard-line Brexiter once called the “Honorable member for the 18th century” because of his perceived antediluvian ways.
The tweets were various shades of rude, crude and obscene (therefore unprintable here). They were often distinctly British, touching on Mr. Rees-Mogg’s posh accent, his upper-class background and his “nanny,” to name a few themes.
The online version lovingly reprinted no less than 10 of the mean tweets:
We read many of them so you don’t have to. Here’s why #CurseReesMogg has been trending since Friday.
The charming idea originated from a journalist who goes after conservative politicians via Twitter hashtags:
Will Black, a journalist and author, appears to be the first to tweet the hashtag #CurseReesMogg. He claims to have started the #CurseNigelFarage #CurseBorisJohnson, #CurseDavidCameron and the #CurseDonaldTrump hashtags.
On Friday he tweeted, “It’s now Jacob Rees-Mogg’s time.”
Black tweeted about Rees-Mogg using canned socialist terminology: “He's primarily a hedge fund manager who entered politics to push a hard-right neoliberal agenda”:
The hashtag rose to the top of the charts and grew into a furor aimed at Mr. Rees-Mogg and his role in Brexit. Many referred to the wish for a People’s Vote on Brexit. But the tweets also went far afield, touching on the presumed fact that Mr. Rees-Mogg had a nanny who would do him harm:
“May nanny bath you in ice cold water and rub you down with a Brillo pad,” one Twitter user identified as Owen wrote.
In a class-conscious country, others wished for him to suddenly begin speaking with a decidedly different accent:
“May you bump your head hard on an unexpectedly low doorway and wake up with a thick regional accent.”
Karasz treated the politician’s views as some dark and shameful secret:
Mr. Rees-Mogg does have his defenders, with supporters praising him as authentic. But, behind the persona, critics say, he is a populist who opposes same-sex marriage and abortion, and subscribes to a hard line on Brexit that seems blind to warnings of economic damage.
His backers were among those answering the #CurseReesMogg tweets, complaining that they unfairly targeted Mr. Rees-Mogg.
People admitted spending too long reading through the curses, but they came as a welcome distraction after days of political crisis and ahead of a week that held many uncertainties about the country’s future.
Join the fun everyone! Cruelly insult a conservative politician as a "welcome distraction," with the Times' approval. One can clearly see what kind of story the reporter likes digging into. Can one imagine the Times enthusiastically rounding up tweets mocking Barack Obama and making an actual positive news story about it? The paper would only do so as part of an expose into conservative racism, even if the tweets were jocular and made no reference to race. Some politicians shall not be mocked. But straight-laced conservatives like Rees-Mogg are fair game.
Karasz last made Newsbusters for his petulant defense of the left-wing London Mayor Sadiq Khan against President Trump’s accusation of Khan being soft on terrorism.