Why we do this
The bottom half of the Grimsby Telegraph really is a cesspool. And @GTsBottomHalf exists to highlight that.
The idea started when someone started spending a little too long reading the comments on the GrimsbyLive site. They felt that it didn’t reflect the people of the area, but as they watched those comments, they started noting patterns.
One was that there were a few prolific commenters. And that some of the more prolific accounts appeared to be operated by the same person, using the same phrasing and even, occasionally, seamlessly continuing the same discussion under a different name.
Another was that specific types of articles would attract far more comments. Unfortunately, these were the ones that allowed commenters to make racist and dismissive comments. There are two or three people who counter these regularly, and a few others who appear less active, but who also argue against the discriminatory posts. But the majority opinion seems to be definitely well to the right of centre. Quite notably, the article covering Boris Johnson’s car-crash interview, where he took credit for the free bus pass a pensioner was using to keep warm, has not attracted any comments at all.
The site often includes details of sentencing, along with a mugshot photo. The photos of white working-class men tend to attract few comments, frequently. One recently suggested they look like rats, but largely the comments are limited to disbelief about soft sentencing and holiday camp prisons.
However, when the perpetrator has a foreign name, or in one recent case a Chinese appearance, the comments take on a new lease of life. The comments section abounds with stereotypes and commentary about the ‘home’ country of the guilty, even if there is no mention of their ethnicity or nationality, and both are irrelevant to the crime.
At the time of writing, two older stories, which no longer appear to attract comments, give an idea of the scale of the problem. The article Police praise victim’s bravery as ‘vindictive’ man who held machete to woman’s throat is locked up has attracted, at the time of writing, three comments. One of which calls for the summary execution of people with neck tattoos.
Another story, Man with hidden drugs cargo gives himself away by driving wrong way onto Humber Bridge has attracted 21 comments. These are largely negative, with lots of suggestions that crime and corruption is a national characteristic of Albania. One comment, which started, “it’s a good job this country has no corruption and everyone is a law abiding citizen. plus our educa…” was removed (the commenting system means it’s sometimes possible to see a snippet of removed comments). The remainder were largely critical of Albanians and immigrants, with some criticism of criminal justice system thrown in.
And let’s not start on any discussions that involve immigration. Suffice to say, Ukrainians good, everyone else bad. We have no idea what it is that distinguishes people fleeing war and oppression in a country that is mostly white from other places.
But what was noticeable was how the moderation on the site worked. While everyone seems to have posts removed occasionally, the removal does not match what many would consider common decency and seems to affect those that speak out against racism than those who express racist sentiments. Dog-whistling comments remain in place, while those calling them out can be removed.
A particularly awful example came on the bottom half of an article about the tragic death of two people in their home. The article said nothing about their nationality, nor about the cause of death. However, the victims’ names were Lithuanian.
The first comment, submitted by an account that appears to have been created for the sole purpose of making the comment, was “2 less”. The implication, two fewer foreigners, is clear to most people, as the subsequent comments showed.
However, the moderators, in their wisdom, allowed the initial comment to stand, while removing the first comment calling it out. Assuming that most of the replies also flagged the comment, it appears a deliberate decision was made to leave it in place.
It’s hard not to conclude that Reach are deliberately stoking and allowing the arguments to remain simply as a way of driving traffic. Others have noted the same elsewhere. After starting GT’s Bottom Half, for example, we discovered that Hull had beaten us to it by nearly a year. (And that hurts a bit, so we don’t talk about it.)
There is, of course, the argument that we shouldn’t be giving these comments even more publicity. But we post anyway, believing that sunlight is the best antiseptic and feeling it’s better than trying to rebut the comments on the site. And while we chose not to engage with the comments (we know we are hypocrites, we never claimed perfection) on the site, perhaps this might encourage others on there to get involved and show that the area is actually a tolerant and welcoming place.
The account now represents the contributions of a number of people, and we have no idea how long it will last, nor if there’s any obvious end. All we do know is that unless Reach act, there will always be plenty of material for us.