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We can’t abuse those we disagree with: WFFE does more harm than good

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Last week, Warwick for Free Education published an article on their website calling for people to vote against Jack Hadfield in the Autumn election for Development Exec. WFFE criticised Hadfield after he called Hilary Clinton a “fucking bitch” in one of his tweets, and made comments about the weight of a Women’s Officer for University of York Students’ Union.

They also point out that last year, after bananas were found on campus with racial slurs written on them, “Hadfield’s immediate reaction was to take to Twitter to claim it was likely a hoax”.

While I commend WFFE for informing students about serious problems with this candidate, my concern is that the article may have been written to incite people to harass Jack both on social media and around campus, due to the emotive language and the high profile nature of the article.

WFFE criticised Hadfield after he called Hilary Clinton a “fucking bitch” in one of his tweets

They describe him as a “radically right-wing ideologue” with “poisonous” views. Although I do not agree with any of Hadfield’s views, there is something divisive about using this style of writing.  At the end of the article they urge people to “please share this piece widely to ensure Hadfield’s exposure”.

Their article was shared over 40 times on Facebook on the day it was published. It is likely that, in the next few days, when students become aware of Hadfield, he may face harassment around campus.

Although I do not agree with any of Hadfield’s views, there is something divisive about using this style of writing

There is also something particularly voyeuristic about going through his Facebook history to find sexist posts that he liked, as WFFE did. It seems unfair that something you liked on Facebook could be later used against you. Yet this is not the first time that a public shaming has occurred at Warwick.

Last year, George Lawlor – the student who wrote the infamous article criticising the I Heart Consent workshops – faced both online and offline harassment after the fierce campus backlash against his article. He claims that he was driven from lectures and bars after people began shouting ‘rapist’ at him, as well as receiving threatening messages to his Facebook account. Potentially Hadfield could face much greater hounding, given his views are even more extreme than Lawlor’s.

This is not the first time that a public shaming has occurred at Warwick

When the Boar asked WFFE if they were worried that their article could cause a widespread social media public shaming of Jack or him being mobbed on campus, a spokesperson for the group said: “He has chosen to put these reactionary, far-right opinions out there – on public forums – and run for an elected position; students have a right to know this information when they vote.” Hadfield, however, believes that since the WFFE article, there is a sense among right-leaning students that their views will get them persecuted on campus. “WFFE are making people afraid to speak out,” he told the Boar.

Fundamentally, university should be a place where students feel free to express themselves politically. Although the candidate’s views are extreme, we must not let ourselves become be overcome by a mob mentality and start harassing him. Warwick for Free Education is an excellent example of student activism, but they should focus on furthering their anti-austerity cause, rather than publicly shaming right-wing students.

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