Time for direct action on social media

Stephen Pollard on how he made one errant tweeter pay the price

July 08, 2021 10:18

As someone who, for reasons best known to the psychiatrist I probably need, is addicted to Twitter, the sheer volume of Jew-hatred can seem overwhelming. As you might suppose, antisemites are drawn to the editor of the JC like… well, use your imagination for the analogy.

Twitter is worse than useless in dealing with it. More often than not it seems as if it is keener to ban the victims of bigotry than the perpetrators themselves.

But this column is not a moan. It has a happy ending (well, happy is not quite the word). Because I am here to tell you that you can take things into your own hands and, with a bit of persistence, show the antisemites that their actions can have consequences.

A few weeks ago, I came across a tweet by @Ruralmaestro. This charmer told his followers that I was a “lifelong hard right racist”. I had a look at his Twitter biography and was intrigued to see he is a conductor — and the founder of the Bristol Classical Players (BCP). “Tom was born in 1980 and read English at Jesus College, Oxford”, reads his bio on the BCP’s site. I searched his name, mainly because I am a classical music enthusiast and wanted to see what sort of conductor tells lies about me online. What emerged immediately was a link to his day job: “Director, Private Client Tax Services for Smith and Williamson”, a blue blood firm which declares that “for over a century, we have managed the financial affairs of private clients and their business interests.”

This no ordinary schlemiel, I realised.

So it would be worth a look at his timeline to see what else he had to say. What I found was a man with what might best be described as an obsession with Jews, with Jewish communal bodies and with denying the existence of Labour antisemitism.

For example, he has repeatedly tweeted about the Board of Deputies: “Starmer is going to do exactly as the BOD — a hard right, fanatically pro-Israel group — tells him. This means the moment he says anything progressive or egalitarian they don’t like (be it on Palestine, Muslims or whatever), they’ll attack him. You fight liars, not appease them.”

Or this: “Yes but on the other hand this report isn’t half smoking out the hard right, pro-apartheid organisations who are criticising it. Like the BOD, the hard right racist group whom @keir_starmer has inexplicably chosen to be the arbiter of what is and isn’t racist in the Labour Party.”

And he really doesn’t like Jews who make a fuss about antisemitism, such as Rachel Riley: “No idea what Riley thinks she is doing and why, but she’s a proven liar and a fraud who harms those Jews who really *are* suffering from anti-Semitic abuse. She’s utterly vile and to pretend otherwise is to deny reality. Plus: if you know her, tell her to stop it pronto.”

There are two ways of responding to online lies: sue or expose. I always prefer the latter, especially when the liar is supposedly respectable. And since it took me a matter of seconds to discover that Tom Gauterin is “Director, Private Client Tax Services for Smith and Williamson”, so others would, surely. And I doubted that so establishment a firm would be happy to have their name associated with such antisemitic tropes as the Board of Deputies controlling the leader of the Labour Party.

On 28 May, I wrote to the company’s chairman, alerting him to his employee’s behaviour. I heard back the following morning from its PR, confirming that my email had been read and would receive a response. The next day, he told me that I could see how seriously it was being taken from the fact that @Ruralmaestro had now made his tweets private.

I have to tell you, I was sceptical about their response. Mr Gauterin hiding his tweets was hardly the response I had been after.

But my scepticism was misplaced. The company’s CEO then called me to say that he could not give me any information other than that an HR process was now under way. But he gave me his word that it was being taken seriously.

Weeks went by and I became convinced that they were hoping I would forget it and go away.

I was wrong. HR processes need time to ensure all the correct procedures were followed. The CEO rang again. He was — he had to be — careful with his words. But he told me that Mr Gauterin no longer worked for Smith and Williamson.

I have no idea if he jumped or was pushed. I don’t care. Smith and Williamson behaved honourably and a man I believe to be a Jew hater has suffered the consequences of his bigotry. That is what matters.

July 08, 2021 10:18

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