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By Jason Michael
DefiAye is in hospital today. She has been the victim of homelessness and ‘Austerity Britain.’ She has always known who was to blame, but the online BritNat trolls who hounded her are only now showing us how low they can go.
DefiAye, a brilliant young artist and a star of the independence movement, posted on Twitter yesterday: “I’m so sorry. I had to do it. I’m being accused of benefit fraud. I can’t live in this world as it is.” Within the hour her friend Simone called the Police. She was discovered at her home and rushed to hospital, where she is now recovering in intensive care. Those who know DefiAye and follow her on social media will know she has only recently gotten out of homelessness and into a house of her own, and that, as a sufferer of a chronic and debilitating illness, she was recently summoned for a medical review that threatened to cut off what few benefits she had coming in.
She was under considerable stress and suffering from severe anxiety and depression. Her story is far from unique in Scotland or anywhere else currently subject to Westminster austerity. Her story is familiar in every village, town, and city in the United Kingdom. DefiAye knew this and she knew who was to blame. Her illness and the treatment she and her fellow sufferers received at the hands of the British government played a large part in her pro-independence activism. Her artwork was a hallmark of the 2014 referendum and has appeared in The National and all over Scotland’s social media. Everyone knows her work. Everyone loves her… well, almost everyone.
I'm so sorry. I had to do it. I'm being accused of benefit fraud. I can't live in this world as it is.—
Brave (@Defiaye) September 07, 2017
Update on @Defiaye Please pass on to those concerned. She's under sedation and observation. Not expecting any change overnight.—
Simone (@cee4cat) September 07, 2017
When she went on Twitter to cry for help early yesterday afternoon she said she was being accused of benefit fraud. That accusation was being made against her for a while by a number of social media users who had formed something of a hunting pack in their efforts to harass and bully her. In conversation with her I and a few others were made aware of the toll this harassment was taking on her. Whenever she blocked them they would respawn as new accounts and continue their game. Yesterday, it seems, it all became too much.
Once it was known she had been taken to hospital and that she was in a serious condition notices were posted by her friends on Twitter and Facebook. The shock and pain in the responses was palpable. Over the course of the day MSPs and MPs came onto the threads to share their well-wishes. Others came too. Other less welcome, anonymous unionist trolls – the sort we never hear about in the press – to gloat at their handiwork.
“Militant Mole,” an odious character hiding behind the anonymity of the internet, posted an image of a parcel delivery, captioned: “Here’s that attention you ordered.” He posted this at half past seven in the evening when it was already clear DefiAye was fighting for her life. Soon other rodents dropped by, this time to torment, threaten, and intimidate those who were sharing news and wishing their friend well. This is Scottish unionism at its worst, the underbelly of extreme British nationalism – with all its hate and bile – that is forever given a clean bill of health by the media that emboldens and encourages it. No words can express how deeply repulsive this behaviour is.
After explaining to this person that I really didn’t have the inclination to give him the time of day one of his buddies – “William Boyne” – posted a picture of a house to me. No words, just a house. It was a familiar house. It was a house on the street where my parents live, right where I grew up. It might have been a coincidence, but the police officer I spent the next half on the phone to agreed with me – unlikely. Quite possibly these people either know me or know people who know me and where I come from. When you discover a burning cross in your yard in the night-time the message is clear. It’s as subtle a threat as a noose swinging over a branch.
When threats like this are made against you, especially from troll accounts with names like “William [of Orange and the Battle of the] Boyne,” the implication is clear. These people are from a loyalist institution – or claim to be – that is on record promising violence and civil war in the event of Scottish independence. These are people with connections to paramilitary murder squads in the north of Ireland. This is Scottish unionism. It may not be the “unionism” of Ruth Davidson or Anas Sarwar, but this is the sharp edge that gives their suited and booted rhetoric and spin real cutting power. Without this blood-soaked and angry unionism there is no Ruth or Anas. This is Scottish unionism.
Was this the sort of abuse DefiAye had been subjected to? How often does this go on? I don’t know. This is the first time anything like this has happened to me, but it took a person using an account I have never before seen or interacted with less than a minute to produce a photograph intended to terrify me; to have me fearful over the safety of my loved ones. Will my mother be the next Jo Cox? What else is this picture to make me think, if not that? But less than one minute?! Who has the ability to look at a Twitter account and find a home address in under a minute? I can think of only one group capable of this, and that is the same group found to have been colluding with loyalist paramilitaries in Northern Ireland – the British government.
Conor Donnelly (@Confrancis23) May 30, 2017
How much of this must we take? How much of this did my friend DefiAye have to take before she ended up where she is today? How widespread is this, and how many people has this been happening to? Perhaps it is time we started working on a national database to help us get a better idea of what is going on. Whoever these people are, they must be brought to justice. We have to make sure they are unmasked and shown to the world for who and what they are.
Right now, however, my thoughts and the thoughts of a great many other people in this country are on one remarkable young woman. She is seriously sick in hospital, but I have persuaded myself she is going to be fine. I can’t cope with the thought of the alternative. My heart was lifted last night when I saw the hashtag #UnicornsForBrave – “Brave” being her profile name – run over my timeline. In spite of the hate of a bitter and ugly few, good people all over Scotland are showing their love for one of our favourite independentistas. No one knows it outside of here because the BBC won’t tell anyone, but the pro-independence community in Scotland is magical. There might as well be unicorns.
This is uniform behaviour from the right-wing.