For those of you who have never experienced them, I will tell you a little bit about “Putin bots” on Twitter. I have no idea who actually runs these accounts or how they are manned, but they are a group of tweeters that fly at you on Twitter if you’ve crossed the wrong account – particularly on anything to do with Syria. Typically, they are Twitter accounts that throw things at you like, “You douchbag why den’t you shutup with your ignorant you know nothing about Assad who is hero America cause all problems in Mid East”. What they say isn’t important – it’s the reaction they cause, which is to direct genuine, angry traffic towards you.
Over the weekend, I rather injudiciously commented on Twitter at an account I knew was almost certainly booby-trapped by Putin bots – and the predictable flurry came my way. Only I noticed something I had never got before from the Corbynista contingent (it’s always the hard-right and hard-left that get upset about these things): a weird but notable anti-Sunni sentiment.
It took a little digging with some of them as they didn’t want to immediately broadcast this feeling – yet when you broke them down through several tweets it emerged that they thought the following: Assad regime, Putin, Iran = good; Western countries, Saudis, Sunnis in general = bad. It put a new light on things like Hezbollah T-shirts at leftist rallies; what I had thought was just a general anti-west thing could in many cases actually be something even more sinister. What I had thought was an understandable antipathy for the Saudi government and the way the west panders to them was actually a straight up, all Sunnis are bad meme.
On one hand, large parts of the Left feel like the West shouldn’t interfere in the affairs of the Middle East at all; that Iraq has proven we can only do harm. Yet on the other, it appears that many leftists are doing precisely that – taking a side in the Syrian conflict, for instance. It is one thing to say that the West should butt out – you cannot maintain that line and have Syrian regime flags at your rally. You have ignored your own advice.
A whole step beyond the problems created by being pro-Assad is by taking that to the next stage and becoming actually anti-Sunni, as some are clearly now doing. I want to stress that I do not think this applies to all or even most people on the Left (I think this is confined to small minority at present), and definitely not to Corbyn himself, of whom I haven’t heard anything of the like. Simply that over the weekend I witnessed this kind of stuff for the first time, and it scared me, however small the minority on the Left they represent. If the hard-left becomes anti-Sunni while the hard-right is anti-Muslim in general, we have a serious problem on our hands in terms of general tolerance. This is the problem with hatred: it always goes in a direction no one expects.
I’m not sure these people have taken a conscious decision to support Shia over Sunni. I think it’s that US has chosen to support Sunni so these people, who think whatever the US does is evil, are supporting Shia countries. 99% of them would have no idea what the difference between Shia and Sunni is. I imagine half of them don’t even know the importance of the denominations or the history behind it.
I actually agree with you on that point – which is what makes it all the more scary. The Shia-Sunni split is getting evermore vicious, and having a group of people in the West taking a side without really understanding the implications of that is potentially very damaging.