While online news junkies were glued to Wendy Davis’ pro-choice filibuster and the exploits of fugitive Edward Snowden, the British government was doing its best to emulate the dystopian nightmare of movies like Children of Men.
Before we say anything else, we feel the need to warn you that this is, in fact, a real tweet, from a verified U.K. government account:
— The Home Office (@ukhomeoffice) July 3, 2013
Yes, while publicising its new immigration bill, the U.K. Home Office decided to post a twitpic of police rounding people into a van.
At first glance, this looks like a tweet from one of the many parody accounts that have sprung up in response to the U.K.’s brutal new austerity measures. For example, there doesn’t seem to be a huge gap between the verified @UKHomeOffice and the strictly fictional @UKJCP (“Job Centre Plus”, the official service for U.K. job-seekers):
If you see somebody dying in the street, be sure to check their ID and if they can speak English before dialing 999. Thank you.
— UK Job Centre Plus (@UKJCP) June 30, 2013
In a way, there’s something oddly refreshing about the @UKHomeOffice Twitter feed. Unlike some political accounts, it makes no attempt to get down with The Youth, or even to engage with social media outside of lackluster hashtags like #ImmigrationBill. Its tweets on last week’s Glastonbury music festival mostly consisted of pictures of a mobile drug lab whose job was to track down new “legal highs”.
Did you know that 1 in 5 ‘legal highs’ sold on the internet contains an illegal drug? #glastonbury
— The Home Office (@ukhomeoffice) June 22, 2013
However, while it’s understandable for @UKHomeOffice to be a little uncool, few of its 90,000 followers expected to see it cheerfully posting a Twitpic of people being arrested.
It doesn’t help that the arrestees are people of color, while the police officers appear to be white, implicitly conflating “non-white” with “outsider” and “criminal”. Not to mention the fact that while the police officers’ faces have been blurred out, no attempt was made to disguise the identity of the people being rounded into the van.
Reactions from Twitter users were almost unanimously horrified.
.@ukhomeoffice you’d fit right in in Germany circa 1936
— Peter Pannier (@PeterPannier) July 3, 2013
@ukhomeoffice Christ you’re evil
— Jonnie Marbles (@JonnieMarbLes) July 3, 2013
— Ryan Nelson (@RyanJohnNelson) July 3, 2013
.@ukhomeoffice The long and noble tradition of making humans live in fear of “the knock on the door”.
— Huw Lemmey (@spitzenprodukte) July 3, 2013
As one of the more polite commenters put it, “You might want to consider how you’re approaching this whole social media thing.”
Photo via @UKHomeOffice/Twitter