Tuesday 6 December 2016

This time we need more than just hashtag sentiment

There is no simple answer to the migrant crisis and online empathy on its own cures nothing, says Brendan O'Connor

Published 06/09/2015 | 02:30

Bob Geldof
Bob Geldof

Not for the first time Bob Geldof put it up to us all on Friday morning. Speaking to his old mucker Dave Fanning, Geldof cut through a lot of the crap and announced that he is willing to take in some refugees into his homes: "I'm lucky," he said, "I've a place in Kent and a flat in London. Me and Jeanne would be prepared to take three families immediately in our place in Kent and a family in our flat in London, immediately, and put them up until such time as they can get going and get a purchase on their future."

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Geldof's pronouncement made a lot of people slightly uncomfortable. Because a lot of people thought that all you had to do was care, and be moved by that picture, and demand that the Government does more.

We are all used to hashtag sentiment at this stage. It whips up based on an image or a story that goes viral on the internet. Eventually it will make it to mainstream media and websites, with headlines like "You won't believe this heartbreaking story/The picture every mother has to look at/The most poignant video you will ever watch". You know the drill. It will often involve children or old people or somebody with a disability. And they will often be demonstrating some kind of cuteness, poignancy or courage - or bravery as the last one is known on the internet. Everyone is brave these days.

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