By Jamie Bryson
The Regimental Band of the UVF is one of the finest marching bands in the United Kingdom. They carry the standards of the 1912 Ulster Volunteers, who went on to become the 36th Ulster Division and which served King and Country with distinction and great sacrifice during World War One.
They, quite appropriately, attended a service held by the Shankill community last week to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II. The people of the Shankill, like so many other unionist/loyalist communities, showed the very best of our British culture and traditions in the dignified way in which a community collectively grieved the loss of our Monarch.
In communities like the Shankill (and many other unionist/loyalist communities, particularly those around the border) it should never be forgotten the heartache that was endured due to the continuing loyalty to our British way of life, as a vicious IRA terrorist campaign was waged with the purported objective of tearing Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom.
Affection for, and loyalty to, the Monarchy has been forged through the blood, sweat and tears of recent generations. In the same way as the generations no longer with us gave their lives for King and Country at the Somme and in many other bloody battles of World War II.
It is understandable why many unionists/loyalists are bemused, and rightly angry, at the manner by which the media has sought to hi-jack the death of our Queen to turn it into a propaganda campaign for the republican movement.
Notably, there was no real big drama about Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP attending the accession and swearing her allegiance to the King. The SNP are dedicated to ending the Union, but they have campaigned for that objective using legitimate political means: they have not embarked on the sectarian murder of men, women and children.
And yet, in Northern Ireland the terrorists who pursued their campaign via murderous terrorism are to be lauded for no longer murdering people. There are all sorts of reasons for how this propaganda gets so much traction, which is beyond the scope of this piece, but suffice to say it is hardwired into the DNA of the so called ‘peace process’ which necessitates that unionism/loyalism be delegtimised, and republicanism is legitmised.
The people of the Shankill Road were not feted and lauded the world over for their loyalty and dignity, but nevertheless the community conducted themselves impeccably and put together a phenomenal service for the community to come together to give thanks for Queen Elizabeth II.
As the words in a well-known loyalist ballad goes: “if Ulster had been traitors, when Britain went to war, we’d be much better thought of, much better than we are”.
On Saturday a story appeared in the Belfast Telegraph which purports to suggest that there is some maelstrom of “criticism” that the entirely lawful and legitimate Regimental Band of the UVF played at the church service.
The most obvious question on first reading was: criticism from who?
There was no mention of who exactly had criticised this, rather it seemed more a case of making news rather than reporting it.
In later editions, this was clarified. It was unspecified “twitter users”. Yes, really.
This in one sense highlights the sheer absurdity of the whole episode, but it illuminates a darker problem.
In around 2017 Sinn Fein advertised for “social media activists” to join up for an online campaign to challenge “media bias”. The outworking of this campaign is plain for all to see; dozens and dozens of nationalist activists operate multiple social media accounts to try and create ‘noise’ around certain political issues. It is co-ordinated and orchestrated.
This has been extremely effective because of the reliance much of the mainstream media now place on social media. A significant amount of content is drawn from, or influenced by, what is ‘trending’ on Twitter.
It follows therefore that if you control the social media narrative, by simply creating sufficient noise, this works its way up the chain to the mainstream media. It is by understanding this model that nationalists so effectively control much of the mainstream media.
They also in parallel wage coordinated campaigns to try and bully unionist/loyalist contributors of social media by constant demonisation, mockery and the spreading of malicious falsehoods.
The success of Sinn Fein’s “social media activists” is evident in the BBC. The editorial decision making of BBC NI is entirely subservient to the trends of Twitter, and the self-appointed social elite whose status is not accrued by hereditary titles or privilege, but rather through saying the right things on social media.
To give one example; nationalists have waged a relentless social media campaign to force the BBC to ‘blacklist’ any voices of which they disapprove. The BBC (and it seems all their programs have now been swallowed up by this campaign) to their shame have effectively (sub-consciously, if we are to be generous) sub-contracted their editorial decision making out to the political whims of the nationalist trends of social media.
It is notable that the BBC have no issue whatsoever with the repeated platforming of nationalist/republican contributors such as Chris Donnelly, Phil Kelly, Amanda Ferguson, Andree Murphy, Patricia Macbride and others. It is only unionist/loyalist contributors who are subjected to blacklisting. The reason for that is straightforward: it is because social media is dominated by orchestrated nationalist activism, and the BBC (and as evidenced by the Belfast Telegraph article, other media as well) have entirely sub-contracted their editorial decision making to the decibel levels in the bubble of Twitter.
So, when the demonisation of the Regimental Band of the UVF and the Shankill community was attributed to “social media users”, it highlighted a serious issue that goes much wider than the one article.
As we come towards the funeral of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, now is not the time to address this matter substantively, but in the coming weeks and months there is substantive work to be done around how social media, and nationalist activist orchestrated campaigns within it, exercise a disproportionate and wholly partisan influence on the media in Northern Ireland.
The Shankill community has led the tributes to Queen Elizabeth II, with the fine mural to her memory becoming a focal point for tributes and silent reflection. They do not seek credit or to be lauded (that, it seems, is reserved for those who waged murderous terrorist campaigns against the Queen, her armed forces and her peoples), but nor do they deserve to be demonised based on a complete misunderstanding as to the status of the Regimental Band of the UVF and contrived campaigns by “social media users”.
Unionism/Loyalism and our proud communities must not accept being judged or characterised through the prism of the narrative created by others. We must tell our own story with pride and conviction. The Shankill community, and many others across Northern Ireland, have done that over the past week, and all the demonisation in the world can not detract from the dignity, pride and affection which has been displayed.
God Save The King.