A Note on the “Real 48 Per Cent” Death Threats

The Guardian reports:

Prominent Brexit supporters including the Conservative leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, have been sent death threats by an anonymous source who signed off as “the real 48%”.

Four letters that appear to have been sent by a remain supporter were reported to police on Monday. Six leave donors received correspondence last week.

…The letter said: “If you attempt to take away part of someone’s identity, there are consequences. We have watched as you have led us to the edge of the abyss. We will watch no longer. You have taken lives on our side. Now we will take lives on yours. We are coming for you.”

…Earlier letters to donors were revealed by the blogger Guido Fawkes and read: “You have stoked the fires of Brexit and led us to this moment. You can no longer be tolerated. We are coming for you. We are going to kill you.”

One of the earlier letters was reported last week, after it was publicised on Twitter by Zac Goldsmith. Leadsom has also posted online the letter that was sent to her – the two communications are consistent, and both were typed using block capitals. The sender actually wrote “THE REAL 48 PER CENT”, so we can’t be sure whether “real” is part of a proper name, like the “Real IRA”. Leadsom has also revealed the envelope it was sent in: a plain white C5 envelope, with an ordinary second-class stamp and the addressee’s details (unexpectedly) neatly handwritten. It passed through Birmingham Mail Centre on 7 February. No details about the envelope brand or any inside security patterning are given.

It’s not clear why the existence of several other letters was revealed first to the Guido Fawkes site – the other recipients have not been named, although according to the site the six were sent to people who had appeared on a list of 21 donors published by Business Insider in May. Goldsmith says that the one he handed to police belonged to an “80-year old constituent”; as Tim Fenton notes at Zelo Street, the only person on the published list who appears to fit that description is Goldsmith’s mother.

Despite the fact that we do not know who sent the letters, Mail Online and the Sun took the Goldsmith one at face value and decided that it must indeed have been sent by a group of Remainers. The Evening Standard, in contrast, more cautiously noted only that the constituent “apparently received a death threat for backing Brexit.”

There are all kinds of weird and damaged individuals out there, and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that someone has chosen the “Remain” cause as their rationalization for indulging in the cheap and cowardly thrill of sending anonymous threats to public figures and then feeling empowered by the ensuing media interest. Even if this is the case, though, it is unlikely that there is more than one person involved. Further, although there has been some uncivil Remain rhetoric (Goldsmith received an abusive Christmas card in December containing a number of anonymous messages, which Mail Online is now drawing fresh attention to), there is no tradition of pro-European extremism that might reasonably be held culpable as an inspiration (unlike, for example, the extensive resources of fringe far-right nationalist extremism that motivated Thomas Mair to murder the pro-Remain MP Jo Cox ahead of the referendum).

The obvious alternative, of course, is that the letters are the work of someone who wishes to discredit the Remain cause by issuing false threats in its name. This is a very reasonable suspicion, despite the knee-jerk tendency in political activism to cry “false flag” whenever one’s preferred cause is brought into disrepute by extremists. These particular letters do not quite pass the smell test – without diminishing their potential to cause genuine alarm and distress to those on the receiving end and to those close to them, the letters’ appearance is such a useful gift for those with a hostile anti-Remain agenda that it is only common sense to regard them as suspect.

If it turns out that letters have indeed been sent by someone who has identified with the Remain cause, we can be sure that there will mockery and denunciations of those who have expressed doubt or scepticism; but should it transpire that the author is indeed falsely posing as a Remainer, I doubt that we will see correctives from the media sources that have already fed us their preferred narrative via headlines such as “Zac Goldsmith reveals Remainer trolls sent pensioner, 80, vile note”.

One Response

  1. The letter Goldsmith received does indeed bear the hallmarks of a fugazi.

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