In our blog, Linda Harwood, a Scottish activist in the Campaign, writes of her involvement
Stop Funding Hate aims to challenge the upsurge in hate speech - and hate crime - seen across the UK during 2016.
Look through the front pages any day of the week and you'll likely see a headline demonising refugees and migrants. Scare stories about a “swarm” of “invaders”, “milking Britain's benefits” and “stealing jobs” have become so commonplace we almost stop noticing them.
And yet hateful headlines can have hateful consequences. Last year, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a strongly-worded statement after one newspaper ran a story likening African migrants to “cockroaches”. The High Commissioner highlighted “decades of sustained and unrestrained anti-foreigner abuse, misinformation and distortion” by UK media, and warned that:
“History has shown us time and again the dangers of demonizing foreigners and minorities... it is extraordinary and deeply shameful to see these types of tactics being used... simply because racism and xenophobia are so easy to arouse in order to win votes or sell newspapers.”
The UN also highlighted another UK newspaper that it said had run nearly 50 front pages on migrants or refugees during 2015 – almost all of them negative.
Earlier this year, amid a series of attacks on EU migrants, experts at the University of Leicester warned that hate crime was being “fuelled and legitimised... by the media”.
In October, the Council of Europe warned that “It is no coincidence that racist violence is on the rise in the UK at the same time as we see worrying examples of intolerance and hate speech in the newspapers, online and even among politicians”.
Amid divisive rhetoric across the political spectrum - with people both left and right labelling each other as “traitors” and even “vermin”, it seems as though something has gone badly awry.
So how can we restore a more humane way of talking to - and about - our fellow human beings?
Most of us shop with a company that helps fund newspapers’ activities through advertising and the sad truth is that whipping up anger - and hate - can help papers boost their readership, and hence their advertising revenue. But if we could find a way to shift this balance - so that running dehumanising headlines was no longer profitable, perhaps something effective could be done.
Since we launched our first video in August, tens of thousands have supported our campaign. Our first big win came when Specsavers issued an apology and withdrew one of their advertisements from the Daily Express.
More recently, the Co-op Group have agreed to review their advertising policies days after we launched our second video, which has already been viewed over 300,000 times. That same week, the Phone Co-op (separate from the Co-op Group) became the first UK company to commit publicly not to advertise in the Daily Express, Mail or Sun.
As public support builds, we are hopeful that more companies will start to take account of the social impact of their advertising. If you’d like to find out more about the campaign, please follow us on Twitter (www.twitter.com/stopfundinghate ) and like us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/stopfundinghate ).