Edinburgh and Glasgow heritage groups hit back over claims of racism

Online groups promoting historical images of some of Scotland’s most iconic cities say they have tightened moderation on the sites after accusations that they had become a “mausoleum for racist language”.

Sunday, 25th August 2019, 5:40 pm
David McLean (left image) and Norry Wilson (right image) have hit back against claims their nostalgia groups have become magnets for racist content. The offending Ba Bru advert (pictured) was dropped in the 1980s.

Facebook pages including the popular Lost Edinburgh were denounced as “commemorating deeply offensive traditions” in an article published by the New Statesman earlier this year after multiple posts containing racial slurs were spotted by users.

Administrators in charge of the groups do not accept that it’s a large-scale issue, though they state they are toughening their stance on bigoted remarks after feedback from community members.

An advert featuring the former Irn Bru mascot Ba Bru – posted on the Lost Glasgow page in February 2017 – was singled out as an example of offensive content in the piece.

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The mascot, which was dropped by manufacturers Barr in the 1980s, features an “Indian servant” child sporting a blackened face and turban.

However, Norry Wilson, who operates the Lost Glasgow page, criticised the article, published in June, for “cherry-picking” examples of offensive content from the pages, adding: “I treat these pages like I treat my own living-room, if I would not stand for certain language in my own house, I certainly would not allow it to continue on a page I operate.”

I feel the New Statesman article does pages like our own, like Lost Edinburgh too, a massive disservice. I can count on two hands the times I have had to remove explicit or offensive posts.”

Similar issues were also reported in groups celebrating heritage in Birmingham and Manchester, while the Lost Edinburgh group came under fire for hosting a racial slur previously used as a term for an ice cream.

However, group moderators pointed out all references to the offensive slang were quickly removed, with reminders issued to group members over the standard of content expected from the community.

Lost Edinburgh founder David McLean said: “Nostalgia is a great tool, but there is a tightrope to be walked between acknowledging the past and celebrating it. Much of what was once considered acceptable to say or think can now cause a lot of offence. We are sensitive to that.

“It is simply a case of monitoring what members post and removing items that cross the line - not that I think this is or ever has been a massive issue for us.
“Racist or unsavoury content exists all over the internet but to claim that nostalgia groups are among the worst perpetrators is ludicrous. It suggests to me that the writer of the article was - rather deliberately - looking through the wrong end of the looking glass.”

He added: “I think the New Statesman article made some valid points, but I also think it has been massively blown out of proportion as a persistent problem. We have hardly ever had to remove those sort of comments because they are so rarely made, but when they are, we are always swift in acting to eradicate them.”