10 October 2018
Glorious Bastards /
Why a creative agency is seeking out Twitter bigotry for good causes
Lucky Generals co-founder Andy Nairn has spent six months searching for bigoted tweets that include the word ‘bastard’. It’s less straightforward than you might think but Nairn, ever the planner, has devised a strategy.
‘We’ve learned quite a bit about how people phrase their bigoted beliefs,’ says Nairn. ‘You don’t get that many references to, say, “black bastard”, because I think Twitter can pick up quite a lot of that stuff. But if you search for “lazy” or “ungrateful” bastards, a lot of those turn out to be, once you have seen a preceding tweet, used as a proxy for a minority group. So a lot of time we search for things like that.’
If you’re sane, you’re wondering why Nairn has spent half a year searching for racist rhetoric on Twitter. The answer is that he and his agency run an account called @LuckyBastards_ that turns social media bigotry into a kind of game for charity. Once they find a tweet that describes a community as ‘[angry adjective] bastards’, they reply with a message of their own, informing the offender that their tweet has prompted a £10 ($13) donation to a charity that helps the community being disparaged.
Lucky Generals set aside £2,000 ($2,630) to make donations through the Lucky Bastards account when it was set up in April and Nairn says that they have now nearly burnt through it all.
‘We did it because we work in media and so we’re surrounded by social media,’ says Nairn. ‘We see the positive things that they can do but also some of the less positive things that they contribute to the world. And I guess like a lot of people we’re sometimes left saddened or sickened by the depths that people plumb on social media.
‘We started thinking of ways to deal with it. The obvious way is to fight fire with fire – if you see someone saying something outrageous, to say something outrageous back – but we wondered if there was a more interesting way to tackle it.'
Not only does Lucky Bastards inject positivity into a forum marred by toxicity, but Nairn has found that his jolly and enthusiastic approach to tackling hate has sometimes been better at unsettling bigots than the usual angry, righteous replies. Without knowing it was Lucky Generals behind the account, legendary creative director Dave Trott even mentioned Lucky Bastards in a blog post in May, citing it as an example of how great creativity is all around us, if only we care to look for it.
While most targets have either ignored the tweets, responded with generic abuse or (on occasion) apologised, at least one responded with aggression that made Nairn thankful for the account’s anonymity. But that’s not happened for a while, he adds.
Now, Narin and his team are looking for ways to keep the account running after the kitty runs dry: ‘A couple of people have suggested crowdfunding, which we’ve been reluctant to do; handling other people’s money rightly involves much more governance. Others have just chipped in directly to the charities. So I’m sure there will be other ways to sustain [it] when the current cash runs out.’