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Journalist defends ‘snuffed it’ tweet after Brexiteer backlash

Darren BurkeA regional journalist has defended a tweet posing the question how many people who voted in the 2016 EU referendum had since “snuffed it” amid a furious backlash from Brexiteers.

Darren Burke, digital journaliast for the Sheffield Star and Doncaster Free Press, faced what he called a “baying Twitter mob” after posting an apparently light-hearted comment musing over how many people who took part in the vote were still alive.

The tweet went viral after local MP Caroline Flint, a pro-Brexit former Labour Cabinet minister, retweeted it to her 72,000 followers.

Darren, pictured, has described the response to the tweet as “absolutely crazy” and denied he was seeking to “stir up trouble” or suggest that the result of the referendum should be overturned.

The tweet, posted yesterday morning, read: “Just out of interest, how many of this fabled 17.4 million figure of Leave voters are actually still alive?  Would love to see a revised figure of how many have snuffed it (from both sides) since 2016.”

Ms Flint, MP for Don Valley, responded: “There was nothing “fabled” about the 17.4m they were ordinary people who cast their vote. Since when do we invalidate Elections 2 or 3 years on because sadly some voters are no longer with us.”

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It unleashed a torrent of abuse directed at Darren, with one Twitter user commenting: “Snuffed it? You are no better than the stuff I scrape from the bottom of my shoe. #muted for being lower than whale sh*t.”

Another commented: “Darren you need to take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror. Your tweet was insensitive  to say the least…it’s a tweet I would normally associate with a sewer rat!”

But Darren hit back suggesting it was Ms Flint who needed to think more carefully about her actions.

Citing the above comments he wrote:  “This is just a sample of what I’ve been receiving all afternoon after @CarolineFlintMP chose to quote my tweet. In the toxic atmosphere we have right now, MPs especially need to think about their actions and words.”

He added: “Just for some clarity, this was just a thought. Not for a story. Not to stir up trouble. Not to suggest overturning any result. Not to get local MPs and councillors foaming at the mouth, so call off the baying Twitter mob and get a grip, yeah?

“I cannot believe that a tweet I put out, purely out of interest and not for any political pot stirring, newspaper story or to cause any offence has created so much (ongoing) abuse and hatred, simply because it was exposed to a wider audience.”

The backlash even prompted Darren to tweet a link to an old column headlined ‘Burke by name, Burke by nature’ in which he declared himself impervious to such “playground” insults.

The original tweet itself has since been deleted, although the threads it generated are still visible on Twitter.  Darren has declined to comment further.

11 comments

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  • September 27, 2019 at 10:03 am
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    There is nothing wrong with saying “snuffed it” (despite the fact it’s a stupid argument, we don’t rerun elections from the 80s as people have died since then) but fabled is the strange choice of words.

    Taking it that Mr Burke was using the word for its “famous” meaning rather than its “mythical/made up” meaning then why use it? The figure is not in dispute. To put it another wat “how many of this FAMOUS 17.4m figure…” still gives the impression that he does not believe it to be true.

    I’m guessing that he’s been told to delete the tweet by JPi, and as a JPi employee, I look forward to having to take part in some mandatory training to cover how not to be a fool on social media shortly. Thanks pal.

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  • September 27, 2019 at 10:11 am
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    All this goes to show is that there is absolutely no banter about the subject of Brexit. It is strictly off limits. Instead, It’s all insults, accusations and polarisation.
    Sad but true.

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  • September 27, 2019 at 11:29 am
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    Desker, I think fabled because obviously that figure will no longer be correct as some will doubtless have passed on (for want of a more sensitive phrase). And fabled because it has passed into folklore through the passing of (too much) time.

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  • September 27, 2019 at 11:48 am
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    @Lydia. Regardless it is still a stupid Tweet. The fact he’s deleted it (after writing a comment saying how online outrage doesn’t bother him) suggests he knows that. I think Brexit is stupid but i’m not daft enough to go online and use that to try and spark a reaction.

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  • September 27, 2019 at 11:51 am
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    Leaving aside the fact that as a journalist he thinks there is a way to accurately know who the 17.4m are and then find out how many have died. You could find out how many people aged 18+ (at the time) have died since the referendum but I’m not sure it will say on their death certificates which way they voted.

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  • September 27, 2019 at 12:14 pm
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    Sadly there are too many people trying to pretend the leave vote never happened, and doing their utmost to undermine or overturn it.

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  • September 27, 2019 at 1:13 pm
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    While I am in now way a supporter of Brexit I completely agree with Caroline Flint on both of the points she made.

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  • September 27, 2019 at 1:19 pm
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    @ Desker – ‘I think Brexit is stupid’

    Why?

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  • September 27, 2019 at 4:17 pm
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    If I had written “snuffed it” in my earlier days as a journo I would have been shown the door or at least given a heavy slap on the wrist for being disrespectful. Shows complete lack of respect for older people,. Why is it assumed that only older people voted Leave. I know of younger people who did so as well. You would think that we will never be able to leave Britain again judging by some comments. Ridiculous. Other countries need us as tourists.

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  • September 27, 2019 at 4:19 pm
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    Local journalism should always embrace ‘sailing close to the wind’, in many ways it’s what keeps you sane in what can be a grim job. Many a court case was often the subject of newsroom banter and jokes that were in poor taste back when I worked in them, and rightly so.

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  • October 4, 2019 at 4:09 pm
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    “Fabled” 17.4 million suggests a disbelief at the result of the poll, a sniffy attitude towards it, or a conspiracy-based theory about the vote.
    Although he alludes to it in the second line, his querying of Vote Leave in the first shows his particular standpoint.
    Impartiality is then called into question on any future reporting, and that makes it difficult not to read any of his articles without referencing this. It weakens stories.

    Simply, as a reporter, it’s a silly thing to have tweeted.

    And this isn’t meant nastily, but I note he’s described as a ‘digital reporter’. That always suggests a lower level of training in these matters – otherwise we’d just use reporter.

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