A leading light in the world of classic car TV has called for changes to social media platforms in order to prevent sickening online abuse from anonymous internet trolls.
It comes following the death of former Love Island host Caroline Flack, who was on record complaining about the continuing online abuse she received before passing away on February 16. A lawyer for the Flack family confirmed that the 40-year-old took her own life.
Mike Brewer, who hosts Wheeler Dealers on Discovery, has argued for accounts to be verified so that the perpetrators can be identified and held to account. Mike rang into radio LBC to describe the abuse he and his family received following Edd China’s departure from Wheeler Dealers in 2017.
Speaking to LBC’s Clive Bull, he said: “I simply and humbly present a TV show where I fix up cars. A few years ago, we had a cast change, where a previous cast member decided to quit the show and pursue a different career.
“When he left, it caused no end of abuse to me and my family online. I’ve had death threats, cancer wished upon my family, threats to rape my wife and daughter. And this is simply because somebody left the car show.”
Mike also recalled the sickening story of a party thrown to wish cancer upon him, shortly after his brother had died from the disease. “We do read this stuff and it does put you into some dark spaces,” he added. “Fortunately I can see through it, but it’s terrible that some people online think that they can say what they like with impunity and get away with it. We need everyone to be verified online so if anyone out there is throwing abuse around, we can see who that person is.”
On his Wheeler Dealer Facebook account, Mike revealed that he still has to block trolls every single day and used the hashtag #BeAccountable. His view has been backed up by his Wheeler Dealers’ co-host Ant Anstead, who replaced Edd as the show’s mechanic. On Twitter, he retweeted a post originally made in October that read: “Every social media account should be verified. Have the courage to say what you believe and be accountable as you would in the real world.”
There are further questions over how such verification could be enforced and sustained, but it’s clear that even within the confines of the usually welcoming and friendly classic car arena, it’s a very real problem. Last November, we revealed how members of a prominent car club had been subject to divisive comments on social media, and how Steph Holloway, who runs the YouTube channel idriveaclassic and owns both a Morris Minor and an Austin Metro, has had to deal with repeated negative comments that stopped her uploading new content for a period.
Classic Car Buyer contributor Craig Cheetham, editor of our sister title Retro Cars, said: “Part of the appeal of the classic car scene is its diversity from the cars right through to the people who love and cherish them.
“There is absolutely no place whatsoever for marginalising people on social media or expressing prejudice publicly. These things need to be far more closely monitored as the perpetrators have no concept whatsoever of the harm they can cause”.
Not all social media use is negative of course. On the positive side, it’s broadened the scene, allowing classic car fans all over the world to connect in ways that were not previously possible as well as providing a platform for younger enthusiasts like Steph.
That said, it’s a shame that social media continues to be a double-edged sword, with a small minority of faceless individuals seemingly hell-bent on chasing a reaction. If there can’t be a law change, then perhaps we can foster a culture change at the very least; one that calls out the abusers and the bigots and can serve to marginalise their impact. It could make all the difference.