Two particular reactions tend to follow tragic, malicious events like the Brussels terrorist attacks on Tuesday. The first is characterized by feelings of sympathy or empathy, as evidenced by the immediate outpouring of both on social media with the #JeSuisBruxelles hashtag and in real life. Paris was flooded with responses like these in the wake of the November attacks, and while some vocal critics discounted their merits, their public profile was enough to inspire at least some good feelings in the survivors. And then there’s the second reaction, which forgoes concerns for the victims and tries to find a target for blame. Yet as Matthew P. Doyle found out, sometimes the latter response can land you in jail.
The British man channeled his inner Donald Trump, “confronted a Muslim [woman]” and tweeted about the experience on Wednesday morning. According to the now-deleted tweet, Doyle said he “asked her to explain Brussels,” but she claimed that the attacks had “nothing to do with [her].”
The public relations specialist then spent much of the following day responding to and retweeting his critics. He also tweeted additional messages about the Brussels attacks, the state of Europe and what he perceived to be a much larger terrorist threat driven by Muslims en masse.
Needless to say, many people did not agree with Doyle’s sentiments — least of all the Croydon authorities. According to The Telegraph, he was arrested later in the day by the local police. A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police did not name Doyle when they announced that a 46-year-old man had been arrested “on suspicion of inciting racial hatred on social media.” Considering that the suspect had been arrested at Doyle’s known address, it was easy for the press to figure it out.
When The Telegraph caught up with Doyle before his arrest, he maintained that he was not “some far-right merchant” with a burning hatred of Muslims. That, and he thought his first tweet had been misunderstood:
“What everyone’s got wrong about this is I didn’t confront the woman,” he said. “I just said: ‘Excuse me, can I ask what you thought about the incident in Brussels?'”
“She was white, and British, wearing a hijab – and she told me it was nothing to do with her.
“I said ‘thank you for explaining that’ – and her little boy said goodbye to me as we went out separate ways.”
Doyle also explained that he was a concerned Londoner who thought Muslims should speak out more vehemently against their faith’s radical arms.
Not that any of his Twitter critics bought or cared for these arguments, as their responses ranged from accusations of bigotry to jokes at his expense.
As of this writing, Doyle has not yet been released from police custody.