Before the 2017 general election, my girlfriend’s Dad and I were explaining to her the basics of political elections. The Essex county council elections were coming up and we were looking at the candidates for our ward. One of the BNP candidates was a man called Paul Borg, who lived about a 5 minute drive away from me. Not much was said about him at the time apart from his ridiculous name. The local elections came and went and my ward produced both a Conservative councillor and a Labour councillor. Paul Borg was unsuccessful in his efforts.
A month went by and I started researching my candidates for parliament in time for the general election. I noticed that in my ward (South Basildon and East Thurrock, a very safe Conservative seat) a familiar name appeared on the ballot. Paul Borg wasn’t humbled by his failure to win a council seat, he was ready for a crack at the big game (which he went on to lose, finishing dead last and with 0.8% of the votes). After seeing his odd name appear twice in my local political sphere, I had to know more.
We live in a digital age, so of course I was going to find his Twitter account. Once I found his account, there was a few things that blew my mind.
Number 1: His handle on twitter was @patroglide. I have no idea what it means. Googling ‘patroglide’ will bring you nothing but results on Paul Borg. I assume ‘patro’ comes from patriotism. But ‘patroglide’ makes zero sense.
Number 2: His actual name on Twitter was @Paul Borg. I want to make it clear that this was his name on Twitter. The @ symbol did nothing at all here. I was beginning to understand that Paul Borg wasn’t necessarily the most capable man in politics.
Number 3: His tweets were INSANE. He was obviously racist. Astoundingly so. But there was more to his racism. He would get into ridiculous arguments with random people and say the most stupid insults. He began calling a particular Twitter user who would challenge his views ‘conk’ for no discernible reason. He would tweet the same tweet multiple times, each time including the handle of different BNP related Twitter account. He would tweet photos of him and his wife (also a BNP campaigner) helping homeless people on a regular basis (with a smiling homeless person to boot, also tweeted multiple times to different accounts). Photos would appear on his feed of him and his wife rearranging lettered pillows and mugs in shops to say BNP. He was so out of touch it was phenomenal.
Now I’d like to stress that I voted Labour in the general election and possess very liberal views. But seeing Paul Borg’s Twitter account woke something in me. I instantly followed and searched for more information.
Logically I found his candidate profile. He had stood in multiple parliamentary and local elections and the official BNP site described him as a ‘former builder’. On that page stood an image of the man. It was hard to say what was special about it, but he looked exactly how you would think he would. A large, bald man with squinted eyes all topped off with a gleaming BNP badge on his lapel. The man stopped being a racist BNP candidate in my eyes. He was now a caricature of the entire right wing movement. I was becoming obsessed.
It was at about this time that I started telling some friends about him. After all, keeping the glorious Borg knowledge to myself felt criminal. Through showing his Twitter profile around, it was clear that I wasn’t the only one amused by him. Slowly but surely, Borg became part of our lives. Every time he tweeted, it was a big event. When he’d said something particularly racially obtuse, we wouldn’t react with horror as we would with any other person. We’d say: “Oh Borg.” It was odd that this horrible, vile man now became somewhat of a lovable figure. There was no man behind the keyboard. He was practically a TV show character.
Once I told my family about Borg, my weird twisted obsession reached its peak. For my birthday in August my brother, a Graphic Design graduate, designed a T-shirt for me and gave it to me as a gift. A year ago, being gifted a T-shift with a local BNP politician on it would be confusing and I would receive it with no more than a thank you and a bewildered chuckle. But now, I was genuinely ecstatic to get it. I burst into excited laughter when given it in the local Chinese restaurant I was celebrating my birthday in. When my girlfriend asked me why, I showed it to her. She replied with: “Oh God no.”
I reacted to the wonderful T-shirt graced with an awful politician in the same way a teenage girl would a signed photo of her idol. It was at that moment that I realised that I was no longer being amused at the ridiculousness of the man, I was genuinely a fan. Like Winston in 1984, I loved Big Borg-ther. In the year where high-profile ‘joke’ candidates like Lord Buckethead and Mr Fish Finger dominated news and entertainment. I made my own joke candidate.
Of course Paul Borg is still a big part of my life. How couldn’t he be after all we shared? But I’ve become aware of the danger of becoming a fanatic of someone you hugely disagree with (apart from his positions on the homeless, I’m behind that one-hundred-percent). I didn’t want to become Steve Drain, the filmmaker who famously visited the Westboro Baptist Church to ridicule and belittle them and ended up being converted to their cause. I never want to meet the man, because I have no idea how I’d react. It’d be quite easy to interview him and confront him on his horrid views which are part of disgusting movement across the Western world. But then again they say never meet your idols.
After visiting the same bistro on campus a few times on the same day whilst wearing the Borg shirt, the barista asked me what the shirt was.
I replied: “An inside joke that got way out of hand.”