#cyberbullying | #cyberbully | Harry, Meghan and the disturbing origins of ‘Megxit’

As soon as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle made their stunning announcement that they wanted to stop being senior members of the royal family, the term “Megxit” began popping up in headlines and on social media.

The term, as Vanity Fair explained, quickly become widely used in both tabloids and mainstream news articles as “a clever catch-all” to describe the drama surrounding Harry and Meghan’s decision to strike out, become financially independent and start living outside the U.K.

Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex smile as they leave Canada House, in London on Jan. 8. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/Pool Photo via AP, file) Daniel Leal-Olivas via Associated Press

Clearly, “Megxit” is a clever play on the term Brexit, which refers to Britain’s tumultuous withdrawal from the European Union. With an article headlined, “‘Megxit’ Is the New Brexit in a Britain Split by Age and Politics,” the New York Times argued that the Harry-and-Meghan saga, similar to Brexit, has become “a convenient proxy, allowing people to argue about race, class, gender and British identity.”

The New York Times and Los Angeles Magazine credited editors at the U.K. tabloid The Sun for coming up with “Megxit.” The Sun used the term in an all-caps headline the morning after Harry and Meghan’s big announcement, Vanity Fair argues. The New York Post, on the other side of the Atlantic, immediately followed suit.

But Vanity Fair argues that it’s “not entirely true” that “Megxit” is only a few weeks old.

In fact, Vanity Fair said the term goes back to around the time of Harry and Meghan’s May 2018 wedding and, disturbingly, is rooted in a social media campaign of hate against the biracial, U.S.-born Duchess of Sussex. Some of the Megxit-related cyberbullying has been laced with racist and sexist imagery and language, raising serious questions about whether such a loaded term should continue to be popularly used to describe this particular international drama.

Over the past two years, people have used the hashtag “#Megxit” on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr accounts to urge Meghan to exit the royal family and Britain, according to Vanity Fair and a 2018 report by the U.K. advocacy group Hope Not Hate. These posts also portray Meghan as a scheming social climber who has used her husband and her rich, famous and powerful in-laws to advance her ambition for global celebrity.

The hostility, including the #Megxit-related trafficking in racist or sexist abuse, began growing in late 2018, after Harry and Meghan announced that she was pregnant with their son Archie, Hope Not Hate reported.

Hope Not Hate analyzed more than 5,000 tweets that were posted during January and February 2018. The tweets often contained #Megxit, #Charlatanduchess, and other politically related hashtags like #Brexit and #MAGA, Hope Not Hate said. Sometimes, the tweets shared links to negative stories about Meghan or links to far-right websites and social media pundits. Some posts also criticized her for touching her baby bump too much or even accused her of faking her pregnancy.

After the online vitriol began flooding royal family accounts in late 2018 and early 2019, staff at Clarence House and Kensington Palace made the unprecedented move to block or delete any user who posted comments that were deemed obscene, threatening and hateful or that promote discrimination, CNN reported. CNN added that some of the abuse was directed at Kate Middleton, though Meghan was the main target.

The growing online harassment also occurred around the same time it was learned that British neo-Nazis had posted threatening private messages that called Harry a “race traitor” and suggested he should be shot. The BBC reported in December 2018 that the neo-Nazis also engaged in discussions in an online gaming server that glorified racism and cruelty against women.

Still, the “#Megxit” hashtag continued to thrive, with the social data analytics firm Brandwatch finding that nearly 3.5 million people had seen #Megxit in their Twitter timeline since the start of 2019, Vanity Fair reported.

In April 2019, Sky TV reported that “#Megxit,” “#charlatanduchess” and “#maggotmarkle” continued to be the “go-to hashtags” for people posting “extreme and malicious” posts about Meghan.

Some of these users also tried to capitalize on the anti-Meghan trend, SkyTV said. Knowing that “Meghan or “DuchessofSussex” are highly searchable terms, these people apparently sought to drive traffic to their social media accounts, where they could sell merchandize or push a political agenda.

Some U.K. pundits, most notably TV host and ex-tabloid editor Piers Morgan, continue to push back at the idea that the British media — which he would see as separate from the “#Megxit” social media trolls — are to blame for Harry and Meghan’s decision to make a break from their royal lives.

Morgan published an angry, snarky column in the Daily Mail Monday. He was responding to Harry’s speech at a private charity dinner Sunday night, in which the prince said that the media “is a powerful force,” which gave him and his wife “no other option” but to step back.

“Once Meghan and I were married, we were excited,” Harry said. “We were hopeful and we were here to serve. For those reasons it brings me great sadness that it has come to this. … I know I haven’t always gotten it right but as far as this goes there really was no other option.”

But Morgan decried Harry’s narrative that “the mean, beastly, racist media” drove him and Meghan to make such a difficult decision.

Morgan said the U.K. media “fell over ourselves for 18 months to say how fantastic it was to have a biracial woman enter the royal family.” Morgan argued that Harry and Meghan have always wanted to live like A-list celebrities and simply didn’t like being held accountable for their private jet use or for spending $3 million in taxpayer money to renovate a royal U.K. mansion they may now hardly use.

“It could just be that Meghan and Harry are a pair of spoiled, entitled, hypocritical brats who decided to hold the queen and monarchy to ransom so they could have their royal cake and eat it, and have now had their bluff called and been sent packing,” Morgan added.

Morgan’s views are widely shared by Sussex critics on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram — a large number of whom don’t necessarily appear to traffic in sexist or racist tropes. These critics also may not know about the existence of the “#Megxit” hashtag.




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