In the wake of her death, Margaret Thatcher was mentioned more than 1.5 million times Monday on Twitter, an outpouring of online sorrow, glee and furor over the profoundly polarizing British leader.
Although many Twitter users marked her passing with praise or a simple “RIP,” others who loathed the former prime minister joked online about throwing parties to celebrate her death. Many politicians who battled Thatcher during her life chose their words carefully in official statements after her death, but other critics were far less genteel in social media.
“May she burn in the hellfires,” leftist British lawmaker George Galloway wrote on Twitter.
In another show of glee, more than 200,000 people had “liked” a website called “Is Margaret Thatcher Dead Yet?” as of Monday evening in Britain. After news broke of Thatcher's death, the page urged people to take to Twitter with the hashtag #nowthatchersdead, accidentally alarming some Cher fans.
Tony Gallagher, editor of the Daily Telegraph, said on Twitter that the newspaper had closed comments on every article on Thatcher, and “even our address to email tributes is filled with abuse.” Celebrities and public figures who tweeted in support of Thatcher fended off an outpouring of angry replies.
Former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell heralded Thatcher on Twitter as “our 1st Lady of girl power” before later removing the tweet and writing, “I'm sorry if I offended u.”
Many Thatcher critics used Twitter to lobby against a “state funeral” for Thatcher. The late leader will be afforded a ceremonial funeral, which falls a step short of a state funeral, and the costs will be shared by the British government and Thatcher’s estate, according to the prime minister’s office. Online petitions against public spending on the funeral reaped tens of thousands of signatures Monday.
“Why should taxpayers pay for Thatcher's funeral?” one Twitter user who identified himself as being in Scotland wrote. “Should be privatised. It's what she'd have wanted.”
Thatcher supporters fired back in social media. British business magnate Alan Sugar, who praised Thatcher on Twitter for starting “the entrepreneurial revolution,” later tweeted, “Some of the despicable scum tweeting foul mouth comments … were still drinking milk from a teat in the 80's.”
Even critics of Thatcher pleaded for more civility as the tweets flew. “There is something deeply misogynistic about calling a dead old woman a witch,” freelance journalist Julie Bindel tweeted, adding that she hated Thatcher and her policies. “Sexist language is bad full stop, whoever it refers to.”
Others argued that their joy was justified. “Too many middle class sensibilities being offended by our glee at Thatcher's death,” another Twitter user identified as being in Devon wrote. “You didn't get it in the teeth like we did so button it.”
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