Over the past two days, I’ve experienced one of the most unusual exchanges I’ve ever encountered on social media. Whilst engaging with another user, an individual named Danica Priest started to respond to my tweets.
Ms. Priest is a prominent anti-housing activist in the southwest of England. She appears to have successfully lobbied against housing and development projects in the Bristol area.
Ms. Priest is not elected but is a vocal ‘environmental campaigner’, despite not appearing to be a serious person…
Over the past few days, I have been subject to considerable abuse from Ms. Priest and her friends and followers for challenging her views on housing.
Ms. Priest frequently uses the unfortunate suicide of a friend in 2018 to lobby against Bristol City Council. She has even made public speeches to Bristol City council, saying as much.
Her argument is that since she found solace in nature in the wake of her friend’s death, the land should not be developed.
I challenged her on this as, frankly, I find the use of one person’s suicide as an appeal to emotion to block new housing (in a country with a chronic housing shortage and 250–300,000 homeless people) crass and self-serving.
It’s plain old NIMBYism under a different, more sinister guise.
Not being able to tell the difference between ‘mockery’ and ‘being challenged’, Ms. Priest repeatedly accused me of mocking her friend’s death. As a response, Ms. Priest has spent the past two days on social media casting aspersions on my mental health and encouraging her friends and followers to do likewise.
They have called me mentally ill:
Implied that I was a fake person or bot:
Something that Ms. Priest objects to when the same thing is done to her:
Called me a bully:
Made nasty comments about my writing (I’m a journalist and author):
Implied that I was a prostitute:
Another of her followers insinuated that I was a man despite having a very female presenting profile picture and referred to me as an ‘it’:
One of her followers even screenshotted the cover of my up-and-coming novella, ‘Cancelled’, as evidence I was ‘deranged’. The cover features a stock image of a woman crying:
Ms. Priest positions herself as a mental health advocate and is happy to emphasise the positive effects of nature on mental wellbeing when petitioning the council to cease development plans. It is surprising then that her mental health advocacy went out the window when responding to me.
Disparaging the mental health of others is a common tactic she uses against activists who disagree with her:
Ms. Priest is not responsible for what other people say, but she certainly condoned their comments by ‘liking’ their remarks. At no point during our exchange was I uncivil with Ms. Priest. At no point did I imply that she was mentally ill or make personal remarks about her speech or appearance.
Despite positioning herself as such, on more than one occasion, she has publicly attacked people for suggesting that building more housing would ease the strain on mental health.
In the bottom photo, she is attacking a property developer for posting a link to an article written by suicide prevention activist Loo Fletcher.
There are strong connections between secure, pleasant, and affordable housing and mental well-being. I seriously have to wonder if Ms. Priest is in favour of any housing at all.
Other than the blatant hypocrisy on display here, I have never seen a public person react so poorly to being challenged on their views. I have a relatively thick skin when it comes to random strangers on the internet calling me names. Ms. Priest, however, is not a random stranger, she is someone who seeks to influence policy. She is effectively a local and community politician.
It is therefore significant that she reacts so badly to being challenged on her views by disparaging any journalist who disagrees with her or calls her out on her poor arguments as mentally ill and using the unfortunate death of a friend as a stick with which to beat anyone proposing housing development.
Weaponising suicide and other appeals to emotion to prevent housing from being built seem so blatantly immoral to me, and I said as much. I would say so again.
NIMBYism relies heavily on appeals to emotion. That compassion seems more readily extended to trees and wildlife than to homeless people or the people NIMBYs disagree with.
Despite her attempts to control the narrative, all the ad hominems in this exchange came from Ms. Priest and her followers. It is a wonder why this person is allowed to derail housing and infrastructure projects and that our public discourse functions at such a low standard.
Update: As of November 2023, Ms. Priest is standing as Green Party candidate. It’s somewhat extraordinary that a person who functions litle better than an online troll is seriously seeking to be elected, but that’s the current state of British politics for you.
Thank you for reading — I hope you found my thoughts interesting. You can find links to my other work here: https://linktr.ee/sayde.scarlett