The controversial Jack The Ripper museum in east London yesterday found itself in a fresh Twitterstorm after its PR representative, Joshua Walker, published a number of tweets about the Victorian serial killer.
In response to a message from a fellow user, Mr. Walker put out a tweet (since deleted) that it was wrong to claim that the museum celebrated sexual violence, as “the Ripper victims were never sexually abused”. Given that a number of the victims had their uterus removed, this seemed to be a rather odd claim. Mr. Walker then found himself on the receiving end of a barrage of tweets from fellow users, who expressed anger, incredulity and disgust. One such person was the feminist activist Sian Norris, who tweeted that it was “wrong” to claim that there was no sexual element to the violence meted out to the five canonical victims of the Ripper.
Mr. Walker responded to that tweet directly, accusing Ms. Norris of “sensationalising” and claiming that the motives of the Ripper remain a mystery. He posited that the attacks could have been racially motivated, despite there being little evidence to support such a theory and in a separate tweet, said the motive could have been anti-feminist malice or “personal”. In a separate Twitter conversation around the same time, he also denied that the victims were “sex workers” on the basis that “they were forced into causal prostitution to be able to just live!”
Mr. Walker made the comments as part of a concerted attempt to draw attention to the fact that protesters he believed to have had a violent history, intend to assemble outside the museum this coming weekend. The group, Class War, were involved in the protest against the Cereal Killer cafe earlier this month. Mr. Walker accused Time Out magazine of encouraging the protest by publishing a blog post providing readers with the date and time it was supposed to go ahead.
The museum has received negative headlines since it became known that the exhibitions within would be focused on a series of murders that still resonate in the public consciousness almost 150 years after they took place. One of the reasons for the anger expressed by many was the feeling that the planning application had been deceitful. The museum’s owners had told Tower Hamlets council that they intended to build “the only dedicated resource in the East End to women’s history”. Since July,when the news was revealed, the museum’s owners have attempted to reassure local residents and activists that they do not intend to promote sexual violence or misrepresent the murders. As Mr. Walker found out yesterday, convincing people of their good intentions seems a long way off.