The truly dreadful right-wing journalist Toby Young, about whom I’ve written before (https://bernardjporter.com/2018/01/03/toby-young-journalist/), has just withdrawn a tweet in which he accused the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond of ‘anti-semitism’, after Hammond threatened to sue him for libel. (See https://www.lbc.co.uk/news/toby-young-apologises-defamatory-philip-hammond/.) Young’s reason for his ‘anti-semitic’ charge was a recent article by Hammond, also reported on this blog (https://bernardjporter.com/2019/09/29/the-horses-mouth/), claiming that short-termist financial speculators were among those behind the ‘No Deal Brexit’ movement. Young took that as a ‘coded’ anti-semitic reference. Of course it isn’t, necessarily, and is unlikely to have been so in Hammond’s case; but this is one of the difficulties that socialists also have to put up with when they criticize any aspect of capitalism. Anti-capitalism is claimed to be the same as, or merely a cover for, anti-semitism. That of course widens the field enormously. – But doesn’t it also indicate an anti-semitic view on the part of the anti-anti-semites themselves? Isn’t it revealing, that Young and his ilk should also immediately identify rogue capitalists with Jews?
Two books and an important article have recently been published analyzing the powerful propaganda onslaught on Labour during the past couple of years on the grounds of its supposed ‘anti-semitism’. Here they are:
I’ve just started reading the first of these. It’s very academic and objective, and so far – the first couple of chapters – focuses on the part played in this perverse propaganda by the press. (The authors are media researchers.) One initial finding that impressed me is that most people believe that around 40% of Labour members have come under scrutiny for ‘anti-semitism’, whereas the real figure is 0.1%. That’s because of the headlines they see in the newspapers they pass when shopping at Aldi or Tescos or wherever. (Very few read the papers themselves.) It’s by this means that the mud has stuck.
I’m hoping that as I read on I’ll learn more about where this mud came from initially. (I feel I can’t mention the Israeli Government for fear of being labelled an anti-semitic ‘conspiracy theorist’ myself.) As well as this, Bad News for Labour also criticizes the Labour leadership for its response – it has been a public relations fiasco – and tells how it should have been done.
But there are also deeper questions raised by these works. One obvious one – not a new one – is what it says about our democracy, if the information on which we base our political decisions can be manipulated and distorted in these ways. Be of no doubt: Dominic Cummings is very aware.
I’ve commented on this ‘Labour Anti-Semitism’ business many times before, starting with https://bernardjporter.com/2016/04/28/anti-semitism-and-labour/, and going on for a few more posts. It would be nice not to have to do so again. I’m sick of it; and in particular afraid of what it might do to my own – hitherto broadly favourable and sympathetic – view of ‘the Jews’. Luckily I have Haraatz on line, and my own critical faculties, to remind me that they’re not all like Margaret Hodge.
PS. Waterstone’s bookstore in Brighton had planned a launch for Bad News for Labour on September 23rd, with all the main authors involved; but then was apparently persuaded to cancel it after ‘a barrage of abusive emails, phone calls and tweets’. (See https://www.jewishvoiceforlabour.org.uk/statement/waterstones-censors-academics-launching-book-on-labour-and-antisemitism/.) Who or where these came from we don’t yet know, but it would not be too paranoid to suspect an ‘Israel Lobby’ at work here. In any case it’s a worrying sign.