Desperation & Defamation: The Corporate Media’s Assault on Corbyn

On August 8, the Telegraph sought to scare Labour voters by proclaiming that “Labour’s biggest individual donors” would “stop giving money” to the party if Corbyn were to become leader. Referring to him as a “hard-Left candidate” (a term routinely used by the paper during the campaign), Ben Riley-Smith spoke of how multi-millionaire Assem Allam (owner of Hull City) thought a shift leftwards was somehow ignoring the electorate’s supposed rejection of left-wing policies (in spite of the massive surge for the SNP and the Greens which resulted from their clear anti-austerity stance). “The nation says no to left-wing Labour”, he said, suggesting that Ed Miliband had failed to win votes because he was too far to the left rather than too far to the right. Riley-Smith then explained how “insurance mogul” Richard Brindle had called Corbyn’s policies “economically illiterate”, saying it was “not a realistic platform”. Another donor, stressed Riley, thought the candidate would cause a rift within Labour and thus “split the Left vote”.

Labour’s “top individual donor” John Mills (founder of home shopping company JML), meanwhile, “openly criticised” Corbyn’s moderately “Left-wing economic platform”. For Labour’s Baroness Prosser, it was difficult to imagine how “any person – businessman or otherwise” would be “prepared to donate to an organisation if they see it as not being properly led” (as if being right-wing was synonymous to ‘properly led’).[1]

The Telegraph’s anti-Corbyn campaign, however, was just getting started. One article on August 11, for example, referred to Corbyn supporters as “hordes”, an “alien brood”, and “minions”, while his parliamentary allies were called “horrible monsters”. The “simple choice”, the paper said, was “Jeremy Corbyn, or Someone Else”. With “none of the other candidates” stepping forward, though, it was “only a matter of time” before the Labour Party would be “captured, cocooned and condemned to a fate worse than death”. Calling for left-wingers to be “blown to pieces” and “blasted out of the airlock”, the Telegraph was clearly advocating that the Left be purged from party once and for all.[2]

Foreign Policy’s Alex Massie, meanwhile, sought to libel Jeremy Corbyn by suggesting that a “road to hell” in the Labour Party was being led by a “Hamas lover”. The leadership frontrunner’s popular campaign, labelled as a “Corbynite insurrection”, was then said to have Labour’s “moderate wing” (i.e. its right-wing) very worried.[3]

On August 16, The Telegraph tried to shock readers with information that was not even slightly scandalous, revealing that Corbyn’s House of Commons’ register of members’ interests showed his campaign had received “nearly £100,000 between June 23 and July 31 from just four unions” (nowhere near, of course, the money that the right-wing candidates got from rich individuals). Unite, for example, had “lent the Corbyn campaign £50,000, which [had] to be repaid on September 12”. In short, the paper tried to argue that Corbyn had lied when he asserted he had “no big private donors”, but failed to recognise that unions are collective organisations and are not for-profit corporations.[4]

August 21, meanwhile, saw The Telegraph publish an article about “Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to turn Britain into Zimbabwe”, in which the leadership frontrunner’s economic ideas were described as “plainly bonkers”, “dangerous”, and “crackpot policies”. Talking about what would possibly happen if Corbyn’s ‘People’s QE’ were “implemented unchecked” (which it almost certainly would not be!), Jeremy Warner argued that there would be “a collapse in the currency and eventually the kind of hyper-inflation that engulfed Weimar Germany”. And, finally, in an incredibly arrogant manner, Warner asserted that the numerous economists supportive of Corbyn’s plans “cannot know much economic history”.[5] Fortunately, the Think Left blog soon responded to this attack with a calm, reasoned explanation of why the article was absolute “tosh”.[6]

A day later, the right-wing paper published a piece by Janet Daley which had to be one of the most patronising articles ever written. Saying “Corbyn’s young fans” were “fools” who didn’t “know how lucky they are” (supposedly compared to developing countries rather than to previous years in the UK), she stressed they were simply involved in an “adolescent rebellion” and a “hard-Left takeover” of the Labour Party (both ridiculous assertions). In her opinion, democracy would not “stand a chance” if those like her did not “resist their orchestrated plans” to create a better, fairer, and more democratic future.[7] At the same time, The Daily Mail sunk to new depths, publishing an apocalyptic imagination of a Corbyn government titled “the 1,000 days that destroyed Britain” – which speaks of economic and social chaos under Prime Minister Corbyn but whose words are not even worth repeating here.[8] The Telegraph, meanwhile, tried to criticise Corbyn for having had a “privileged upbringing” in a “manor house in rural Shropshire that was once a hotel”.[9]

Also on August 22, The International Business Times reported on how former Conservative MP Louise Mensch had tried to smear Corbyn supporters and even started an “#AntisemitesForCorbyn hashtag” on Twitter.[10] At first, Mensch had suggested that there had been anti-Semitic searches on the social media website related to Liz Kendall, but was later forced to admit “it was her own search history” which had been on display.[11] At the same time, The Telegraph published an editorial saying that “Jeremy Corbyn must be stopped” because “his economics is absurd and his foreign policy appalling”. For the editors, a move towards Corbyn was somehow a shift “away from economic reality and from the struggle to defend democracy” which represented “a tragedy for Labour and a disastrous embarrassment for everyone else”. They then claimed (using their language very carefully as to avoid direct defamation) that Corbyn “swims in the swamp of Middle East radicalism” (which could simply mean that he tries to make sense of the region’s conflicts, but in fact seeks to suggest that he himself is an extremist). Finally, they called him a “nostalgia addict” and an “economic dinosaur” who “would put Britain well outside the mainstream of economic thinking” (which is clearly not true, as his support from economists would suggest).[12] After calling Corbyn’s politics “student union socialism”[13] just four days before, the paper was now desperately trying to do all that it could to damage Corbyn’s reputation (among its ageing[14] and dwindling[15] readership, anyway).

The Daily Express (which sought to undermine the Labour Party’s popularity in 1945 “with the headline The National Socialists”) was originally known for its “long-held Tory bias”[16] (before becoming the main media and financial supporter of UKIP under the ownership of “anti-asylum porn baron Richard Desmond”[17]), and it was no surprise that the paper jumped on the bandwagon of attacking the Corbyn campaign. On August 23, for example, it claimed that Corbyn’s promise to apologise for the Iraq War was an “unsubstantiated, rabblerousing declaration” which represented a “betrayal of our Armed Forces” from an “irresponsible and morally confused man”.[18] Apparently, readers were supposed to see Desmond (the dollar-billionaire[19] owner of the Daily Express and Daily Star who had previously “made secret tax deals with authorities in Luxembourg to avoid paying corporation tax in Britain”[20]) as the personification of morality.

On August 25, The Telegraph’s patroniser-in-chief Janet Daley insisted that Corbyn’s “loony Left-winger” views had already been “put into practice in the Seventies”, and represented the “usual fantasy politics of the extreme Left”. Clearly still full of anger after four decades, she spoke about how she lived in the London borough of Haringey where Corbyn had made his “first notable appearance on the public stage”. At this time, she argued, “both the Labour council and the Hornsey Labour Party had been infiltrated by activists from the Trotskyist organisations”. First of all, the Trotskyite slur, which is bandied about so excessively by the British right wing that it loses all meaning, simply fails to deal with the fact that many policies advocated by followers of Trotsky are actually shared by many non-Trotskyite campaigners on the Left. Secondly, Daley’s article seems to be very much based on the assumption that policies and people cannot and do not change (in spite of the fact that she herself, as an embittered right-winger, had her “own far-Left days in the Sixties”).[21] In other words, her article was an attempt to translate a 1980s context to the present within a vacuum of political context – something which makes her hateful words little more than empty scaremongering based on her own prejudiced outlook.

On August 27, Vice’s Joana Ramiro spoke about how the British establishment had been “losing its shit about Jeremy Corbyn”. The leadership race, she said, had begun with condescension, with the Labour Party ‘letting’ Corbyn participate in mid-June. Then, with Corbyn’s interview on Channel 4 a month later, “cracks [began] to show”, with the candidate taking on a tough question with “a longer answer than the presenter [could] be bothered to listen to”. With the ‘Tories for Corbyn’ campaign seeking to label the candidate as ridiculous and destructive for the Labour Party, meanwhile, genuine Corbyn supporters kicked into gear with a vengeance to defend the sensible, moderate policies of their man. With Tony Blair’s ‘heart transplant’ intervention on July 22, the Corbyn campaign would gain even more strength. Then, a day later, Labour MP John Mann accused Corbyn of ““non-action” over child abuse allegations in Islington in the 1980s and 90s”, and the Corbyn campaign hit back by insisting the candidate had “called for an independent inquiry into the allegations” in 1986. In early August, Ramiro added, the media saw: Polly Toynbee have “a nightmare”; The Times publish “a front page article listing some “hard-left infiltrators””’; Zionist lobbyists accuse Corbyn ridiculously of anti-Semitism; and The Mail on Sunday “ask Corbyn’s first wife… what he was like as a lover” while Gordon Brown followed Blair’s second intervention. Then, in the second half of August, Peter Mandelson’s “attempt to stop the contest” came to light just as: “thousands of actual Labour members” took to social media networks “to complain that they [had] found themselves banned for no apparent reason”; Louise Mensch and the Daily Mail failed to make their fictional stories convincing as reality; and the press jumped on Corbyn for his suggestions about consulting with women about the idea of female carriages on trains (even though “nobody [had] kicked up [as] much of a fuss when a Conservative transport minister suggested it [the previous] year”).[22]

Four days later, The Guardian reported on how George Osborne had called Corbyn a “national security threat” because he risked “undermining the future of the UK’s nuclear deterrent”. For him, “an unholy alliance of Labour’s leftwing insurgents and the Scottish nationalists” were “the new unilateralists of British politics”, and it “would be disastrous for Britain to throw away the ultimate insurance policy that keeps us free and safe”.[23] Submerged in his bombastic language, he clearly had no interest in recognising that Trident was essentially an unusable weapon that would cause immense suffering and destruction if it were ever used. Far from being an ‘unholy alliance’, it would be far better to refer to those campaigning against the weapon of mass destruction as a ‘holy alliance’ searching for peace and justice in Britain and the wider world. But who realistically expected Osborne and his privileged chums to be on Corbyn’s side in this debate?

























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