Corbyn’s Summer Shake-Up (Part 3)

The Inevitable Reactionary Response from…

2) …the Media Establishment

The attacks on Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign did not only come from the political establishment. In a land of millionaire media barons, the leadership frontrunner was always going to come under increasing pressure and scrutiny from the press. Just like the political assault, however, the media would provide desperate arguments with little foundation in reality. Below, I will take a look at how this war almost became a parody of itself.

A) Desperation and Defamation

The Telegraph, with its dwindling sales and ageing readership, was perhaps the most vocal opponent of Corbyn (though The Daily Mail followed closely behind). The paper argued on August 8, for example, that “Labour’s biggest individual donors” would “stop giving money” to the party if Corbyn became leader. Repeating over and over again the phrase “hard-left” in its coverage (in spite of Corbyn’s moderate policies), it reported the words of millionaires dutifully, who said: “the nation says no to left-wing Labour”; Corbyn’s policies are “economically illiterate”; and the candidate did not have “a realistic platform”.

The paper’s anti-Corbyn campaign, however, would soon get a lot worse. On August 11, for example, it referred to Corbyn supporters as “hordes”, an “alien brood”, and “minions”, while his parliamentary allies were called “horrible monsters”. It was supposedly “only a matter of time” before the Labour Party would be “captured, cocooned and condemned to a fate worse than death”. Ten days later, it published 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”. A day later, The Telegraph’s Janet Daley argued that “Corbyn’s young fans” were “fools” who didn’t “know how lucky they are”, stressing they were simply involved in an “adolescent rebellion” and a “hard-Left takeover” of the Labour Party. [Daley would later call him a “loony Left-winger” proposing the “usual fantasy politics of the extreme Left”.] 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.

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”. Then, former Conservative MP Louise Mensch started an “#AntisemitesForCorbyn hashtag” on Twitter after having used “her own search history” in an attempt to prove there had been anti-Semitic searches on the social media website related to Liz Kendall.

On August 22, The Telegraph said “Jeremy Corbyn must be stopped” because “his economics is absurd and his foreign policy appalling”. For the paper’s editors, Corbyn was an “economic dinosaur” who “swims in the swamp of Middle East radicalism” and “would put Britain well outside the mainstream of economic thinking” (in spite of the backing he had received from prominent economists). The Daily Express, meanwhile, argued that Corbyn’s proposed apology for the Invasion of Iraq was a “betrayal of our Armed Forces” from an “irresponsible and morally confused man”.

Even George Osborne would soon step in, to argue that Corbyn was a “national security threat” because he opposed Trident. While we could never have expected Osborne and his privileged chums to be on Corbyn’s side, it was nonetheless ridiculous to claim that there was “an unholy alliance of Labour’s leftwing insurgents and the Scottish nationalists” as if the concept of holiness somehow required the UK to possess unnecessary weapons of mass destruction.[1]

B) The Israel Lobby

If the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) had been worried about Labour’s stance on the Palestinian Question under Ed Miliband, they were always going to be scared of a Corbyn leadership. Among all of the anti-Corbyn rants in the media, however, none were able to provide convincing arguments to explain why they thought Corbyn was anti-Semitic. On August 13, for example, The Jewish Chronicle (JC) demanded that Corbyn respond to claims he had “associated with Holocaust deniers and “outright anti-Semites”” in the past. The campaign of the leadership frontrunner, though, insisted that “opposition to anti-Semitism was his “strongly held view””.

The Guardian’s James Bloodworth, meanwhile, argued that the “Labour party – and the left more generally – no longer takes antisemitism seriously”. On August 19, The Telegraph spoke about Dyab Abou Jahjah, with whom Corbyn had very briefly shared a platform in 2009 and of whom he had “no recollection”. The paper also spoke about Raed Salah, “a legitimate Palestinian leader” who Corbyn had defended against the UK’s attempts to deport him (which had failed “on all grounds”), before mentioning Rev Stephen Sizer, whose right to criticise the actions of the Israeli State Corbyn had also defended.

At the same time, the Electronic Intifada’s Asa Winstanley asserted that the “only real link” between “obscure figure” and holocaust-denier Paul Eisen and Corbyn was that the former had lived in Islington, and had met the latter in his capacity as MP. All of the attacks on Corbyn, Winstanley stressed, were typical of the “Israel lobby”, which “habitually smears all critics as “anti-Semites””. Nonetheless, even these groups avoided directly calling Corbyn an anti-Semite, he argued, because they knew such an allegation would amount to slander.[2]

C) Even the ‘Liberal’ Press Jump in to Criticise Corbyn

On July 22, The Guardian’s Anne Perkins condescendingly asked Corbyn supporters to “do a little research”, while Suzanne Moore support for Corbyn as a “self-soothing comfort blanket” on August 5. Three weeks later, Vice’s Gavin Haynes would call Corbyn “a man slightly to the left of Fidel Castro” who was committed to “impractical socialist idealism”. For Haynes, his support was coming from “a secret army of reborn hard left/New Left types” who did not “even like the Labour Party”. Finally, in a lazy assertion which flirted with defamation, he called the leadership frontrunner “anti-American”.

Tom Baldwin (a former senior adviser to Ed Miliband), meanwhile, argued at the Guardian that Corbyn had “inspired those who [fancied] another five years of protest”, whilst at the same time insisting that the new electoral system in the Labour Party was actually much less favourable to ‘entryism’ than the previous one.

On August 21, The Guardian published a piece about Corbyn’s promised apology over the Iraq War under the incredibly misleading headline “Iraqis dismiss Jeremy Corbyn’s planned apology for 2003 invasion”. In reality, the comments in the article were sympathetic to Corbyn’s arguments that Britain should never have entered the conflict in the first place and that it was partially responsible for the birth of ISIS.

Politics.co.uk’s Ben Myring, meanwhile, had spoken about Corbyn’s foreign policy plans as “extraordinarily dangerous… isolationism”, arguing that non-intervention would be “the greatest betrayal of all” to progressive forces in the Middle East. Myring, however, had failed to consider that military intervention in the region was not the only option, and that the UK’s failure to challenge Turkish hostility to the anti-ISIS forces in Rojava and elsewhere was at the very least partly to blame for ISIS’s advances in Syria.

For an “expert panel” at Prospect, Corbynomics was supposedly “dangerously inexpert” (in spite of having the support of Nobel Prize-winning economists). Other policies, meanwhile, were “electorally toxic” or “noble, but naïve”. In the opinion of Labour Uncut Deputy Editor Jonathan Todd, “individually popular policies” could “sum to an unpopular package”.[3]

Conclusion

In short, the mainstream media was attempting to ridicule Corbyn and his policies but was, more often than not, failing spectacularly. Making themselves look less and less credible and objective, outlets were showing their lack of independence and integrity more than ever before. In a country where the corporate media still has significant sway over public opinion, however, it was incredibly necessary for progressive commentators to outline where the media was scaremongering and misleading the public. In “Corbyn’s Summer Shake-Up (Part 4)”, I will show how British activists came out in force to defend the reputation and policies of their candidate.

[1] For more detail and full references, see: https://ososabiosbritain.wordpress.com/2015/09/03/desperation-defamation-the-corporate-medias-assault-on-corbyn/

[2] For more detail and full references, see: https://ososabiosbritain.wordpress.com/2015/09/03/the-israel-lobbys-attacks-on-corbyn/

[3] For more detail and full references, see: https://ososabiosbritain.wordpress.com/2015/09/03/even-the-liberal-media-attacks-corbyn/, https://ososabiosbritain.wordpress.com/2015/09/03/the-media-attacks-corbyns-opposition-to-conflict-escalation/ and https://ososabiosbritain.wordpress.com/2015/09/03/prospects-expert-opinions-on-corbyn/

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