Private Eye: Have We Left-Wing Bloggers Touched a Nerve?

I’ve posted a number of articles over the past couple of years criticizing Private Eye for its anti-Corbyn bias amongst other issues. I’ve pointed out that, while I’ve now gone back to reading it, I stopped for a period a little while ago because I was just so sick of its constant attacks on Corbyn as a Trotskyite, member of the Hard Left, anti-Semite and so on. And it seems I wasn’t alone. In this fortnight’s issue for 5 – 18 October 2018, the satirical magazine has taken aim at left-wing bloggers boycotting Private Eye and the Guardian through their ‘Dave Spart’ character.

Spart is a caricature of the militant, barely articulate and ideologically confused far-left activist, and has been a staple of the magazine since at least the 1980s, if not long before. His rants appear as an ‘Alternative Voice’ column. And this issue’s column, on page 30, runs as follows

Long-term Private Eye contributor Dave Spart calls for a boycott of Private Eye

Yet again we see the sickening neoliberal hegemony of the fascist Private Eye as its faux anti-establishment public schoolboys completely persecute and smear the millions and billions of ordinary working and non-working British people who are revolutionizing the way this country … and … er … we call for this boycott of Private Eye … due to its manifestly alt-right anti-Corbynist policies … er … in fact even the word “boycott” with the implicit phallocentricity inherent in the world “boy” and its troubling narrative of penetrative male action is deeply problematic and should be replaced instead by the neutral term “personcott”; hence we will be peroncotting Private Eye and the Guardian and er … er … we have the total support of many hugely popular modern leftist websites and media outlets allied with us, including leftsquelch.org, skwawkybudgie.geocities, and redbloodoftraitorblairistscum.blogspont, and we will not rest until all of us are united in a positive and friendly campaign to destroy the neo-Blairist agendum of the disgraced Soho junta and its so-called (That’s enough Spart. Ed.)

The websites mentioned in Spart’s rant sound like spoof versions of real sites. Leftsquelch could be a version of Left Foot Forward, skwawkiebudgie is a spoof amalgam of the Skwawkox and the Canary, and redbloodoftraitorblairistscum could be just about every leftwing blog that sees Blair and his followers for what they actually are, Thatcherite entryists rather than true supporters of the Labour party and its traditional values.

The piece about boycotting the Guardian clearly comes from the hashtag campaign on Twitter calling for a boycott of the Groan between 7 and 9 pm on the 28th September 2018, a few days ago. This went to no.1 on Twitter after the hacks at the paper went berserk at the thought that the Canary’s editor in chief, Kerry-Anne Mendoza, was going to give the speech at a memorial lecture for a pioneering Black woman journo. Obviously that campaign and its success has also touched a deep nerve with the Eye and its contributors, if not also with the hacks of that ailing rag.

But there’s also much that the Eye’s caricature left out. Private Eye hasn’t just attacked Corbyn and his followers as Trotskyites. It also appears to support the anti-Semite smears against them, as I also blogged about. Last issue, the Eye published a piece attempting to rebut Dorothy Macedo’s claim in her letter to the Eye the previous week, that the anti-Semitism smears were baseless libels. The Eye instead claimed that Momentum believed that there was more anti-Semitism in the party than they had believed. This is the view of Jon Lansman, Momentum’s chief, but it’s not the view of many of its members, of which Macedo herself is one, nor of Jewish Labour party and socialist organizations like Jewish Voice for Labour, Jewdas, and the Jewish Socialist Group. But they’re the wrong kind of Jews, so the establishment and the press, including Private Eye, ignore them or, like the Jewish Chronicle, simply smears them in turn as anti-Semites.

It’s interesting to note that Spart talks about the Eye and the Groan smearing working and non-working people, but doesn’t mention the smears themselves. Which are that Corbyn and his supporters are all Trots and anti-Semites. Clearly the Eye finds it difficult to back up the smear that they’re all Trotskyites with any supporting evidence. The Spart character frequently contradicts himself, and if the Eye felt it was able to provide any evidence to rebut the assertion that it was all a smear, it would have done so, putting it in Spart’s mouth as part of the denial. They might have made him say something along the lines of

Yet again we see the sickening neoliberal hegemony of the fascist Private Eye as its faux anti-establishment public schoolboys completely persecute and smear as Trotskyites the millions and billions of ordinary working and non-working British people who are revolutionizing the way this country through the principles of Leon Trotsky … er … er…. Or something like that. (My additions highlighted in black.)

Nor did they mention the other, rather more pernicious libel directed at Corbyn and his supporters: that they’re all anti-Semites. That libel is clearly so deeply engrained in the British press, that it can’t even be publicly claimed to be so, even in jest.

Now I doubt that Hislop and co. at the Eye are even aware that this blog even exists, much less care about what it says. But from reading the article, it’s clear that other, much larger and popular blogs are saying the same things I am, that they have got the Eye worried. Hence the spoof. And however much it’s disguised as satire, the Eye and the Groaniad are clearly worried by the power of the Net and new media, and particularly by the backlash against the Groan’s sour attitude towards Kerry-Anne Mendoza. Mendoza’s an outsider, coming from on-line, not print journalism. The Canary is popular and widely read. She and it are a challenge to established, and establishment print journalism and its groupthink. And she and the rest of the New Media and their readers, followers and commenters showed how powerful they were through the wave of immense support for the hashtag campaign against the Guardian.

Private Eye is partly based on the magazine revealing news and information that it is not revealed elsewhere in the press, and by providing the ‘news behind the news’ about stories in the press, and politics, business, the unions and so on. But thanks to the internet, there are other, online news sites and organisations doing the same thing, and reading them also reveals the Eye’s own bias.

And so despite the satirical jollity, the Eye and the Guardian are worried. And the Spart piece today shows it.

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3 Responses to “Private Eye: Have We Left-Wing Bloggers Touched a Nerve?”

  1. Florence Says:

    Its really difficult with Private Eye, because there is that great tradition of investigative journalism of Paul Foot, being undermined by the public-school boy Ian Hislop. I continued to buy it, despite being really (really) angry about the Corbyn bashing, because I could turn to the back pages and the crossword without touching the rest of it. I still feel it’s a poor show that I didn’t stop buying it, but it was touch and go. I hope this is resolved, and soon.

    • beastrabban Says:

      Absolutely, Florence. The Eye does publish some really great articles, and the tradition of great investigative journalism that came in with Paul Foot does continue. But there is also the Corbyn-bashing, which also got me annoyed. I don’t recall the magazine being quite so rabid against the Labour party before. It seemed to treat them with the same contempt that it treated all the parties. But now it’s got much worse.

  2. Mark Catlin Says:

    Reblogged this on Declaration Of Opinion.

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