Posts Tagged ‘Blairites’

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

October 3, 2018

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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Jeremy Corbyn: The Tories Created A Hostile Environment for the Disabled

September 27, 2018

This is a very short video, of just over a minute, from Guardian News on YouTube. It’s a section from Corbyn’s speech at the Labour party conference in which he states plainly that the Tories have created a hostile environment for disabled people, and describes the anxiety and misery they are put through by the assessment tests, citing letters he has been sent. He said

For too many people, social security is become a system of institutionalized bullying and degradation. The Tories have created a hostile environment for disabled people. Hundreds of people from all over the country write to me about it every week. People like Richard, who says this,

‘My wife was diagnosed with progressive multiple sclerosis twenty years ago. A few months ago we were told she needed to reapply for Personal Independence Payments. She had an assessment by somebody who was not medically trained. We’ve now been told that all her medical benefit would be stopped, and yes, I have tried to be her rock, but the stress and suffering I can see my wife going through, is so very cruel and I’ve had to be put myself on antidepressants.’

These are human consequences of a Tory government that puts tax cuts for the wealthy ahead of care for the disabled people of our society.

He ends his speech to massive applause.

He’s absolutely right, but it’s not just the Tories, who are to blame. The assessment system was brought in by New Labour on the advice of the private health insurance company, Unum. It was based on a series of papers by one of their pet scientists about the role of the mind in illness, which has now been discredited as utter bunkum. It was also based on other, discredited studies that assumed that most people on sickness or disability benefits were malingerers. At the same Blair, like the Tories, loudly proclaimed that working was good for the long-term ill and disabled, even when it was obviously making their conditions worse. Since then we’ve had scandal after scandal of the terminally ill and those, who are clearly too disabled to work, being found ‘fit for work’ and having their benefits stopped.

It’s now time to end this vicious, unscientific, degrading and cruel system. The Tories must be thrown out of power, and the Blairites from the Labour party. After all, there are still Blairite MPs who believe that conditions should be made harder for the unemployed so that Labour can win over Tory voters.

Losing Patience with the Anti-Corbyn Bias in Private Eye

August 7, 2016

I’ve finally lost patience with the persistent bias against Jeremy Corbyn in Private Eye. I read the magazine regularly, and much of it I agree with and admire. It has over the years published some superb pieces attacking privatisation, the dismantling of the welfare state, the privatisation of the NHS, and the persecution of the severely disabled by Atos and its successor Maximus. It has also shown itself quite willing to challenge British foreign policy. For example, it has published numerous pieces rebutting official claims that the Libyans were responsible for the Lockerbie bombing, and instead pointed the finger at Syria, who were not accused as George Bush senior needed their help during the first Gulf War. It has also done admirable work defending the bereaved relatives in the Deepcut inquiry, challenging the official story that all of the victims committed suicide and attacking the Army’s and police’s apparent cover-up of what looks very much like murder on an army base that was out of control, with rampant bullying and the sexual abuse of female squaddies.

And yet, despite all this, the magazine has joined the rest of the press pack in attacking Corbyn as ‘unelectable’, mocking, smearing and denigrating his leadership at every turn. For the past few weeks, it has been running a strip, ‘Focus on Fact’, which appears to have been written by the Blairites, and mostly revisits spats with Jeremy Corbyn and the extreme Left back in the 1980s. They’ve also published other pieces firmly showing their pro-Blairite bias. For instance, in this fortnight’s issue, there’s a piece defending Angela Eagle’s claim that Corbynistas threw a brick through her window, and attacking the good folks on the internet that have attempted to refute it as ‘conspiracy theorists’. They’ve also decided to criticise Corbyn because – gasp – he’s dared to appear on RT and Press TV. I intend to blog more deeply about both these issues. However, for now I’ll just say that the story about the brick thrown at Eagle’s office is false. It didn’t come through her window, and the area is marked by vandalism. There’s no evidence linking it to the Corbynites, and the entire accusation just comes from Eagle. As for RT and PressTV, this is more or less a return to the ‘red baiting’ of the Thatcherites in the 1980s, when they attacked Ken Livingstone and his group as Communists. This included members of the left-wing Tribune group, who had written articles for Soviet and Marxist magazines, but were themselves not Communists. RT stands for Russia Today, and is the Russian state broadcaster, while PressTV is run by the Iranian state. Both of these are extremely authoritarian countries which are notorious for their persecution of independent journalists. But I’ve used material from RT, because it gives a genuinely left-wing perspective on politics and events in America and the West, such as American imperialism and the exclusion of radical voices from official American politics. Very few others broadcasters are going to discuss these issues, with the noble exceptions of internet programmes like The Young Turks and Democracy Now. They put on the stuff that you won’t read about in our papers, or see on BBC TV, and increasingly not on Channel 4.

So what has prompted the Eye to attack Corbyn? I can’t be sure, but it strikes me that it’s probably due to the very upper middle class background of the magazine itself, and the fact that, despite its excellent record in many areas, none of its founders were in any sense radicals. Peter Cook, Willie Rushton, Richard Ingrams and John Wells were all stout fellows, but they were very ‘establishment’. They were public schoolboys, a point I can remember being made by the panel at an event on the late Peter Cook one year at the Cheltenham Literary Festival. John Wells, who in my opinion was one of the funniest of British comedians and comic actors, was the former French teacher and headmaster of Eton. You don’t get much more establishment than that. I once heard Humphrey Carpenter describe Auberon Waugh as a ‘Tory anarchist’, presumably meaning he that he was instinctively a man of the Right, but was also acutely aware of their stupidities and failings as well. I think this characterisation probably applies much more to Peter Cook. Cook seemed to me to be resolutely cynical in his politics. When he was at university, he joined all three mainstream political parties so he could laugh at them equally. By contrast, Waugh, who also wrote columns for Private Eye, always struck me as just a sarcastic right-winger sneering at the Left. Ingrams was notorious for having a bitter hatred of gays. After leaving the editorship of Private Eye, he founded the Oldie, a magazine for the elderly. I asked my mother once if she’d read it. She had, but didn’t like it, declaring it to be ‘snobby’. The only genuine left-winger on the team was Paul Foot, and he fitted in because he came from the same privileged background, and had the same very upper-middle class tastes in food and drink as the rest of them.

Ian Hislop, the current editor, is no different. He’s very public school, and his father was some kind of army officer or colonial administrator in Nigeria. And he also shares other parts of the accepted political wisdom. A few years ago on Have I Got News For You he declared that, regardless of the attacks the Tories were getting for their austerity policies, Labour would also be required to cut spending on the welfare state. This is very much the standard view, which is also followed slavishly by Beeb broadcasters. The Kushners attacked it, and the media consensus surrounding it, in their book Who Needs the Cuts?, which contains numerous examples of BBC broadcasters and journos uncritically repeating what is basically Neoliberal propaganda. Hislop wasn’t mentioned, but he was clearly another who had uncritically accepted this view.

And Corbyn isn’t the only Left-wing politician to be have been unfairly attacked by the Eye. Tony Benn was regularly pilloried as a ‘swivel-eyed loon’, despite the fact that the people, who knew him said that he wasn’t a fanatic, but a thoughtful man who carefully considered what the people around him were saying and consulted their opinions before reaching a decision. But the received, Fleet Street wisdom in the 1970s and ’80s was that Benn was a fanatic and a madman.

As was ‘Red’ Ken Livingstone. Livingstone was also attacked as a ‘Communist’, despite the fact that he wasn’t. He used them, and occasionally used the same type of language, but wasn’t, in fact, a Marxist. But hasn’t stopped the Eye from calling him Ken Leninspart. And most of what Livingstone talked about in his interviews with the press when he was head of the GLC was boringly mundane. However, this was routinely ignored, and the only parts of the conversation – which in actual fact were only very small parts of what he said – which were printed and repeated were those which presented him as an extremist – profoundly anti-racist, pro-feminist and pro-gay. Which was too much for a Britain that was much more traditional and conservative in its attitudes towards race and gender than today. This was a time when the Black and White Minstrels were mainstream TV with a mass audience, despite being based on 19ith century parodies of Black, slave entertainment.

Benn and Livingstone were both attacked by the media because they were left-wing Socialists. Benn advocated extending nationalisation to a further 25 companies, as recommended in a report by his own party. One journo for the Sunday Times said that this was probably the reason why the press hated him, because editors and proprietors feared that eventually he would nationalise them. And ‘Red’ Ken was similarly reviled because he was in favour of industrial democracy and worker’s control, which shocked and outraged the media. The press did not, however, try to refute their ideas, and so took the tactics of sheer ad hominem abuse. My guess they were afraid to, because either they couldn’t, or they were afraid that simply discussing them would make them popular with the proles.

And I think this is true of the press today and its attacks on Corbyn. They’re motivated by the same fear of genuine Socialism after the neoliberalism and privatisation of the Blairites. And this terror is shared by Hislop and Private Eye, which despite its subversive tradition of satire and exposing abuse of power, isn’t really a radical magazine. Hislop and no doubt many of his contributors come from the upper middle classes, which own industry and continue to expect to take a leading role in British government and society. Jeremy Corbyn threatens them, just as Tony Benn and Ken Livingstone did before him. And so Private Eye joins in the abuse sneering and smearing him.

Netanyahu’s Identification of All Jews with the State of Israel

May 3, 2016

Mike last week put up on his blog a piece about a very good article by the Jewish Socialist Group tackling the issue of Israel and accusations of anti-Semitism. They pointed out that Jewish identity or heritage was not identical with the state of Israel, and that many of the pieces that were the targets of such accusations, actually weren’t anti-Semitic but poorly worded criticisms of Israel. There was also the problem that while those making the accusations of anti-Semitism criticised the people they accused of not distinguishing between Jews and Israel, they were also guilty of doing exactly the same.

In fact Netanyahu made a speech in which he expressly made that identification, in order to denounce criticism of Israel as automatically anti-Semitic. He stated that Jews everywhere constituted Israel, and Israel was Jews. This would have shocked and dismayed Edwin Montagu, the Jewish cabinet minister in Balfour’s government, who opposed the Declaration of British support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Montagu was afraid that by doing so, this would automatically make Jews foreigners in their British homeland. It also wouldn’t impress Dr Jonathan Miller. Miller’s ancestry is Lithuanian Jewish, yet when someone once introduced him as a Jew on television, Miller replied, ‘I’m a Jewish. I have no interest in being a minority.’ Netanyahu’s remarks about this identity of the state of Israel with the Jewish people have been repeated on Right-wing and Zionist sites around the world. It was, for example, repeated on the extreme Right-wing Canadian Conservative website, Five Feet of Fury when he said it several years ago.

So be aware. When the Conservatives and Blairites accuse critics of Israel of being anti-Semitic, some of them may be consciously using Netanyahu’s semantic sleight of hand in order to put such criticisms off-limit, whatever they say to the contrary. This needs to be strongly resisted. No country, not Israel, not America and not Britain, should be above criticism simply on account of its people’s ethnicity, and it is disgraceful that such accusations have been against what are perfectly reasonable criticisms of Israel.