Here’s what the illiberal media doesn’t want you to know about the Finsbury Park attack


My wife and I used to live just up the road from the Finsbury Park Mosque, but now we live in Rome with our four-month-old daughter. How will we cope with bringing up a child in a time of mounting global turmoil, with terrorist attacks and climate disasters assailing us on almost a daily basis? In much the same way that previous generations have: by telling her stories which introduce and explain the world as comfortingly and as gently as possible, tales which allow her to gradually sense the dangers but also to imagine herself into the world as a protagonist as well as (we hope) a responsible citizen.

Adults tell each other stories in much the same way. The internet has sped up the process of the fabrication of fairy tales. Within minutes of an event like the attack in Finsbury Park, there are already rumours circulating online. Why did the police take so long to arrive? Could it be connected to the Grenfell Fire, or to London Bridge? Did it really happen? Is it all a distraction, a ‘false flag’?

Such gossip reassures people. It tells them who they are and situates shocking events in a familiar context. It reminds people they are powerless, that the world is under control, while also allowing them to pose in their heads as both initiates and heroes, privy to and sharers of occult and dangerous truths.

But while as parents we have our daughter’s best interests at heart, wanting to protect and prepare her for the joys and hazards of existence, purveyors of internet fairy tales do not. They use stories to manipulate, to promote an view of the world which benefits particular interests.

The mainstream media can operate in similar ways, but without as much blatant dishonesty and manipulation. Where that does exist, it tends to be infinitely more complex and sophisticated and not by any means always conscious. Recent exceptions to this, most notably Blair’s dodgy dossier and the lies of the Brexit campaign, have discredited democracy and the media and encouraged people to get their information about the world from even less trustworthy sources, ones that make a virtue of their antipathy towards formal media standards and regulations.

Someone in a Jeremy Corbyn Facebook group this morning was quick to blame the Finsbury Park attack on the “New World Order”. His kneejerk recourse to that phrase suggests he may have come under the spell of that most fraudulent of all tricksters, Alex Jones, who just by coincidence (really, Richard? Is that what you think?!) was the subject of a horribly misguided puff piece on NBC just last night. Jones is prominent nowadays as he has the ear of the President* and also because for the last few years he has been telling the world that the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre didn’t happen, that the children who ‘died’ and their ‘grieving’ parents were all actors. In promoting this story Jones achieves several objectives: drawing attention to himself, posing as someone who’s wise to what ‘The Establishment’ is secretly up to, and (most importantly) letting gun-lovers off the hook. The NRA is, of course, one of the most powerful and dangerous organisations in US history.

You don’t have to dig very far to see how the fledgling roots of these online fairy tales connect to some of the most powerful reactionary interests in the world. Online conspiracy theorising is, after all, a deeply conservative phenonenon, even though its often those on the Left who fall prey to it. Yesterday someone in the same Facebook group someone posted a link to an article which promised to tell you the facts that the ‘liberal media’ want to keep hidden about the Grenfell Fire. The article cut and pasted a post from the far-right website The Daily Caller which blamed environmental regulations for the disaster. The same material has been published days earlier by the right-wing British tabloids the Daily Mail and Express. While we can choose to ignore news outlets which we know to be controlled by political and/or business interests and place our critical trust in more independent, transparent and accountable publications, the internet exposes us to much more insidious attempts to hack our brains and install ideologically toxic misinformation.

No wonder Jones’ ‘friend’ Donald Trump instructs his supporters to ignore everything the ‘liberal media’ writes about him, while boasting that all he knows about the world he learned online. Progressives have to be cleverer and more critical than him when dealing with information about news events. That shouldn’t be too difficult, in theory. Just stick to news and commentary sites designed for adults, learn to question what you read without rejecting facts and arguments out of hand for no good reason, and steer well clear of those purveying internet fairy tales.

ps. If you’re seeking the facts as they stand in relation to the Finsbury Park terrorist attack, here are some sources which can help you:

Ps. This, from the University of Sheffield politics blog, is a very compelling argument which we Labour members and supporters ignore at our peril:

The ‘rigged economy’ conspiracy theory

In a previous critique of Corbynism, I examined the ‘personalised’ critique of capitalism which underlies the worldview of Corbyn and many of his supporters. This perspective sees poverty, economic crashes, inequality and even war as being the result of the conscious behaviour of shadowy ‘global elites’, usually in the financial sector.  Such a viewpoint, common amongst right and left, fails to grasp capital as an abstract social relation, dominating both rich and poor alike, and at its most extreme can lead to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of Jewish plots to rule the world through control of the banks.  The prevalence of this kind of foreshortened critique of capitalism (or neoliberalism, as popularly understood) goes some way to explain the spread of conspiracy theories about the ‘Rothschilds’ and ‘Zionists’ through much of the ‘Canary’/‘Skwawkbox’ left, as well as the alt-right – they are not contingent or accidental, but the consequence of pushing an analysis of capitalism as conspiracy to its logical conclusion.

Since his ‘populist turn’ at the start of the year, Corbyn has severely ramped up this kind of talk.  Throughout the election campaign there were endless references to the ‘rigged economy’ set up by elites which had ‘ripped off’ the British people.  Like the isolationist foreign policy, this discourse has an appeal to both the ‘anti-vax’ wing of the Green left and the Trumpian-UKIP right, with the vagueness of the ‘rigged’ concept allowing people to point the finger of accusation at whatever scapegoat fits their particular prejudice.  While it can be effective, there is an inherent risk in this kind of approach to politics, in that it can rapidly spiral out of control and in unexpected directions if not strictly supervised.  There is no guarantee that once let out of the bottle this kind of personalised critique of capitalism will inevitably lead in a progressive direction.  If it is true that Corbyn has managed to patch up a right-left electoral alliance on these grounds  –  along with implied migration controls and an isolationist foreign policy  –  it will require extreme vigilance to ensure it does not veer onto a regressive track.


6 thoughts on “Here’s what the illiberal media doesn’t want you to know about the Finsbury Park attack

  1. Sorry but you are misleading everyone and deluding yourself.
    If you beieve that those 3 sites are reliable for news then clearly you are wrong.
    Sadly all media / news stories now have to be viewed with careful consideration and verified from other sources and the internet is absolutely vital for that.
    Many sources of information are already being witheld from us… the general public have already too much to think about to just get by on a day to day basis… so it up to all of us that have the time, intelligence, and motivation to find out and pass on what is really going on.
    If the above is your contribution I urge you to think again .

    Ronnien Nicolson


    1. That’s a remarkably patronising attitude towards “the general public”. Ordinary people are quite capable of making sense of the world without self-appointed priests talking down to them. In the meantime, the people who “pass on what’s really going on” in relation to current events of social significance are called reporters. That takes experience and credentials. I don’t have either, and neither do you.


  2. By ‘an isolationist foreign policy’ does the blog mean ‘a foreign policy initiative that doesn’t automatically mean knee-jerk support for whatever crackpot adventurist nonesense thought up by the US and Israel to further destabilise the Middle East in the interests of global capital’?
    If so, all I can say is ‘bring it on!’


  3. Hi Richard.
    I highly recommend this site.
    I urge all on the left or indeed progressives to have a gander. Well written and with the usual screaming at a minimum. All articles going back a few years are most intriguing. It is marvellous to begin to understand not only what the right think but also how they construct argument and see the future. I agree that there is rarely a concrete conspiracy but rather an awful lot of ‘clubbable’ self interest coalescing around physical power – human stuff – but these gals and guys take themselves very seriously. At the moment they are more of a threat (and indeed have been for years) to ‘normal’ British conservatives than to Democratic Socialism but when the West re-alines itself after the right-wing-anarchy of Reagan-Thatcher I think they and their ilk are the ones to watch. I am in too much of a good mood recently (off to see Naomi Klein in 2 weeks to bask in righteous light – Ice cream in the interval) to find them scary; canvasing for the Labour crowd was such a comradely experience I actually think we’re winning for the first time in decades. However I agree, the left needs to be careful of itself. We need to engage in others’ thought. We need to understand how they got there. By engaging can we ‘introduce a longer sequence of thought and analysis to replace the short bursts of polemical, thought-stopping fury that so imprison us.’ (Dr. E.S.)
    By the by unlike your excellent blog they seem to be shy of posting ‘questioning’ comments and are also anonymous – for fear that liberals will blacklist them from their careers (- not rizzla thin skinned but they may have apoint alas.)
    Keep blogging. IC is important to me and others. (Let’s make it a million although size isn’t etc.)


    1. Thanks very very much again for your very kind comments, it’s encouraging to know that someone is out there following all this. Ha ha the million visitors thing is motivating too, I don’t think I’ve ever done anything involving a million before unless you count individual characters typed on keyboards or links clicked on the Guardian website. That blog looks excellent, I just had a quick glance on the way to work this morning but will have a proper read of it now. Btw also looking forward to Naomi Klein, in my case to her book turning up, seems to have been a slight delay in its arrival due to the inefficious nature of the Italian postal service, sorely tempting to think pace Mandelson that they should just privatise the bloody thing, at least then I could blame capitalism.


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