Corbyn, Climate Change and the British media

Articles published in the British press are read and believed far beyond the UK. A good, or rather really rather bad, example of this is the Sunday Times’ concocted story about climate science in 2009. The story resulted from a successful plot by what we might as well call the pro-climate change lobby to troll climate scientists by sending so many freedom of information requests about their work so as it to render it impossible. One email among the millions they acquired in which one scientist asked another about the best way to present some information was seized upon by a climate change troll, who found a principle-free journalist at Rupert Murdoch’s flagshit periodical to turn it into a story about fraudulent climate science. The story flew around the world at great speed, and glasses were clinked in corporate offices right around the rapidly warming planet. The cause of investigating the causes of the changes in the world’s climate was set back for several years, possibly for good. Or, in this case, for very, very, bad.

What does this have to do with Jeremy Corbyn? Well, as we all at some level know, and as we all to some degree refuse to accept, the changes necessary for us to avoid the nightmare scenario of a very rapid change in temperatures are extremely radical, and they must be taken immediately. Vested interests must not just be challenged and persuade to cooperate — the power they wield must be wrested from them. As Naomi Klein points out at length, if companies such as Exxon and Shell had openly admitted the facts of climate change and its implications much earlier, such earthshaking changes would not now be necessary. But they didn’t. They hid the truth, and they paid enormous amounts of money to politicians and opinion formers to create confusion and the appearance of uncertainty about the basic facts of climate science (there’s even a new word to describe this — agnotology). So now that climate change is upon as, and with droughts assailing some parts of the planet while others slowly begin to disappear under unfathomable quantities of water, the question of how we are going to find the resources necessary to deal with all this, and how we are going to wrest the power away from those who value higher and higher numbers on a computer screen over our common ability to survive becomes so pressing and so compelling that it is hardly ever asked — or, at least, the issue is rarely mentioned in the media.

Where are the voices in mainstream politics today who are even beginning to address these questions? Is democracy even the means by which we will find answers, or will we just find that authoritarian capitalism already has all the solutions (in a nutshell: let most people die, continue to deny the causes, instruct the populace to blame the victims, and lock up or kill anyone who protests)? Well, there are but a few. One person who is doing his best to get hold of the wheel and steer us away from the edge of the cliff is the afore-mentioned record-breakingly popular Labour politician Jeremy Corbyn. So how are the British media, respected as they are far beyond the UK’s borders, responding to that challenge? Well, reader, they’re trying to destroy his reputation and his credibility as quickly as they can. They’re making absolutely sure that within any plausible future scenario there will be no visible political alternative to the dogma that no matter how big the problem, the market will be able to fix it. That’s the market dominated by companies like Exxon and Shell, who knew the facts about the effects of their activities forty years ago but hid that information so as to protect their profits. In the media market control lies in the hands of companies like News International, which conspires to discredit climate scientists and potentially disruptive politicians and whose stories, no matter how dishonestly obtained or how inaccurate, dictate the news agenda right across the world.

Ideally, a politician who took up the cause of the climate catastrophe would be acceptable to the mainstream media. He or she (wouldn’t it be great if it was a woman?!) would be feted by the political establishment and her or his prescriptions for how to address the crisis would be welcomed (they would also be a lot more radical than Corbyn’s, but that’s beside the point here). That’s what would happen in a perfect world. But it hasn’t, and it won’t. Anyone who challenges the political agenda according to which the habitat that earth affords us must be sacrificed to feed the insatiable needs of the global market, anyone who looks like they could potentially block the pipeline which runs directly from our suffering to their bank accounts, must be destroyed. That is one very significant aspect of what is happening right now in British politics and in the UK media.

Anti-semitism and the Labour leadership race

It is beyond any doubt that there are people sporting ‘I’ve voted Corbyn’ twibbons on both Twitter and Facebook who have indulged in the most horrendous anti-semitic statements and abuse — awful people who think it’s okay to use language like ‘Jewish scum’ when talking about Israel, or who believe it acceptable to make quasi-racist statements such as ‘not all Jews are bad’.

There are also fanatical Zionists who choose to regard all criticism of the Israel state under any circumstances as anti-semitic. Their campaign to depict the consistently pro-Palestine Corbyn as anti-semitic started some years ago (at least as far back as 2012) but has obviously intensified over the last few months.

There have been some legitimate questions asked of Corbyn in relation to people he has had contact with in the past. He has directly addressed those concerns to the satisfaction of all reasonable parties, explaining that he did not know and could not reasonably have been expected to know that such people held anti-semitic beliefs. Corbyn’s record on anti-racism throughout his political life is absolutely impeccable.

The British media has been playing a very dangerous game in openly suggesting that Corbyn is an anti-semite. It appears that in regularly producing headlines such as ‘Corbyn denies anti-semitic links’ the right-wing media has both achieved its target of associating his name with anti-semitism (possibly as a result attracting anti-semites to his cause), and also evinced and evoked deep-seated anti-semitic impulses in British society. These have found expression among a tiny but vocal minority of his hundreds of thousands of supporters, but are clearly not restricted to them.

As Owen Jones says, we have to be extremely vigilant about each and every instance of anti-semitism wherever we encounter it. We have to publicly and immediately denounce those who express anti-Jewish sentiment. However, the right-wing media and their pro-Israel allies have now developed a new line of attack, saying that anti-semitism is peculiarly common on the British left. This is pernicious. The history of anti-semitism on the right in the UK is very well-known. To pretend that there is a tradition of anti-semitism peculiar to the British left is deeply dishonest and it is designed to destabilise the British left and discredit those who express solidarity with the Palestinian cause. There is a current of anti-semitism in British society. It must be exposed and challenged, but it is deeply wrong and dangerous to summon it up for short-term ideological purposes.

Corbyn, Cooper, Burnham and the other one: A full and fair debate

Even though the result of the Labour Leadership Election won’t be officially announced until the 12th September, UK betting shops are already paying out to customers who put their money on a Corbyn victory. It’s been a spirited and fractious campaign throughout. Obviously we all knew right from the start (and especially since the unofficial audition for Leader for the Opposition on July 20th — you’re supposed to oppose the Government, guys!)) that Cooper, Burham and the other one never stood a chance of winning (God forbid! They’re unelectable) but it was important to have their names on the ballot paper nonetheless. At the very least no-one can claim it wasn’t a democratic election. A full and frank debate was necessary, and it has certainly been had. Now it’s time to take on the Tories.

What is smearing Jeremy Corbyn destined to achieve?

So a social democrat of impeccable integrity enthuses hundreds of thousands of people, particularly the young, about the radical potential of parliamentary politics. In response, the entire British political establishment, both politicians and media, launch an incredibly vindictive campaign to smear him on charges which even they don’t believe — and it works. However ludicrous the accusations, they succeed in associating the Corbyn brand with antisemitism, and he loses the election. Someone very similar to the previous Labour leader takes over, and things continue along their previous dismal and disheartening trajectory, towards a point where it’s hard to find anyone who gives two shits about conventional political parties, in fact the very mention of them makes almost everyone extremely angry. The things that politicians say on TV and the reality of people’s lives under endless grinding austerity just do not correspond, and things get worse, and worse, and worse, until someone, a bit like Nigel Farage, but with more plausability and charm, turns up on TV offering easy solutions that exploit people’s sense of powerlessness and frustration (not against the elites, obviously, there’s nothing anyone can do to challenge them, we’ve learnt that, but against more available targets, like those homeless people on the streets who never seem to go away, and all those migrants on TV clamouring for a new life, and who wouldn’t want one of those, and those people whining about how they can’t feed their kids, well why did you have them in the first place then?!, and yes this guy apparently said some unpleasant things about Muslims and Jews, but they kept saying that the Labour guy, the one who lost, was anti-semitic, and personally I really wasn’t so sure it was really true…), and suddenly there’s a new sense of purpose in the air, let’s clean those streets and tidy away the scum littering them, let’s put young people to work guarding our borders…

Have the people at the top of the Labour Party stopped to think for a moment about the consequences of what their no-holds-barred media assaults on Jeremy Corbyn will ultimately achieve?

The smears against Corbyn are, wittingly or not, an assault on our system of democracy. If they are successful, its reputation (and in particular the reputation of the Labour Party) will not be able to recover.

Corbyn and New Labour: Don’t take the electorate for a hippopotamus

There is no doubt that Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall believe themselves to be in the appropriate political party. They would like to use it to introduce all sorts of radical changes in society. The problem, as they appear to see it, is the voting public. Ordinary people are, to put it bluntly, considerably more stupid and right-wing than they themselves are. They will not vote for progressive social and economic measures. The best that can be hoped for is that they can be nudged, like grumpy cantankerous hippopotamuses, in the right direction. They must be moved gently, without ever appearing to threaten their sense of security and comfort, as the electorate, if riled, will simply lash out, always in the wrong direction. Ordinary people are very susceptible to messages which appeal to their most base instincts, which trigger the sensitive defense mechanisms which surround their senses of identity and security, and appealing to those instincts remains the only proven way to get them to move in the direction you want them to — but only so far, because no matter how gently you try to persuade them, they will never step outside of their comfort zone.

This is New Labour electoral dogma. It is written through the DNA spirals of leadership candidates like a stick of rock. It dictated Harriet Harman’s admonition that Labour must not fall into Osbourne’s trap of being seen to oppose profoundly radical changes to the Welfare State. It is in right there marking the beat of the thoughts of each candidate as they voice their euphemisms about ‘economic credibility’. What has happened over the last few weeks is that it has been shown to be, as it were, hippopotamus shit. Ordinary people are, it transpires, infinitely more politically agile than their aspiring leaders. The effect of this revelation has been deeply traumatic for New Labour. Not only does it fundamentally challenge their view of the electorate and the world in general, it detonates a highly explosive package at the very core of their political identity. And so they are now exploding in all directions, turning in panic to the right-wing media and their emergency weapons of character assasination, trying even to dismantle at whatever cost the electoral apparatus they themselves established in the complacent certainty that voters would never have the courage or the wherewithal to consciously use it to further their own genuine interests.

They must now be aware that even if they managed to successfully rig the election, their shoehorned-in new leader would lack credibility to the extent that Labour would face a historic wipe-out in England similar to the one it has experienced in Scotland, with millions of voters lost to electoral apathy, the far-right and (hopefully) some sort of meaningful left alternative. They must know those things at some level, but the depth of the trauma occasioned by Corbyn’s imminent storming to victory is so great that they appear to have lost all sense of what they are doing and what it is destined to achieve. While the smears against Corbyn are designed to trigger the famous don’t-think-of-an-elephant effect, perhaps a fitting epitaph for New Labour could be: don’t take the electorate for a hippopotamus.