What to do with a hack like Brendan O’Neill?

Brendan O’Neill is, as regular readers will know, a contrarian and a devotee of the Cult of the Grand Furedi.  Here at Nowhere Towers, O’Neill is also known as the King of the Strawman Arguments. Does he do this shit to get attention? You betcha. Does he do it to smear the Left? Oh God, yes. That’s what the old RCP was all about back in the 1980s. Nothing’s changed, baby.

Today’s blog is a corker. Remember when O’Neill accused Steve Bell of anti-Semitism? Well, he’s gone one better.  He tells us that “The crusade (sic) against Wonga is in danger of resurrecting the stereotype of the avaricious Jewish moneylender”. No, I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP! Did you see how O’Neill used the word “crusade” too? For someone who’s bitching about a campaign against Wonga being tantamount to a display of anti-Semitism, his  grasp of history is slippery.

Take a look at this:

Something about the moral crusade against Wonga is making me feel uncomfortable. It isn’t the fact that people are criticising a payday loan company; most such outfits are pretty unpleasant and we must be at liberty to ridicule them and take them to task.

Come again?

No, it’s the fact that Wonga is being singled out above all other modern loan sharks, and that the Wonga-bashing sections of the media are rather salaciously obsessing over the lavish lifestyles allegedly led by its “greedy” bosses. Wonga, you see, is owned by two Jewish immigrants, Errol Damelin and Jonty Hurwitz, and their venture capital backers. And I think we are in serious danger of resurrecting the old racial stereotype of the avaricious Jewish moneylender.

So because the owners of Wonga are Jewish, this is why people are protesting against it? This is a pretty big stretch, Bren, me auld fruit. Besides, doesn’t the venture vulture capitalist, Adrian Beecroft, hold shares in the company? Oh, I think he does.  Beecroft isn’t Jewish by the way. He’s the man whose ‘report’ – and I use that word in the loosest possible sense – formed the basis for removing the right of workers to take their employers to court for unfair dismissal. In other words, if your boss gropes you behind the photocopier, just take it for Hinglan. Ok? The Mirror says:

Mr Beecroft is chairman of Dawn Capital, which has a large stock in Wonga Group. Latest accounts show the company, which is now worth £384m, was worth a mere £17m in December 2010.

That’s large stock. In the Wonga Group. It’s big money.  £384m, in fact.

Back to O’Neill:

Just look into the underbelly of the internet, if you dare. There you will find neo-fascists and anti-Semites leaping with naked glee on to the anti-Wonga bandwagon. On the far-right white nationalist Stormfront website (I’m not providing hyperlinks), Wonga’s owners are referred to as “modern-day hook-nosed pawnbrokers… usurious swine in the most extreme form”. A self-styled Aryan campaign group says Wonga is an “insidious parasitic company of usury” and says no one will be surprised to discover that it is “the brainchild of two Jews”. It refers to Wonga’s “Dracula-esque” sucking-up of non-Jewish people’s money. Elsewhere in the Hitler-worshipping parts of the web, Wonga is said to be made up of “Jewish shysters” and its behaviour is said to be typical of the Jews, who can only “steal, cheat and sue people”.

O’Neill is drawing some lazy lines between the extreme-right and those on the Left who oppose vulture capitalists like Wonga. In other words, people like you and me are allegedly no better than the boneheads on St*rmfr*nt.

Following Archbishop Justin Welby’s intervention into the Wonga debate, the Sun depicted Welby as a Christlike figure in a temple yelling “Out, moneylenders!” at a fat, ugly man in a Wonga jacket. Jesus’s driving of moneylenders from the Jewish temple has for centuries been used as evidence that Jews are shysters who will even try to make a buck on holy ground.

Let me get this straight… the Sun did this?

Of course, the Sun is not remotely anti-Semitic, and neither are the other mainstream campaigners against Wonga.

The Sun? Anti-Semitic? Never. It’s racist, sexist and anti-working class. But who are these “mainstream campaigners”? Besides, didn’t you just say that the “crusade” risked some sort of anti-Semitic backlash? What makes these “mainstream campaigners” so different? He does not say. Instead, he vomits:

Nonetheless, the media and campaigners’ myopic focus on Wonga above all other payday loan companies, alongside their depiction of Wonga’s bosses as predatory and utterly devoid of feeling as they build their comfy piles on the backs of other people’s suffering, does have uncomfortable echoes of the age-old stereotype of the predatory Jewish moneylender.

You’ve lost me now, Bren. Is this how The Grand Furedi taught you how to construct an argument?

The last paragraph is just as bad:

In the early twentieth century, August Bebel, the German Marxist, referred to certain Lefties’ obsession with so-called “Jewish capitalism” as “the socialism of fools”. To wring one’s hands over moneylenders, many of whom happened to be Jewish, represented a twisted and vulgar critique of capitalism, said Bebel, with some sad Leftists preferring to launch moralistic assaults on the stranger practices of capitalist society over offering up a serious critique of capitalism’s structural failings. Well, this Saturday, the People’s Assembly, the new anti-austerity left-wing outfit founded by journalists and trade unionists, is encouraging its supporters to occupy Wonga premises and other payday loan companies that are “targeting the poorest in society”. Has the left learnt nothing in the past hundred years? The open anti-Semitism has gone, but nonetheless, a socialism which obsesses over a symptom of the economic downturn rather than putting forward ideas for how to create a new and wealthy society is still pretty foolish.

Here, O’Neill, in desperation, summons up the ghost of August Bebel like some seaside mystic. “It’s a warning from history”, he shrieks. Notice how he also takes a cheap shot at the People’s Assembly too. He’s not their biggest fan. Neither am I come to think of it. But that’s beside the point. O’Neill loves telling his readers, without an apparent trace of irony, that he’s a Marxist. His readers believe this because they have no idea what Marxism is, all they know is that they don’t like it. Tories are like that: they’re clueless when it comes to ideologies. So is Brendan O’Neill.

O’Neill has closed the comments thread. A wise move, I think.

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Filed under Media, Tory press, Yellow journalism

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