Category Archives: social media

Conduct Unbecoming: The Guardian And The State Of The British Press

Print media has been in a parlous state for decades and the coronavirus pandemic, which has affected sales, has seen journalists from newspapers like The S*n beg people to buy their papers. I must confess that I stopped buying newspapers over 20 years ago. Not because I felt that they were gaslighting me, but because I saw them as a waste of money. I’d buy the weekend Guardian and would never read all of it. I simply didn’t have the time. Something had to give and it was the Guardian that went.

Since The Guardian (and The Observer) announced that it was to shed 180 jobs, the cry from the country’s journalists – especially those working for The Guardian – has been, predictably, one of dismay. Job losses are always regrettable. However, the way these journalists have reacted to supporters of former Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who are ridiculed by the same journalists as “Corbynistas”, a word coined to situate Democratic Socialism as something foreign, maybe “unBritish” and perhaps, Latin American, has been unseemly. Yes, many on the left have delighted over the paper’s misfortunes and not without good reason. However, the response from Britain’s journalists has been to gaslight and bully those who’ve taken the view that the paper deserves its karmic fate.

The Guardian’s left-wing readers, who assumed that the paper shared their views, have felt a sense of schadenfreude over the possibility of the paper actually folding. This has raised the hackles of Britain’s press corps, most of whom probably aren’t actually journalists or reporters, but purveyors of opinions. Indeed, this is where the paper has gone wrong: it blurred the line between factual reporting and opinion-forming, and over the course of the last five years, it has offered up opinions as fact, and has pursued an anti-Corbyn smear campaign.

First, we need to be clear about something: the Guardian is not and never has been a left-wing paper. It has always been a Liberal paper and was founded to reflect the views of Northern Liberals in the 19th century. It had a brief moment in the 1930s when it won praise from left-wingers for its coverage of the Spanish Civil War. Since that time, the editorial line of the paper has intersected with the views of large sections of the British Left. That is no more. About 10 years ago, the paper decided to take a more right-wing line, perhaps because of its reporting of Operation Cast Lead and pressure from sites like, CiFWatch (now called CAMERA UK).

The Guardian has some left-leaning writers who offered qualifed support for Corbyn like Owen Jones, Aditya Chakrabortty, Nesrine Malik and a few more. However, the paper is dominated by white Liberal and right-wing writers like Jonathan Freedland, Marina Hyde, Gaby Hinsliff, Hadley Freeman (who?), Nick Cohen, John Harris, Jessica Elgot, Rafael Behr and Matthew D’Ancona (chair of moderate Tory think-tank, Bright Blue) who were opposed to Corbyn. Harris, a former music journalist, spent a great deal of time telling readers he was some kind of spokesperson for the working class, but was quite prepared leave them to the clutches of the Tories and worse, the Brexit Party. Thus, it would be fair to argue that on the balance of the political views among its columnists and reporters, the Guardian is not a left-wing paper. Its leftism is an illusion. However, its writers and supporters don’t seem too clear on how businesses work to attract or retain customers or, in its case, readers.

If the Graun really doesn’t want to lose readers, then maybe it needs to ask itself why and where it all went wrong. Instead, rather than do that, its hacks and supporters have resorted to abusing the paper’s former readers for turning their backs on it. Is this really the way a business should behave if it wants to win back customers? Why have they responded in this way? Maybe this quote from Karl Marx in The German Ideology can shed some light.

The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas. The individuals composing the ruling class possess among other things consciousness, and therefore think. Insofar, therefore, as they rule as a class and determine the extent and compass of an epoch, it is self-evident that they do this in its whole range, hence among other things rule also as thinkers, as producers of ideas, and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age: thus their ideas are the ruling ideas of the epoch. For instance, in an age and in a country where royal power, aristocracy, and bourgeoisie are contending for mastery and where, therefore, mastery is shared, the doctrine of the separation of powers proves to be the dominant idea and is expressed as an “eternal law.

Karl Marx, The German Ideology, Part I: Feuerbach.
Opposition of the Materialist and Idealist Outlook, The Ruling Class and the Ruling Ideas

The ruling class’s ideas must never be challenged, and those who propagate (if that’s the right word) them believe they have an automatic right to your money and your mind. It is simply not enough for them to control the means of material production, they must also control intellectual production. Being the descendants of the those who governed the British Empire, they have quite literally colonized people’s minds.

We can, therefore, read the Guardian’s writers and supporters’ outpourings of rage as a predictable reaction from the country’s bourgeoisie; it is a manifestation of their class entitlement, and it’s underpinned by a kind of confidence that comes with having had an exclusive and expensive education followed by a degree from Oxbridge. It is because of these social factors that they feel a sense of haughty superiority towards those whom they believe be inferior (is it any wonder that eugenics is enthusiastically embraced by the bourgeoisie and not, say, the working-class?). They knew that they were born to rule from an early age. Thus, it is their views which dominate and which are endlessly circulated in the public domain, despite being as stale as airline cabin air.

Marina Hyde thought that bullying one of the paper’s erstwhile readers-turned-critics was a smart move.

There are many reasons why many Twitter users adopt other names and hide their identities, one of which is that they may be whistleblowers, autistic or it, or in my case, it’s my stage name. This doesn’t mean that I’m “anonymous”, which is a charge that so-called “blue tick” users will often throw at Twitter users to counter robust criticism. In fact, it would be fair to say that many “blue tick” users have at least one sockpuppet account. I know this from personal experience and when I called them out, they vanished.

Hadley Freeman also thought she’d gaslight former readers.

Freeman participated in the so-called Never Again stunt organized by supporters of Luciana Berger, but which looked and felt like a gathering of right-wing white politicians and their media supporters who were pursuing a vendetta against, not just Corbyn, but anyone on the left on the basis of flimsy evidence. Worse, perhaps, was the view held by the protesters, who had never protested anything in their lives, and who spent a great deal of effort deriding protests as a form of “student politics”, that the Labour Party was the single largest reservoir of anti-Semitism in Britain. Ironically, all of these people were content to stand side-by-side by some of Parliament’s biggest bigots, like Ian Paisley Jr. The event was also attended by Conservatives, a party whose racism is routinely ignored by writers like Freeman. When it comes to other forms of racism, these people can be seen wringing their hands and muttering to themselves. This is not just a bourgeois reaction, it’s the reaction of white Liberals, who enjoy a great deal of white privilege. Like the rest of Fleet Street, the Guardian is mostly staffed by the same kind of white middle-class people, who control print and broadcast media.

Guardian-supporting actor and comedian, David Schneider tried emotional blackmail.

“The joy in Tory HQ”? Seriously? They honestly couldn’t care less. Schneider followed up with this tweet:

That he believes The Guardian to be some kind of bulwark against the Right and the Tory-supporting media is laughable. Schneider was less than enthusiastic about Corbyn and he appears to be more content with Keir Starmer as Labour leader. Whatever the case, to The Cat, his affected leftism looks more like Liberalism. Indeed, together with its supporters, the Guardian, overall, has shown that it has nothing but contempt for the Left.

Even The Daily Mail’s Dan Hodges, a man who is wrong about nearly everything, believed it was the fault of the beastly “Corbynites” that the Guardian was shedding jobs.

This has been the style of the right-wing press since the 1980s: if you’re not ridiculing and mocking the left, then blame them for “cancelling” the Guardian or worse. Hodges then followed up with this:

To say Hodges reasoning is poor is an understatement: it’s melodramatic tosh. Remember, this is a man who regards mild democratic socialist reformism as “hard left”.

The Guardian has never supported socialism or the Left. It is and always has been a Liberal paper that has had a left-wing readership, which has, over the course of 5 years, been bullied, ridiculed, mocked, smeared and gaslighted. This is a paper that many on the left saw as an ally before Corbyn became Labour leader and which turned on them in short order. No wonder these people feel some sense of schadenfreude.

The establishment, represented by papers like the Guardian, used any means at its disposal to marginalize the left, and realized that its best line of attack lay with accusations of anti-Semitism. Let’s be clear about something, accusing the Left of any other form of racism would have lacked the same emotional and social value, in their eyes, as a hatred of Jews. Racism against Black people or Gypsies simply wouldn’t appeal to the racist base instincts of the bourgeoisie and reactionary subalterns who accept whatever newspapers tell them without criticism. However, the way in which anti-Semitism was trivialized and transformed into a political weapon was always a dangerous and irresponsible strategy, because in the process, left-wing Jews were smeared as “self-hating” and “anti-Semitic”, and the fall-out from this episode has affected all minorities, not just Jews. Alternatively, according to the likes of Dan Hodges, who himself isn’t Jewish, they were the “wrong kind of Jews” on account of their politics. If there was any justice in this world, Hodges would have lost his job over this.

One really can’t blame “Corbyn supporters” for reacting the way they did at the Graun’s misfortunes. In the cutthroat world of print media, as in any business, if customers are going elsewhere or no longer buying your product(s), you don’t abuse them: you try to, somehow, win them back. The Guardian has lost these people forever.

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Covid-19: The Conspiracy Theory Files

It was inevitable that various conspiracy theories would emerge during the Covid-19 pandemic, and it’s no surprise that many, if not the majority, of these conspiracy theories come from the far-right and Right libertarians. For self-styled libertarians like Spiked’s Brendan O’Neill, who also takes the Murdoch shilling, the crisis is really all about liberal-left spoilsports wanting to curtail his right to infect others in confined spaces.

The pandemic has provided O’Neill with the opportunity to attack his favourite targets: the Greens, left-wingers, anti-racists, socialists, you name them, O’Neill hates them. He’s like one of those pub bores you meet supping in the local Wetherspoons, talking about how the country is “going to hell in a handcart”.

The first paragraph of O’Neill’s article starts predictably, but messily.

People’s refusal to panic has been a great source of frustration for the establishment in recent years. ‘The planet is burning’, they lie, in relation to climate change, and yet we do not weep or wail or even pay very much attention. ‘I want you to panic’, instructs the newest mouthpiece of green apocalypticism, Greta Thunberg, and yet most of us refuse to do so. A No Deal Brexit would unleash economic mayhem, racist pogroms and even a pandemic of super-gonorrhoea, they squealed, incessantly, like millenarian preachers balking at the imminent arrival of the lightning bolt of final judgement, and yet we didn’t flinch. We went to work. We went home. We still supported Brexit.

How any of this is related to the pandemic is a mystery, but O’Neill persists:

Our skittish elites have been so baffled, infuriated in fact, by our calm response to their hysterical warnings that they have invented pathologies to explain our unacceptable behaviour. The therapeutic language of ‘denialism’ is used to explain the masses’ refusal to fret over climate change. Environmentalists write articles on ‘the psychology of climate-change denial’, on ‘the self-deception and mass denial’ coursing through this society that refuses to flatter or engage with the hysteria of the eco-elites. Likewise, the refusal of voters to succumb to the dire, hollow warnings of the ferociously anti-Brexit wing of the establishment was interpreted by self-styled experts as a psychological disorder. ‘[This is] people taking action for essentially psychological reasons, irrespective of the economic cost’, said one professor.

Ah, so this is about the mysterious ‘elites’? Find me an O’Neill article without the word ‘elite’ and I’ll show you a caring Conservative. O’Neill is in complete denial; his brain (if he has one) is in total lockdown. He refuses to accept the fact that Covid-19 is a communicable disease and is highly contagious. The fact that people of all ages have died is of no matter to him. For O’Neill, people ignoring medical advice and mingling in public spaces like parks and the beaches is seen as an act of defiance against the shadowy ‘elites’ who want to you to eat your vegetables.

Of course, the replies beneath Spiked’s article are just as barking, if not worse.

This one looks like a bot.

What analysis? What insight? There’s more. This one talks about “The Cabal”. Cue eerie theremin music.

You should see the rest of his timeline. It’s a catalogue of conspiracy theories and the usual mush about horrible Greens wanting to spoil his freedom. Here’s my reply to one of Matt’s tweets on his timeline. You’ll notice that he hangs on Donald Trump’s every word.

This is one is incomprehensible.

This one uses the opportunity to spout racist and xenophobic nonsense.

O’Neill and his followers are ignorant of science and disdainful of expert advice from clinical practitioners. They think their ignorance trumps years of study, and clinical work, and all that matters is their ‘freedom’. I don’t like wishing illness or death on anyone, but in the case of O’Neill and his deadbeat acolytes, I’m happy to make exceptions. Perhaps a dose of Covid-19 will teach all of them a valuable lesson. Then again, maybe it won’t.

There’s a massive threat to public health, much of it is caused by Covid-19, but some of it will be caused by ignoramuses and anti-intellectual schmucks like O’Neill taking to social media and telling people that there’s nothing to worry about.

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Corbyn’s Critics?

Image result for jk rowling

JK Rowling should stick to writing derivative children’s fiction.

The likes of JK Rowling, Eddie Marsan and Frances Barber are often referred to by media pundits as ‘Corbyn’s critics’ but how many of them actually criticize his policies? None of them that I can see. Let’s be honest: an ad hominem or a smear isn’t a criticism, it’s a calumny and for me, at least, it reveals a fundamental intellectual dishonesty and selfishness at the heart of their reactionary and slipshod thinking.

Take this Twitter thread from Rowling, not only does it repeat the same smears we’ve heard for the last three years, it offers up plausible sounding anachronisms as clever metaphors. Clue: there were no saints in the early Christian period, but Rowling’s many followers aren’t smart enough to know that.

I won’t bother posting any more from this thread, but needless to say, it relies on the same tropes that have been used by Corbyn’s detractors for three years. Words like “messiah” make an appearance. The use of this word signifies a wilful misreading of Corbyn’s supporters, who are often referred to in similarly religiose terms or dismissed and trivialized as ‘utopians’, ‘fantasists’ or ‘fans’. The intent, here, is to suggest that Corbyn is a cult leader and his supporters are cultists; blind followers and willing dupes led by a charmingly deceptive evil man whose anti-racism credentials were a carefully choreographed 40 year act. The fact is that Corbyn is a bigger opponent of racism than Rowling or Barber will ever be. Barber herself has drifted into anti-Black racism.

The irony of her use of religious language is that Tony Blair, whom Rowling and her band of intellectually-challenged associates greatly admire, inspires the kind of cult-like devotion of which she accuses Corbyn supporters. Self-awareness? No, not from Joanne.

When they’re not referring to Corbyn and his followers as cult leader and cult members, the usual specious anti-Semitism smears are deployed. Again, these are not criticisms, they are ad hominems. What this tells us about Corbyn’s so-called critics is that they are selective in their anti-racism, which they see as an emotionally-charged weapon to use against a man, who has more anti-racism in his little finger than they have in their entire bodies.

JK Rowling and her band of halfwits may complain about anti-Semitism, but they’ve said nothing about the racism affecting other ethnic minorities. There has been a rise in hate crimes against BAME people and Muslims, but Joanne, Eddie and Frances have been noticeably silent. It is entirely possible that they see Jews (Ashkenazim) as fellow whites, and have a blind spot when it comes to Romanis and Irish Travellers, for example, who were singled out in a pamphlet sent out by John Mann, the MP for Bassetlaw, to his constituents. Mann likes to present himself as an opponent of anti-Semitism, but that’s quite literally the limit of his anti-racism, and even then, it looks cynical and dishonest. None of them have called him out on his hypocritical position and prefer, instead, to repeat the smears they’ve been provided without much thought.

Rowling et al did well under Blair and continue to thrive under the Tories. Those who aren’t doing so well, don’t figure in their thinking. Poor people, the low waged, the disabled and the homeless are treated as abstracts. These are, ultimately, very selfish people who lack any kind of political hinterland. For them, ideology is what other people have.  The world has moved on, but they haven’t. Blairism is dead and so is centrism – whatever that is.

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Smears, Lies, Social Media And Brandon Lewis

Brandon Lewis. He don’t ‘alf like a good old smear.

Social media may have its problems but there’s one thing about it that cannot be denied: it has effectively democratized the production and dissemination of information. Until fairly recently, the production of information was tightly controlled by what is often laughingly referred to as the ‘free press’ or ‘free media’, which is mostly controlled and owned by Conservative-supporting proprietors. Cast your minds back to the General Election of 1992 and The S*n’s disgraceful front pages. Cast your minds back to 1996 when Tony Blair, then merely the leader of the Labour Party, had to get on his hands and knees and beg for Rupert Murdoch’s support. I don’t want a return to those days, but the Tories clearly do, and there’s a reason why they complain so bitterly about social media and whine about non-existent online abuse: they resent the fact that people can make their own judgements based on information that wouldn’t have been available to them 10 or 20 years ago. The Tories are also incapable of matching the social media campaigns of groups like Momentum and, by way of reply, end up producing the most laughable efforts, like Activate.

Smear at will, chaps! That ought to convince the voters that we’re the natural party of government!

Last week, Theresa May reshuffled her cabinet and brought in Brandon Lewis, the MP for Great Yarmouth, as chairman of the Conservative Party. His deputy is James (Not So) Cleverly, the MP for Braintree (there’s a joke in there), whose Twitter feed is full to bursting with smears and lies. When I heard about Lewis’s appointment, this is what I tweeted.

The role of the Tory Party chairman, as far as I can see it, is to co-ordinate smear attacks on their enemies. This is how it’s been since the 1920s, when national newspapers like the Daily Mail,  a ‘newspaper’ friendly to the interests of the Tories, could publish forgeries like the Zinoviev Letter to affect the outcome of a general election and, at the same time, undermine the democratic process safe in the knowledge that it enjoyed high level protection.

When Lewis  appeared on today’s Andrew Marr Show, he didn’t disappoint. Immediately afterwards, he tweeted:

My response was brief and to the point.

Later, this was tweeted from the Tories’s official Twitter account:

When Angela Rayner told her Twitter followers how she dealt with online abuse, Lewis saw this as an opportunity to make  dishonest political capital and smear the Labour frontbench at the same time.

Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads was having none of it and reminded Lewis that his “Respect Pledge” was little more than a gimmick.

That reminds me, what happened to the 40 or so Tory MPs that were recently outed as sex pests and worse? It’s all gone rather quiet.

CCHQ quoted Cleverly in the Sunday Express:

Here it is from the horse’s mouth so to speak.

Cleverly has very little room to complain about abuse, yet here he is assuming the moral high ground. When all else fails, pretend your shit doesn’t stink and smear it all over your opponents.

The Tories have been very fond of claiming that Labour and by extension, the Left, has been singularly responsible for online abuse. But this is a topsy-turvy version of reality, because it’s been demonstrated that the abuse comes mainly from the Right and is directed at Labour MPs like Emma Dent Coad, Laura Pidcock and Diane Abbott. The New Statesman tracked 25, 688 abusive tweets and noted that most of them were directed at Diane Abbott.  Tory MPs, by contrast, have been challenged on their lies, which they then wilfully misinterpret as “online abuse”. There’s a reason for this: social media has, for the first time, allowed many people to not only engage with their MPs, but to openly challenge the lies and misinformation produced by Tory MPs and the propagandists at CCHQ. This is anathema to Tories, who may talk a good talk about freedom and democracy, but work tirelessly to stifle those things.

I didn’t see Brandon Lewis on the Andrew Marr Show yesterday morning but I suspect that Marr didn’t once challenge or refute any of his accusations or smears. However, the Marr Show helpfully tweeted this, and what I’ve noticed from this clip is how Lewis, rather than face up to the fact that his party is now, most likely, the third largest party in Britain, smears his way out of an uncomfortable moment. But that’s not all: watch how he squirms when it’s revealed to viewers that the abolition of credit card charges, announced on Saturday, was a European Union directive, and not down to the government, as their Twitter meme mendaciously suggests.

What Lewis is really saying is “We’re are crap at social media and it’s not fair that Labour is better than us”. The logic behind this is that the Tories think that being good at social media means being abusive and making baseless allegations, but this is an obvious psychological projection.

One smear that’s been doing the tours of the radio and television studios is the claim that Labour’s shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, told an audience that he wanted to “lynch” Esther McVey. McDonnell actually quoted what someone else had said and yet, the Tories, being Tories, attributed the words to him directly. Worse perhaps, the BBC always fails to challenge Tory MPs who reproduce these lies live on air, as Sarah Smith did when the lie was repeated to her by Immigration Minister, Caroline Noakes, on The Sunday Politics. She apologized towards the end of the show.

The Tories are comfortable with racists. That’s not a smear; that’s the truth. For when Boris Johnson makes another racist joke or calls black children “piccaninnies”, nothing happens.  It’s waved away. For example, when Scottish Tory councillors spouted sectarian and racist remarks, Ruth Davidson gave them a quick slap on the wrists and welcomed them back a few weeks later. The official media, for its part, said little if anything at all. Yet, the Tories and their pals on Fleet Street and elsewhere will seize on any opportunity to paint Labour as a uniquely anti-Semitic party, and when their own members are guilty of real anti-Semitism, what happens? Absolutely nothing. Not even the official media are interested.

When Toby Young was appointed to the board of the Office for Students, a quango set up by Bozza’s half-witted and less charismatic sibling, Jo Johnson, people took to social media in their droves to point out Young’s lack of suitability. Central to these claims were Young’s 40,000 or so tweets, many of which expressed crude sexism and homophobia, one even suggested anal rape. But that wasn’t the least of it, his advocacy for what he calls “progressive eugenics” (a bizarre and contradictory construction if ever there was one) was also cited as grounds for his unsuitability. Young was forced to stand down. Predictably, the Tories started complaining about “online lynching” and “trial by Twitter”. Not one of them mentioned eugenics or the important fact that it’s a long discredited pseudo-science, which was central to Hitler’s Final Solution. In their silence, they’ve clearly revealed themselves, not only to be Social Darwinists, but tacit supporters of eugenics.

Thanks to social media many of us are better informed than we once were.  Yes, there is online abuse but most of it comes from the Right and not the Left.  But ordinary citizens are now able to call out politicians on their lies and distortions, so when the Tories claimed they had abolished credit card charges all by themselves, they were immediately met by a barrage of corrections. The Tories hate that. For them, it’s tantamount to abuse and for people that declare themselves tough and in control, they betray themselves as rather thin-skinned and lacking in control. Worse still, the Tories are a party bereft of ideas and haemorrhaging members, and they see smears, lies and abuse as substitutes.

To borrow from the villain’s stock line at the end of an episode of Scooby Doo, Where Are You? “We would have gotten away with it, if it hadn’t been for you pesky kids and your social media”.

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