Tag Archives: smear campaigns

Lies, Disinformation And Guido Fawkes

Last year, I had an encounter on Twitter with Kevin Mousley who is a producer with BBC News, In that exchange, I’d accused the corporation of sourcing news stories from the Guido Fawkes site. He denied it, then he tried to bully and browbeat me. I had a similar tussle with Rob Burley, the editor of the Marr Show on BBC 1. I ended up blocking him.

It’s not just the BBC that sources some of its stories from Guido, other broadcasters do too. The BBC also invites Tom Harwood, Guido’s tea boy into its studios, thereby legitimating him and the fact-free sewage that pours forth from the site.

Today on Twitter, I was alerted to the following tweet, which claims, without any evidence, that Jeremy Corbyn has had a stroke and which uses a doctored image to reinforce the message.

I’ve taken a screenshot of the tweet in case Guido takes it down. I’ve also taken the liberty of reporting it, for all the good that it will do.

This feeble attempt at propaganda may have played well in the 1920s or the 1960s, but these days, people aren’t so easily fooled. They know what Photoshop is and what it does.

Of course, Guido and Harwood, who is mostly likely the culprit behind the tweet and the shitty Photoshop effort, may try and pass this off as ‘satire’, but that would be a lie – much like the crap that passes for ‘scoops’ on its site. But what kind of satirist thinks having a life-changing event like a stroke is funny and uses it to score a cheap political point? Only bullies and their mates. That’s who.

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Filed under General Election 2019, Media, propaganda, Yellow journalism

Michael Gove, Historical Revisionism And Wilful Ignorance

This morning, I’d noticed that Michael Gove had tweeted an article – presumably while intoxicated – from The S*n which reheats an old anti-Corbyn accusation. The article, which I won’t link to here, claims that Corbyn “aided campaign to free IRA assassin who served 20 years for trying to kill a cop”. There is no depth to which Gove will not plunge.

Let’s go back nearly 20 years when Gove wasn’t an MP (happy days), but was writing for the Rupert Murdoch-owned Times. The right-wing press in this country have continued with the notion that the war in Northern Ireland is ongoing and have used the conflict as a means to smear Corbyn for his efforts in finding a peaceful solution. I found this article written by Roy Greenslade in The Guardian in 2000, in which he says:

The rightwing papers’ coverage of the bloody loyalist feud in Northern Ireland has been slanted to fit the old myth that republicans are the root of all evil

Greenslade is referring here to the Loyalist feud that followed the Good Friday Agreement in 1999. Remember that the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has close links to the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), which is an alternative name for the UVF, and the Red Hand Commando (RHC). The last two Tory governments, were supported by the DUP in a confidence and supply arrangement, which seemingly elided the party’s connections to Loyalist paramilitaries for the sake of expedience. In any case, it was a relationship doomed to failure from the outset, because the DUP does what the DUP wants when it wants.

Greenslade observes that British newspapers don’t give readers the full story, and Tories like Gove rely on voters’ ignorance of past events, which then begs the question: if people have no knowledge of British post-war history and the low intensity conflict in Northern Ireland, known euphemistically as ‘The Troubles’, then why take time and trouble to smear a man like Corbyn as an ‘IRA sympathiser’, especially when Thatcher government’s support for Loyalist death squads is well-documented? The only answer that I can come up with is hubris.

Giving readers a historical perspective takes up space and draws heavily on the time – and, of course, the expertise – of the journalist. It is therefore costly and, given the cult of youth that pervades so many papers nowadays, there are often too few people around editorial floors with a working knowledge of post-war modern history.

Greenslade continues:

Perhaps the most pernicious reason for our ahistorical press is its political agenda. When events call into question a policy line avidly pursued by a paper, throwing into doubt the trenchant “advice” offered to readers down the years, then it proves convenient to ignore history altogether.

Since coming to power in 2010, the Tories and their allies in the media and elsewhere have been trying to rewrite history to suit their false narratives.

A combination of these factors, with the last undoubtedly the most prevalent, occurred in the coverage of loyalist gang warfare in Northern Ireland last week. Right-wing papers suddenly found themselves in a tricky situation because the story did not fit neatly into the previous 30-year pattern of events.

In that paradigm, all the troubles in the “province” stemmed from malevolent republicans. In recent years, with the IRA ceasefire and Sinn Fein’s incorporation into elected office, these papers have opened a second front by pouring scorn on the concept and the practice of the peace process.

Yet the vast majority of republicans have remained stubbornly faithful to the ballot box, making it difficult for the hostile Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Times and Sun to continue with their anti-peace process propaganda war.

Unlike those Loyalists, eh? Remember, the DUP didn’t accept the Good Friday Agreement and have pretended ever since that the low intensity war is still happening. Greenslade again:

Then along comes Johnny “Mad Dog” Adair and an opportunity of sorts is gratefully accepted. The usual suspects – Ruth Dudley-Edwards, Michael Gove, Bruce Anderson – were wheeled out along with their unnamed leader-writing sympathisers to hammer the government.

The outbreak of internecine strife on the Shankill was, according to Anderson in the Mail, due to politicians having created “a moral vacuum in which such madness can fester”.

And there, of course, is the return to the central agenda: it’s all the uppity republicans’ fault after all. The Daily Mail nodded in agreement, referring to “the government’s endless concessions to republicans”.

Not willing to accept that the fault for Loyalist internecine violence rested with the paramilitaries themselves, leader writers like Gove et al instead blamed Republicans. Greenslade again (my italics):

Gove in the Times blamed John Major and Tony Blair for appeasement. The Telegraph referred to the Northern Ireland secretary, Peter Mandelson, as living in an “Alice in Wonderland world” and claimed that Adair “ruled the roost because of the Belfast agreement”. So far, so bad. Even on this single point, no historical context was allowed to peep through. No mention, for instance, of the people of Ireland having voted overwhelmingly for the agreement, which stated categorically that prisoners would be released.

The Times, unlike the Telegraph, did at least praise Mandelson for Adair’s arrest. But its columnist Gove led the way in offering a scandalous justification for the Protestant paramilitaries’ gangsterism. Their hostility towards the peace process, he dared to claim, is fuelled by the fact that Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness is in government.

Gove, like many in his party, see nothing wrong with reviving the cycle of violence that so marred civil and political life in the Six Counties for nearly 40 years. For them, it’s a price worth paying, just so long as they get the Brexit they crave.

Gove’s efforts and those of his colleagues rely on the average Brit’s total ignorance, not just of their own history, but that of Ireland. This was brought into sharp relief a year ago when Priti Patel said that the government should use the threat of food shortages to force the Irish government to drop its demand for the so-called ‘backstop’ in the Brexit negotiations. Aside from the residual imperialism expressed in this statement, Patel and Gove’s cavalier approach to history and memory is dangerous.

But the Tories don’t care. For them, history only matters inasmuch as it’s just another narrative than can be endlessly rewritten to suit their political objectives. This 2016 article from the Belfast Telegraph revealed that the government provided UDA-linked groups with funds from what it calls ‘ the controversial Social Investment Fund’.

Among those with huge influence over how the £80 million SIF budget is allocated is notorious Bangor UDA criminal Dee Stitt, who last week posed for photos with DUP First Minister Arlene Foster.

Other key players include the UDA’s former leader in the Maze Prison and Lisburn commander Adrian Bird, and convicted UDA gunman turned failed DUP council candidate Sam ‘Chalky’ White. All three paramilitaries were appointed to SIF steering panels, which recommend how cash is handed out, with DUP and Sinn Fein approval.

During the past two years Stitt, Bird and White have successfully lobbied for more than £5 million of taxpayers’ cash being spent on UDA-linked projects that pay their wages in Belfast, Lisburn and Bangor.

The Tories, Michael Gove in particular, have some explaining to do.

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Johnson’s Blame Game

Earlier, I listened to a little bit of the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 and as I was doing so, the newsreader said that Boris Johnson has written to Jeremy Corbyn asking him to “come clean” over Brexit. For those people who are hard of hearing and hard of thinking, Corbyn has made it abundantly clear what his party’s position is on Brexit. Yes, this is another Johnson stunt.

The position is laid out on the party’s website in a form of language that’s easy to understand and yet, apparently well-educated people have difficulty comprehending it. Actually, they do understand it, but are pretending that they don’t. The idea that Corbyn is either “dithering” or “sitting on the fence” is a narrative that’s been constructed by our supine media but which has its origins in the bowels of CCHQ’s smear department, otherwise known as the Conservative Research Department, which has, over the course of nearly 90 years, been responsible for producing smears, propaganda and running its spy networks. Yes, it has spies in other parties.

When this General Election was called, it was obvious that, in the immature mind of the PM, this would be used as an occasion to smear and belittle Corbyn. During the 2017, the Tories had no policies and abandoned its manifesto less than 24 hours after its publication and spent much of its time smearing Corbyn. We have yet to see the Tories’ 2019 manifesto.

Johnson tweeted:

Johnson can only repeat his crass slogan, “Get Brexit done”. It’s as if his shitty deal, which was soundly defeated in the Commons, never happened. Like the rest of his party, Johnson is a bully who refuses to accept responsibility for his behaviour, his actions or his mistakes. It’s worth remembering that the paper he writes for, The Daily Telegraph, has been forced to apologise three times this year for errors written by its star writer. Far from being a man of his word, Johnson is a champion bullshitter, a blusterer and a bungler. He told us that he would “die in a ditch” if he didn’t get Brexit “done”. We’re still waiting.

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Gordon Brown’s Selective Anti-racism

Remember Gordon Brown? Who could forget him? He was dubbed the “Iron Chancellor”, who would “hit the ground running” as soon as he came into government. He was also the man who seemingly channelled every British right-wing politician who ever existed, when he said, without irony, “British jobs for British workers”. This is the same Gordon Brown, who said nothing when Phil Woolas, the former Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, got kicked out the Commons for distributing racist leaflets to his constituents. “Scare the white vote” he was told. Brown was also happy to adopt anti-immigration rhetoric rather than challenge Michael Howard’s dog-whistle racism during the 2005 General Election campaign.

Now he’s back and he wants the world to know it.

In yesterday’s Guardian, Brown wrote:

The Labour party owes the Jewish community an unqualified apology. But that is only a starting point in rebuilding the trust that has been shattered.

A few months ago, I joined hundreds of other non-Jewish Labour party members in signing up as an affiliated member of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM). Instead of Jewish members leaving Labour, Labour members joined the Jewish community.

That’s the same Jewish Labour Movement that accepts non-Jews into its ranks and which has spent the last four years smearing left-wing Jews and the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, as “anti-Semitic”. Notice also Brown’s suggestion that the JLM and the organizations which share their ideology and loathing for anything left-wing, is definitively representative of a homogenized, Jewish community (sic). But he goes further, even misrepresenting the words of Chris Williamson, who was farcically suspended again after having the whip restored less than 48 hours earlier.

For somewhere along the way it became possible for a Labour MP, close to the leader, to suggest that in dealing with antisemitism we were being “too apologetic”. 

Counterfire provides the context to Williamson’s speech here.

In an effort to show that he’s being even-handed when it comes to racism, Brown adds:

Of course, this poison is not restricted to the Jewish community or to Labour. Islamophobes who use social media to condemn all Muslims also exhibit a racism that disfigures more and more of our society – especially now that a populist nationalism, which needs enemies, is on the rise.

All well and good, but there’s not a single mention of people of colour, who have seen the biggest rise in hate crimes against them, nor is there, predictably, any mention of the racism experienced by Gypsies, Roma and Travellers. It’s as if, by our very visibility, we’ve become somehow invisible to Brown’s one good eye. He flourishes his credentials, which are, to adapt Baudrillard, a flaunting of his collection of signs.

And while I gave the go-ahead under the last Labour government for the establishment of a post-Holocaust envoy, it is now clear we need to go much further. The next Labour government should announce it will appoint a designated minister, backed up by an ambassador. This role should be to combat antisemitism – by monitoring and reporting on its evil presence and pressurising governments everywhere to eradicate it.

Hundreds of thousands, around 25% of Europe’s Roma and Sinti population were exterminated in the Nazi death camps, but Brown doesn’t see them, let alone even mention them. The use of the word ‘Holocaust’ suggests that it was only Jews who were killed by the Nazis and the reader is left to assume that’s what Brown means. A proper history lesson for Gord wouldn’t go amiss.

More lip service is paid to anti-racism as a sign in the following paragraph:

When, in 2016, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission reviewed 50 years of anti-racist legislation and enforcement, it called on the government to formulate a comprehensive anti-racism strategy fit for new times. The need is more urgent now and, in preparation for the next Labour government, we should consult on a new and broader strategy that begins with better education in our schools – for example, we should do more to support the work of the Holocaust Educational Trust – and include stronger laws against racism in all its forms.

There is a hierarchy of racism (and race) in the United Kingdom and Brown and the others have either consciously or unconsciously accepted it as fait accompli in their speech and in their actions – though they would deny it. If you’re Black, for example, the racism that you experience comes a distant second, third or fourth place behind the smears. Even genuine cases of anti-Semitism come a long way behind the confected accusations. For example, while the following story may appear on news websites, it wasn’t mentioned on any of the national television or radio news bulletins that I watched or listened to yesterday.

Far-right extremist Tristan Morgan, who set fire to a synagogue on a day commemorating the Holocaust, has been locked up in hospital indefinitely.

He laughed after he set fire to the synagogue in Exeter, Devon, the Old Bailey heard.

Morgan, from the city, was set on fire by the blast after he poured petrol into a window of the 18th Century building on 21 July 2018.

He had previously admitted arson and two terrorism-related charges.

A genuine case of anti-Semitism, you would think and one which certainly deserved more attention than it actually received. You’d be right.

I’m not racist, but…

In the aftermath of the 2010 General Election, the Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, was found to have deliberately lied about his opponent in some racist leaflets he’d sent to his constituents in order to “galvanize the white S*n vote”. Gordon Brown and no less a figure than Cherie Blair came to his defence, as did his close friend, John Mann.

For those who say, in the words of Howard and Crosby’s 2005 dog-whistle posters that “it isn’t racist to be concerned about immigration”, I would argue that may or may not be the case, in and of itself, but behind such concerns often lurk the unpleasant discourses of racism, xenophobia and eugenics. Opposition to immigration provides a useful rallying point that also provides cover to deeply-bigoted sentiments.

Just over a year ago, Brown made speech in which he oversimplified the reasons that impelled many voters to use the EU referendum to send a message to Westminster. True to form, he reduced those reasons into a single anti-immigration discourse. The Guardian’s Larry Elliott wrote:

Brown presented a six-point plan for dealing with concerns about migration: no undercutting of wages by migrants; registration of jobs to give local people a chance to apply; registration of migrants on arrival in the UK; possible removal of migrants if they failed to find a job within nine months; a ban on employment agencies advertising jobs abroad that had not been advertised in the UK; and a bigger fund to help mitigate the impact of migration on local communities.

Indeed, last month, in his speech to an event organized by the Fabian Society and Hope Not Hate, the latter of which pretends to be an all-encompassing anti-racism campaign group, but which in reality, has become little more than a vehicle for anti-Semitism witch hunters like Ruth Smeeth, Brown suggested that in order to combat the far-right, one needed to adopt their positions or, at least, listen to them more. Isn’t that what got us here in the first place?

The ‘Go Home’ vans, Hostile Environment and the Windrush Scandal didn’t appear from nowhere, they are ontologically related and have their roots in Nu Labour’s 2005 anti-immigration discourses. Gordon Brown would have you believe he’s on the side of the anti-racists. He isn’t. He’s part of the problem.

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Filed under Government & politics, Labour, Media, propaganda, Racism, smear campaigns

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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A BBC Producer, Guido And Me

The antics of Britain’s news media in the last few weeks have been, to say the least, discomfiting and laughable in equal measure. From the production of anti-Corbyn smears to their fulsome and unquestioning support for the government’s vague position on the Skripal poisoning case, the media has shown itself incapable of critical analysis and devoid of professional curiosity. It has, instead, resorted to smearing the leader of the opposition, who advised a more cautious, even statesman-like approach. For his trouble, he was smeared by the government, the media and even some members of his own party, most notably the MP for BAe Systems, John Woodcock.

The BBC has been especially poor and has recently taken to sourcing news stories from the disreputable flak machine that’s Guido Fawkes. I wrote about the site in this article from 2012.

Last October, as I watching The Daily Politics, I’d noticed that the editorial team had sourced an item about Labour MP, Jared O’Mara, from Guido. I took to Twitter to express my disgust and disbelief.

On Monday, anticipating a smear story that was about to break, I took to Twitter again after it emerged that the BBC and other news organizations, had sourced a story from Guido.

This morning I noticed there had been a reply from someone claiming to work as a producer for Radio 4 ‘s You and Yours.

The arrogance here is astonishing.

I responded, first by telling him he was “projecting”, then I quoted his tweet, so that everyone could see what kind of people work for the BBC.

Mousley has yet to respond. But if this is how one BBC employee replies to viewers and listeners, then it’s a fair bet that this high-handed, smug attitude is consistent throughout the Corporation. If Mousley deletes the tweet, then I have a screen shot.

We expect better from our news providers, but when they produce blatant propaganda pieces and repeat smear stories sourced from sites like Guido, then they no longer deserve the trust and support of the public.

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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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