Sunday 30 July 2017

Politicians & journalists need to consider their own roles in toxifying the political environment

Just imagine if an independent left-wing website had published an article from a self-confessed Holocaust denier that featured brazen displays of sexism and anti-Semitism like the Sunday Times just did.

You know as well as I do that the right-wing media would pick up on the article and use it to smear the entire left as a bunch of misogynistic and anti-Semitic bigots, and to generate the absurd narrative that it's abusive and violent fanaticism in politics is solely a left-wing issue.

When the Sunday Times published an extraordinary article from the controversialist Kevin Myers which was dripping with sexism (repeated claims that women don't earn enough because they're not as driven, logical or masterful as men) and casual anti-semitism (allusion to the age old greedy money-grabbing Jew trope) they simply expected to get away with it as if printing such casual bigotry is just "fair comment".

We all know that we would never hear the end of it if some Corbyn-supporting site had hosted such brazenly sexist and anti-Semitic content, but because it's one of Rupert Murdoch's propaganda sheets, we're all supposed to be mollified with the deletion of the article and the explanation that it was just a "mistake" (as if commissioning a Holocaust denier to write an article full of bigoted stereotypes and then publishing it is the kind of mistake we've all made in our lives).

The bigoted Times column that would have had
right-wingers howling with outrage if such sexism
and anti-Semitism had appeared on a left-wing blog.
The most shocking thing about the article isn't that it was written (we all know there are still loads of sexists, racists and anti-Semites out there) but the fact that a supposedly reputable newspaper saw fit to publish such outright bigotry.

It tells you everything you need to know about the cultural acceptance of sexism and anti-Semitism at the Sunday Times that they actually commissioned an article from a known Holocaust denier and nobody at all saw fit to raise concerns about the extreme bigotry in the article as it went through the editing and publishing process.

Of course anyone who pays attention to the political environment knows that most of the hateful and violent extremism comes from the political right. We know that it was an extreme-right "Britain First" screaming fanatic who murdered Jo Cox, that the three people jailed for bombarding the Labour MP Luciana Berger with anti-Semitic abuse were all extreme-right fanatics not "lefties", and that the Finsbury Park terror attack suspect was a Britain First follower, and that his attack was wildly celebrated in the Britain First hate chamber.

Then there's the fact that Tory party has an incredibly lax attitude towards extreme-right propaganda that goes right to the top of the party (consider Zac Goldsmith's bigoted BNP-style campaign to become mayor of London, or Theresa May's decision to quote an bigoted extreme-right Twitter troll in the House of Commons as a cheap dig against Jeremy Corbyn, and the countless Tory politicians who have been caught out saying bigoted things and/or sharing extreme-right content on social media).

Not only do the Tory party have a very lax attitude towards right-wing extremism, the right-wing press who run constant propaganda for the Tories also feature regular displays of bigotry and right-wing extremism.

The Sunday Times are far from alone in hosting extreme bigotry for which independent left-wing websites would (rightfully) be condemned for if they did anything like as bad.

Unlike the radio station LBC the Daily Mail saw no problem with continuing to employ the unspeakable woman, even after she publicly called for a "final solution" against Muslims.

A columnist who writes for a newspaper that supported Adolf Hitler and the rise of fascism in the 1930s calling for a modern day Holocaust against Muslims is offensive on so many levels, but the Daily Mail are as comfortable with employing the unspeakable woman today as they are with their history of promoting fascism in the 1930s.

Then there's the S*n who published an article comparing a mixed race footballer with a gorilla, and the Daily Telegraph that called for the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to be beheaded for having the wrong political opinions.

Self-righteous MPs have launched an inquiry into the abuse of MPs, but the inquiry will tell them absolutely nothing unless they widen the scope of the investigation to look at what is inspiring people to send so many abusive messages to MPs.

Without widening the scope of the inquiry to look into the extreme behaviour of the right-wing press (the casual displays of bigotry and extremism outlined above, declaring judges "enemies of the people" for the "crime" of standing up for parliamentary democracy, the "crush the saboteurs" headline, the extreme smear-mongering campaign against Jeremy Corbyn during the election) and to investigate MPs own extreme behaviour and tolerance of extreme-right online abuse when it suits their purposes (like Theresa May quoting an extreme-right Twitter troll in parliament) then they'll never get to the bottom of why so many ordinary people feel emboldened to lob extreme abuse and threats at politicians.

If MPs and supposedly reputable newspapers create a political atmosphere where bigotry, threats, smears, abuse and extreme-right nastiness are normalised, it takes incredible feats of self-regarding hypocrisy for theat lot to react to ordinary people behaving in the very same way as if they're uniquely sick degenerates, rather than easily led people simply imitating the behaviour they see politicians and journalists continually getting away with.

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