On Saturday 7 November, the Sun managed to plunge to a depth even we didn’t think was possible. It published a smear about Jeremy Corbyn headlined:
Ex-British intelligence officers say Jeremy Corbyn is at the centre of a hard-left extremist network.
The story itself is laughable. These supposed intelligence officers have basically just scribbled a load of coloured lines on a website and added some names and links to back up their claims. But it’s much worse than just another dodgy Sun story, because the researchers of this network used neo-Nazi and antisemitic sources to back up its already incredibly dodgy points:
The Sun has published a network map of "hard-left extremists" in the Labour Party, made by "former British intelligence officers". Its sources include the neo-Nazi website Aryan Unity (h/t @johnedenuk) and the antisemitic conspiracy site The Millennium Report. pic.twitter.com/wUnBIyNfvt
— Daniel Trilling (@trillingual) December 7, 2019
The Sun is now using neo-Nazi "research" to target as "hard left" the most respected anti fascist magazine in postwar Britain – and guess who else "Aryan Unity" don't like 👇🏽 https://t.co/yv4ZjWGtwS
— Paul Mason (@paulmasonnews) December 7, 2019
But it seems actual provable connections with Nazis were too much even for the Sun. And by the evening of 7 December, the article had been ‘legally removed’ from its website.
Fear the imaginary network of doom!
Labour Exposed published the Hijacked Labour chart that claims Corbyn is a ‘neo-Marxist’ who ‘does not believe in the truth’.
And this, apparently, backs up its claims alongside its Nazi sources:
Now this diagram by itself would be laughable. It’s badly researched and it makes itself look bigger than it is due to listing numerous local anti-fascist and Stop The War groups. And seriously, if you want a diagram with ridiculously convoluted links, I could draw them a far better one based on the many campaigns and good causes Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have supported over the years.
And then there’s the fact that the chart links to cultural theorists like Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault who are not only well-respected and widely taught at universities – but also died years ago.
But it’s not laughable when people are named as part of a “hard-left extremist network” in a national newspaper – potentially putting them at risk. It’s certainly not laughable when the people who’ve put this site together believe that antisemitic and neo-Nazi sources are acceptable. And it’s certainly not laughable that a national newspaper decides to print and give voice to this nonsense just days before an election.
Apology, what apology?
The Sun took down the article late afternoon on 7 December. The exact reason is unknown (the paper did not reply to a request for comment from The Canary). But looking at the url – it appears the page was removed for legal reasons:
Now any respectable publication that had to take down an article in this manner would apologise and print a retraction. But it appears that neither the Sun, nor the author of the piece, political editor Tom Newton Dunn, seems to think this necessary.
Journalist Owen Jones, who is named in the network and who has previously been the subject of both threats and a violent attack from the far right, described it as a “scandal”:
I was among hundreds of left wingers named in this map published by The Sun, whose sources included nazis and antisemites.
Many of us are under direct threat of violence from the far right.
— Owen Jones🌹 (@OwenJones84) December 9, 2019
Meanwhile, the BBC appeared to think that Newton Dunn was a suitable person to grace its Sunday morning sofa to review the papers:
Tom Newton-Dunn will still be reading the papers on BBC breakfast even as he launders ARYAN FUCKING UNITY into a mainstream newspaper
— Tom Roberts (@TPGRoberts) December 7, 2019
And despite publishing an article with antisemitic and neo-Nazi sources, Newton Dunn still had the cheek to try and capitalise on the antisemitism smears against Corbyn:
You published an antisemitic conspiracy theory sourced from neo Nazi sites.
You put every one of us named on that list in peril from far right extremists.
Sit the fuck down. https://t.co/ucoBp0KwXS
— Kerry-Anne Mendoza (@TheMendozaWoman) December 8, 2019
Not the first time
Earlier in the election campaign, journalist Paul Mason predicted that:
towards the end of this election this will become very, very vicious.
He also spoke about the Zinoviev letter that was faked by MI5 and MI6 to destabilise and wreck Labour’s chances of winning the election in 1924. The letter called on communists to support the Labour Party. It was printed four days before the election, and:
the Mail splashed headlines across its front page claiming: Civil War Plot by Socialists’ Masters: Moscow Orders To Our Reds; Great Plot Disclosed. Labour lost by a landslide.
Mason expected that there will be:
one Zinoviev letter scale lie per day in the last seven days of this election.
It appears that the Sun is taking a leaf from this playbook. But it’s not the first time it’s done so. On the eve of the 2017 election, the Sun, alongside other papers, tried to link Corbyn to extremism. In that case, it was supposed support for al-Muhajiroun at a protest in 2002. But The Canary was able to show, through documents from a police database about the protest, that this story was total nonsense.
This latest story is perhaps a new low for the Sun. Because it’s not just an attempt to smear Corbyn, it’s creating a real risk for the people named. And it’s doing so based on vile racist sources. And refusing to apologise both to readers who will have been mislead by its story and to the people named exemplifies the utter contempt the paper has for the general public.
As Mason said, it’s likely that similar stories will surface over the coming days. This is a disgusting, dirty election full of dangerous lies, smears, and falsehoods. The Conservative government and its billionaire backers in the press know they’ll lose with the truth. So they’re hoping we believe their lies. Please let’s make sure that on 13 December these people wake up to a nasty shock when they realise we’re not mugs; we’re not stupid, and we can see through their lies and smears.
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