There is a lot of talk about the Telegraph cartoon attacking Corbyn and the left, and much of it is pussyfooting around the issue. So let’s be clear. The cartoon is sick, and more than a little racist.
A cartoon depicting Momentum as an enormous, vicious dog attacking small, vulnerable Blairite MPs would be bad enough. But if you look at the tail of the dog, we see a depiction of a Muslim, (likely the President of Iran) secretly behind the attack.
The cartoon does the opposite of what political satire should do. It defends the powerful and attacks the vulnerable. It paints networked, wealthy, platformed MPs as victims, regular voters as monsters, and it indulges in racist conspiracy theory against Muslims. And it marks a new low point in the establishment’s attack on socialism.
— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) September 9, 2018
Chuka Umunna recently called on Jeremy Corbyn to “call off the dogs”, after local Labour Party members registered votes of no confidence in Blairite MPs for failing to represent them in Westminster. Any cartoonist worth their salt would have something to say about Umunna’s abuse of party members. He is a millionaire, who once took to an elite social media site to ask where he could party in London and not be forced to rub shoulders with “trash“. The “trash” would be non-millionaires. For the last three years, he’s used his platform to attack nurses, teachers, plumbers, and other regular voters who’ve had enough of his style of politics. The moment they find a way to fight back, he characterises them as “dogs”. Not so far from trash.
The cartoon also sells the idea that this supposedly vicious attack-dog is really being controlled by Muslims. Corbyn’s leash is loose and he looks enfeebled, while the Muslim at the tail is giggling like Dick Dastardly in a turban. This plugs into a common racist conspiracy among Blairites, one that Rod Liddle pushed in a Spectator column entitled The origins of Labour’s racism. He wrote:
Liddle’s assumption that Muslims are anti-Jewish is not only culturally and historically ignorant, but also racist. It overlooks millennia of peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Jews (most notably while Jewish people were being sent to death camps across ‘Christian’ Europe). It stems from a wilful misreading of the history of Israel-Palestine. Rather than a Palestinian struggle against Israel’s illegal occupation and apartheid, apologists portray it as some ancient tribal feud. Muslims just hate Jews. Simple. No further action required other than to ‘control’ the ‘savages’.
But this anti-Muslim conspiracy theory isn’t confined to right-wing titles like the Spectator. Here’s Nick Cohen pushing the same line in the Guardian, writing:
For people who spend so much time accusing others of conspiracy theorist thinking, this lot spend plenty of time engaging in it themselves.
The meaning of the cartoon was not lost on anyone. Peter Jukes of Byline Media wrote:
What the hell is this in @TelegraphNews cartoon about Corbyn and Momentum?
Echoes of Nazi era AntiSemitism. The Telegraph gratuitously adds an Islamophobic stereotype to incite hatred. Yet where are the complaints? pic.twitter.com/MlfsSgpAGo
— Peter Jukes (@peterjukes) September 9, 2018
Dr Zubaida Haque, deputy director of leading race equality think tank Runnymede, also condemned the cartoon:
Why is a Muslim person "behind" all threats nowadays and why does the media succumb so easily? Dog-whistle racism @Telegraph – no pun intended. Hugely disappointed by your crass & anti-Muslim racist cartoon. https://t.co/O8Eewuynlc
— Dr Zubaida Haque (@Zubhaque) September 9, 2018
Ben Sellars, political advisor to Labour MP Laura Pidcock, spoke out strongly against it too:
Wow, an incendiary cartoon, whipping up hatred against those terrible poodles who want equality & justice – with a little bit of Islamophobia thrown in for good measure. The @Telegraph: the voice of responsible, moderate, middle England Toryism, eh? Don’t make me laugh. #GTTO pic.twitter.com/jCYSuu9ffw
— Ben Sellers (@MrBenSellers) September 9, 2018
Millionaire MPs are using their platform to attack grassroots activists in their own party. Billionaire press barons are publishing cartoons to back them up. Something is truly rotten on our little island. And it’s not Momentum.
– Send a complaint to press watchdog IPSO here.
– Stop funding the establishment media and back an independent media outlet instead.
Featured image via screengrab