Two of The Guardian‘s best known columnists are engaged in a Twitter war which has caught the public’s attention. But what brought Labour supporter Owen Jones and arch-neoliberal Nick Cohen to blows?
The Twitter war
It all started with Cohen’s assertion that The Canary backs Donald Trump.
This is simply not true; as any simpleton capable of an internet search could reveal. In fact, you can view The Canary‘s previous articles on the tangerine tycoon here. But Cohen doesn’t make his case because it’s true. He makes it so he can get his tired old point across: that there is an ‘alt-left’ in Britain as dangerous as the ‘alt-right’ in the US:
Cohen then attempted to portray the reaction to his offensive tweet as some sort of witch hunt by that dangerous ‘alt-left’. He claimed Jones had misrepresented his criticism of The Canary, and denied that he meant to argue that the ‘alt-left’ was the equivalent of the ‘alt-right’:
Cohen is a trollumnist. A resident troll, paid by The Guardian/Observer to spew his bile in the direction of the left. His writing aches with tired clichés about the left which he hasn’t bothered to refresh since Super Gran was current.
His attitude was fully realised in his piece entitledDon’t tell me you weren’t warned about Corbyn. It is a finger-pointing lecture to working-class voters to ditch Corbyn. Predicting an historic electoral majority for Theresa May over the Labour leader, Cohen tells Corbyn supporters what they should do the morning after the election:
In my respectful opinion, your only honourable response will be to stop being a fucking fool by changing your fucking mind.
Of course, Cohen was as thumpingly wrong on this as most other things. Corbyn went on to increase Labour’s share of the vote by more than any leader since 1945, ending the Conservative majority. But the author did not take his own advice. Instead, he continues to denounce an ‘alt-left’ which simply does not exist.
Researchers who study extremist groups agree that there is no ‘alt-left’. As Anti-Defamation League analyst Mark Pitcavage toldTheNew York Times recently:
It did not arise organically, and it refers to no actual group or movement or network. It’s just a made-up epithet, similar to certain people calling any news they don’t like ‘fake news.’
Like many of his peers, Cohen displays a revulsion response to the labour movement of working-class people. And he throws around terms like ‘alt-left’ and ‘fake news’ in the hopes of delegitimising that movement – and any media outlet, pundit or politician who speaks in its favour.
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