A new report on antisemitism has taken us straight through the looking glass
CORRECTION: An older version of this article was headlined We are through the looking glass. Criticising Tom Watson is now antisemitic. The original article made the same point as the headline. In fact, the Community Security Trust (CST) report and the Observer story about the report did not say that criticism of Tom Watson was antisemitic in itself. The original article also incorrectly referred to the Guardian instead of the Observer. We amended the headline and image (which originally included a Guardian logo) and edited the article at 9.45am on 29 August 2019.
A new report from the Community Security Trust (CST) blames an array of pro-Labour Twitter accounts for driving “campaigns relating to the denial of antisemitism and attacking those who complain about antisemitism”. It calls them out for, among other things, “arguing that allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party are exaggerated, weaponised, invented or blown out of proportion”. This takes us straight through the looking glass.
Criticising the corporate media
The CST is a charity which aims to protect British Jews. The charity claims its report, titled Engine of Hate: the online networks behind Labour’s antisemitism crisis, shows:
how antisemitic narratives have taken root in Labour-supporting online circles
The report says:
All 36 of the Engine Room accounts have, at some point, tweeted content arguing that allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party are exaggerated, weaponised, invented or blown out of proportion, or that Labour and Corbyn are victims of a smear campaign relating to antisemitism.
The report’s implication seems to be that criticising media reporting of antisemitism claims could count as fuelling antisemitic narratives.
Yet in 2018, the Media Reform Coalition (MRC) concluded that corporate media coverage of Labour and antisemitism has been a “disinformation paradigm”. The academics at Birkbeck University wrote:
Following extensive case study research, we identified myriad inaccuracies and distortions in online and television news including marked skews in sourcing, omission of essential context or right of reply, misquotation, and false assertions made either by journalists themselves or sources whose contentious claims were neither challenged nor countered.
The MRC report found that the Guardian, BBC TV, the Daily Mail, and the Sun had the “least balanced sourcing” and “highest proportion of reporting failures”.
Criticising the Labour Right
Covering the report, the Observer echoed the CST’s criticism of the Twitter accounts, which it says are “connected to Twitter networks” that have targeted certain celebrities and MPs, including Tom Watson. The Observer writes that the accounts within the report:
were connected to Twitter networks that have used hashtag campaigns to attack MPs or public figures who have raised concerns about antisemitism and Labour. These include #BoycottRachelRiley, which targeted the Countdown presenter who has spoken out on the issue, and #SackTomWatson, which focuses on the party’s deputy leader.
The latest article is a continuation of a trend. Academics at the MRC previously found the Observer‘s sister paper, the Guardian, giving “an entirely unchallenged platform” to those attacking Corbyn on the topic of antisemitism to be a consistent problem. The Guardian‘s reporting on the matter has also seen:
- The paper refuse to publish a letter from over 200 Jewish women disputing the narrative that Labour is antisemitic.
- Six Jewish Labour members accuse the Guardian of ‘selectively editing’ antisemitism allegations.
- The outlet censor cartoons poking fun at Tom Watson from its resident illustrator Steve Bell.
Disciplinary cases relating to antisemitism among Labour members since September 2015, meanwhile, relate to 0.06% of the party’s 540,000-strong membership. Labour says:
This represents a tiny minority, but one antisemite is one too many, and we will continue to act against this repugnant form of racism.
The CST report seems to suggest that criticising coverage of antisemitism allegations could count as fuelling antisemitic narratives. The Observer reported the report without challenge. This type of nonsense only obscures the struggle against racism.
The Guardian declined The Canary‘s offer to comment and the CST did not respond.
Featured image via Twitter – Sky News
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