A new report on antisemitism has taken us straight through the looking glass

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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:

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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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    1. Ironically, people seeking to remedy dire circumstances consequent on three decades of unbridled avarice are being attacked by weapons they crafted themselves. Their ruthless enemy has identified a particular weakness of the ‘wishy washy’ naive element of the ‘left’ and exploited it well.

      We have been regaled for years by earnest persons with admonitions concerning ‘racism’, ‘sexism’, and scores of other purportedly illiberal utterances and behaviour critical of especially cherished minorities; oddly these don’t include children and adults endowed with rare talent in danger of being swamped by mediocrity.

      Fear, sometimes exacerbated by menace, has been instilled in folk who might otherwise voice criticism of minorities in walled gardens who now are (insultingly) deemed too sensitive to respond robustly to vicissitudes of life. In the USA the term ‘snowflake’ has been coined for the class of pathetic individual unable to progress beyond group-think of ignorant peers.

      Accusation of ‘racism’, a widely misunderstood statistical solecism, has for some years been wielded to silence reasonable comment. Those thus accused allow themselves to be pushed into a corner from which they must defend themselves against calumny rather than pursue their original point and establish that it is legitimate. From this, and from a plethora of other issues regarded by guardians of rectitude as off limits, has arisen a culture of apology for offence towards those for whom taking offence has developed into a fine art.

      Antisemitism, the genuine variety promoting hatred and harm, is particularly directed manifestation of crude racism. The latter is a flexible concept deployed nowadays to encompass not only indisputably ignorant and vicious sentiments but also remarks within compass of humour e.g. calling the French ‘frogs’, Germans krauts, and Saudi Arabians rag heads. Only the brave may nowadays quote Kipling’s choicer words about ‘lesser breeds”.

      Cleverly, people seeking to destroy credibility of the reincarnated Labour party, have latched onto sensitivities now inherent to those, in a manner of speaking, born into socialism but fortunately absent among partial converts, such as I, perceiving deep economic and social malaise affecting the population at large.

      Traditionally, ‘properly thinking’ socialists within Labour, plus Blairites pretending to be thus, fear being branded as intolerant bigots by those to whom the adjectives properly fit.

      Hence, the Labour party is particularly over sensitive to accusation of antisemitism arising from dissidents within it and from external malign forces determined upon smashing it by any means. Labour is in need of less empty ideology and more pragmatism.

    2. Some weeks ago I made a flippant comment somewhere saying that as I despise the Zionist Tony Blair, and criticism of Zionism is conflated with anti-Semitism, that it must be anti-Semitic to despite Tony Blair. But hell, they actually went there, albeit with TWatson! This stuff now parody’s itself, it’s that nonsensical.

    3. Look on this as positive feedback. Anything that is working in squashing the smear campaign will be attacked. Deselection of Blairite MPs gets a response? Good, they’re obviously panicking. Claims that criticising Watson is anti semitic? Good, they’re scared he’s going to booted from the deputies job. The biggie though is mentioning “The Lobby” documentary. This one must be really causing an itch as it’s near impossible to argue back against, unlike Panorama’s hatchet job on Labour.

      So, the louder their ridiculous claim becomes, the louder we need to point out how ridiculous that claim is.

      .

      1. Vlad, I love your name by the way. You are right of course. What is a stark actual fact is that these campaigns by the BoD, CST and whoever in the Labour Friends of Israel are intensified now at a time when the Equalities Commission is allegedly undertaking a ‘thoroughly impartial’ investigation into complaints they received. Unfortunately, the head of the Commission and its Deputy are both Jewish, something applauded by the BoD. But you are right, it seems this is all they have got left to throw at Corbyn and quite frankly, I don’t think the British people give a damn about these allegations; there are more important things to worry about such as the gross mismanagement of the economy by two Successive Tory Governments.

        I do think though, Corbyn now needs to make a definitive statement saying enough is enough. Norman Finklestein’s statement is brilliant and included the thought that the Labour Party, in trying to deal with these (I am going to call them totally fabricated allegations about anti-Semitism because they are) are just putting mostly innocent people through a thorough investigative process.

        As the claims are so seriously ridiculous I don’t think we need to shout loudly, they the BoD, the CST, The Jewish Chronicle et al are largely condemning themselves from their own mouths. Personally, I think all these Friends of Israel in Parliament – the whole thing should be scrapped. MPs are there to represent our, the citizens of the UK s interests.

    4. How ironic this is when you consider that the right of the party including Campbell and Ellman had no issue with Campbell’s clearly antisemitic election campaign against Michael Howard – as pointed out by the 2018 issue of Nye Bevan News.co.uk
      5/8/18

      https://nyebevannews.co.uk/campbells-new-labour-campaign-against-the-welsh-jew-micheal-howard-proves-hes-in-no-position-to-point-the-finger-on-antisemitism/

      Alastair Campbell’s New Labour campaign against the Welsh Jew Micheal Howard proves he’s in no position to point the finger on antisemitism.”

    5. The antisemitism issue is clearly being used as a weapon to attack opponents both within Labour and those in other political groups who have latched on to this well developed program to further their own ends. Defending Jews and the Jewish faith is often not the prime motivation of the attackers and leaves the attackees fighting the shadow monsters.

      In this issue: Watch Jewish scholar Norman Finkelstein take down the smear campaign against Jeremy Corbyn is excellent. Also the infiltration by the israeli government can be seen: https://www.redressonline.com/2017/01/watch-israels-penetration-of-the-uks-political-system-exposed/

      Labour is guilty of allowing internal problems and power struggles interfere with the important issues if the day which is to unite and defeat the Tories and keep the UK in the EU.

    6. Tom Watson doesn’t know the difference between antisemitism, and speaking up for civil rights in Isreal.
      Who he working for then?? Or being used by? I can’t imagine anyone of his social position having such a low intelligence not to discern the difference. Trump uses the smear campaign to get what he wants so why not Tom Watson?
      The Soviets used the smear campaign against writers or any one who didin’t agree with their indocrination when they invaded the Czech Republic in 1968. A smear campaign to used to oppress.
      This is what is happening to quell the Labour Vision for the right to enact a different, and decent world.
      The trouble with Tom!

      1. Tom Watson is morally and intellectually unfit to be Deputy of the Labour Party let alone be an MP. His sole intention appears to be to do his chosen Government’s bidding (I.e that being the Israeli Government) and that is to bring down Jeremy Corbyn. No more no less. I haven’t heard him in any interviews promote the brilliant Labour Party Manifesto, support Labour Policy or defend Jeremy Corbyn. I am sincerely hoping George Galloway is true to his word and stands as a Labour Supporting MP in order to oust Watson.

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