Wednesday 10 July 2019

The BBC's Anti-Corbyn Hit Job

Panorama, the BBC's premier investigative journalism show comes in two flavours. You have considered pieces, usually but not always focusing on allegations of wrongdoing, that sifts through evidence and builds a case for or against that episode's object of scrutiny. And then you have the lazy hit job that sees testimony and documentation arranged without due space for the right of reply, nor the consideration of evidence that flies in the face of the case. Can you guess which way tonight's Panorama alleging leadership interference in anti-semitism complaints went?

This isn't the first time a political target has been roughed up this way. Indeed, not long after Jeremy Corbyn came to prominence the BBC used Panorama to suggest he was chillaxed with the Iraqi resistance attacking British soldiers, because in December 2003 Stop the War was present at a conference in Cairo that urged resistance to the US/British invasion, and the declaration of said meeting was published on StW's website. As we have seen since, a cottage industry has grown up around guilt-by-association gotchas as far as the Labour leader is concerned, and tonight's show was unafraid of flagging up these links.

What about the substance of tonight's Panorama then? If you can't stomach the full half hour, the BBC have presented their case in written form. And, as it was always going to be, it's pretty thin stuff. We have a complaint that Seumas Milne issued an email our whistle blowers interpreted as an instruction. The email, or at least the bits the BBC chose to quote, say "something's going wrong and we're muddling up political disputes with racism ... I think going forward we need to review where and how we're drawing the line." This seems pretty straightforward and non-controversial. Because anti-semitism simultaneously exists in the party and is a factional football, there are going to be real and vexatious complaints. And how do we know distinguishing between the two was the intent and nothing more sinister, as per Panorama's insinuation? Why, you can read the full, undoctored quote from Seumas's email for yourself.

We heard the old canard that staff from the leader's office interfered in the complaints process, suggesting it was improper for workers to be seconded to the department. This has been floated many occasions over the last couple of years, and has almost become a sub-genre of grumbles in and of itself. If this separation of personnel was to be strictly maintained at all times, why did our disgruntled Labour staffers regularly email Laura Murray, now head of complaints, then LOTO staff, asking for advice about cases? Indeed, Sam Matthews - one of the complainants in tonight's programme and the source of the above claim against Seumas Milne - was one of those who approached him for advice in the transition period between general secretaries. It's a measure of polemical rather than investigative intent that this went unsaid.

It goes on. One Kat Buckingham says she was stuck between an "angry and obstructive leader's office" and the disciplinary process itself. That may as well be, but what this "obstruction" was is unclear. This, like may other moments of pure conjecture, were left hanging. Which is exactly what you would expect from a hack piece. Establish the case early on, and let the narrative flow away from evidence to insinuation. A dishonest approach to journalism you would expect from the Sun or the Mail, not the supposedly world class BBC. These moves were repeated to pad out the programme too. At one point, in reference to the party investigation of goings ons in Liverpool Riverside CLP, quotations appeared on screen. "Every Zionist is a target" went one. "Every Jew is a Zio-fascist" said another. Very well, but we are not told what the source of these quotes were. Are Labour Party members responsible? In the context of the broadcast it was a device used to establish that an atmosphere of hostility and anti-semitism pervaded the CLP, of the sort of remarks we're led to expect were commonplace and were aired without challenge.

Similarly, the testimonies of Jewish members were left to float without context and response. I do not for one moment doubt their experiences, and it is appalling that anyone would feel unwelcome in the Labour Party because they're Jewish. Nevertheless, where our interviewees were not citing party meetings some remarks were left vague.Did they involve Labour Party members? Are we talking about real life or social media? And we do not know if those party members who did engage in such behaviour subsequently had action taken against them.

Another of the so-called smoking guns was Jennie Formby's "interference" in the case against Jackie Walker, who was slung out earlier this year for bringing the party into disrepute. According to Panorama, our General Secretary is damned by her emailing "The National Constitutional Committee cannot be allowed to continue in the way that they are at the moment and I will also be challenging the panel for the Jackie Walker case." Indeed, prior to Jennie's appointment the NCC - incidentally, not then under majority left control - had sat on the Walker case, leaving it to fester and give off the impression the party was not handling complaints. What her intervention amounted to was an expediting of the complaint, and a NCC panel that ... expelled Walker. The General Secretary got on with the job she was appointed to do, and finds herself on the receiving end of a bad faith attack for clearing up a running sore.

As Louis Althusser noted in an entirely different context, silences can be as significant as the spoken or written word. Sometimes more so. And what do we find missing from this piece of trash? Well, we don't hear tell of how the previous General Secretary, Iain McNichol, completely failed to grasp the anti-semitism problem - even though he was interviewed by Panorama and was in position for the first three year's of Corbyn's leadership. Why does he escape criticism when the backlog, who sundry MPs have dishonestly laid the leader's office, happened on his watch? If there is a perception the party is tardy when it comes to handling allegations, he is the one who allowed it to happen. And if this was a genuine investigation of anti-semitism in the Labour Party, perhaps some focus on the period prior to Jennie Formby's appointment is in order?

The strategic silences do not end there. How about the revelations former members of Labour staff deliberately sat on, delayed, and "lost" complaints about anti-semitism to damage the party? This is not conjecture; the evidence is available thanks to email chains curiously not seen by the BBC.

Overall, this was a poor piece of journalism. It was pure hackery. If Dan Hodges made documentaries ... But again, it's part of a piece. That the BBC is biased is beyond reasonable doubt, but it is tilted against what it defines as the fringes and nods toward the permitted ground of establishment reasonableness. It's why the SNP, Nigel Farage, George Galloway, and the BNP have all had the sloppy take down treatment in the past. However, with Jeremy Corbyn and the left-led Labour Party, this is all ramped up to ten. Every Labour dispute commands disproportionate coverage, every time Tom Watson undermines Corbyn the BBC cameras are ready, anti-semitism gets more broadcast traction than Tory racism, and now an hour-long documentary at the behest of disgruntled former employees less than forthcoming about their experiences working for the party. The BBC's traditional defenders - the left - wouldn't mind if there was parity and honesty in the coverage of Labour's difficulties. There are problems with anti-semitism, and it has proven very difficult sorting it out. But the BBC are not acting as an honest broker and are as guilty as those Labour MPs who see anti-semitism less a problem in and of itself and more an opportunity to take down the party's leadership. And ultimately, when the day of reckoning comes for the BBC, thanks to their shitty behaviour they will no longer find its traditional supporters willing to defend it.


Speedy said...

"It's why the SNP, Nigel Farage, George Galloway, and the BNP have all had the sloppy take down treatment in the past."

And Tommy Robinson, only he secretly filmed them setting him up.

Whatever the evidence, the failure of JC's leadership to quash this issue (and it is a political weakness, given his stance on I/P) is further evidence that the LP is not serious about winning - just as Blair had to commit to the Tories spending plans to get into office, the LP under Corbyn should have been even more hardline over anti-semitism.

The truth is (and I get why "Pravda Phil" wont turn course on this until course is turned) JC is the wrong Left winger at the wrong time. It was a buggins turn I understand. Shame it wasn't John McDonnell who at least has displayed an element of pragmatism and true desire to get into power. And the funny thing is I think he is even more left wing than Jezza!

Shai Masot said...

Any Labour MP who amplifies any of this Panorama *shit* should be triggered and deselected. End of.

Dipper said...

Corbyn is very poor. For him politics is a hobby not a vocation or profession. Hence his leadership has been non-existent, and the Labour Party is consumed by a battle to determine who gets to set and implement policy - The Battle for Jeremy's Brain.

Proper leaders lead from the top. They set the standards others should follow. Corbyn doesn't do any of this, and hence in an environment where anything goes, anything does go. He is comply unsuited to the role.

Jim Denham said...

Most of the claims were not new and there was no "smoking gun", but the claims made in the programme cannot be dismissed as "pretty thin stuff" and the Party's official response (attacking the BBC, John Ware and the participants for alleged factional bias) is simply not good enough and shows that the leadership is in denial and just doesn't seem to "get" the fact that there is anti-Semitism on the left and it has infected the Party.

Anonymous said...

The party has alleged specific errors and omission in the programme.

Predictably, some think these should be just waved aside because they illustrated a "greater truth" - exactly the same excuse used for the fake Iraq pics in the Mirror that got Piers Moron the sack.

I am no fan of Milne, but IF it is true that his email was doctored in the way that is alleged, that is a disgrace and totally unprofessional.

And I don't see how anybody honest could disagree.

Jim Denham said...

Milne's email was *not* doctored: they failed to quote it in full and left out a bit about going easy on Jews accused of anti-Semitism (ie pro-Corbyn people who identify as Jewish in order to support Corbyn "asajew" - eg JVL).

I don't think the failure to quote the email in full is particularly significant but it does give Milne & co an excuse to throw mud at the programme.

Anonymous said...

Jim Denham

Yes, there are Jews who are actually anti-semitic.

But very few of them (and that small number can be found on the right as well as the left) Anti-semitism is - and this shouldn't surprise - much less common amongst Jews than the general population.

The problem here is that some like to conflate anti-Zionism with AS - yes the former *can* lead to the latter, and we must be vigilant about this, but the two things are NOT the same. And anti-Zionist Jews are, again, a lot less likely to be AS than other AZ people.

This is all fair comment, no?

Jim Denham said...

Yes, that is indeed, "fair comment", Anon and doesn't contradict anything I've said.

Alex Rossiter said...

This article itself is guilty of a few silences on some of the more substantive arguments surrounding the programme…e.g. why is the LP using a notoriously expensive and controversial libel firm to enforce NDAs against whistle-blowers despite claiming to be a “pro-whistle-blower party” AND despite the fact that NDAs are non-enforceable in cases or racial or sexual harassment or discrimination.
Furthermore, It was clear from many of the interviewees that the abuse they received was in person, from LP members and (in at least one case) in the context of a LP meeting.

The response of the LP head office has been a disgrace – referring to the interviewees as “disgruntled former employees”. I’d be pretty disgruntled too if I’d been subject to racist abuse. It’s a bit like an employer describing someone in a sexual harassment case as “having an axe to grind”. The lack of empathy from some influential corners – including the vile Aaron Bastani referring to someone contemplating suicide as “very low” has been appalling.

Every time a Corbynite loyalist repeats the tedious refrain that charges of anti-semitism are “politically motivated” – all they do is (a) enforce the anti-semitic trope that Jews invent racism in order to manipulate political power and (b) enforce the the idea that the left are obsessed with the motive of the speaker rather than the truth-content of what is been said. “Motivism” – an obsession with some sections of the left – assumes fallaciously that we we can know people’s “true” motives (we can’t – we have no window into the soul) and that they somehow matter when deciding if an argument is true or false (they don’t).

Anonymous said...

@Alex Rossiter

I don't know if this helps:

and/or this:

Speedy said...

Isn't the whole science of sociology based on "motivism"?!

Boffy said...

"Every time a Corbynite loyalist repeats the tedious refrain that charges of anti-semitism are “politically motivated” – all they do is (a) enforce the anti-semitic trope that Jews invent racism in order to manipulate political power and (b) enforce the the idea that the left are obsessed with the motive of the speaker rather than the truth-content of what is been said. “Motivism” – an obsession with some sections of the left – assumes fallaciously that we we can know people’s “true” motives (we can’t – we have no window into the soul) and that they somehow matter when deciding if an argument is true or false (they don’t)."

This is the age old cry of the witchhunter, and shows why anti-Semitism has proved such a useful tool for them in their attacks on Corbyn and the mass of the LP. The truth is that had the Right in the Labour party, aided and abetted by their friends in the Tory media, along with the Tories running the Board of Deputies etc. not been using anti-Semitism as a weapon against Corbyn and the Left, and for some of those involved as a means of trying to shut down criticism of Israel and Zionism, then the actual problem of the proportionately small number, of anti-Semites in the party could have been dealt with long ago.

Instead a large amount of time and effort has to go into dealing not with the actual problem of anti-semitism, but dealing with those who wish to use the issue for their own political ends. In the USSR there were undoubted issues of human rights violations, by its reactionary regime that many on the Left were quite prepared to criticise, but in what way did that mean that they could not at the same time point to the fact that imperialism used its criticism of those abuses for its own ends, not just to attack the Soviet regime, but to attack the Left in general, and the concept of Socialism itself? Its like saying that no one own the Left should have dared criticise imperialism for its moralistic hogwash, because to do so would simply reinforce the idea that there was no problem of civil rights abuses in the USSR, and that it was a workers paradise. Rational people can do both at the same time.

Its possible to accept the idea that there are anti-Semites in the LP who we should root out with the greatest expedition, and simultaneously to recognise that there are opponents of Corbyn and the new majority of LP members, who seek to utilise the issue for their own narrow political ends. Fortunately, the vast majority not just of Labour members but also of Labour voters do seem to be sensible enough to understand that both things can be true at the same time. From what I have observed the majority of members and voters are smart enough to have seen the BBC hatchet job for what it was, and to the extent they don't just discount it, its likely to backfire obn the BB and those behind it. The main reason Labour has been losing support has nothing to do with anti-Semitism, and everything to do with the terrible position on Brexit, but for now, the renewed attacks on Corbyn and the left, and the obvious preparation for another attempted coup that these manouvres are part of, if anything lead me to think the main job is to defend Corbyn against those attacks despite his terrible position on Brexit.

Its just a pity that Corbyn and the leadership, not to mention the supposed Left of Momentum had not themselves shown more backbone in facing down the right's attacks over the expulsion of Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth and others as part of the withhunt of the Left over the last couple of years. That weakness, and the failure to push through mandatory reselection have simply encouraged the right to push forward further and demand even more sacrificial lambs to the slaughter.

DFTM said...

This is not predominantly an attack on Corbyn but is in fact a proxy attack on the Palestinian people.

Comrades should be reminded that this proxy attack on the Palestinian people predates Corbyn being elected leader of the Labour party and actually stems from Operation Cast Lead when for the first time opinion polls showed a majority having a dim view of Israel. From this point all hysteria has broke loose. To the point that Palestinian-baiting has become a national sport, at least in official circles and among it’s degenerate lackeys, such as Denham and Boffy.

To be honest at least in Israel the attack on the Palestinians both verbally and physically is direct and not done via a proxy.

But here in the West the attack on the Palestinians is always indirect, so degenerates like Denham and Boffy will ape the imperialist servile lackeys and attack leftists rather than attacking Palestinians directly. In order to ‘save face’ these so called ‘progressives’ can’t quite bring themselves to openly attack Palestinians so instead vent their degenerate bile at anyone who puts an ounce of energy into support for the plight of the Palestinians.

Of course for people like Denham and Boffy, those who pay not even lip service to the Palestinian cause, i.e. those who don’t put an ounce of energy or humanity into it, other than very infrequently saying the odd deadpan and emotionless minor criticism of Israel, are perfectly acceptable but woe betide anyone who actually puts any blood sweat and tears into the cause, for these people will be labelled anti Semites.

People like Denham will trawl every utterance of any supporter of the Palestinians looking for any scintilla of inappropriate language and then jump on that to damn the whole movement. It is part of capitalisms dehumanising aspects, we are meant to be emotionless, compassionless and woe betide anyone who steps a millimetre from the appropriate language, for those people will be damned in hell for eternity!

People like Denham and Boffy want their activists to be emotionless zombies parroting the interests of imperialism.

Boffy said...

You just can't help but laugh, can you?

Jim Denham said...

The serious question is can Corbyn deal with antisemitism in the Labour Party? Is not asking him to strike at his long-time friends and associates — including his right hand man Seamus Milne — too much like asking him to lift himself up by his bootstraps?

Corbyn is for two states. If he takes that seriously he should want to sort out the “destroy Israel” people in the Labour Party. He should insist that advocates of the destruction of Israel have no place in the Labour Party; that comparisons of Israel when it does things we don’t like, to the Nazis is not acceptable; that it is pointedly, and deliberately, offensively anti-semitic. It is necessary to preserve the right to criticise Israel as severely as events dictate. But denial of Israel’s right to exist and defend itself is not criticising Israeli actions.

It is possible to make specific criticisms and to condemn Israeli actions without resorting to obscene and preposterous equations. It should also be possible to object to some minor shortcomings in the Panorama programme without personal attacks on the motives of the ex-Labour staffers who gave evidence and without appearing to deny that a very, very serious problem exists, and has been made a thousand times worse by Milne's response.

PlebJames said...

There are three very important points to make.
1) Antisemitism is almost certainly not very widespread in the Labour Party i.e. there are comparatively few people peddling the kind of actually hateful, racist stuff we hear about. However, with the advent of the internet and social media, a single committed anti-Semite could easily abuse hundreds of Jews in the course of a single month.
This needs teasing out. A genuine attempt to quantify the scale of this stuff is not 'trying to diminish' or 'whitewash' or 'downplay' anything.

2) Corbyn is trying desperately to keep the Labour party in one piece as a going concern. He can cope with the scale of defections so far (six), but anything of a bigger scale - and the games up. He fears dealing with his detractors too harshly for fear of growing the rift even further. If the composition of the PLP changes due to reselections, he may have more wriggle room to challenge the like of Hodge and Watson etc.

3) To paraphrase Jeremy Gilbert, anti-Semitism is always about obscuring power relationships and driving a wedge between jewish and non-Jewish communities who should (and could otherwise) be united in pursuit of their common interests.
Seen in this light, the people who are using this as a stick to beat the left are every bit as antisemetic as those right-wing thugs on the street, as they are deliberately driving a wedge between Jewish communities and the Labour party.

Jim Denham said...

"the people who are using this as a stick to beat the left are every bit as antisemetic as those right-wing thugs on the street, as they are deliberately driving a wedge between Jewish communities and the Labour party": this is preposterous and offensive on so many levels:

1/ It seems to suggest that most/all complaints about antisemitism within Labour are spurious and merely "sticks" with which to attack the left.

2/ That the "wedge" between the Party and the majority of UK Jews is the result of these "spurious" claims rather than the result of a real problem caused, in part by people in and around the leasdership.

3/ That people making these complainst ("using this stick") are "every bit as antisemetic as those right-wing thugs on the street": what a filthy, outrageous proposition! And a clear example of exactly the problem we're up against re sections of the "denialist" left.

Boffy said...


Part 1
I don't see why dealing with anti-Semitism in the Party is something Corbyn cannot deal with, but the reality is that, that task belongs to the Party and its appropriate structures, not Corbyn himself. Its obvious why it was not dealt with after Corbyn first was elected, whilst the party machine was in the hands of the old guard. It was a convenient stick to beat him with, and the machine was too busy trying to undermine him and the Labour election campaigns to undertake other tasks charged to it. Those who criticise Corbyn on this issue have to realise make up their mind as to whether they want discipline on such issues to be dealt with impartially by the respective committees, or whether they want partial political involvement in cases by the Leader in which case forget about any actual political activity being undertaken.

Corbyn is for Two States. That is a ridiculous policy as I have argued now for over thirty years. Netanyahu doesn't support it, and is now committing to following through on the logical conclusion of it, by effectively annexing the West Bank. The US which nominally supported it, but never did anything to achieve it, and continually supported Israel when it acted against it, by establishing West Bank settlements, has at least under Trump been honest about its real position of abandoning any pretext of Two States. Some proponents of Zionism in Britain seem now to be way behind the majority of US Jewry, who seeing the actions of Netanyahu, and the abandonment of democracy that he is pushing through in Israel, as bringing about a qualitatively different situation. That is symbolised by Thomas Friedman's article in the New York Times, for example describing Israel as becoming Jewish Banana Republic.

If Netanyahu and a majority of Israeli Jews have abandoned a Two State solution, effectively backed by Trump, why persist in flogging that long dead horse? If as it is the Two State solution is recognised as a non-starter, then the task of socialists is to pursue a different course that can act to mobilise the unit of the Palestinian and Jewish workers in the single state that Israel seeks to create. That involves not support for a racist destruction of that state, but a fight for political rights for all Palestinians and Arabs living within the borders of that state; it involves a political struggle of Jewish and Arab workers against the racist nationality law introduced by Netanyahu, and as I argued thirty years ago, it involves a struggle for the establishment not of two states, but a single federal state of Israel and Palestine, providing the greatest possible political and civil rights for the peoples of both communities.

So, when you say “sort out the “destroy Israel” people in the Labour Party” you need to be clear what you mean. If you mean those that want to physically destroy Israel as a state, I agree, but I for one certainly want to destroy the current racist state of Israel as it exists, and to do so via a joint political struggle of Jewish and Arab workers. Indeed, I want to destroy the other states in the regions, as they currently exist too. A Federal State of Israel and Palestine should be just one part of the creation of a Federal States of the Middle East and North Africa.

Boffy said...


Part 2

It may not be useful to compare specific actions by the Israeli state to similar actions by the Nazis, but it is not of itself anti-Semitic. The leading Zionists in the 1930's, leading the military struggle for the establishment of a Zionist State openly declared themselves to be in favour of a fascist totalitarian state, and they tried to create a military alliance both with Nazi Germany and fascist Italy to fight British imperialism to that end.

A large proportion of the allegations of anti-Semitism, if not the majority were spurious and mischievous. Many were complaints about non-LP people, a further large proportion were found to have no evidence or basis for action. You have to ask why such a large number of such mischievous allegations were made. Those making the claims, as with all those Labour Peers who went to the bosses press today to attack the Party, are driving a wedge between the Party and the Jewish community in their scaremongering and hyperbole. It is they that have equated anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, and thereby encouraged anti-Semitism because anyone who then sees the appalling actions of the Zionist state, is led to equate that with being the actions of Jews, and any criticism of that state and its actions as being a criticism of Jews. The extent of the hyperbole is the extent to which some in the Jewish community have been made so afraid that they talk about needing to leave the country if Corbyn is elected, as though anyone in their right mind thinks that a Corbyn government is going to be building gas chambers!

The Right making these allegations are not the equivalent of right wing thugs on the street, and I think you should not pay too much attention to the ravings of an Internet troll seeking merely to inflame by talking bollocks. But, those same right wingers, seem to feel no compunction about writing regular columns in the vile racist and anti-Semitic Daily Mail, Daily Express and so on, or as Marc Wadsworth pointed out in relation to Ruth Smeeth, running to the Daily Torygraph. And, let's not forget that it is the same Daily Mail that supported Hitler and Mussolini. And, their Tory associates in the British Board of Jewish Deputies have welcomed the election of the vile anti-Semite Orban in Hungary, and the vile racist and anti-Semite Trump in the US. Yet, all of the ammunition it seems has to be reserved not for attacking these actual anti-Semites, from whom Jews really do have something to fear, but for Jeremy Corbyn!

Blissex said...

«that advocates of the destruction of Israel have no place in the Labour Party»

Please post here a at least the full list of the members of the Labour Party that to your knowledge advocate the physical destruction of Israel. I am sure that the Labour Party would act promptly on it. Think of the great contribution to the cause of humanity you would make by publishing this list. Ideally add the quotes that prove the commitment of those members to the physical destruction of Israel, to make the job of the Labour Party easier.

DFTM said...

The only way the destruction of the racist, white supremacist, colonial settler state of Israel can be done 'peacefully' is if the world acts in a coordinated manner similar to how the white Supremacist state was 'destroyed' in South Africa. When other white supremacist colonial states were destroyed it wasn't a picnic I am afraid, it involved violence. And it isn't a neat bed of roses either, what replaces white supremacy can look pretty nasty for those of a nervous disposition.

Of course for degenerates like Denham and Boffy the only destruction they can sign up for is the continued destruction of the Palestinian people and its cause. They basically employ a might is right philosophy. The only destruction they embrace is the destruction of entire nations and the planet by imperialism and corrupt Western values. To degenerates like Denham and Boffy the destruction of whole nations is simply part of capitalism civilising mission, whereas any struggle against this mass destruction, for example by the Palestinian people struggling against their own destruction, is apparently to degenerates like Boffy and Denham to be decried as anti Semitic, truly turning victim into perpetrator and perpetrator into victim. What a truly vile and twisted morality these degenerates have. No wonder they laugh when their twisted values are thrown into their degenerate faces.

The struggle against the white supremacist state of Israel is a struggle against imperialism, white supremacy and ultimately the ruling classes. The ruling classes understand, even if the drone supporting left don't, that the Palestinian cause is the barometer of the actual fight against their interests.

Degenerates like Boffy and Denham are simply shills for the ruling elite, providing so called left cover for their criminal interests.