Sunday 18 August 2019

Revisiting Harry's Place

Fancy a deep dive into the blogging wars of the pre-Corbyn left? Of course you do. In this episode of Reel Politik, Jack and Geraint pop along to the cemetery and dig up an old adversary: Harry's Place. Long time hangers-ons of the British left will remember the role this blog, now a shadow of what once was, had in drawing together the pro-war "left" before, during and after the Iraq War. They were self-appointed arbiters of political decency (hence the term, 'decents') who fulminated against anyone concerned with stopping the UK government's penchant for wars as well as critics of Israel, and played a mobilising role in putting together the now (largely forgotten) Euston Manifesto. For those of you who weren't around, imagine the meltiest centrism combined with the scurrilousness of Gnasher Jew and you've got a good idea of their positioning and output. Which included publishing people's addresses and trying to get them sacked from their jobs. Charming.

This place never got on their radar back in the day because the focus has never really been foreign policy and Israel, but I did write about HP on a couple of occasions: for the anniversary of the UK Left Network discussion list, and to mark their decade of "service".

Jack and Geraint make a persuasive case that HP was the progenitor of much of the Corbynphobic hysteria we've witnessed issue forth from all quarters these last four years. And there's going to be a part two too! Highly recommended.

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Speedy said...

Didn't you contribute a post to them once?

Phil said...

I did indeed - the 10th year anniversary post linked to above was cross-posted to HP and Socialist Unity, the only post ever to achieve such a feat.

Anonymous said...

The interesting question is why they are a shadow of their former selves at precisely the time when their anti-left material has gone mainstream.

There's the problem of liberal interventionism having simply become passé of course but there is more to them than liberal interventionism. And you could put it down to the general crisis of centrism. But that crisis should actually boost them - there is no shortage of hunger for self affirming centrist diatribes against more populist forces.

What I think has actually happened is that more Guido Fawkesy/alt right political forces are simply more vital and consistent than they are. You can see this dynamic crystal clear on Gene's and Sarah's liberal leaning posts, where the ever more rabid commentariat below the line simply takes what affirms it's red pilling bigotry while firmly rejecting the above line liberal cushioning.

Why is the trajectory of the HP readership towards the alt right?

One of the little things I have noticed is that much of the mainstream liberal discussion about anti-semitism has quietly conceded the necessity of criticising Israel from a two-state anti-Cast Lead/Protective Edge point of view (this concession is related to the discussion of anti-semitism because Israel has been crow barred in via the IHRA). That's a point of view that might accept Israeli human rights abuses or might when pressed admit that there is an ongoing refugee question. In this sense the acceptance of the IHRA definition by Labour actually signals a retreat for the hardliners who want all discussion of Israeli wrong-doing as cases of "singling out the Jewish state". Note HP favours two states but pretty much stops there.

This is why HP speak to (specifically Jewish) fears. Explicitly of fears of rampaging leftists and Muslims. And crucially the mob has no designated motivation and there is to be no sober assessment threat. They are just there as a force of nature and safety demands the worst interpretations. This is why moderating liberal tones only appear as indulgences and why there is more vitality below the line where there is no commitment to liberal/social democratic values.

HP's appeal is both niche and politically unstable, hence its decline. Note that even one of its above the line writers (Libby T) is heading down the alt right rabit hole along with its below the line readership.


Anonymous said...

I notice that Harry's Place is now firmly conservative or even big "C" Conservative, concentrating on defending Boris' covid policies, attacking BLM, indulging in a spot of transphobia. No more liberalism and no more interventionism, just dull Toryism but now with a big following.

Difficult to sustain a centre/centre-left presence in a climate of polarisation I suppose.