Category Archives: Tony Blair

Don’t Extradite Assange

Last Friday’s decision by UK Home Secretary Priti Patel to authorise the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States is both deeply shameful and unsurprising. Her action paves the way for Assange to be tried under the 1917 Espionage Act, introduced by the US government shortly after entering World War I, with a sentence of 175 years if found guilty. In essence, the US wishes to set a legal precedent for the prosecution of any publisher or journalist, anywhere in the world, who reports the truth about the US.

Despite all the warnings from human rights groups, advocates of press freedom, Nils Melzer (then UN Special Rapporteur on Torture), doctors, lawyers and many other people around the world, it has long been clear that Washington is determined to punish Assange and make an example of him as a warning to others. As always, US allies will go along with what the Mafia Godfather wants.

US political journalist Glenn Greenwald noted that Patel’s act ‘further highlights the utter sham of American and British sermons about freedom, democracy and a free press.’ Assange is being persecuted relentlessly because he and WikiLeaks have arguably done more than anyone else to expose the vast extent of the crimes of US empire.

Greenwald added:

Free speech and press freedoms do not exist in reality in the U.S. or the UK. They are merely rhetorical instruments to propagandize their domestic population and justify and ennoble the various wars and other forms of subversion they constantly wage in other countries in the name of upholding values they themselves do not support. The Julian Assange persecution is a great personal tragedy, a political travesty and a grave danger to basic civic freedoms. But it is also a bright and enduring monument to the fraud and deceit that lies at the heart of these two governments’ depictions of who and what they are.

Dissident Australian journalist Caitlin Johnstone made a similar point, that Assange’s ‘refusal to bow down and submit’ has:

exposed the lie that the so-called free democracies of the western world support the free press and defend human rights. The US, UK and Australia are colluding to extradite a journalist for exposing the truth even as they claim to oppose tyranny and autocracy, even as they claim to support world press freedoms, and even as they loudly decry the dangers of government-sponsored disinformation.

Peter Oborne, an all-too-rare example of a journalist speaking out on behalf of Assange, called Patel’s decision a ‘catastrophic blow’ to press freedom. But, he said, it was a blow that had been carried out with:

the silent assent of much of the mainstream press. Too many British newspapers and broadcasters have treated the Assange case as a dirty family secret. They have failed to grasp that the Assange hearing leading up to the Patel decision is the most important case involving free speech this century.

Not only was there ‘silent assent’, but much of the media actually cheered and applauded Assange’s arrest in the Ecuadorian Embassy in April 2019 ‘with undisguised glee’, as Alan MacLeod wrote at the time:

The Daily Mail’s front-page headline (4/12/19) read, “That’ll Wipe the Smile Off His Face,” and devoted four pages to the “downfall of a narcissist” who was removed from “inside his fetid lair” to finally “face justice.” The Daily Mirror (4/11/19) described him as “an unwanted guest who abused his hospitality,” while the Times of London (4/12/19) claimed “no one should feel sorry” for the “overdue eviction.”

The Mirror (4/13/19) also published an opinion piece from Labour member of Parliament Jess Phillips that began by stating, “Finally Julian Assange, everyone’s least favourite squatter, has been kicked out of the Ecuadorian embassy.” She described the 47-year-old Australian as a “grumpy, stroppy teenager.”

Oborne also noted that Patel’s decision:

turns investigative journalism into a criminal act, and licenses the United States to mercilessly hunt down offenders wherever they can be found, bring them to justice and punish them with maximum severity.

Andrew Neil, the right-wing journalist and broadcaster, reflexively listed Assange’s supposed faults (‘reckless’, ‘stupid’, ‘narcissist’) in a Daily Mail opinion piece. But he still made clear his opposition to Assange’s extradition:

It is thanks to Assange that we know many appalling things that America would prefer we didn’t know. He does not deserve to spend the rest of his life in some high-tech American hellhole for doing what should come naturally to all good journalists — exposing what powerful people don’t want to be exposed.

The BBC’s John Simpson and Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens have also been supportive of Assange.

But the few editorials that appeared in the British ‘mainstream’, while meekly and belatedly opposing extradition, were much less damning in their comments. According to our searches of the Lexis-Nexis newspaper database, the first edition of the Independent’s editorial was titled, ‘It’s time to release Assange – he has suffered enough’. By the time the editorial appeared online, the title had been watered down to:

Justice for Julian Assange should be tempered with mercy

And an extra line had been added:

The WikiLeaks founder is no hero but nor should he be a martyr

The paper’s praise for the vital work of Assange and Wikileaks was begrudging and limited, with the usual ‘mainstream’ caveats and distortions mixed in (see Johnstone’s powerful demolition of the multiple smears against Assange):

We were resolutely unsympathetic to Mr Assange’s claim to have been unfairly treated by the British and Swedish criminal justice systems. We urged him to face justice over the allegations of rape in Sweden, and considered his self-imprisonment in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to be a form of punishment for his refusal to do so.

The Guardian, which had benefited enormously from Assange’s ground-breaking work – with many of its journalists publishing numerous snide articles and disparaging remarks about him – described Patel’s decision, with pathetic understatement, as ‘a bad day for journalism’. Of course, there was no mention in the editorial of the Guardian’s own shameful role in helping to create the conditions for Assange’s persecution; not least their fake front-page ‘news’ story in November 2018 claiming that Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, supposedly held secret talks with Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

‘How Far Have We Sunk?’

As Nils Melzer packed up and moved on from his term as the UN Special Prosecutor on Torture, on the day that Patel announced Assange’s extradition, he said:

How far have we sunk if we prosecute people who expose war crimes for exposing war crimes?

How far have we sunk when we no longer prosecute our own war criminals because we identify more with them than we identify with the people that actually exposed these crimes?

What does that tell about us and about our governments?

How far have we sunk when telling the truth becomes a crime?

The questions were left hanging in the air. But anyone with basic standards of ethics and wisdom knows that a society which has sunk this low is being governed by so-called ‘leaders’ who:

  • are lacking in ethics and wisdom;
  • are driven by concerns shaped by power and profit;
  • will attempt to crush anyone who dares to expose their crimes;
  • spout deceptive rhetoric – faithfully amplified and propagated by state-corporate media – proclaiming the West’s supposed virtues and respect for ‘freedom’, ‘human rights’ and ‘democracy’.

The persecution of Julian Assange has brought all this to the fore.

Yes, there are tiny windows in the ‘MSM’ for eloquent expressions of the truth; such as Peter Oborne’s Guardian opinion piece cited above. But the general drift of the ‘Overton Window’ – the ‘acceptable’, tightly limited range of news and debate – has shifted towards the hard right, with journalists and commentators squeezed out for being deemed ‘toxic’, ‘radioactive’ or otherwise ‘dangerous’.

Thus, in 2018, John Pilger, one of the finest journalists who has ever appeared in the British media, observed that:

My written journalism is no longer welcome in the Guardian which, three years ago, got rid of people like me in pretty much a purge of those who really were saying what the Guardian no longer says any more.’

The Guardian is a prime stoker of revitalised Cold War rhetoric about the ‘threat’ of Russia and China, mirroring what is prevalent across the whole ‘spectrum’ of ‘mainstream’ news. Indeed, as revealed by Declassified UK, an independent investigative news website, the UK’s leading liberal newspaper has essentially been ‘neutralised’ by the UK security services. Mark Curtis, editor and co-founder of Declassified UK, observed that the paper’s:

limited coverage of British foreign and security policies gives a misleading picture of what the UK does in the world. The paper is in reality a defender of Anglo-American power and a key ideological pillar of the British establishment.

Selective Moral Outrage

In a recent interview, David Barsamian asked Noam Chomsky:

In the media, and among the political class in the United States, and probably in Europe, there’s much moral outrage about Russian barbarity, war crimes, and atrocities. No doubt they are occurring as they do in every war. Don’t you find that moral outrage a bit selective though?

Chomsky responded:

The moral outrage is quite in place. There should be moral outrage. But you go to the Global South, they just can’t believe what they’re seeing. They condemn the war, of course. It’s a deplorable crime of aggression. Then they look at the West and say: What are you guys talking about? This is what you do to us all the time.’

So, when the long-suffering people of the Global South encounter western news reports about Putin being the worst war criminal since Hitler:

They don’t know whether to crack up in laughter or ridicule. We have war criminals walking all over Washington. Actually, we know how to deal with our war criminals. In fact, it happened on the twentieth anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan. Remember, this was an entirely unprovoked invasion, strongly opposed by world opinion. There was an interview with the perpetrator, George W. Bush, who then went on to invade Iraq, a major war criminal, in the style section of the Washington Post — an interview with, as they described it, this lovable goofy grandpa who was playing with his grandchildren, making jokes, showing off the portraits he painted of famous people he’d met. Just a beautiful, friendly environment.’

In the UK, the war criminal Tony Blair – another key player in the post-9/11 ‘War on Terror’ that led to at least 1.3 million deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan – was recently “honoured’ by the Queen. He became ‘a member of the Order of the Garter, the most senior royal order of chivalry’. This archaic nonsense is yet another symptom of the deeply-embedded, medieval stratification of British society, and the baubles that are handed out to preserve ‘order’ and ‘tradition’. This is revealing of the sickness at the heart of our society.

Chomsky gave another example of how the West’s war criminals are lauded:

Take probably the major war criminal of the modern period, Henry Kissinger. We deal with him not only politely, but with great admiration. This is the man after all who transmitted the order to the Air Force, saying that there should be massive bombing of Cambodia — “anything that flies on anything that moves” was his phrase. I don’t know of a comparable example in the archival record of a call for mass genocide. And it was implemented with very intensive bombing of Cambodia.

The ‘justification’ for the extreme violence meted out by the West towards the Middle East and the Global South is always couched in propaganda terms proclaiming the protection of ‘human rights’, ‘democracy’ and ‘global security’. But, noted Chomsky:

The security of the population is simply not a concern for policymakers. Security for the privileged, the rich, the corporate sector, arms manufacturers, yes, but not the rest of us. This doublethink is constant, sometimes conscious, sometimes not. It’s just what Orwell described, hyper-totalitarianism in a free society.

Chomsky concluded:

Meanwhile, we pour taxpayer funds into the pockets of the fossil-fuel producers so that they can continue to destroy the world as quickly as possible. That’s what we’re witnessing with the vast expansion of both fossil-fuel production and military expenditures. There are people who are happy about this. Go to the executive offices of Lockheed Martin, ExxonMobil, they’re ecstatic. It’s a bonanza for them. They’re even being given credit for it. Now, they’re being lauded for saving civilization by destroying the possibility for life on Earth. Forget the Global South. If you imagine some extraterrestrials, if they existed, they’d think we were all totally insane. And they’d be right.

The appalling treatment of Julian Assange, especially set beside the ‘honouring’ and eulogising of the West’s war criminals, is symptomatic of this insanity.

In a brave and eloquent interview, Stella Assange, Julian’s wife and mother of their two young children, declared that:

We’re going to fight.

An appeal to Britain’s High Court will be lodged within 14 days of Patel’s decision by Assange’s lawyers. As Stella Assange noted, one of the many unjust aspects of the US case against her husband is that, under the Trump administration, the CIA had plotted to assassinate Assange:

Extradition to the country that has plotted his assassination is just – I have no words. Obviously, this shouldn’t be happening. It can never happen.

She continued:

That is just the tip of the iceberg of the criminal activity that has gone on, on behalf of those putting Julian in prison. For example, inside the [Ecuadorian] Embassy his legal meetings – his confidential privileged legal conversations with his lawyers – were being recorded and shipped to the United States.

All these elements have come out since Julian’s arrest and incarceration. And we now know so much about the abuse and outright criminality that has been going on against Julian. There’s no chance of a fair trial.

She added:

‘And then you have the actual case. He’s charged under the Espionage Act. He faces 175 years. There is no public interest defence under the Espionage Act. It’s the first time it’s being repurposed; it’s being used against a publisher. It’s an Act that’s been repurposed in order to criminalise journalism, basically. And, of course, if you say that publishing information is a crime, then Julian’s guilty. He published information and he faces a lifetime in prison for it.

In conclusion, she said:

The case is a complete aberration. That’s why you have all these major press freedom organisations and human rights organisations saying that this has to be dropped.

We can take a significant step towards a saner society by shouting loudly for Julian Assange to be freed immediately. A good start would be to share widely this video from Double Down News in which Stella Assange describes the importance of the case and how we can all help.

Please also visit the Don’t Extradite Assange website to see what actions you can take now.

The post Don’t Extradite Assange first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Russia-Ukraine war: George Bush’s admission of his crimes in Iraq was no “gaffe”

It was apparently a “gaffe” of the kind we had forgotten since George W Bush stepped down from the US presidency in early 2009. During a speech in Dallas last week, he momentarily confused Russian President Vladimir Putin’s current war of aggression against Ukraine and his own war of aggression against Iraq in 2003.

Bush observed that a lack of checks and balances in Russia had allowed “one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq… I mean, Ukraine. Iraq too. Anyway… I’m 75.”

It sounded like another “Bushism” – a verbal slip-up – for which the 43rd president was famous. Just like the time he boasted that people “misunderestimated” him, or when he warned that America’s enemies “never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people – and neither do we”.

Maybe that explains why his audience laughed. Or maybe not, given how uncomfortable the laughter sounded.

Bush certainly wanted his mistake to be seen as yet another slip-up, which is why he hurriedly blamed it on his age. The senility defence doubtless sounds a lot more plausible at a time when the incumbent president, Joe Biden, regularly loses track of what he is saying and even where he is.

The western media, in so far as it has bothered to report Bush’s speech, has laughed along nervously too. It has milked the incident largely for comic effect: “Look, we can laugh at ourselves – unlike that narcissist Russian monster, Putin.”

The BBC accorded Bush’s comment status as a down-page brief news item. Those that gave it more attention preferred to term it a “gaffe” or an amusing “Freudian slip”.

‘Putin apologists’

But the focus on the humour of the moment is actually part of the media’s continuing war on our understanding of recent history. It is intended to deflect us, the audience, from thinking about the real significance of Bush’s “gaffe”.

The only reason the media is now so belatedly connecting – if very indirectly – “a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion” of Ukraine and what happened in Iraq is because of Bush’s mistake.

Had it not happened, the establishment media would have continued to ignore any such comparison. And those trying to raise it would continue to be dismissed as conspiracy theorists or as apologists for Putin.

The implication of what Bush said – even for those mockingly characterising it in Freudian terms – is that he and his co-conspirator, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, are war criminals and that they should be on trial at the Hague for invading and occupying Iraq.

Everything the current US administration is saying against Putin, and every punishment meted out on Russia and ordinary Russians, can be turned around and directed at the United States and Britain.

Should the US not be under severe economic sanctions from the “civilised world” for what it did to Iraq? Should its sportspeople not be banned from international events? Should its billionaires not be hunted down and stripped of their assets? And should the works of its long-dead writers, artists and composers not be shunned by polite society?

And yet, the western establishment media are proposing none of the above. They are not calling for Blair and Bush to be tried for war crimes. Meanwhile, they echo western leaders in labelling what Russia is doing in Ukraine as genocide and labelling Putin as an evil madman.

The western media are as uncomfortable taking Bush’s speech at face value as his audience was. And for good reason.

That is because the media are equally implicated in US and UK crimes in Iraq. They never seriously questioned the ludicrous “weapons of mass destruction” justification for the invasion. They never debated whether the “Shock and Awe” bombing campaign of Baghdad was genocidal.

And, of course, they never described either Bush or Blair as madmen and megalomaniacs and never accused them of waging a war of imperialism – or one for oil – in invading Iraq. In fact, both continue to be treated by the media as respected elder statesmen.

During Trump’s presidency, leading journalists waxed nostalgic for the days of Bush, apparently unconcerned that he had used his own presidency to launch a war of aggression – the “supreme international crime”.

And Blair continues to be sought out by the British and US media for his opinions on domestic and world affairs. He is even listened to deferentially when he opines on Ukraine.

Pre-emption excuse

But this is not simply about a failure to acknowledge the recent historical record. Bush’s invasion of Iraq is deeply tied to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. And for that reason, if no other, the western media ought to have been driving home from the outset the parallels between the two – as Bush has now done in error.

That would have provided the geopolitical context for understanding – without necessarily justifying – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the West’s role in provoking it. Which is precisely why the media have worked so hard to ignore those parallels.

In invading Iraq, Bush and Blair created a precedent that powerful states could redefine their attack on another state as “pre-emptive” – as defensive rather than aggressive – and thereby justify the military invasion in violation of the laws of war.

Bush and Blair falsely claimed both that Iraq threatened the West with weapons of mass destruction and that its secular leader, Saddam Hussein, had cultivated ties with the extreme Islamists of al-Qaeda that carried out the 9/11 attacks on the US. These pretexts ranged from the entirely unsubstantiated to the downright preposterous.

Putin has argued – more plausibly – that Russia had to take pre-emptive action against covert efforts by a US-led Nato to expand its military sphere of influence right up to Russia’s borders. Russia feared that, left unchecked, the US and Nato were preparing to absorb Ukraine by stealth.

But how does that qualify Russia’s invasion as defensive? The Kremlin’s fears were chiefly twofold.

First, it could have paved the way for Nato stationing missiles minutes away from Moscow, eroding any principle of mutual deterrence.

And second, Nato’s incorporation of Ukraine would have drawn the western military alliance directly into Ukraine’s civil war in the eastern Donbass region. That is where Ukrainian forces, including neo-Nazi elements like the Azov Brigade, have been pitted in a bloody fight against ethnic Russian communities.

In this view, absent a Russian invasion, Nato could have become an active participant in propping up Ukrainian ultra-nationalists killing ethnic Russians – as the West is now effectively doing through its arming of Ukraine to the tune of more than $40bn.

Even if one discounts Russia’s concerns, Moscow clearly has a greater strategic interest invested in what its neighbour Ukraine is doing on their shared border than Washington ever had in Iraq, many thousands of miles away.

Proxy wars

Even more relevant, given the West’s failure to acknowledge, let alone address, Bush and Blair’s crimes committed in Iraq, is Russia’s suspicion that US foreign policy is unchanged two decades on. On what basis would Moscow believe that Washington is any less aggressive or power-hungry than it was when it launched its invasion of Iraq?

The western media continue to refer to the US attack on Iraq, and the subsequent bloody years of occupation, as variously a “mistake”, a “misadventure” and a “blunder”. But surely it does not look that way to Moscow, all the more so given that Washington followed its invasion of Iraq with a series of proxy wars against other Middle Eastern and North African states such as Libya, Syria and Yemen.

To Russia, the attack on Iraq looks more like a stepping stone in a continuum of wars the US has waged over decades for “full-spectrum dominance” and to eradicate competitors for control of the planet’s resources.

With that as the context, Moscow might have reasonably imagined that the US and its Nato allies were eager for yet another proxy war, this time using Ukraine as the battlefield. Recent comments from Biden administration officials, such as Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, noting that Washington’s tens of billions of dollars in military aid to Kyiv is intended to “weaken Russia”, can only accentuate such fears.

Back in March, Leon Panetta, a former US secretary of defence and the CIA director under Barack Obama, who is in a position to speak more freely than serving officials, observed that Washington was waging “a proxy war with Russia, whether we say so or not”.

He predicted where US policy would head next, noting that the aim would be “to provide as much military aid as necessary”. Diplomacy has been a glaringly low priority for Washington.

Barely concealed from public view is a desire in the US and its allies for another regime change operation – this time in Russia – rather than end the war and the suffering of Ukrainians.

Butcher versus blunderer

Last week, the New York Times very belatedly turned down the war rhetoric a notch and called on the Biden administration to advance negotiations. Even so, its assessment of where the blame lay for Ukraine’s destruction was unambiguous: “Mr Putin will go down in history as a butcher.”

But have Bush or Blair gone down in history as butchers? They most certainly haven’t. And the reason is that the western media have been complicit in rehabilitating their images, presenting them as statesmen who “blundered” – with the implication that good people blunder when they fail to take account of how entrenched the evil of everyone else in the world is.

A butcher versus a pair of blunderers.

This false distinction means western leaders and western publics continue to evade responsibility for western crimes in Iraq and elsewhere.

That was why in late February – in reference to Ukraine – a TV journalist could suggest to Condoleezza Rice, who was one of the architects of the illegal war of aggression on Iraq as Bush’s national security adviser: “When you invade a sovereign nation, that is a war crime.” The journalist apparently did not consider for a moment that it was not just Putin who was a war criminal but the very woman she was sitting opposite.

It was also why Rice could nod solemnly and agree with a straight face that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was “against every principle of international law and international order – and that’s why throwing the book at them [Russia] now in terms of economic sanctions and punishments is a part of it”.

But a West that has refused to come to terms with its role in committing the “supreme international crime” of invading Iraq, and has been supporting systematic crimes against the sovereignty of other states such as Yemen, Libya and Syria, cannot sit in judgment on Russia. And further, it should not be trying to take the high ground by meddling in the war in Ukraine.

If we took the implications of Bush’s comment seriously, rather than treating it as a “gaffe” and viewing the Iraq invasion as a “blunder”, we might be in a position to speak with moral authority instead of flaunting – once again – our hypocrisy.

First published in Middle East Eye

The post Russia-Ukraine war: George Bush’s admission of his crimes in Iraq was no “gaffe” first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The State’s Celebration of Lies and Punishment of Truth

Julian Assange once said that if wars can be started by lies, they can be stopped by truth. Assange suffered immeasurably, with Britain and America taking him away for revealing facts about US war crimes in Iraq, while notorious Iraq War liar Tony Blair was knighted.

“Sir” Tony Blair may now be paraded around as a model citizen of the United Kingdom and the West, an appropriate display of the “values” our civilization now represents. Be a spreader of lies and violence like this goblin, and you will be honored. Happen upon evidence of a war crime by the state, or even by a foreign regime the UK has allied itself to, and you will be punished.

Of course, the greatest victims of Tony Blair’s knighting are the British state’s eroded and discredited reputation for veracity and each individual who was made a knight by the state and now has to bear the dishonor of sharing that with Blair. By sending the message that they support and stand by a liar, British MPs are telling their constituents that they are also liars and that all the UK’s government departments are staffed by liars. Although it is hardly true, sending this message complicates their ability to elicit trust from many in their attempts to inform the public.

If we find ourselves asking why a new generation of paranoid people and conspiracy theorists is emerging in the UK in the next decade, we need look no further than the resolute commitment of the state and the media to honor a known liar. For many, that will be the final nail in the coffin of the state as a source of information.

At the same time that they celebrate and idolize a liar, British politicians wonder why so many people don’t believe them. They can only conclude that certain mischief-makers must be spreading disinformation, rather than that normal people tend to notice liars and eventually stop believing them.

The terror of British MPs under the gaze of the people is greater than ever before, yet they are unable to accept that they created this situation. MPs may, in fact, be more violently hated by paranoid random citizens than ever before in history.

The murders of MPs Jo Cox and Sir David Amess by random citizens as they tried to do their jobs were undeserved and tragic, and even Tony Blair deserves no such thing. However, these acts, like the crazy burning of 5G towers by paranoid citizens, are the result of disbelief in all authority. It is the result of British MPs often regarding citizens as mere fools they are allowed to deceive.

The Assange saga shows that such politicians are much more frustrated at the inconvenient truth than they are at deception on any scale. As far as they are concerned, the ends are all that matter, and the means are not to be looked at. It doesn’t matter how many people are lied to or killed if the personal wishes of British MPs and officials are served – what they would call the “national interest” but is, in fact, their interest at the expense of the nation. If the truth hurts them, the truth is to be abhorred for being against the national interest, as Assange’s truth is. If lies help the politicians, the lies are good and ought to be rewarded and the deceiver praised for being an “outstanding statesman and performer“, to use the words Michael Gove recently used in Blair’s defense. No sense of morality is permitted, only a sense of what most favors those individuals who manage the country.

In rewarding liars and punishing the innocent, Britain as a state has shown itself to be blind and deaf to the warning signs before it. It sets itself on course to being believed by no-one and securing the loyalty of no-one. The terror in the heart of the state at what its own citizens might do next will increase, as MPs will know they deserve contempt.

The sirs of Britain could give up their titles to avoid being associated with predators and psychopaths. From Prince Andrew to Jimmy Savile, the most honored figures in Britain have a history of often being, or at least coddling, the vilest people imaginable. No honorable person will be found among them, if they are willing to be associated with monsters.

British politicians seem to live in polite, isolated bubbles from which they take a tone of moral superiority and lecture the population, taking no mandate from them. They do not comprehend the gravity of what could happen to them if there was a complete collapse of all trust in authority, and seem to have no belief in such a scenario at all.

British political authority oozes festering snobbery, privilege and immunity because British rulers miraculously never succumbed to revolution, never paid the price for abusing the sovereign nation, and never learned to serve the country faithfully. The result is self-serving “sirs” who believe their purpose is to lord over others once they get past the inconvenient trifle of pandering for votes. Democracy exists, but what we get is not democratic.

Boris Johnson’s resistance to resigning over his lockdown-defying parties, against the demands of MPs, shows that the priority of rulers even under the present democracy is hardly ever the wellbeing of the public but their own positions. It also shows how politicians draw a distinction between how they conduct themselves and how they expect members of the public to behave. The opposition Labour Party offers little better, though, being guilty of the same thing, despite their efforts to capitalize on the scandal.

Although radical change cannot take place in the UK, owing to the deeply reactionary nature of the overall society and wise caution exercised by many, the state can be expected to eventually change its ways, bending under the wind of change. It is doubtful that Tony Blair’s knighthood will be reversed in his lifetime, but society will eventually recognize him for what he was. As with Jimmy Savile, the divorce of the society from him will politely take place after he is gone.

The UK does not undergo radical change, but it does become kinder with time, and that should be expected in the way it handles political prisoners like Assange and the way it chooses to engage in future conflicts. It is only unfortunate that we, as a society, seem to still be too dragged down by the self-serving governing elite to save Assange in time.

The post The State’s Celebration of Lies and Punishment of Truth first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Sir Tony Blair: Bloody Knight of the Realm

Awards and honours bestowed by States or private committees, republican or monarchical, are bound to be corrupted by considerations of hypocrisy, racketeering and general, chummy disposition.  From the Nobel Peace Prize to the range of eccentric and esoteric orders bestowed each year in Britain by Her Majesty, diddling and manipulating is never far behind.  You are bestowed such things as a reminder of your worth to the establishment rather than your unique contribution to the good quotient of humanity.  Flip many a peace prize over and you are bound to find the smouldering remains of a war criminal’s legacy.

The recently knighted Tony Blair is certainly not one to bother.  His name appeared in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list, having been made a Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter.  “It is an immense honour,” came the statement from the foundation that bears his name, “to be appointed Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, and I am deeply grateful to Her Majesty the Queen.”

Others begged to differ.  Within hours, a petition launched by Angus Scott calling for the rescission of the award garnered thousands of signatures.  (To date, the number is 755,879.)  The award, says the petition, is “the oldest and most senior British Order of Chivalry.”  It asserts that Blair “caused irreparable damage to both the constitution of the United Kingdom and to the very fabric of the nation’s society.  He was personally responsible for causing the death of countless innocent, civilian lives and servicemen in various conflicts.  For this alone he should be held accountable for war crimes.”

The evangelical Blair of war adventurism will be forever associated with Iraq’s invasion in 2003, though most current commentary avoids his role in promoting humanitarian imperialism in NATO’s bombing of Serbia in 1999.  (Never one to be too firmly attached to his ideals, Blair is currently advising the government of President Aleksandar Vučić who, as information minister of the Milošević regime, knew a thing or two in how to demonise Muslim Kosovars.)

The Chilcot inquiry into the origins of the Iraq War did not openly challenge the legality of the Iraq invasion in 2003 by Coalition forces but noted that Saddam Hussein posed no immediate threat to Western states.  It was also clear that peaceful options had not been exhausted.  The slippery Blair preferred another reading.  “The report should lay to rest allegations of bad faith, lies or deceit.”

Sir Tony’s performance before the Chilcot inquiry should be, for students of legal history, placed alongside that of Hermann Göring at the International Military Tribunal proceedings at Nuremberg in 1946.  The latter’s sparring with the poorly briefed US Supreme Court justice turned prosecutor Robert Jackson was eminently superior, but the recently ennobled one could play the trained politician wary of being implicated in past misdeeds.

Defenders of Sir Tony can be found in the ranks, all of whom essentially follow institutional logic.  The Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey insisted that calls to rescind the knighthood showed disrespect for the Queen.  Sir Keir Starmer, his crown as Labour leader looking increasingly unsettled, defended the knighthood as rightfully earned, Blair having “made Britain a better country”.

Others preferred to see Blair’s critics as incurably diseased.  “Blair Derangement Syndrome is a curious malady,” charges a smug Jack Kessler of The Evening Standard.  Kessler’s point is sensible enough: The entire honours system is slimed and soiled, so much so that getting upset about Blair as the “least deserving” of recipients is an act of meaningless stroppiness.

Consider the entire awards system to begin with.  “From major donors to political parties to chief executives of soon-to-be insolvent banks, even a cursory glance at the history of our honours system would suggest this is somewhat of a reach.”

Kessler’s parlour room logic presumes that a person party to what was described by the victors of the Second World War as a crime against peace can somehow be equated to rewarding banksters for financial misconduct or wealthy donors.  It certainly cannot be equated to King George V’s decision to make Lord Lonsdale a Knight of the Garter in 1928 in what was described at the time by a courtier as “sheer tomfoolery”.

Others are simply indifferent to the culpability of a figure who richly deserves a grilling in the dock of the International Criminal Court.  (So much for the liberal international order of things, including the rule of law.)  The Spectator, through a piece by Stephen Daisley, shuns the issue, merely acknowledging Blair’s shabby treatment of Parliament, his “unduly presidential” manner, or a “New Labour project” spun to bankrupt politics.  These are deemed valid criticisms but hardly an impediment to receiving a knighthood.

For Daisley, Blair Derangement Syndrome is a condition that must be rebuffed, rebuked and repudiated.  “Blair’s gravest sin, what he cannot and must not and will not be forgiven for, is that he won.”  He led his country “with moral imagination and personal fortitude and left Britain fairer, healthier, more modern and more at ease with itself.”  Pity the same cannot be said of Iraq or Afghanistan.

It should be noted that this line of reasoning is entirely acceptable to a magazine that used to be edited by the current UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and who made the Labour Prime Minister its 2002 Parliamentarian of the Year despite him showing an utter contempt for Parliament.  “It is hard to think of another party leader who, for eight years, has exercised such unchallenged dominance of the political landscape,” Johnson declared at the award ceremony.

It was the classic affirmation that the Tories had, if only vicariously, won through the guise of one Blair.  Johnson, for his part, publicly mused that the award could aggravate the Cain-Abel relationship between Blair and his Chancellor Gordon Brown, “all other strategies so far having proved not wholly successful”.

The justifications advanced by Daisley have been used for leaders past who made the trains run on time, built spiffy, smooth roads for vehicles (military and civilian) and ensured that everything operated to a neat schedule, irrespective of whether death camps or slave labour were involved.  Many made the mistake of losing the wars they began, facing noose, poison or firing squad.

In the British context, where the benevolent, benign ruler assumes the force of majesty, the latitude for forgiveness is even greater.  Reducing colonies to penury, aiding the conditions of famine, initiating social experiments that distorted and destroyed, molested and plundered extant, thriving and sovereign cultures, has never been accounted for in a court of law, international or domestic.  In the absence of a hanging judge, it has been deemed fitting that any such figures be given knighthoods and rendered into statuary instead.

The post Sir Tony Blair: Bloody Knight of the Realm first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Myth of Corbyn’s Labour Failure and Neoliberalism’s Western Electoral Success

In 2020 Kier Starmer became UK Labour leader and promptly reneged on just about every campaign promise he’d made to adhere to the policies, traditional Party principals, and post-war consensus values, that had been restored under Jeremy Corbyn’s previous tenureship.  Starmer has withdrawn the Party Whip from Corbyn – effectively exiling him – and more recently given interviews about the Party supposedly having to ‘recover’ from Corbyn’s leadership.  In this he’s been consistently aided and abetted by various commentariat neoliberal mouthpieces in the corporate media, similarly implying that the Blairite era was some sort of successful norm.

This spin on recent history presupposes two false premises.  Firstly, that the era of Corbyn’s grassroots mobilisation was some sort of oxymoron democratic failure, this the available evidence belies.  Secondly, that rather than being a process of direct democratic representation on behalf of the mass of society, electoral politics should be treated as some sort of advertising/marketing game designed to facilitate the careers of a small handful of individuals, operating on behalf of highly financed corporate lobbyists. This was not what the Labour Party was formed to do.

As a representational organisation, the Labour Party had been originally founded by mass movement Trade Unionists and Chartist campaigners for the poor. Post-war, in terms of representing the economic interests of society’s economically oppressed working-class, the marginalised, and have-nots, it had prior to neoliberal entryism, some similarities with the pre-Clinton insurgency Democratic Party. Contrary to Starmer’s and corporate media’s constructed narrative of supposed neoliberal electoral efficiency, the evidence from recent history of collapsing General Election voter numbers demonstrates quite starkly, that Labour’s social base, has realised it’s being democratically denied the representation from its Party, it historically could have expected and desired.  Its societal grassroots therefore recognised it had no vested interest in continuing to vote.

The Labour Party came unsuccessfully through Thatcherism smeared and bullied by the right-wing Murdoch and Rothermere Press who day-to-day, did the propaganda heavy-lifting for the Tory Party’s campaigning. From this era, Neil Kinnock was the last traditional Labour leader. Kinnock invoked working-class authenticity by claiming to be a proud Welsh socialist – though having subsequently accepted a peerage and later supported neoliberal entryism, this historical claim would seem to have been just spin.

That said, Labour under faux but perhaps at least perceived real traditionalist Kinnock, came out of the 1992 General Election losing, yet with an improved 11.5 million votes. In 1997, years of Tory corruption resulted in Tony Blair riding into power on an anti-Conservative turnout for New Labour, of 13.5 million votes. Yet, five years of pandering to big money and therefore economically attacking his own supporters, meant that at the 2001 General Election only 10.7million voters thought the Party still represented them. Blair had lost nearly 3 million voters — 2 million the Party had previously picked up off the Tories, and nearly a further million, down on the Party’s performance under Kinnock had disappeared on apparent electoral strike (significantly this is well before the Iraq War). In 2005 the deterioration continued under Blair with the Party albeit staying in power, but losing another million Labour voters, now down to 9.5 million.  In 2010 Labour’s neoliberal former Chancellor Gordon Brown, led the Party to defeat and astonishingly only 8.5 million people now thought the Party actually represented them.

In all during this period Blair and Brown managed — via their self-serving corporate lobbying aligned curatorship of the Party — to burn their way through the allegiances of 5 million voters, while losing two thirds of Labour’s once 400,000 strong membership, and this during a period when the UK population was actually increasing. If Labour’s social base had any voice in an ever more unrepresentative billionaire orientated corporate media, somebody surely would have asked ‘just who have these neoliberals been working for?’

Labour’s new young Leader Ed Miliband, rhetorically made the pretence in the 2015 General Election, of apparently moving the Party back to the left and from Gordon Brown’s mere 8.5 million votes, managed to stabilise the rout of its disappearing grassroots, but still only obtaining an electorally failing and underachieving, 9.5 million voters support.

Jeremy Corbyn then became Leader and the Party in losing the 2017 General Election, still dramatically managed to turn around 16 years of decline, with 12.8 million voters now believing Labour once again represented them. Indicative of the renewed long-term health of Labour its now 0.5 million members made it the largest political organisation in Europe.  All of this was achieved with the neoliberal Labour right doing everything possible to bring Corbyn down in the two years prior to the General Election – even restaging a Leadership contest within a year of Corbyn first success.

In the run-up to the 2019 General Election the Party had to contend with a partisan corporate media at war with it, an ongoing pro-Israel moral panic, an attempt to subvert the Brexit referendum by globalised free trade interests, clearly designed to change Labour’s leadership and direction.  All of which was supported by the Party’s neoliberal right.

Given that much of Labour’s heartlands favoured leaving the EU, the anti-democratic attack on the referendum result was probably the most damaging. If you’re not respecting votes cast you can’t expect voters to support you. In any case, contrary to media spin, the referendum result had not been particularly close. The available pool of voters was 46 million. 16 million voted to remain in the EU and lost. That meant 30 million people either favoured leaving or in abstaining, were content to go along with the democratic outcome, whichever way — Leave/Remain — it came out.

Consequently Labour under Corbyn lost a lot of MPs in the 2019 General Election, many in Party heartlands. This was spun in the media as one of Labour’s worst ever results. Actually, even in these circumstances, 10.2 million voters felt that the values and manifesto of Labour with Corbyn leadership represented them. This was more than voted for the Party under Ed Milliband, more than voted for the Party when Gordon Brown was leader. It was even more than voted for the Party during Blair’s last election win. The nature of Britain’s ‘first past the post’ voting system means that if your Party turn-out is not concentrated in specific districts but instead spread-out, you might enjoy popular support but not constituency MP successes.  But at least under a Party traditionalist like Corbyn the future health of Labour as a social movement could be regarded as secure – at least until Starmer came along.

All of which begs the question once the dust from electoral marketing has settled, why comparatively do neoliberals haemorrhage votes so quickly? In the case of Blair and Brown, in wasn’t only the case their reputations were in tatters with Muslims and anti-war groups. In order to maintain a low tax regime on the rich and corporate elites, there was hardly a part of working-class life that was not attacked by them. They abolished the mandatory student grant and introduced fees, so now deeply indebted students had no reason to be grateful to them.  The poor, who had their access to welfare cut while being stigmatised as ‘scroungers… part of a culture of dependency’, had no reason to vote neoliberal New Labour. Low income social housing residents told, their rents would be forced up to market levels, similarly had no reason for gratitude.  And of course neoliberal employment casualisation means that a generation of young workers now have less job protections than previously enjoyed by their grandparents.

As Karl Marx put it and contrary to neoliberal political marketing: “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.”

We might also presume that the Clintons have done similar damage to the long-term culture of the Democrat Party.  The people of Arkansas experienced three terms of the Clintons in the governor’s office. They had two terms of the Clintons in the White House.  Yet in the 2014 US poverty rankings Arkansas came forty-eighth out of fifty states. One of the two worse-off states was Louisiana. It might be glib and not particularly original but it is possible to conclude that having the Clintons represent you is nearly as bad as experiencing Hurricane Katrina.

Of course it is difficult to identify the same level of voter decline in the United States because in the same 1992 to 2020 time period, the country’s population increased from 256,990,607 to 331,449,281.  This increase of 74,458,674 is so large it’s roughly the size of Trumps 2020 second ever largest Presidential voter turnout (obviously this does not necessarily indicate the same people voted for him).

However, there is one US example that is quite helpful. In 2008 Barack Obama campaigned for the Presidency – like Blair in 97 – as the anti-status-quo ‘change candidate’ and picked up a historically large voter turnout of 69,498,516. But in office he continued foreign wars, protected the professional banking class, little was done to improve the economic or educational opportunities of working-class Americans, and Obama impotently rung his hands while a Black Lives Matter crisis played out on the streets.

In 2012’s election Obama’s turnout dropped to 65,915,795. The resulting loss of 3.5 million voters, who no longer felt represented, is not huge in a country the size of the US. But what happened next is interesting. In the run up to the 2016 Presidential election the Democrats could at least claim to have expanded US medical cover. Yet Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump despite him being depicted in the corporate media as a bogeyman. Clinton’s loss was spun in the corporate media as a popular vote win.  However her 65,853,514 turnout meant she’d struggled to just about get into the ballpark of Obama’s declining second, Presidential vote count.  Significantly Clinton had only made it into the race courtesy of DNC shenanigans in her favour at the expense of grassroots darling Bernie Sanders.

In 2020 Joe Biden made it into the White House on the back of a massive record breaking anti-Trump vote of 81,268,924 million. Biden is little better than neoliberal Hillary Clinton.  Over the next five years every failure, every betrayal of leftist grassroots Democrats will – according to past form – erode that voter turnout. Short of Trump or a significant number of his older supporters dropping dead, come the next election, most of his fanatical 74,216,154 voter turnout will be intact.  The losers will be those who wanted a fairer America but got stuck with neoliberals.

Here in the UK there are local elections on Thursday May 6 2012. Labour Leader Starmer has spent the last year, attacking, smearing and banning the Party’s own constituency groups and supporters. The word is that Labour voters are back on electoral strike. Some have formed The Northern Independence Party (NIP). Activists are refusing to canvass and campaign for the Party.  If results are as bad as expected, Starmer will no doubt blame Corbyn and his legacy. The corporate media will likely choose to echo this untruth.  The message from this is that grassroots groups need to find a way turning their Parties back into representative social movements, instead of marketing machines for unscrupulous careerists, in pursuit of corporate lobbying money.

The post The Myth of Corbyn’s Labour Failure and Neoliberalism’s Western Electoral Success first appeared on Dissident Voice.

20 Years Of Media Lens: A Selection Of Remarkable Replies From Journalists

The Insiders

In a 2002 interview with the Observer, the BBC’s John Cody Fidler-Simpson CBE of Kabul, to give him his full name and title, was asked to define the ‘essential qualities’ of a journalist. Simpson responded with typical left-field quirkiness:

There’s something slightly wrong with most of us, don’t you feel? We’re damaged goods, usually with slightly rumpled private lives and unconventional backgrounds.

This certainly rings true. In our experience, the average male journalist is pretty much as Bogart described Captain Renault in ‘Casablanca’:

Oh, he’s just like any other man, only more so.

Take the BBC’s Andrew Marr. In his book My Trade, Marr asked himself why he had become editor of the Independent in 1996:

‘So, why had I done it? There were, looking back, two crucial factors in my mind. The first was vanity. The second was greed. To be a national newspaper editor is a grand thing. Even at the poor-mouse Independent, though I didn’t have a chauffeur, I was driven to and from work in a limousine, barking orders down my mobile phone… In the office, I was the commander…’1

Driven by vanity and greed, self-identifying as ‘celebrities’, elite journalists have egos like any other man or woman, only more so.

As we will see, this ego inflation has serious consequences for their willingness to tolerate even polite criticism, much less to admit error, much less to improve their journalism.

Before the rise of social media, rumpled propaganda ne’er-do-wells like Simpson and Marr had been spoiled by decades of near-impenetrable corporate protection. Swatting away token complaints on newspaper letters pages, journalists were used to being applauded, feted, admired. It was all they knew. Like anyone who has been spoiled rotten, they became arrogant, conceited brats.

When we started Media Lens in 2001, we had no particular expectations. We imagined – naively, as it turned out – that if we wrote clearly and politely, using rational arguments based on credible facts and sources, journalists might be willing to engage with us in ways that readers would find intriguing and eye-opening.

While this occasionally did happen in the first few years, we were more often astonished by the petulant, abusive nature of the responses. Like an oversized, tantruming toddler, Roger Alton, then editor of the Observer (and subsequently Independent editor), screeched at one polite emailer:

Have you just been told to write in by those cunts at medialens? Don’t you have a mind of your own?2

It’s probably not wild speculation to suggest that Alton was the ‘senior journalist’ who anonymously described us to a BBC reporter as ‘poisonous cunts’.3

When we politely asked Guardian cartoonist Martin Rowson to explain the basis for a cartoon he had drawn on the Syrian conflict, toys flew to all corners of the room:

[Media Lens] has succeeded in riling me. Well done. If I’m proved worng [sic] I’ll apologise. Meanwhile, fuck off & annoy someone else… No time for this anymore. Sorry. I stand convicted as a cunt. End of …4

Journalists with more self-restraint have worked hard to smile through gritted teeth, dismissing our arguments with surreal ‘humour’. In 2005, we challenged John Rentoul, chief political correspondent at the Independent on Sunday, and currently a visiting professor at King’s College, London, about his dismissal of the first Lancet study into Iraq mortality following the 2003 invasion. His sage reply:

Oh no. You have found me out. I am in fact a neocon agent in the pay of the third morpork of the teleogens of Tharg.5

The BBC’s John Sweeney stuck out his tongue from the same playground:

David Edwards and David Cromwell of MediaLens – a fancy name for two moonlighting clerks from the White Fish Authority or some such aquatic quango [in fact, one of us, DC, was then a scientist at the National Oceanography Centre] – berate me for fiddling with the facts about the effect of Saddam’s chemical weapons on the Iraqis.

On 7 June, 2004, presenter Jon Snow observed in that day’s Snowmail news digest from Channel 4 News:

Ronnie Reagan lies in state. Particular pangs for me I must admit, having been ITN’s Washington correspondent in the creamier moments of Ronnie’s reign. The great eulogies seem to evade the moments of madness.

We wrote to Snow:

Hi Jon

Yes, and beyond “the moments of madness”, the eulogies also seem to evade the years of searing, barely believable torture and mass murder in places like Nicaragua, East Timor, and El Salvador. We’ll be watching at 7:00, but we won’t hold our breath…

Best wishes

DE and DC

Blood clearly up, Snow’s index fingers raged across his keyboard in response:

you cynics! If you’d been around at the time you’d have seen me exposing his outrages in central america..you may think i’m a sell ouyt [sic] these days but i can assure u, I have been there..

In the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s stunning election performance in June 2017, Snow introduced Channel 4 News with the fitting words:

Good evening. I know nothing. We, the media, the pundits, the experts, know nothing.

Just one month later, Snow made an extraordinary, 180-degree volte face:

I think this is the golden age for journalism. First of all, it’s sorted the wheat from the chaff. The people who sat around at the back of the office and pumped out the occasional obituary have fallen by the wayside. But if you’re up for it, in what used to be the conventional media, you’ve a fantastic future.

Like almost every other high-profile corporate journalist, Snow’s endless self-contradictions and queasy, career-protective contortions remind us of Groucho Marx’s comment:

Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them…well, I have others.

The great flaw in John Simpson’s analysis was his additional comment on the ‘essential qualities’ of journalists. They were, he said: ‘Outsiders, looking in at others from outside’.

In fact, journalists are the ultimate corporate insiders looking out at a world to be manipulated and pacified from the heart of Elite Media Club. Journalism, particularly broadcast journalism, is far too important to people with power for it to be any other way.

In what follows – partly for fun, but also to highlight the dearth of serious discussion on the ‘mainstream media’ in the ‘mainstream media’ – we have collected some remarkable replies from journalists. Where possible, we have linked back to the original discussions so that you, dear reader, can make of them what you will.

Andrew Marr Promises Not To ‘Bother With “Media Lens”’ Ever Again

In 1999, Andrew Marr, a former editor of the Independent who was by then an Observer columnist, had spoken out in support of Tony Blair’s crazed call for a ground invasion in the former Yugoslavia. In the Observer under the title, “Do we give war a chance?“, Marr had proclaimed:

I want to put the Macbeth option: which is that we’re so steeped in blood we should go further.

The following week, Marr’s Observer column was titled, ‘War is hell – but not being ready to go to war is undignified and embarrassing’. He referred to the ‘war-hardened people of Serbia’ and called them ‘beasts’, explaining that the Serbs, ‘far more callous, seemingly readier to die, are like an alien race.’

We cited the above battle cry in a media alert on 3 October, 2001. Marr, who had since become the BBC’s political editor, wrote an email to us in response:

I’m afraid I think it is just pernicious and anti-journalistic. I note that you advertise an organisation called Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting so I guess at least you have a sense of humour. But I don’t think I will bother with “Media Lens” next time, if you don’t mind.

We replied to Marr, rebutting his crass jibe of ‘pernicious and anti-journalistic’, and defending our analysis of his articles. But, true to his word, Marr has ignored us ever since. We have not forgotten about the BBC man, however. His BBC career may well be defined by the clip of him outside 10 Downing Street reporting for BBC News at Ten on 9 April, 2003. He had been asked by presenter Huw Edwards to describe the significance of the fall of Baghdad to the invading US forces.

Frankly, the main mood [in Downing Street] is of unbridled relief. I’ve been watching ministers wander around with smiles like split watermelons.

Marr’s happy smile mirrored those of the government ministers he had observed. He continued:

I don’t think anybody after this is going to be able to say of Tony Blair that he’s somebody who is driven by the drift of public opinion, or focus groups, or opinion polls. He took all of those on. He said that they would be able to take Baghdad without a bloodbath, and that in the end the Iraqis would be celebrating. And on both of those points he has been proved conclusively right. And it would be entirely ungracious, even for his critics, not to acknowledge that tonight he stands as a larger man and a stronger prime minister as a result.

This was a remarkable demonstration of the propaganda function of corporate journalists, not least the role of the political editor of BBC News. Marr had risen to those heady heights because he had demonstrated for years that he could be trusted as a safe pair of hands.

Ironically, in 1996, while he was still at the Independent, Marr had interviewed Noam Chomsky for the BBC2 series ‘The Big Idea’. Marr had been dismissive of the propaganda model and simply could not understand that journalists were not the crusading, adversarial truthtellers standing up to power that he believed them to be. ‘How can you know that I’m self-censoring?’, asked an incredulous Marr. Chomsky replied:

‘I’m not saying you’re self-censoring. I’m sure you believe everything you say. But what I’m saying is if you believed something different you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.’

Exactly.

Clones R Us

In 2002, we examined the BBC series ‘The Century of the Self’ which focused on the public relations guru Edward Bernays who had famously coined the term, ‘engineering of consent’. Bernays’ ideas, building on Freud’s theories about human psychology, were deployed by the rapidly growing corporate advertising industry in the 20th century to boost profits. The series was written and produced by the BBC’s Adam Curtis, and attracted considerable attention and acclaim.

We admired aspects of the series, including its clever use of visuals and somewhat sardonic voice-over, but we pointed out that much crucial information was missing from Curtis’s analysis. This was especially noticeable when it came to serious omissions regarding the destructive role of big business and how the ‘threat of Communism’ was used to ‘justify’ US foreign policy to undermine democracy and independent nationalism in Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, Haiti, Iran, Indonesia, Vietnam and elsewhere around the world.

As described in a follow-up media alert, we summarised our observations in a polite email to Curtis and then, not hearing from him, followed up with a gentle nudge. We received this peeved reply from Curtis the same day:

I don’t know whether it occurred to you that I might have been away – instead of stamping your little feet and trying to whip up an attack of the clones. I’ve just read your piece – thanks and I’ll reply to it on Thursday if that’s ok? I’ve got to be filming before then.

The dismissal of public criticism as coming from unthinking ‘clones’ was ironic, given the subject matter of his documentary. To be fair to Curtis, he did indeed reply soon after and we wrote about the subsequent exchange in another follow-up media alert.

‘Evidence-Based Journalism’

Over a number of years, we repeatedly challenged the BBC on its deeply skewed, US-UK-driven propaganda coverage of Iraq. In 2004-2005, we drew particular attention to the BBC’s soft-pedalling of the brutal US assaults on Fallujah, Iraq (for example, here and here).

Back in the days when senior BBC News editors and correspondents engaged directly, sometimes at length, with Media Lens, we received this reply from Helen Boaden, then head of BBC News:

We are committed to evidence-based journalism. We have not been able to establish that the US used banned chemical weapons and committed other atrocities against civilians in Falluja last November [2004]. Inquiries on the ground at the time and subsequently indicate that their use is unlikely to have occurred.

In fact, atrocities had taken place and banned chemical weapons – specifically, white phosphorus – had been used. But the BBC consistently ignored or downplayed credible testimony from multiple sources. BBC correspondent Paul Wood, who had been embedded with US forces in Fallujah, and who had failed to report the enormity of their crimes, excused himself and the BBC with these words:

We didn’t at the time, last November, report the use of banned weapons or a massacre because we didn’t see this taking place – and since then, we haven’t seen credible evidence that this is was [sic] what happened.

Wood had earlier dismissed reports of the use of banned weapons in Fallujah on the grounds, Boaden told us, that no ‘reference [was] made to them at the confidential pre-assault military briefings he attended.’ When we pressed Boaden, citing further independent reports of atrocities committed against civilians, she abruptly ended the correspondence:

I do not believe that further dialogue on this matter will serve a useful purpose.

As we have seen in the intervening years, the attitude of BBC News to our challenges is now essentially:

I do not believe that any dialogue on this matter will serve a useful purpose.

BBC ‘Impartiality’ = Accepting And Broadcasting Western Leaders’ Claims

As many readers will recall, BBC propaganda leading up to the invasion of Iraq, and the subsequent US-led occupation, was unceasing. For example, on 22 December, 2005, Paul Wood told millions of BBC News at Ten viewers:

The coalition came to Iraq in the first place to bring democracy and human rights.

When we asked Helen Boaden if she realised this version of US-UK intent compromised the BBC’s claimed commitment to impartial reporting, she replied:

Paul Wood’s analysis of the underlying motivation of the coalition is borne out by many speeches and remarks made by both Mr Bush and Mr Blair.

But Wood was not merely describing Bush and Blair’s version of events. That would have involved him saying: ‘The coalition claims that it came to Iraq in the first place to bring democracy and human rights.’ Instead, he was stating his own opinion on why the coalition ‘came to Iraq’.

When we emailed Boaden again in January 2006, she replied:

To deal first with your suggestion that it is factually incorrect to say that an aim of the British and American coalition was to bring democracy and human rights, this was indeed one of the stated aims before and at the start of the Iraq war – and I attach a number of quotes at the bottom of this reply.

Remarkably, Boaden had attached no less than 2,700 words of propaganda quotes from George Bush and Tony Blair, amounting to around six single-spaced A4 pages, in a facile attempt to ‘prove’ her point.

If we are to take Boaden’s comments at face value, she was arguing that Bush and Blair must have been motivated to bring democracy to Iraq because they had said so in speeches! ‘Impartial’ BBC reporting means that we should take our leaders’ claims on trust.

‘No Need For A Mea Culpa. We Did Our Job Well’

In 2004, we presented an overview of how several of the corporate news media had covered the build-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the war itself; namely, served as propaganda outlets for Western power. In contrast to the limited mea culpa of the New York Times, all the UK news media we approached rejected the notion that they had done anything seriously wrong or performed poorly in terms of their stated public commitment to fair and accurate journalism. Perhaps the most breezily deluded response came from David Mannion, then Head of Independent Television News:

The evidence suggests we have no need for a mea culpa. We did our job well.

In an important sense, of course, Mannion was correct. Given that the primary function of the corporate media is to channel and amplify propaganda from sources of power – especially Washington and London – they did indeed do ‘our job well’.

Robots R Us

In response to our media alert, “The Media Ignore Credible Poll Revealing 1.2 Million Violent Deaths In Iraq, published on 18 September, 2007, BBC Newsnight presenter Gavin Esler sent the following response to one of several Media Lens readers who had contacted him politely:

Sorry but this medialens inspired stuff is very sophomoric. The last time I remember a robotic response from people like this was watching film of the nuremberg rallies. I always wondered why people marched to another’s beat without any obvious thought from themselves. Perhaps you know the answer, or perhaps you merely intend to keep marching.

Please don’t write to me again in someone else’s words. It is so embarrasing [sic] for you. Please learn to think for yourself.

Gavin

Esler’s ‘robotic’ respondents were, in fact, members of the public who cared enough about the devastating impact of corporate media bias to spend time writing to journalists. The polite and thoughtful email that elicited this response was sent by an MA student at Durham University. You can read his email here.

‘Dear Serviles’

In 2002, we challenged the Observers Nick Cohen about his misleading comments on UN sanctions against Iraq, and his persistent cheerleading for a US-led invasion that would take place the following year. Cohen had absolved the West of all responsibility for the horrendous death toll in Iraq under UN sanctions. As we noted, these sanctions were responsible for the deaths of around half a million children under the age of five, as documented by Unicef. Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, former UN Humanitarian Coordinators in Baghdad, had both resigned, one after the other, in protest at the ‘genocidal’ impact of UN sanctions. These mass-death sanctions had been maintained with great remorselessness by Washington and London, supported by a propaganda barrage that was faithfully relayed by corporate news media. But Cohen attributed all the blame for the death toll on Iraq’s leader, Saddam Hussein, slavishly sticking to the official narrative. Cohen emailed us back in high dudgeon, addressing us as ‘Dear Serviles’, concluding with what he no doubt considered a hilarious and crushing rejoinder, ‘Viva Joe Stalin’.

‘All The Bloody Children’

When one Media Lens reader, an 83 year-old WW2 veteran, offered a polite and considered rebuttal to the propaganda distortion carried in the Observer on UN sanctions against Iraq, editor Roger Alton emailed back in exasperation:

This is just not true … it’s saddam who’s killing all the bloody children, not sanctions. Sorry

To paraphrase Chomsky, ask yourself: would a journalist who thought any differently ascend to the throne of Observer or Independent editor?

‘A Curious Willy-Waving Exercise’

Peter Beaumont, foreign affairs editor of the Observer, objected so much to our critical appraisal of his review of a book by Noam Chomsky in 2006 that he devoted a column to attacking Media Lens:

It is a closed and distorting little world that selects and twists its facts to suit its arguments, a curious willy-waving exercise… Think a train spotters’ club run by Uncle Joe Stalin.

In resurrecting Stalin, Beaumont may have been inspired by his Observer colleague’s previous ‘witticism’ (see Nick Cohen above). It is left to the imagination of the reader why a supposedly serious journalist, at a supposedly serious newspaper, should feel the need to depict an exchange of views as ‘willy-waving’.

‘Most Prejudiced And Blinkered’

In 2006, the BBC’s John Simpson took exception to our challenge that BBC News could be rationally considered ‘impartial’:

It takes an enormous act of will to believe that [BBC News protects established power] nowadays, and only the most prejudiced and blinkered person could possibly manage to do it — but you’re prepared to make the necessary effort.

Our examples in the email exchange with Simpson focused on the BBC’s pro-Bush/Blair coverage of Iraq which had consistently minimised or ignored solid evidence of US-UK war crimes, as we saw earlier. Simpson, along with his BBC colleagues, had seemingly made ‘the necessary effort’ not to dwell on those war crimes.

In our reply to Simpson, we noted that his comment was an exact reversal of the truth: ‘only the most prejudiced and blinkered person’ could possibly manage to believe that the BBC does not act as a mouthpiece for powerful interests.

‘The John Motson Approach To Analysing News’

In 2011, we attempted to debate BBC News coverage of the Middle East with Paul Danahar, then the BBC Middle East Bureau Chief, based in Jerusalem (he is currently the BBC’s North America Bureau Chief).

We started by asking Danahar to address the careful studies by Greg Philo and Mike Berry, of the renowned Glasgow University Media Group, and published in their book, More Bad News From Israel ((Pluto Press, 2011.))   Philo and Berry’s careful work demonstrated that BBC News strongly favours the Israeli perspective over the Palestinian perspective.

Recall that between December 2008 – January 2009, Israeli forces mounted a massive campaign of violence against Gaza in Operation Cast Lead. Israel’s leading human rights group B’Tselem estimated that 1,391 Palestinians were killed, including 344 children. In addition to the large numbers of dead and wounded, there was considerable damage to Palestinian medical centres, hospitals, ambulances, UN buildings, power plants, sewage plants, roads, bridges and civilian homes. The BBC later refused to broadcast a charity appeal on behalf of the people of Gaza, an almost unprecedented act in BBC history. In a live BBC interview, Tony Benn famously defied the ban.

In our exchange with Danahar, we gave a summary of Philo and Berry’s detailed statistical findings for BBC News coverage of Operation Cast Lead. Quoting Philo and Berry, we noted that the BBC perpetuated ‘a one-sided view of the causes of the conflict by highlighting the issue of the rockets without reporting the Hamas [peace] offer’ and by burying rational views on the purpose of the attack: namely, the Israeli desire to inflict collective punishment on the Palestinian people.

Apparently in all seriousness, Danahar responded to us:

I wasn’t around during Cast Lead I was in China. So my main observation would be a personal one and that is that I’m not a big fan of the John Motson approach to analysing news.

We, of course, recognised the name of the legendary BBC football commentator, but we asked Danahar to clarify exactly what he meant by ‘the John Motson approach to analysing news’. He replied:

Personally, I don’t think adding up the number of sentences about coverage is much more useful, when comparing two news organisations [BBC and ITV], than trying to work out who has won a football match by counting how many times one team kicked the ball compared to the other.

In fact, Philo and Berry’s comparison was about the relative weight afforded to the Israeli and Palestinian perspectives, not the relative performances of the BBC and ITV. We asked Tim Llewellyn, who had spent ten years as a BBC Middle East correspondent, if he had a response to Danahar’s comment:

I like the John Motson reply. Given that counting lines is EXACTLY (to the milli-second) how the BBC reckons up “balance” in election reporting in the UK, they must believe themselves in the Motson approach as an act of Reithian Faith. But your point is the right one, that line-counting is not what counts so much as BBC news content, which as [Philo and Berry’s book, More Bad News From Israel] finds scientifically and we journalists who observe both the BBC and the Middle East have known for the past ten years or so, reflects to a massive degree the Israeli perspective and fails to report properly the Palestinian plight, the Palestinians’ view of the real causes of the tragedy and how they are forced to react to it, the context of the whole struggle and real cause and effect.6

Danahar then became ever more evasive in our exchange, presumably believing that flippancy was the best approach when presented with factual analysis:

I think it’s a little harsh to suggest that “Bad news from Israel” is an essential read. It’s placed 251,456 on the best seller list at Amazon a full 61,238 places behind “How to defend yourself against Alien Abduction” though the latter is more reasonably priced so maybe that helped its sales.

As so often happens, what had begun as a sincere discussion on the part of Media Lens, at least, had now become farcical. Danahar revealed that he had little intention of addressing the serious issues put to him. The conversation ended with increasingly odd burblings from the senior Jerusalem-based BBC journalist (the full emails are archived here in our forum).

‘Do you guys not have bosses?’

In March 2013, Mehdi Hasan, then Huffington Post UK’s political director, published a fascinating, if bizarre, response on Twitter after we had pointed out the compromises even the ‘best’ journalists and commentators have to make to retain a platform in the ‘mainstream’ media. He tweeted in seeming confusion:

Sorry, in which world is it acceptable for employees to publicly attack or critique their employers? Do you guys not have bosses?

We replied:

No, we don’t have bosses, owners, oligarchs, advertisers, or wealthy philanthropist donors. We’re independent. How about you?

Hasan apparently could not grasp that Media Lens is not beholden to corporate paymasters in an ad-dependent, corporate-owned media in which profit is the bottom line. We were, of course, pointing out that in ‘the real world’ where Hasan worked, ‘free press’ journalists are not free to criticise current or potential employers.

Hasan has since deleted his tweet.

Owen Jones

Owen Jones, perhaps along with George Monbiot, the last remaining and sadly withering leftist fig-leaf at the Guardian, once declared us as bad as the corporate media:

You are as guilty of dishonesty by omission as the mainstream media you supposedly critique.

Why did he attack us in this way? We had pointed out that Jones had conformed to the Western propaganda narrative on Libya in welcoming the Nato-driven removal of Gaddafi. In particular, we had highlighted these words from Jones in 2011 as the US-led destruction of Libya, with UK participation, loomed:

I hope it’s game over for Gaddafi. A savage dictator once tragically embraced by some on left + lately Western governments and oil companies.

Our point was that corporate media leftists like Jones had joined the ‘mainstream’ chorus welcoming regime change in Libya, while claiming to oppose regime change by the Western political leaders that were leading the chorus. It was an absurd and illogical, not to mention immoral, position to take.

Jones has since blocked us on Twitter.

Nick Robinson’s History Book

On 18 June, 2014, we emailed Nick Robinson, then BBC political editor, with whom we had previously corresponded:

Hello Nick,

Did you really say this on BBC News at Ten last night:

‘”The history of the rift between the US and Iran goes all the way back to the Islamic Revolution 35 years ago”?

It sounds like your history book only goes back to 1979. How else can we explain your omission of the 1953 Iranian coup, orchestrated by the US – with British help?

Best wishes

David Cromwell

On 23 June, we received an email on his behalf – presumably from his over-worked personal assistant – thanking us for our email and telling us:

I’ve passed your comments onto Nick. I hope you understand as he receives an overwhelming amount of correspondence he is unable to respond to all letters individually.

We were somewhat miffed not to hear from Nick personally, especially as he had seemed so grateful when we had provided him with the source of a quote by Lord Reith, founder of the BBC, for Robinson’s 2013 book, Live From Downing Street. Ironically, the quote, taken from Lord Reith’s diary and written during the 1926 General Strike, was:

They [the government] know they can trust us not to be really impartial.

That remains an accurate description of BBC News performance to this day.

Concluding Remarks

Twenty years on from founding Media Lens, by using rational, sober, politely-worded challenges, we have managed to alienate a whole slew of prominent editors and journalists, including a few supposedly on ‘the left’. They rarely respond to our critical analyses published on our website – and often republished elsewhere – or to our widely-shared challenges on social media. Many have even blocked us on Twitter. These include Huw Edwards, Jeremy Bowen, Alan Rusbridger, Jon Snow, George Monbiot, Owen Jones, Frank Gardner, Julian Borger and Stephen Pollard. As a long-term experiment, it has been eye-opening for us and, we hope, for our readers.

Rather than seeing this dismissive treatment by corporate journalists as in any way dispiriting, we should regard it as evidence of the power of cogently-argued public challenges to the ‘mainstream’. Moreover, readers would be surprised by just how many high-profile journalists actually support us in private. They thank us for opening their eyes and inspiring them, for keeping them honest, sending us strong praise and encouragement to continue. It says so much about the state of our ‘press freedom’ that these journalists are afraid to support us openly.

  1. Marr, My Trade:  A Short History of British Journalism, Macmillan, 2004, pp. 190-191.
  2. Email forwarded to us, 1 June, 2006.
  3. Posted by then BBC journalist David Fuller, Media Lens messageboard, 15 May 2006.
  4. Rowson, Twitter, 28 May 2012; see his tweets here and here.
  5. Email, 15 September, 2005.
  6. Email to Media Lens, 20 May, 2011.
The post 20 Years Of Media Lens: A Selection Of Remarkable Replies From Journalists first appeared on Dissident Voice.

How the Guardian betrayed not only Corbyn but the Last Vestiges of British Democracy

It is simply astonishing that the first attempt by the Guardian – the only major British newspaper styling itself as on the liberal-left – to properly examine the contents of a devastating internal Labour party report leaked in April is taking place nearly four months after the 860-page report first came to light.

If you are a Labour party member, the Guardian is the only “serious”, big-circulation paper claiming to represent your values and concerns.

One might therefore have assumed that anything that touches deeply on Labour party affairs – on issues of transparency and probity, on the subversion of the party’s democratic structures, on abuses or fraud by its officials – would be of endless interest to the paper. One might have assumed it would wish both to dedicate significant resources to investigating such matters for itself and to air all sides of the ensuing debate to weigh their respective merits.

Not a bit of it. For months, the leaked report and its implications have barely registered in the Guardian’s pages. When they have, the coverage has been superficial and largely one-sided – the side that is deeply hostile to its former leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

That very much fits a pattern of coverage of the Corbyn years by the paper, as I have tried to document. It echoes the paper’s treatment of an earlier scandal, back in early 2017, when an undercover Al-Jazeera reporter filmed pro-Israel Labour activists working with the Israeli embassy to damage Corbyn from within. A series of shocking reports by Al-Jazeera merited minimal coverage from the Guardian at the time they were aired and then immediately sank without trace, as though they were of no relevance to later developments – most especially, of course, the claims by these same groups of a supposed “antisemitism crisis” in Labour.

Sadly, the latest reports by the Guardian on the leaked report –presented as an “exclusive” – do not fundamentally change its long-running approach.

Kicked into the long grass

In fact, what the paper means by an “exclusive” is that it has seen documents responding to the leaked report that were submitted by Corbyn and his team to the Forde inquiry – Labour’s official investigation into that report and the circumstances of its leaking. The deadline for submissions to Martin Forde QC arrived last week.

Setting up the Forde inquiry was the method by which Corbyn’s successor, Keir Starmer, hoped to kick the leaked report into the long grass till next year. Doubtless Starmer believes that by then the report will be stale news and that he will have had time to purge from the party, or at least intimidate into silence, the most outspoken remnants of Corbyn’s supporters.

Corbyn’s submission on the leaked report is an “exclusive” for the Guardian only because no one in the corporate media bothered till now to cover the debates raging in Labour since the leak four months ago. The arguments made by Corbyn and his supporters, so prominent on social media, have been entirely absent from the so-called “mainstream”.

When Corbyn finally got a chance to air the issues raised by the leaked report in a series of articles on the Middle East Eye website, its coverage went viral, underscoring how much interest there is in this matter among Labour members.

Nonetheless, despite desperately needing clicks and revenue in this especially difficult time for the corporate media, the Guardian is still spurning revelatory accounts of Corbyn’s time in office by his former team.

One published last week – disclosing that, after winning the leadership election, Corbyn arrived to find the leader’s offices gutted, that Labour HQ staff refused to approve the hiring of even basic staff for him, and that disinformation was constantly leaked to the media – was relegated to the OpenDemocracy website.

That Joe Ryle, a Corbyn team insider, either could not find a home for his insights in the Guardian or didn’t even try says it all – because much of the disinformation he laments being peddled to the media ended up in the Guardian, which was only too happy to amplify it as long as it was harming Corbyn.

A political coup

Meanwhile, everything in the Guardian’s latest “exclusive” confirms what has long been in the public realm, via the leaked report.

Through its extensive documentation of WhatsApp messages and emails, the report shows conclusively that senior Labour officials who had dominated the party machine since the Tony Blair and Gordon Brown eras – and were still loyal to the party’s centre-right incarnation as New Labour – worked at every turn to oust Corbyn from the leadership. They even tried to invent ways to bar him from standing in a rerun leadership election a year later, in 2016, after Owen Smith, the Labour right’s preferred candidate, challenged him.

Corbyn and his supporters were viewed as dangerous “Trots” – to use a derisive term that dominates those exchanges.

The messages show these same officials did their level best to sabotage Labour’s 2017 general election campaign – an election that Corbyn was less than 3,000 votes from winning. Party officials starved marginal seats Corbyn hoped to win of money and instead focused resources on MPs hostile to Corbyn. It seems they preferred a Tory win if it gave momentum to their efforts to rid the party of Corbyn.

Or, as the submission notes: “It’s not impossible that Jeremy Corbyn might now be in his third year as a Labour prime minister were it not for the unauthorised, unilateral action taken by a handful of senior party officials.”

The exchanges in the report also show that these officials on the party’s right privately gave voice to horrifying racism towards other party members, especially black members of the party loyal to Corbyn.

And the leaked report confirms the long-running claims of Corbyn and his team that the impression of “institutional antisemitism” in Labour – a narrative promoted in the corporate media without any actual evidence beyond the anecdotal – had been stoked by the party’s right wing, Blairite officials.

They appear to have delayed and obstructed the handling of the small number of antisemitism complaints – usually found by trawling through old social media posts – to embarrass Corbyn and make the “antisemitism crisis” narrative appear more credible.

Corbyn’s team have pointed out that these officials – whose salaries were paid by the membership, which elected Corbyn as party leader – cheated those members of their dues and their rights, as well as, of course, subverting the entire democratic process. The submission rightly asks the inquiry to consider whether the money spent by Labour officials to undermine Corbyn “constituted fraudulent activity”.

One might go even further and argue that what they did amounted to a political coup.

The bogus ‘whistleblower’ narrative

Even now, as the Guardian reports on Corbyn’s submission to the Forde inquiry, it has downplayed the evidence underpinning his case, especially on the antisemitism issue – which the Guardian played such a key role in weaponising in the first place.

The paper’s latest coverage treats the Corbyn “claims” sceptically, as though the leaked report exists in a political vacuum and there are no other yardsticks by which the truth of its evidence or the plausibility of its claims can be measured.

Let’s start with one illustrative matter. The Guardian, as with the rest of the corporate media, even now avoids drawing the most obvious conclusion from the leaked report.

Racism was endemic in the language and behaviours of Labour’s senior, right wing officials, as shown time and again in the WhatsApp messages and emails.

And yet it is these very same officials – those who oversaw the complaints procedure as well as the organisation of party headquarters – who, according to the corporate media narrative, were so troubled by one specific kind of racism, antisemitism, that they turned it into the biggest, most enduring crisis facing Corbyn during his five-year tenure as leader.

To accept the corporate media narrative on this supposed “antisemitism crisis”, we must ignore several things:

  • the lack of any statistical evidence of a specific antisemitism problem in Labour;
  • the vehement racism expressed by Labour officials, as well as their overt and abiding hostility to Corbyn;
  • moves by party officials forcing Corbyn to accept a new definition of antisemitism that shifted the focus from a hatred of Jews to criticism of Israel;
  • and the fact that the handling of antisemitism complaints dramatically improved once these right wing officials were removed from their positions.

And yet in its latest reporting, as with its earlier coverage, the Guardian simply ignores all this confirmatory evidence.

There are several reasons for this, as I have documented before, but one very obvious one is this: the Guardian, like the rest of the British media, had worked hard to present former officials on the right of the party as brave “whistleblowers” long before they were exposed by the leaked report.

Like the BBC’s much-criticised Panorama “investigation” last year into Labour’s alleged “antisemitism crisis”, the Guardian took the claims of these former staff – of their supposed selfless sacrifice to save the party from anti-Jewish bigots – at face value.

In fact, it was likely even worse than that. The Guardian and BBC weren’t just passive, neutral recipients of the disinformation offered by these supposed “whistleblowers”. They shared the Labour right’s deep antipathy to Corbyn and everything he stood for, and as a result almost certainly served as willing, even enthusiastic channels for that disinformation.

The Guardian hardly bothers to conceal where its sympathies lie. It continues to laud Blair from beyond the political grave and, while Corbyn was leader, gave him slots in its pages to regularly lambast Corbyn and scaremonger about Labour’s “takeover” by the supposedly “extreme” and “hard” left. The paper did so despite the fact that Blair had grown ever more discredited as evidence amassed that his actions in invading Iraq in 2003 were crimes against humanity.

Were the Guardian to now question the narrative it promoted about Corbyn – a narrative demolished by the leaked report – the paper would have to admit several uncomfortable things:

  • that for years it was either gulled by, or cooperated with, the Blairites’ campaign of disinformation;
  • that it took no serious steps to investigate the Labour right’s claims or to find out for itself what was really going on in Labour HQ;
  • that it avoided cultivating a relationship with Corbyn’s team while he was in office that would have helped it to ascertain more effectively what was happening inside the party;
  • or that, if it did cultivate such a relationship (and, after all, Seamas Milne took up his post as Corbyn’s chief adviser immediately after leaving the Guardian), it consistently and intentionally excluded the Corbyn team’s account of events in its reporting.

To now question the narrative it invested so much energy in crafting would risk Guardian readers drawing the most plausible conclusion for their paper’s consistent reporting failures: that the Guardian was profoundly opposed to Corbyn becoming prime minister and allowed itself, along with the rest of the corporate media, to be used as channel for the Labour right’s disinformation.

Stabbed in the back

None of that has changed in the latest coverage of Corbyn’s submission to Forde concerning the leaked report.

The Guardian could not realistically ignore that submission by the party’s former leader and his team. But the paper could – and does – strip out the context on which the submission was based so as not to undermine or discredit its previous reporting against Corbyn.

Its main article on the Corbyn team’s submission becomes a claim and counter-claim story, with an emphasis on an unnamed former official arguing that criticism of him and other former staff at Labour HQ is nothing more than a “mythical ‘stab in the back’ conspiracy theory”.

The problem is that there are acres of evidence in the leaked report that these officials did stab Corbyn and his team in the back – and, helpfully for the rest of us, recorded some of their subversive, anti-democratic activities in private internal correspondence between themselves. Anyone examining those message chains would find it hard not to conclude that these officials were actively plotting against Corbyn.

To discredit the Corbyn team’s submission, the Labour right would need to show that these messages were invented. They don’t try to do that because those messages are very obviously only too real.

Instead they have tried two different, inconsistent strategies. First, they have argued that their messages were presented in a way that was misleading or misrepresented what they said. This claim does not hold water, given that the leaked report includes very lengthy, back-and-forth exchanges between senior staff. The context of those exchanges is included – context the officials themselves provided in their messages to each other.

Second, the self-styled “whistleblowers” now claim that publication of their messages – documenting efforts to undermine Corbyn – violates their right to privacy and breaches data protection laws. They can apparently see no public interest in publishing information that exposes their attempts to subvert the party’s internal democratic processes.

It seems that these “whistleblowers” are more committed to data concealment than exposure – despite the title they have bestowed on themselves. This is a strange breed of whistleblower indeed, one that seeks to prevent transparency and accountability.

In a telling move, despite claiming that their messages have been misrepresented, these former officials want the Forde inquiry to be shut down rather than given the chance to investigate their claims and, assuming they are right, exonerate them.

Further, they are trying to intimidate the party into abandoning the investigation by threatening to bankrupt it through legal actions for breaching their privacy. The last thing they appear to want is openness and a proper accounting of the Corbyn era.

Shrugging its shoulders

In its latest reporting, the Guardian frames the leaked report as “clearly intended to present a pro-Corbyn narrative for posterity” – as though the antisemitism narrative the Guardian and the rest of the corporate media spent nearly five years crafting and promoting  was not clearly intended to do the precise opposite: to present an anti-Corbyn narrative for posterity.

Peter Walker, the paper’s political correspondent, describes the messages of former, right wing Labour officials as “straying” into “apparent” racism and misogyny, as though the relentless efforts revealed in these exchanges to damage and undermine prominent black MPs like Diane Abbott are open to a different interpretation.

According to Walker, the report’s evidence of election-scuppering in 2017 is “circumstantial” and “there is seemingly no proof of active obstruction”. Even assuming that were true, such a deficiency could easily be remedied had the Guardian, with all its staff and resources, made even the most cursory effort to investigate the leaked report’s claims since April – or in the years before, when the Corbyn team were trying to counter the disinformation spread by the Labour right.

The Guardian largely shrugs its shoulders, repeatedly insinuating that all this constitutes little more than Labour playground bickering. Starmer is presented as school principal – the one responsible adult in the party – who, we are told, is “no stranger to managing Labour factions”.

The Guardian ignores the enormous stakes in play both for Labour members who expected to be able to shape the party’s future using its supposedly democratic processes and for the very functioning of British democracy itself. Because if the leaked report is right, the British political system looks deeply rigged: there to ensure that only the establishment-loving right and centre-right ever get to hold power.

The Guardian’s approach suggests that the paper has abdicated all responsibility for either doing real journalism on its Westminster doorstep or for acting as a watchdog on the British political system.

Guardian hypocrisy

Typifying the hypocrisy of the Guardian and its continuing efforts to present itself a hapless bystander rather than active participant in efforts to disrupt the Labour party’s internal democratic processes and sabotage the 2017 and 2019 elections is its lead columnist Jonathan Freedland.

Outside of the Guardian’s editorials, Freedland’s columns represent the closest we have to a window on the ideological soul of the paper. He is a barometer of the political mood there.

Freedland was among the loudest and most hostile opponents of Corbyn throughout his time as leader. Freedland was also one of the chief purveyors and justifiers of the fabled antisemitism narrative against Corbyn.

He, and the right wing Jewish Chronicle he also writes for, gave these claims an official Jewish seal of approval. They trumpeted the narrow, self-serving perspective of Jewish organisations like the Board of Deputies, whose leaders are nowadays closely allied with the Conservative party.

They amplified the bogus claims of the Jewish Labour Movement, a tiny, pro-Israel organisation inside Labour that was exposed – though the Guardian, of course, never mentions it – as effectively an entryist group, and one working closely with the Israeli embassy, in that detailed undercover investigation filmed by Al-Jazeera.

Freedland and the Chronicle endlessly derided Jewish groups that supported Corbyn, such as Jewish Voice for Labour, Just Jews and Jewdas, with antisemitic insinuations that they were the “wrong kind of Jews”. Freedland argued that strenuous criticism of Israel was antisemitic by definition because Israel lay at the heart of any proper Jew’s identity.

It did not therefore matter whether critics could show that Israel was constitutionally racist – a state similar to apartheid South Africa – as many scholars have done. Freedland argued that Jews and Israel were all but indistinguishable, and to call Israel racist was to malign Jews who identified with it. (Apparently unaware of the Pandora’s box such a conflation opened up, he rightly – if inconsistently – claimed that it was antisemitic for anyone to make the same argument in reverse: blaming Jews for Israel’s actions.)

Freedland pushed hard for Labour to be forced to adopt that new, troubling definition of antisemitism, produced by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, that shifted the focus away from hatred of Jews to criticism of Israel. Under this new definition, claims that Israel was “a racist endeavour” – a view shared by some prominent Israeli scholars – was treated as definitive proof of antisemitism.

One-party politics

If anyone gave the weaponisation of antisemitism against Corbyn an air of bipartisan respectability it was Freedland and his newspaper, the Guardian. They made sure Corbyn was hounded by the antisemitism claims while he was Labour leader, overshadowing everything else he did. That confected narrative neutralised his lifelong activism as an anti-racist, it polluted his claims to be a principled politician fighting for the underdog.

Freedland and the Guardian not only helped to breathe life into the antisemitism allegations but they made them sound credible to large sections of the Labour membership too.

The right wing media presented the Corbyn project as a traitorous, hard-left move, in cahoots with Putin’s Russia, to undermine Britain. Meanwhile, Freedland and the Guardian destroyed Corbyn from his liberal-left flank by portraying him and his supporters as a mob of left wing Nazis-in-waiting.

Corbynism, in Freedland’s telling, became a “sect”, a cult of dangerous leftists divorced from political realities. And then, with astonishing chutzpah, Freedland blamed Corbyn’s failure at the ballot box – a failure Freedland and the Guardian had helped to engineer – as a betrayal of the poor and the vulnerable.

Remember, Corbyn lost by less than 3,000 votes in a handful of Labour marginals in 2017. Despite all this, Freedland and the Guardian now pretend that they played no role in destroying Corbyn, they behave as if their hands are clean.

But Freedland’s actions, like those of his newspaper, had one inevitable outcome. They ushered in the only alternative to Corbyn: a government of the hard right led by Boris Johnson.

Freedland’s choice to assist Johnson by undermining Corbyn – and, worse, to do so on the basis of a disinformation campaign – makes him culpable, as it does the Guardian, in everything that flowed from his decision. But Freedland, like the Guardian, still pontificates on the horrors of the Johnson government, as if they share no blame for helping Johnson win power.

In his latest column, Freedland writes: “The guiding principle [of the Johnson government] seems to be brazen cronyism, coupled with the arrogance of those who believe they are untouchable and that rules are for little people.”

Why should the Tories under Johnson be so “arrogant”, so sure they are “untouchable”, that “rules are for little people”, and that there is no political price to be paid for “cronyism”?

Might it not have much to do with seeing Freedland and the Guardian assist so willingly in the corporate media’s efforts to destroy the only political alternative to “rule by the rich” Toryism? Might the Johnson government have grown more confident knowing that the ostensibly liberal-left media were just as determined as the right wing media to undermine the only politician on offer who stood for precisely the opposite political values they did?

Might it not reflect an understanding by Johnson and his chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, that Freedland and the Guardian have played a hugely significant part in ensuring that Britain effectively has a one-party state – and that when it returns to being a formal two-party state, as it seems to be doing once again now that Starmer is running the Labour party, both those parties will offer the same establishment-worshipping agenda, even if in two mildly different flavours?

The Guardian, like the rest of the corporate media, has derided and vilified as “populism” the emergence of any real political alternative.

The leaked report offered a brief peek behind the curtain at how politics in Britain – and elsewhere – really works. It showed that, during Corbyn’s time as leader, the political battle lines became intensely real. They were no longer the charade of a phoney fight between left and right, between Labour and Conservative.

Instead, the battle shifted to where it mattered, to where it might finally make change possible: for control of the Labour party so that it might really represent the poor and vulnerable against rule by the rich. Labour became the battleground, and the Guardian made all too clear where its true loyalties lie.

How Top Labour Officials Plotted to Bring Down Jeremy Corbyn

The findings of a leaked, 860-page report compiled by the British Labour Party on its handling of antisemitism complaints is both deeply shocking and entirely predictable all at once.

For the first time, extensive internal correspondence between senior party officials has been revealed, proving a years-long plot to destroy Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader who recently stepped down.

The report confirms long-held suspicions that suspected cases of antisemitism were exploited by head office staff to try to undermine Corbyn. Anyone who was paying close attention to events in the party over the past five years already had a sense of that.

But the depth of hostility from party managers towards Corbyn – to the extent that they actively sought to engineer his defeat in the 2017 general election – comes as a bombshell even to most veteran Labour watchers.

Hankering for Blair

As the report reveals, party managers and a substantial section of the Labour parliamentary party barely hid their contempt for Corbyn after he won the leadership election in 2015. They claimed he was incapable of winning power.

These officials and MPs hankered for a return to a supposed golden era of Labour 20 years earlier, when Tony Blair had reinvented the party as New Labour – embracing Thatcherite economics, but presented with a more caring face. At the time, it proved a winning formula, earning Blair three terms in office.

Many of the officials and MPs most hostile to Corbyn had been selected or prospered under Blair. Because Corbyn sought to reverse the concessions made by New Labour to the political right, his democratic socialism was reviled by the Blairites.

In 2017, one of the architects of New Labour, Peter Mandelson, unabashedly declared: “I work every single day in some small way to bring forward the end of his [Corbyn’s] tenure in office. Something, however small it may be – an email, a phone call or a meeting I convene – every day I try to do something to save the Labour Party from his leadership.”

That sentiment, the report makes clear, was widely shared at the highest levels of the party bureaucracy. Senior officials actively sought to sabotage Corbyn as leader at every turn.

Bid to rig leadership contest

The Blairites found a plethora of self-serving reasons – aggressively shared by the media – for arguing that Corbyn was unfit for office. Those ranged from his unkempt appearance to his opposition to Britain’s recent wars of aggression, resource grabs repackaged as “humanitarian interventions” that had been a staple of the Blair years.

Corbyn was falsely presented as having a treasonous past as a Soviet spy, and of being at the very least indulgent of antisemitism.

While members of Corbyn’s inner circle were busy putting out these endless fires, the leaked report shows that Labour officials were dedicating their time and energy to unseating him. Within a year, they had foisted upon him a rerun leadership election.

Corbyn won again with the overwhelming backing of members, even after party officials tried to rig the contest, as the report notes, by expelling thousands of members they feared would vote for him.

Even this second victory failed to disarm the Blairites. They argued that what members found appealing in Corbyn would alienate the wider electorate. And so, the covert campaign against the Labour leader intensified from within, as the extensive correspondence between party officials cited in the report makes clear.

Blue Labour

In fact, senior officials frantically tried to engineer a third leadership challenge, in early 2017, on the back of what they expected to be a poor showing in two spring byelections. The plan was to install one of their own, Tom Watson, Corbyn’s hostile deputy, as interim leader.

To their horror, Labour did well in the byelections. Soon afterwards, a general election was called. It is in the sections dealing with the June 2017 election that the report’s most shocking revelations emerge.

Again assuming Labour would perform badly, senior staff drew up plans to stage yet another leadership challenge immediately after the election. Hoping to improve their odds, they proposed that an electoral college replace the one-member, one-vote system to ensure no left-wing candidates could win.

These same staff had boasted of “political fixing” and interfering in constituency parties to ensure Blairites were selected as parliamentary candidates, rather than those sympathetic to Corbyn.

It was already well known that Labour was beset by factionalism at head office. At the time, some observers even referred to “Blue Labour” and “Red Labour” – with the implication that the “blue” faction were really closet Tories. Few probably understood how close to the truth such remarks were.

‘Sick’ over positive polls

The dossier reveals that the Blairites in charge of the party machine continued undermining Corbyn, even as it became clear they were wrong and that he could win the 2017 election.

According to the report, correspondence between senior staff – including Labour’s then-general secretary, Iain McNicol – show there was no let-up in efforts to subvert Corbyn’s campaign, even as the electoral tide turned in his favour.

Rather than celebrating the fact that the electorate appeared to be warming to Corbyn when he finally had a chance to get his message out – during the short period when the broadcast media were forced to provide more balance – Labour officials frantically sent messages to each other hoping he would still lose.

When a poll showed the party surging, one official commented to a colleague: “I actually felt quite sick when I saw that YouGov poll last night.” The colleague replied that “with a bit of luck” there would soon be “a clear polling decline”.

Excitedly, senior staff cited any outlier poll that suggested support for Corbyn was dropping. And they derided party figures, including shadow cabinet ministers such as Emily Thornberry, who offered anything more than formulaic support to Corbyn during the campaign.

‘Doing nothing’ during election

But this was not just sniping from the sidelines. Top staff actively worked to sabotage the campaign.

Party bosses set up a secret operation – the “key seats team” – in one of Labour’s offices, from which, according to the report, “a parallel general election campaign was run to support MPs associated with the right wing of the party”. A senior official pointed to the “need to throw cash” at the seat of Watson, Corbyn’s deputy and major opponent.

Corbyn’s inner team found they were refused key information they needed to direct the campaign effectively. They were denied contact details for candidates. And many staff in HQ boasted that they spent the campaign “doing nothing” or pretending to “tap tap busily” at their computers while they plotted against Corbyn online.

Writing this week, two left-wing Labour MPs, John Trickett and Ian Lavery, confirmed that efforts to undermine the 2017 election campaign were palpable at the time.

Party officials, they said, denied both of them information and feedback they needed from doorstep activists to decide where resources would be best allocated and what messaging to use. It was, they wrote, suggested “that we pour resources into seats with large Labour majorities which were never under threat”.

The report, and Trickett and Lavery’s own description, make clear that party managers wanted to ensure the party’s defeat, while also shoring up the majorities of Labour’s right-wing candidates to suggest that voters had preferred them.

The aim of party managers was to ensure a Blairite takeover of the party immediately after the election was lost.

‘Stunned and reeling’

It is therefore hardly surprising that, when Corbyn overturned the Conservative majority and came within a hair’s breadth of forming a government himself, there was an outpouring of anger and grief from senior staff.

The message from one official cited in the report called the election result the “opposite to what I had been working towards for the last couple of years”. She added that she and her colleagues were “silent and grey-faced” and in “need of counselling”.

Others said that they were “stunned and reeling”, and that they needed “a safe space”. They lamented that they would have to pretend to smile in front of the cameras. One observed: “We will have to suck this up. The people have spoken. Bastards.”

Another tried to look on the bright side: “At least we have loads of money now” – a reference to the dues from hundreds of thousands of new members Corbyn had attracted to the party as leader.

Investigated for antisemitism

In short, Labour’s own party bosses not only secretly preferred a Conservative government, but actually worked hard to bring one about.

The efforts to destroy Corbyn from 2015 through 2018 are the context for understanding the evolution of a widely accepted narrative about Labour becoming “institutionally antisemitic” under Corbyn’s leadership.

The chief purpose of the report is to survey this period and its relation to the antisemitism claims. As far as is known, the report was an effort to assess allegations that Labour had an identifiable “antisemitism problem” under Corbyn, currently the subject of an investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

In a highly unusual move, the commission launched an investigation of Labour last year. The only other political party ever to be investigated is the neo-Nazi British National Party a decade ago.

The Labour report shows that party officials who helped the Tories to victory in 2017 were also the same people making sure antisemitism became a dark stain on Corbyn for most of his leadership.

No antisemitic intent

Confusingly, the report’s authors hedge their bets on the antisemitism claims.

On the one hand, they argue that antisemitism complaints were handled no differently from other complaints in Labour, and could find no evidence that current or former staff were “motivated by antisemitic intent”.

But at the same time, the report accepts that Labour had an antisemitism problem beyond the presence of a few “bad apples”, despite the known statistical evidence refuting this.

A Home Affairs Select Committee – a forum that was entirely unsympathetic to Corbyn – found in late 2016 that there was “no reliable, empirical evidence to support the notion that there is a higher prevalence of antisemitic attitudes within the Labour Party than any other political party”.

Even that assessment was unfair to Labour. Various surveys have suggested that Labour and the left have less of a problem with all forms of racism than the ruling Conservative Party.

For those reasons alone, it was highly improper for the equalities commission to agree to investigate Labour. It smacks of the organisation’s politicisation.

Nonetheless, the decision of the report’s authors to work within the parameters of the equalities watchdog’s investigation is perhaps understandable. One of the successes of Corbyn’s opponents has been to label any effort to challenge the claim that Labour has an antisemitism problem as “denialism” – and then cite this purported denialism as proof of antisemitism.

Such self-rationalising proofs are highly effective, and a technique familiar from witch-hunts and the McCarthy trials of the 1950s in the United States.

‘Litany of mistakes’

The report highlights correspondence between senior staff showing that, insofar as Labour had an “antisemitism problem”, it actually came from the Blairites in head office, not Corbyn or his team. It was party officials deeply hostile to Corbyn, after all, who were responsible for handling antisemitism complaints.

These officials, the report notes, oversaw “a litany of errors” and delays in the handling of complaints – not because they were antisemitic, but because they knew this was an effective way to further damage Corbyn.

They intentionally expanded the scope of antisemitism investigations to catch out not only real antisemites in the party, but also members, including Jews, who shared Corbyn’s support for Palestinian rights and were harshly critical of Israel.

Later, this approach would be formalised with the party’s adoption of a new definition of antisemitism, proposed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), that shifted the focus from hatred of Jews to criticism of Israel.

The complaints system was quickly overwhelmed, and delays worsened as officials hostile to Corbyn cynically dragged their heels to avoid resolving outstanding cases. Or, as the report stiffly describes it, there was “abundant evidence of a hyper-factional atmosphere prevailing in Party HQ” against Corbyn that “affected the expeditious and resolute handling of disciplinary complaints”.

The report accuses McNicol of intentionally misleading Corbyn about the number of cases so that “the scale of the problem was not appreciated” by his team – though the scale of the problem had, in fact, also been inflated by party officials.

The report concludes that Sam Matthews, who oversaw the complaints procedure under McNicol, “rarely replied or took any action, and the vast majority of times where action did occur, it was prompted by other Labour staff directly chasing this themselves”.

Amplified by the media

Both McNicol and Matthews have denied the claims to Sky News. McNicol called it a “petty attempt to divert attention away from the real issue”. Matthews said the report was “a highly selective, retrospective review of the party’s poor record” and that a “proper examination of the full evidence will show that as Head of Disputes and Acting Director, I did my level best to tackle the poison of anti-Jewish racism which was growing under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.”

But there is too much detail in the report to be so easily dismissed and there remain very serious questions to be answered. For example, once Matthews and McNicol had departed, Labour rapidly increased the resolution of antisemitism cases, dramatically stepping up the suspension and expulsion of accused party members.

The earlier delays appear to have had one purpose only: to embarrass Corbyn, creating an impression the party – and by implication, Corbyn himself – was not taking the issue of antisemitism seriously. Anyone who tried to point out what was really going on – such as, for example, MP Chris Williamson – was denounced as an antisemitism “denier” and suspended or expelled.

The media happily amplified whatever messages party officials disseminated against Corbyn. That included even the media’s liberal elements, such as the Guardian, whose political sympathies lay firmly with the Blairite faction.

That was all too evident during a special hour-length edition of Panorama, the BBC’s flagship news investigations programme, on Labour and antisemitism last year. It gave an uncritical platform to ex-staff turned supposed “whistleblowers” who claimed that Corbyn and his team had stymied efforts to root out antisemitism.

But as the report shows, it was actually these very “whistleblowers” who were the culpable ones.

‘Set up left, right and centre’

The media’s drumbeat against Corbyn progressively frightened wider sections of the Jewish community, who assumed there could be no smoke without fire.

It was a perfect, manufactured, moral panic. And once it was unleashed, it could survive the clear-out in 2018 of the Blairite ringleaders of the campaign against Corbyn.

Ever since, the antisemitism furore has continued to be regularly stoked into life by the media, by conservative Jewish organisations such as the Board of Deputies, and by Israel partisans inside the Labour Party.

“We were being sabotaged and set up left, right and centre by McNicol’s team, and we didn’t even know. It’s so important that the truth comes out,” one party source told Sky News.

Stench of cover-up

The question now for Labour’s new leader, Keir Starmer, is what is he going to do with these revelations? Will he use them to clean out Labour’s stables, or quietly sweep the ordure under the carpet?

The signs so far are not encouraging.

The intention of current party managers was to bury the revelations – until someone foiled them by leaking the report. Predictably, most of the media have so far shown very little interest in giving these explosive findings anything more than the most perfunctory coverage.

Unconvincingly, Starmer has claimed he knew nothing about the report until the leak, and that he now intends to conduct an “urgent independent investigation” into the findings of the earlier inquiry.

Such an investigation, he says, will re-examine “the contents and wider culture and practices referred to in the report”. That implies that Starmer refuses to accept the report’s findings. A reasonable concern is that he will seek to whitewash them with a second investigation.

He has also promised to investigate “the circumstances in which the report was put into the public domain”. That sounds ominously like an attempt to hound those who have tried to bring to light the party’s betrayal of its previous leader.

The stench of cover-up is already in the air.

Fear of reviving smears

More likely, Starmer is desperate to put the antisemitism episode behind him and the party. Recent history is his warning.

Just as Williamson found himself reviled as an antisemite for questioning whether Labour actually had an antisemitism problem, Starmer knows that any effort by the party to defend Corbyn’s record will simply revive the campaign of smears. And this time, he will be the target.

Starmer has hurriedly sought to placate Israel lobbyists within and without his own party, distancing himself as much as possible from Corbyn. That has included declaring himself a staunch Zionist and promising a purge of antisemites under the IHRA rules that include harsh critics of Israel.

Starmer has also made himself and his party hostage to the conservative Board of Deputies and Labour’s Israel partisans by signing up to their 10 pledges, a document that effectively takes meaningful criticism of Israel off the table.

There is very little reason to believe that Labour’s new leadership is ready to confront the antisemitism smears that did so much to damage the party under Corbyn and will continue harming it for the foreseeable future.

The biggest casualties will be truth and transparency. Labour needs to come clean and admit that its most senior officials defrauded hundreds of thousands of party members, and millions more supporters, who voted for a fairer, kinder Britain.

• First published in Middle East Eye

Leaked Labour Report Shows Party’s Own Senior Staff Acted to Keep Corbyn out of Power

In the June 2017 UK general election, Labour under Jeremy Corbyn came within a whisker of power. If just 2,227 votes had gone the other way, seven Tory knife-edge constituencies would have been won by Labour, putting Corbyn in a strong position to lead a coalition government.

Labour achieved 40 per cent in the election, increasing its share of the vote by more than any other of the party’s election leaders since 1945. As we noted at the time, it was one of the most astonishing results in UK political history.

A leaked internal Labour report now reveals that senior Labour figures were actively trying to stop Labour winning the general election in order to oust Corbyn as party leader. The 860-page document, ‘The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014 – 2019’, first leaked to Sky News, was the product of an extensive internal investigation into the way Labour handled antisemitism complaints.

The report includes copious damning examples of email and WhatsApp exchanges among Labour officials expressing contempt for Jeremy Corbyn and anyone who supported him, including other Labour staff, Labour MPs and even the public.

The document includes:

  • Conversations on election night about the need to hide internal Labour disappointment that Corbyn had done better than expected and would be unlikely to resign
  • Regular sneering references to Corbyn-supporting party staff as ‘trots’
  • Conversations between senior staff in Labour general secretary Iain McNicol’s office in which they refer to former director of communications Seamus Milne as ‘dracula’, and saying he was ‘spiteful and evil and we should make sure he is never allowed in our Party if it’s last thing we do’
  • Conversations in which the same group refers to Corbyn’s former chief of staff Karie Murphy as ‘medusa’, a ‘crazy woman’ and a ‘bitch face cow’ that would ‘make a good dartboard’
  • A discussion in which one of the group members expresses their ‘hope’ that a young pro-Corbyn Labour activist, whom they acknowledge had mental health problems, ‘dies in a fire’

The investigation was completed in the last month of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. According to Tom Rayner, Sky News political correspondent, the report found:

‘“no evidence” of antisemitism complaints being treated differently to other forms of complaint, or of current or former staff being “motivated by antisemitic intent”.’

However, the report did conclude that:

‘factional hostility towards Jeremy Corbyn amongst former senior officials contributed to “a litany of mistakes” that hindered the effective handling of the issue [of antisemitism].’

Emilie Oldknow, a senior Labour staffer, boasted that she had orchestrated that deputy leader Tom Watson delay the expulsion of Ken Livingston. This was with the deliberate intention of embarrassing Corbyn, despite the Labour leader demanding a speedy resolution of a controversy surrounding comments made by Livingston about Hitler and Israel.

An unnamed pro-Corbyn ‘senior source’ who worked in Corbyn’s leadership office said: ‘This report completely blows open everything that went on.’

Referring to then Labour party general secretary Iain Nichol, the source added:

‘We were being sabotaged and set up left right and centre by McNicol’s team and we didn’t even know. It’s so important that the truth comes out.’

This is part of the bigger picture that we have repeatedly highlighted of the weaponisation of antisemitism to prevent Corbyn gaining power. The fact that senior figures within the Labour Party itself were actively working to prevent Corbyn’s victory is grim indeed.

The report says that:

‘The party’s resources – paid for by party members – were often utilised to further the interests of one faction and in some cases were used to undermine the party’s objectives.’

In particular, anti-Corbyn party officials conspired to divert funds to Labour candidates critical of Corbyn. Senior management agreed to ‘throw cash’ at the seat of Tom Watson, then deputy leader and a persistent Corbyn critic.

Significant resources were also channelled to a ‘secret key seats team’ in May 2017, without the knowledge of Corbyn or his office. This secret team worked to support MPs, including Watson, who were on the right wing of the party, diverting funds away from marginal seats.

Novara Media’s Aaron Bastani, who has examined the leaked report, gives examples of remarkable exchanges that took place among senior staff conspiring against Corbyn’s leadership. These include Labour managers expressing hope during the election campaign that the most pessimistic polls were correct. Greg Cook, Labour head of political strategy, said on June 4 – four days before the general election – that he hoped the ‘sheer hypocrisy’ of a Corbyn speech would make his views ‘a legitimate topic’ for attack, even referring to the Labour leader as ‘a lying little toerag’.

When a YouGov poll showed Labour’s rating going up during the campaign, Francis Grove-White, the party’s international policy officer, said: ‘I actually felt quite sick when I saw that YouGov poll last night.’

On election night, after the exit poll revealed that Labour had overturned the Conservative majority, Tracey Allen, the general secretary’s office manager, said that the result was the: ‘opposite to what I had been working towards for the last couple of years.’

She described herself and her anti-Corybn allies as ‘silent and grey-faced’ and in need of counselling.

McNichol – recall that he was the party general secretary – reacted with dismay as the pro-Corbyn results came in: ‘It’s going to be a long night.’

The following morning, Allen bemoaned: ‘We will have to suck this up. The people have spoken. Bastards.’

Emilie Oldknow, a senior Labour staffer mentioned above, was scathing about Labour MPs expressing support for Corbyn following Labour’s surprisingly good election results, describing one MP as ‘grovelling’ and ‘embarrassing’.

As Bastani summarises, the leaked report:

‘depict[s] a disloyal, dysfunctional culture at the top of the party – one which held Labour’s twice elected leadership, party members, and any MPs they disagreed with, in contempt. Far from a few “bad apples” the messages expose systematic and sustained efforts to undermine the leadership by multiple figures in director-level positions.’

Bastani concludes:

‘These revelations should end any debate around whether Labour’s senior management team, including McNicol, were serious about a Labour government in 2017. To the contrary what this stunning cache of documents reveals is how McNicol – and a tight, unelected circle around him – made every effort to undermine and denigrate that year’s election campaign, frequently stating how they hoped it would fail while simultaneously planning to replace Jeremy Corbyn from as early as January [2017].’

Although long suspected, it is still breathtaking to see that senior Labour figures essentially conspired to prevent a Corbyn-led government, and that they would have actually preferred the re-election of an extreme-right Tory government.

Film director Ken Loach told the Morning Star that the leaked report was ‘dynamite’. He added:

‘If the evidence – all the emails and the secretive, abusive messages – is accurate, there has to be a reckoning, there must be consequences for this behaviour.’

David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialists’ Group said:

‘Many left-wing Jewish Labour members had criticised the Labour right wing for cynically using allegations of anti-semitism as a factional weapon. We believed that the leadership was genuine and principled in its efforts to address any such problem. Perhaps this report will validate us.’

It surely does.

Historian Louise Raw responded to the leaked report via Twitter:

‘It’s sickening to read, even though we all *knew*. Destroying Corbyn was a malicious game. The zest of the wreckers, and their hatred for those us who supported him, hits you like a punch to the gut.’

‘Mainstream’ Media Decree What The Story Should Be

But the utterly damning evidence in the leaked Labour report that Corbyn was undermined by his own party’s senior figures – that they were actually complicit in weaponising antisemitism to keep him out of Downing Street –  is not the ‘correct’ story to tell from the perspective of power. Instead, the focus for ‘mainstream’ media has been immediately twisted and deceptively presented as a desperate ‘smear campaign’ against ‘antisemitism whistleblowers’ by Corbyn allies.

Thus, for the staunchly right-wing establishment Times, the required takeaway from the Labour report is this cynical diversion:

‘Jeremy Corbyn’s allies have been accused of a last-minute bid to “smear whistleblowers” and “discredit allegations” of antisemitism in the Labour Party during his tenure.’

Under the headline, ‘Antisemitism “smear campaign” by Corbyn allies’, reporter Eleni Courea features quotes from Gideon Falter, chief executive of the lobby group Campaign Against Antisemitism which played a major role in the relentless attacks on Corbyn:

‘In the dying days of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, the Labour Party appears to have invested in a desperate last-ditch attempt to deflect and discredit allegations of antisemitism. Rather than properly dealing with cases of antisemitism and the culture of anti-Jewish racism that prevailed [sic] during Mr Corbyn’s tenure, the party has instead busied itself trawling through 10,000 of its own officials’ emails and Whatsapp messages in an attempt to imagine a vast anti-Corbyn conspiracy and to continue its effort to smear whistleblowers.’

The Telegraph gave its reporting a similar spin, ignoring the mountain of evidence of internal Labour hostility towards Corbyn, acting to prevent a general election victory. Instead, it led with the trumped-up accusation that ‘supporters of Jeremy Corbyn’ had released ‘unredacted details of anti-Semitism whistleblowers into the public domain’. The Telegraph report, like the Times article, gave prominent space to comments from the Campaign Against Antisemitism.

Clearly singing from the same hymn sheet, the Evening Standard, edited by former Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, told its readers:

‘Jeremy Corbyn’s allies have been accused of using a report to “smear whistleblowers” and “discredit allegations” of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party during his tenure.’

Once again, rather than include any of the many damning quotes by senior Labour staff smearing or disparaging Corbyn, the newspaper gave space to the Campaign Against Antisemitism with its chief executive Gideon Falter once again to the fore. It is worth adding here that Joe Glasman, who heads the political investigations team at the Campaign Against Antisemitism, boasted after the 2019 UK general election that ‘the beast is slain’ and that Corbyn had been ‘slaughtered’.

Evening Standard columnist Anne McElvoy was scathing about the leaked report, denouncing it as: ‘a Stasi-like trawl of internal mails and messages in search of disloyalty.’

She continued: ‘As conspiracy theories go, this one is up there with 5G equipment spreading Covid-19.’

By contrast, the Independent took the leaked Labour report more seriously and quoted from a statement by the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs:

‘We understand the disappointment and frustration that many Labour members will feel with the details revealed in this report.

‘It contains revelation of senior officials undermining the 2017 general election campaign and suggests there are cases to answer on bullying, harassment, sexism and racism.’

To its credit, the Independent later published an extensive follow-up piece with a headline that summed up the incredible revelations of the 860-page Labour report:

‘Anti-Corbyn Labour officials worked to lose general election to oust leader, leaked dossier finds’

But, true to form, BBC News struck its usual pro-establishment ‘impartial’ stance by featuring the omnipresent Gideon Falter of the Campaign Against Antisemitism. However, it did at least permit a tiny hint at the essential awkward truth in a brief line:

‘…some [senior Labour figures] seemed to have “taken a view that the worse things got for Labour, the happier they would be since this might expedite Jeremy Corbyn’s departure from office”.’

A later piece, clearly meant as a more extensive account but buried deep in the ‘Politics’ section of the BBC News website, had all of seven sentences of ‘analysis’ by BBC Political Correspondent Helen Catt; the crucial one being:

‘it’s the allegation that Labour staff worked against a win for Mr Corbyn in the 2017 election that is likely to be most incendiary, if proven.’ [emphasis added]

‘If proven’. Once again, copious examples of senior Labour staff working against a Corbyn win are excluded from a ‘mainstream’ media report.

And where is BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg? Has she gone into hiding? This is a major BBC figure who, month after month, channelled a one-sided account of Labour’s supposed antisemitism crisis, including an infamous BBC Panorama programme demolished as a ‘catalogue of reporting failures’ by the Media Reform Coalition.

Her silence now on the leaked Labour report is shameful and a kick in the teeth to the TV licence fee-paying public which she supposedly serves. Where are all her tweets decrying the betrayal of so many British voters, and the betrayal of democracy itself? Why is there nothing about it on her BBC blog?

And yet, Kuenssberg was happy to use her influential Twitter platform to amplify a message from Iain McNichol on April 4, less than two weeks ago:

‘Labour’s former General Sec now Labour Peer, Iain McNichol – “The sad fact that Labour has the lowest number of MPs since the WW2 tells you everything you need to know about the Corbyn experiment. I like, thousands in the Labour party, am thankful that chapter is now closed.”’

Her silence now on the revelations concerning McNichol’s despicable role in thwarting a Labour victory in 2017 is telling indeed.

Likewise, where is Robert Peston, the ITV political editor? Why does his blog have nothing on this scandal? Where are all his Twitter remarks on the shocking truth of the subversion by senior Labour figures of Corbyn’s attempt to win the 2017 general election? According to Michael Walker of Novara Media, reporting via Double Down News on 15 April, Kuenssberg and Peston, along with Paul Brand of ITV and Tom Newton Dunn of the Sun, have not tweeted at all about the report.

The harsh truth is that these journalists have been selectively filtered upwards into their highly influential positions, having demonstrated that they would be safe choices at each stage of their respective careers.  In other words, there would never be a serious risk that they would pursue real journalism that truly holds power to account.

And will BBC Newsnight’s ‘lead presenter’, Emily Maitlis, be commenting? On April 1, she retweeted a thread from someone called Dave Rich. The first tweet in the thread all but described Corbyn as a Nazi:

‘Goodbye Jeremy Corbyn. They said you don’t have an antisemitic bone in your body. That may be true, but your brain is full of it. Can we remember all the examples? Probably not but I’ll have a go /1’

This was retweeted by this senior BBC journalist to her quarter of a million followers. Maitlis has interviewed and discussed Corbyn innumerable times over the last five years. Can anyone believe, after reading this, that she was impartial, objective and neutral in so doing?

Perhaps the state-corporate media’s elitist and arrogant attitude to the leaked report can be summed up by the disdainful dismissal from Times columnist Iain Martin: ‘shut up, no-one cares right now.’

True enough: ‘no one cares’ about the subversion of the 2017 general election…if you are a beneficiary of the inequitable system of what passes for ‘democracy’.

As for the relentlessly anti-Corbyn Guardian, a lead player in the propaganda blitz to keep even a moderate socialist out of power, its report by deputy political editor Rowena Mason led with a mild headline merely suggestive of the underlying reality:

‘“Hostility to Corbyn” curbed Labour efforts to tackle antisemitism, says leaked report’

How about ‘Hostility to Corbyn curbed Labour efforts to win the 2017 general election’? That would be more of a fitting headline.

Mason gave no details of the copious examples of anti-Corbyn plotting and loathing we cited earlier in this media alert. But she did somehow find space for a tweet from Ian Austin, a former Labour MP who had left the party because of its supposed endemic antisemitism. Austin called the leaked report ‘unreliable’, adding:

‘In last days of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, Labour trawled through 10,000 emails and messages to produce a report into antisemitism that attempts to shield him and his supporters from any blame, and instead pin responsibility on whistleblowers and former members of staff.’

Unmentioned in the Guardian piece is that Austin is now the UK trade envoy to Israel, a reward for his pro-Israel services.

Compare Mason’s bland piece of ‘balanced journalism’ with the succinct summary offered by former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook:

‘The Labour party inquiry now being suppressed has a trove of emails – some cited in this article – *proving* that Labour’s top officials plotted to bring down Corbyn and sought to engineer a Tory election win. Their actions probably cost Labour the 2017 election.

‘Don’t forget that the gang of Labour officials quoted here – boasting to each other about how much they wanted Corbyn gone, even if it meant letting in the Tories – were *extremely* close to the gang at the Guardian who led the media’s efforts to sabotage his leadership.’

Adding to the shame of the Guardian’s role in stopping Corbyn becoming Prime Minister, the anthropologist and social commentator David Graeber observed via Twitter on April 12:

‘in Aug 2019 I tried repeatedly to get a piece in the Guardian suggesting anti-Corbyn saboteurs in the LP [Labour Party] were fanning the flames & doing so was itself #antisemitism. Editor told me explicitly I would NOT be allowed to criticise Corbyn’s critics motives’

Graeber shared the relevant text of what a Guardian editor had told him:

‘I understand what you’re saying but we can’t carry an article which reads like an ad hominem attack on people who most prominent Jewish people call allies. It’s too much of a leap from most people’s understanding of this issue (not to say libellous) to declare people such as Tom Watson antisemites – or, at best, manipulative.’

This ‘argument’ from a Guardian editor – whom Graber declined to name – is nonsensical. As one Twitter user said, replying to Graeber:

‘Readers’ understanding of the issue having of course been formed by the articles The Guardian did chose to print. It is a chilling admission by the paper that it is no longer prepared to print articles that dissent from its editorial line.’

Graeber agreed:

‘yes exactly – this is the circularity that’s amazing. “No one will believe this because it departs from the conventional understandings which we’ve been hammering into them for two years now so you can’t say it.”’

In fact, far from it being ‘too much of a leap from most people’s understanding’, Graeber sets out his case very clearly and compellingly in this new clip titled ‘The Weaponisation of Antisemitism’ from Double Down News (April 12, 2020). In particular, Graeber points to the insidious roles played by such Labour figures as Ian Austin, Margaret Hodge, Tom Watson, John Woodcock, Joan Ryan, Jess Phillips and Tony Blair in promoting a supposed crisis of antisemitism in Labour:

‘What actually happened [was] a group of people, most of whom were not Jewish, going to the media and screaming their heads off, trying to create hysteria, trying to terrify the Jewish population, trying to create an atmosphere of fear, of potential purges within a political party. Because then people are going to think, well maybe there is some kind of conspiracy going on. I mean, it wasn’t as it turned out largely a Jewish conspiracy going on because most of the people doing it weren’t Jewish. And most of the people who were Jewish were hardly representative of the Jewish community at large.’

Graeber has set out this theme at greater length in an article he wrote last year for openDemocracy, titled: ‘For the first time in my life, I’m frightened to be Jewish’.

Closing Remarks

The newly leaked Labour internal document reveals the fear and disgust amongst many figures in senior Labour Party management towards socialism in the UK. So many Labour figures at the top simply could not bear the prospect of the mildly progressive Jeremy Corbyn reaching Number 10 Downing Street.

Where are the media headlines, interviews and extensive analyses of how senior insiders colluded for Labour to lose a general election? What about the betrayal of all those Labour MPs, staff and volunteers who worked to overturn a destructive right-wing Tory government? What about all those millions of British people who voted for a shift to a more just and compassionate society? A society in which the NHS is truly valued, the welfare and benefits system really does act as a safety net for all, radical carbon cuts in emissions are implemented immediately, and in which foreign policy is no longer guided by outdated and discredited brutal imperialism and the supposed need for a profitable ‘defence’ industry.

Is ‘democracy’ so unimportant – or so repellent – that the UK’s most highly-rewarded and prominent news media, editors and journalists can dismiss the revelations behind the 2017 general election with such superficial reporting or, worse, a disdainful silence? Especially given the present coronavirus pandemic, and the ever-looming climate catastrophe that threatens to overwhelm us all, the implications of stifling a rational leftward shift in British society, and the wilful refusal to examine what happened, are almost too horrendous to imagine.

Iraq War Lies Still Cause Pervasive Distrust of UK State

With anti-statist paranoia and acts of vandalism now part of the coronavirus crisis in the UK, in one outrageous video sent to me by a friend (I will not produce it, due to the responsibility to prevent the spread of false information) a British man denounced the virus as a hoax. What is most shocking is that he included (17 years on!) an appeal to the fact the Iraq War was based on lies.

The continued disbelief towards any government statements and guidance shows, despite attempts to put Tony Blair’s shame to rest or somehow apologize for his supposed mistakes, the grave injustice of the Iraq War has still not been resolved. Instead, the failure to punish Blair sent the message that deception and conspiracy are the rule rather than the exception for the statists, with Tony Blair only being an example of what the British state continues to be. The image of the craven, dishonourable, lying villain who once led the Labour Party has only grown more in people’s minds every year Blair continuously eluded punishment. Rulers believed they ruled over goldfishes, but the citizens have not forgotten anything. On the contrary, their suspicions have only grown to target ever more politicians.

It is the role of the state to calm the people, to possess agencies and departments that offer the most impartial and well-intentioned information. Throughout the handling of the coronavirus outbreak, there is no doubt that the British government has indeed been true to its word. Its guidance has been appropriate, its measures aimed genuinely to save the resources of the National Health Service. However, it is not enough to tell the truth sometimes. If the rages of the citizenry are to be appeased, the government must refrain from deception at all times. If it can’t, its downfall must be witnessed by that same citizenry or their distrust will only increase and their cooperation will decrease.

It is a fact that the British government has not sufficiently apologized for the 2003 War on Iraq, nor offered sufficient compensation to its victims. Its supposed investigation of the crime in the Chilcot Inquiry is considered to be a farce by anyone remotely interested in seeing the issue addressed properly. The criminals even continue to be celebrated and followed dearly by other politicians, and their criminal policy continues to remain in effect the policy of the state as the “war on terror” still fails again and again year after year, decade after decade, civilian death after civilian death. That continued trail of terrorism and destruction is, as far as Britain’s involvement is concerned, still the fault of Tony Blair and other staunch pro-US individuals in the British political scene.

The best way to put an end to the distrust towards the state, both at home and abroad, is to clean the stain of dishonour – to sacrifice our former great statesman for the greater good of stability and order. Clearly, as a man who took great leaps and risks in the interests of national security, Blair himself would be the first to support the proposition as follows. The appropriate solution has already been trialled by the British Parliament in the case of other citizens whose terrorism was undeniable. Tony Blair and the others of his former cabinet should be quickly stripped of British citizenship, deported to Iraq as terrorists, and forced to face justice in the courts in that country. Once this selfless sacrifice for our country clears up our image around the world and actually protects us (unlike the pointless loss of so many brave soldiers) Americans may be then inspired to deport George W. Bush and other selfless patriots who are so willing to give their lives for the cause of national security.

In the interests of long-term internal stability, there needs to be a proper acknowledgment by the British state that the 2003 War on Iraq was an unprecedented crime based entirely on lies and deceit, and its criminal perpetrators must be investigated by an appropriately empowered committee and brought to justice. As well as continuously infuriating Muslims across the world, our inexplicable failure to make Tony Blair pay the price has the potential to turn entire generations of British people against the state, as they view almost everything it says with suspicion.

Letting politicians lie with impunity and allowing them to wander freely for years afterwards is undoing centuries of accumulated trust in political institutions within only decades, and is far more damaging to society than allowing individual soldiers to get away with war crimes. It sets the state against the people in a way that is very difficult to resolve. In the end, it entails elevated risks to government employees and others forced to act on the front lines as the public face of liars despite also being victims of these liars. One cannot even deliver the most basic policies without facing constant distrust, and the constant and increasingly common refrain that the government is lying. Such distrust ultimately leads the government employees to sympathize more with the disgruntled citizenry and less with their employer, too, creating many hairline fractures running to the very foundations of what the state actually is.

At one point or another, it is the job of a state to be pragmatic. As with this virus, the state must take decisions that serve a greater order and a greater good, and not necessarily what is comforting. Tony Blair is not useful in the UK, and would be a useful agent for Britain’s safety if placed on trial in Iraq. Whatever the outcome, it would help protect the lives of all British people around the world, who would be at decreased risk of terrorist activity. It would help restore the trust British people have in their government, and would deflate wild and potentially harmful conspiracy theories. It would function as a genuine apology for what we did, and there would be no doubt that there are consequences for abusing one’s office to tell lies.