Beware the Populist Who Attacks the Free Press


Upon reading the above quote you could be forgiven for thinking it had escaped from the lips of the belligerent and capricious right-wing populist who currently resides in the White House. However, this disparaging of the free press belongs to our very own mild-mannered and friendly left-wing populist, Jeremy Corbyn. It was delivered during his recent speech at the Labour Party Conference and was not the first time he and President Trump sung a similar song when it came to the press. They both refer derogatively to the “main-stream media”, a euphemism for media outlets that do not subscribe to their own ideological worldview. Corbyn has also been known to scour the Trumpian playlist for some of his favourite tirades such as the “failing media” and “fake news”.

This summer should have seen the Labour Party fully capitalise on their overwhelming success from last year’s general election. Corbyn’s party had a prime opportunity to deliver a pragmatic assessment on how best to exit the European Union and pressure the hopeless Conservative Party as they waged an internal battle over the issue. Rather than seize this moment, Labour continued its policy of obfuscation over Brexit. They spent the summer’s parliamentary recess attempting to convince the UK’s Jewish community that they themselves were best placed to determine what constitutes anti-Semitism, whilst crying foul of any suggestion that Corbyn himself may have a blind spot when it comes to this age-old form of discrimination.

Rather than using his speech at the Labour Party Conference to unequivocally apologize to the Jewish community, Corbyn lamented the “privilege” of the “mainstream media”, who had the guile to uncover a litany of incidents that could reasonably be construed as anti-Semitic. Of the news stories that broke, the very worst appeared to be explicitly anti-Semitic: his espousal that some Zionists “having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives… don’t understand English irony”. Even a lesser infraction such as his defense of the graffiti artist who created a mural which featured glaringly anti-Semitic tropes, would, at the very least, appear to legitimize anti-Semitism. “Challenge their propaganda,” he advised the packed conference hall, “by using the mass media of the 21stcentury: social media.” Anyone who has spent any time on Twitter engaging with Corbyn supporters will realize the irony of this statement, they exist within an ideological echo-chamber, where challenging the orthodoxy is impermissible. Feelings are privileged over facts.

FACT: Corbyn has spoken or acted in ways which vast swathes of the Jewish community perceive to be anti-Semitic, and according to the Macpherson principle -enacted as a result of the racist murder of teenager Stephen Lawrence – racial discrimination is defined by those who themselves feel victimized.

FEELING: Corbyn is such a nice man, he is an avowed anti-racist, it is so far outside the realm of possibility that he could harbor even a modicum of anti-Semitic feeling, therefore it must be a smear campaign orchestrated by the main-stream media.

Scroll through #WeStandWithCorbyn and you will see such feelings win out over facts almost every-time. A free press forms the backbone of any successful liberal democracy, its ability to hold truth to power is indispensable. Now more than ever, in this age of populism, we have to be vigilant of anyone who professes intolerance of this ideal, even if they seem like a very nice man.

Andrew Morris