“The enormity of their flat brain. The enormity of their stupidity is just overwhelming. You have to do yourself a favour when you’re out in the countryside and you see a chicken. Try and look a chicken in the eye with great intensity, and the intensity of stupidity that is looking back at you is just amazing. By the way, it’s very easy to hypnotise a chicken. They are very prone to hypnosis, and in one or two films I have actually showed that.”
As a consequence of its faint-hearted execution, utter ineptitude and inevitable failure, the attempt by the majority of Labour MPs to pressurise and bully their leader Jeremy Corbyn into resigning – thus preventing one of them from having to go through the wearisome effort of taking him on, and losing, via the legitimate challenge of a leadership contest (as Owen Smith is currently in the process of doing) – was quickly christened the “Chicken Coup” by Corbyn’s supporters on social media. Angela Eagle, the “stalking horse” candidate eventually replaced by Smith as the sole anti-Corbyn contender, had spent two weeks engaging in the conspicuously un-equine but, rather, chicken-like behaviour of repeatedly failing to announce her candidacy, resulting in a guessing game as to which of her numerous public statements actually constituted an announcement, rather than a pre-announcement, the promise of an announcement yet to materialise; a “teaser trailer” released months in advance of the film it advertises, consisting of blocks of prosaic text and little indication that cameras were ever even on set. Meanwhile, the resignation of sixty MPs from their positions as shadow ministers or their personal parliamentary secretaries had left the opposition decapitated, running in frantic circles around the farmyard, vainly gasping for air through its useless, exposed neck-hole.
The maverick Bavarian film director Werner Herzog, whom I quoted at the start of this piece, continues his critique of chickenkind thusly:
“Look into the eyes of a chicken and you will see real stupidity. It is a kind of bottomless stupidity, a fiendish stupidity. They are the most horrifying, cannibalistic and nightmarish creatures in the world.”
This piece is not about the colloquial chickendom of Eagle’s hesitance to mount a formal challenge against Corbyn. It is about the bottomless, fiendish stupidity of the horrifying, nightmarish false equivalence that sees nominal leftists devour their progressive comrades, digest them through a worldview in which antifascists slosh around with fascists in the gastric acids of hate, and defecate the viscoid results out as the respectable faecal splatter of a broadsheet newspaper column. It is about the bottomless, fiendish, horrifying, cannibalistic, nightmarish stupidity of the Horseshoe Theory.
The Horseshoe Theory, coined in 2002 by the French writer and philosopher Jean-Pierre Faye, maintains that the far-left and the far-right are closer to one another than they are to their respective centre-grounds; that rather than being at opposite ends of a linear political continuum, they are brought together by its curvature. It is an ideal theory for the ostensibly (but not really) post-ideological neoliberal age, and popular among the kind of empty-eyed dullards who think that Adolf Hitler was a socialist because his party was called the National Socialist Party. With radicals on the left and right insurgent throughout our uncertain, post-crash world, a narrative has been fashioned on the liberal left and centre-right, as seen in this New York Times piece by Tony Blair:
In the Financial Times, Chief Political Commentator Philip Stephens decided to make his argument against Jeremy Corbyn’s left-wing movement that Corbyn plus Trump equals Hitler.
The Horseshoe is a lie. A lie of bottomless, fiendish proportions. The Horseshoe is horseshit, a variation on the argument to moderation, which our friend Wikipedia describes as “an informal fallacy which asserts that the truth must be found as a compromise between two opposite positions.” The centre-ground demands compromise, but moral urgency demands otherwise. The most militant antifascist is absolutely more correct than an equivocating liberal. The politician who pays superficial lip service to anti-racism but in the same breath argues for “strong controls” to assuage people’s “legitimate concerns about immigration”, is shifting a rightward-bound debate further towards the far-right; towards the obscene, and the unreal.
The two writers attribute the rise of the “populist” forces they describe to a widespread dissatisfaction with what many would see as a societal malaise, an increasingly unknowable world guided by unyielding monoliths like “centrist politics, the EU, globalisation or Wall Street.” Stephens claims that “they tap into the resentments of those left behind by change,” but has little understanding of the changes desired in turn by the insurgent movements, completely misconstruing the social libertarianism of the Corbynistas as a “soft spot for authoritarianism” and the economic libertarianism of far-right movements like UKIP as “a yearning for state direction of the economy.” Historically, the far-right has often thrived by accepting the centre-left’s economic programme, with the centre-left in turn accepting their racism and xenophobia (the symbiosis of social fascism). Due to the concentration of both left-wing economic policy and pro-migrant sentiments in the hands of the Labour (and extraparliamentary) left, these conditions do not exist in Britain today. Owen Smith’s blend of wannabe populist anti-immigration rhetoric and left-wing economic policies comes closest to fitting the bill, but has little chance of winning over the party.
Many arguments as to why the far-left and far-right (however we are supposed to define the two) are virtually identical rest on “they want a degree of centralisation of the state” or “they use rhetoric that’s nasty and mean.” For a time, for £19.99 on the website of that most respectable of broadsheets, The Guardian, you were able to purchase a t-shirt quoting Aneurin Bevan, the Minister for Health in Clement Attlee’s post-war Labour government, responsible for the creation of the National Health Service – and, apparently, former private healthcare lobbyist Owen Smith’s political hero – which bore an abridged version of the following;
“No amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin.”
The product has now curiously vanished from the Guardian‘s online store, as have the matching art print and ceramic mug. However, in case you feel my word is untrustworthy, here is a screencap taken by a kindly Twitter user, in which you can see how Bevan’s figure of speech is rendered more, not less, innocuous when the words form the shape of literal vermin:
In the context of the speech from which it is excerpted, Bevan’s meaning is clear: that “condemn(ing) millions of people to semi-starvation,” depriving people of access to healthcare free at the point of use, is a far greater violence than the rhetoric of righteous anger could ever amount to. It is unlikely that hate crimes against Tories rose sizeably in the days following Bevan’s speech; unlikely that he had jeopardised the precarious day-to-day existence of a marginalised group. Even though they were out of government at the time, inherent in Toryism is power; economic power, the power of our nation’s institutions and, especially in the dying imperial days of 1948, the power of a white supremacist society. It is through a racial lens that we can understand that the potency of invective is entirely dependent on the power relations of both deliverer and recipient. To quote a thoughtful essay by the rapper and activist Talib Kweli:
“Now that we’ve seen the effects of systemic oppression over centuries, many academics feel that the definition of racism must evolve to be prejudice plus the power to act on that prejudice in a systemic way.”
Bevan’s incendiary quote is an important case in point, because the man who provoked a considerable media furore after attending a Defend Corbyn rally (at which, according to some estimates, up to 10,000 people were present) wearing a t-shirt reading “Eradicate the right-wing Blairite vermin” cited it as having inspired the sartorial decision in an interview with The Squawkbox Blog:
“Nye Bevan, the father of the NHS, when he talked about Tories he called them ‘lower than vermin’, so the idea for the shirt seemed appropriate … it’s basically about, for years now there’s been no real opposition in mainstream politics, with the (sic) blairites going along with Thatcherism. When Corbyn started talking about opposing austerity, it gave hope to millions. Ever since then, the (sic) blairites in particular have been directing a barrage of lies and absolute rubbish at him and I was frankly pissed off with it.”
Having explained his rationale behind what was undoubtedly a questionable choice to have made, the anonymous interviewee then details its consequences:
“There was even stuff going around that I was part of an ‘underground organisation inspired by the recent murder of [Labour MP] Jo Cox’ – what absolute filthy rubbish. I did become extremely paranoid for a week or two and with good reason – people recognising me in the street, staring at me, giving me a wide berth. Nobody got physical with me, but I was very worried they might, especially as I was recently hospitalised for treatment for mouth cancer, which left me a bit messed up … I was the only one (wearing such a t-shirt) – at least as far as I saw. They’ve tried to make out as though it means something about Jeremy’s followers, but it was just one pissed off 61yr-old bloke making a political point, but they’re taking it literally and blowing it up out of all proportion.”
For those of us preoccupied with power relations, the situation grew yet stranger as the richest woman in the United Kingdom swooped in to admonish a 61-year-old union health and safety and equality rep with obviously left-wing views for his apparent fascism. J.K. Rowling, she of the popular Robert Galbraith series of novels, had in the days prior joined historical fiction bore Robert Harris as progenitors of a new anti-Corbyn celebrity movement centred around the hashtag #SavingLabour. The goal? To see every tedious middlebrow hack writer whose books can be purchased at airports swamp Corbyn’s leadership in a deluge of literary oatmeal, to the point that John Grisham descends messianically to make a rare overseas intervention in order to signal to the expectant moderate, sensible masses that “a time to kill” has finally arrived. One can only assume the Mail on Sunday‘s Dan Hodges was trying to summon the much-prophecised Grisham of yore with the eye-grabbing headline, “Labour MUST kill vampire Jezza.”
It’s easy to understand why the man in the t-shirt may have felt intimidated and scared in the weeks following the image’s circulation, as Rowling (whose Twitterstorm I’ve chronicled here on Storify) contextualised his rhetorical transgression within a violent surge of anti-establishment extremism previously signalled by the assassination of the Labour MP Jo Cox at the hands of neo-fascist Thomas Mair. Somebody had accused Rowling of using her influence to assist the “Labour elite”:
“I’ll use my influence whatever way I want. This country needs to be freed of fascists on both right and left.”
“When you use language like ‘traitors’, ‘vermin’ and ‘eradicate’, I’ll call you a fascist.”
That much was evident, although may have come as news to Bevan, whose support for the Second World War was informed equally by socialism and antifascism. But at this point Rowling chose to let rip with some good old fashioned (albeit in a deeply modern form) public shaming, and share the offending picture of the man with her seven million followers, many of them young and impressionable, telling them:
“11 Days ago, a Labour MP was killed in the street leaving her surgery. This t-shirt strike you as funny?”
Then she brought out the big guns, and quoted a text with more life in its prose than any of her novels that you grew up with and adore: the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Given that the political strain Rowling is criticising (Corbynism) empirically does not adhere to the tenets outlined in the first definition, for example “exalt(ing) nation and race above the individual”, the weight of this citation then rests on the second definition of fascism she has provided, “a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control <early instances of army fascism and brutality,” attributed to J. W. Aldridge. His definition of fascism was one of Aldridge’s three contributions to the 11th Edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, alongside definitions of “antiseptic” and “take out”, and is politically reductive, needlessly, simplistically blurring the lines between history’s multifarious varieties of authoritarianism.
J. K. Rowling goes one step further than that, however, and this is where she is really guilty of a bottomless, fiendish, of an evil stupidity. She does not merely conflate vastly different authoritarian ideologies as a consequence of that common characteristic, but she conflates certain actions and behaviours with outright authoritarianism when they are not indicative of such. It is not “autocratic” or “dictatorial” to have a distaste for the narrow, unrepresentative clique of Labour MPs centralising power in their own hands whilst they continually, vituperatively fight any attempt to take the party in a more progressive direction. It is precisely the opposite, and no intemperate t-shirt is going to change that. Those who portray Corbyn’s following as in thrall to a dictatorial cult of personality are wilfully blind to the fact that he has no interest in leading autocratically, holding a traditional Bennite desire to decentralise power and redistribute it among Labour’s members. Moreover, there are not enough ideologically rigid leftists in the country to constitute a support base as large as his; people are attracted to Corbyn for his consensual style, and his apparent willingness to listen to people’s everyday concerns.
When Jo Cox was assassinated (and it is important to refer to such a deeply political killing this way) a number of journalistic responses centred around a notion of “The Death of Civility”, a kind of collective decline in decency, spurred on by the corrosive communicative possibilities of the internet, manifested in an abject lack of respect for MPs and (who’d’ve thought it?) journalists. In the piece I wrote on Cox’s death, I dedicated a single sentence to this take;
“The EU referendum has eaten up political debate in this country, bringing to the surface its most poisonous, festering resentments – not so much against the “political class,” as Polly Toynbee put it, but against the “other,” those weakest in society, those kept on the fringes, without a voice.”
This was because I had thought it so staggeringly stupid that I just assumed that as the evidence of Thomas Mair’s fascist leanings and affiliation with Britain First piled up and everyone tired of offensive conjecture around his mental health, the conversation would shift to a serious debate around the epidemic of anti-immigrant, racist, nationalistic and outright neo-fascist thought in Britain right now, clearly reflected as well in political developments throughout Europe and the United States. Instead, Britain’s dangerous one-sided debate around immigration (“it’s a bit shit isn’t it”) continued unabated, with journalist upon journalist not pausing to ponder what people with Mair’s racist inclinations might make of their rhetoric. Corbyn’s firmly pro-immigration answers to the inflammatory questions posed in the videos I linked are something the Labour Party should be proud of, and go some way to explain why many rather more active antifascists than J. K. Rowling see him as an essential bulwark against the advance of the far-right.
If we’re talking online abuse, it’s not just the “hard” left who know how to use the internet; the far-right know as well, they’ve rebranded as the “Alt-Right”, and there’s a new generation of white supremacist MRA trolls who know their way around a meme just as well as any Harambe-loving Corbynista.
If we’re talking actual physical violence, there is no trend of violent attacks against Members of Parliament for Cox’s assassination to fit, but it does fit an incredibly disturbing trend of brutal physical attacks against Muslims and other ethnic and religious minorities, which have risen exponentially since Britain voted to leave the European Union but had been unfolding for a long time beforehand. If only the wider “political class,” in Tonybee’s words, had been as vocal as Cox in opposing this. It seems likely that Cox was killed by Mair not because she was a politician but because she was a specific type of politician: because her politics were unabashedly in favour of immigration and the intake of refugees, or at least that such were Mair’s perceptions of the Labour Party as a whole, however much he was aware of Cox as an individual.
It is unlikely that any Labour member shares that perspective, there has been no surge in left-wing hate-crime, and this is why Rowling’s proclamations are so uniquely sickening. We’ll have to wait and see what the results of the ongoing leadership contest say, but it’s likely that a majority of Labour members will vote for Jeremy Corbyn, and J. K. Rowling is painting theirs as the equivalent of not only particularly murderous politics, but a politics of genocidal racism. In tandem with Rowling’s dilution of the meaning of fascism in the public consciousness (7 million followers), a real, tangible politics of of genocidal racism still thrives, and it is a particularly murderous politics indeed.
Unfortunately, the inane “Death of Civility” narrative has lived on far past the immediate shock of Cox’s death, particularly in the pages of The Guardian. In a piece by Gaby Hinsliff titled ‘Politics is not a game. Words of hate have consequences.‘ Hinsliff weaponises the death of Jo Cox to attack the supporters of Corbyn she evidently feels are debasing political discourse. When she says “Cox’s life and work would serve as a reminder that MPs aren’t all cynical careerists,” something nobody’s saying, “but also perhaps that creating a hate-filled culture has consequences,” you might get the impression that she’s talking about the manner in which prominent voices in politics and the media have for years disseminated anti-immigrant ideas that validate people like Thomas Mair. But no. She’s talking about you.
You, nattering on social media, you fucking natterer. You, having the nerve to try and engage with the big boys and girls doing the proper jobs in politics and journalism, you normie scum (it’s not abuse when you have a weekly column or a seat in paraliament!) How dare you tell them they’re wrong? How dare you laugh at them? What do you know? What do you know of PPE? What do you know of Piers Gaveston? What do you know of youthful suspicion of these things dissolving in time with an accepting sigh and an ingratiating handshake into the warm, friendly glow of a comfortable liberal consensus? They need to be able to speak their minds, and they’re scared to, you know. So maybe you should consider their feelings, yeah? Your elected officials. The people employed to literally shape the narratives through which people comprehend events. Maybe you should consider their feelings and, so they can be free to speak their minds, not speak yours.
Hinsliff even acknowledges that “this feeling that you can’t start a fire without people getting burned only hardened last week, when a Brexit campaign demonising immigrants was followed by a flood of racist attacks.” But Hinsliff’s analysis does not – as would be obvious – link this nationalistic surge with the death of Cox. It links it with Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, AKA “those who whip up hatred for their own cynical ends.” “Labour MPs are getting death threats again,” she writes, “but this time not from the far right. This time it’s from within the movement their own leader created.” Except for in the case of Luciana Berger, who served in the newly created post of Shadow Mental Health Secretary before she decided she would rather score a political point against Corbyn than devise a radical new strategy for mental health provision, and received a number of death threats that were widely reported to have come from Corbyn supporters until it turned out that they were, in fact, from the far-right. Similarly, a brick was thrown through the window of an office building shared by Angela Eagle, and the press attributed this act of vandalism to Corbyn supporters without a shred of evidence. Hinsliff rightly criticises a single despicable threat by someone professing to be a Corbyn supporter, but then dismisses the undoubtedly legitimate suggestion that Corbyn and his supportive MPs also receive threats as “whataboutery.” It seems there is one rule for the centre and another for the left.
The widespread portrayal of Labour MPs as victims at the mercy of a ravenous membership, baying for blood, is an astonishing inversion of power relations, and springs from many in the gilded milieu of Westminster and Fleet Street’s total inability to comprehend why anybody might be angry about the state of things, or why they want to take it up with people actually influential in those circles. And their definition of “Labour MPs” is a selective one. When Leeds East MP Richard Burgon, who supports Corbyn, complains of intimidation and bullying at the hands of the mainstream Parliamentary Labour Party, it falls on deaf ears. Labour’s centre and right valourise the ascendant (unless Corbyn wins again, which he almost certainly will) Jess Phillips, agreeing that, despite their unshakeable anti-abuse principles, they’re pretty fine with her telling Diane Abbott to “fuck off.” Abbott has been a Labour MP since 1987, when she became the first black woman to be elected to parliament. Since then, the far-right, the centre-right and the centre-left have used her as a punching bag. These (generally racist – “no racism towards whites will be tolerated” – if not utilising sexist and mental health slurs) titles and descriptions are all from the first page of search results for Abbott on YouTube:
(Subsequently to compiling this, I found out that “Fuck her right in the pussy” is some stupid meme, and the guy who shouts the phrase at her in the street was more likely taking advantage of the cameras than specifically targeting Abbott. The main thing to take from this is that the balance in these titles and descriptions is firmly tilted in favour of racist rather than sexist abuse, although Abbott gets plenty of both. )
A few weeks ago Channel 4 News journalist Michael Crick tweeted some absolute degrading filth about Abbott that a taxi driver had apparently told him (transmission from the normie world!!!) but I’m not even going to repeat the puerile dribblings of the dirty old prick, which he never took down or apologised for. Phillips and her fellow MPs Yvette Cooper and Stella Creasy had coincidentally just set up a campaign against online abuse after incidentally drawing a lot of flack online for voting to bomb Syria, but none of them spoke out to defend their colleague against Crick’s dog-whistle remark even though, being made on the internet, it very much came within their jurisdiction.
(In her defence, Phillips was targeted on Twitter by a misogynistic Men’s Rights Activist – oh, sorry, tautology – who goes by the name Sargon of Akkad because he knows about history and is a clever guy and stuff. He set a vicious right-wing hate mob of 600 of his reactionary followers on her, all Tweeting that they would NOT rape her. Ha ha, great joke mate! Totally not similar to rape threats at all! This kind of orchestrated campaign of abuse is, of course, completely inexcusable, as is any sexism or misogyny, or the racist abuse that has been directed at MPs less left-wing than Abbott, such as David Lammy. The cases I cite are the actions of the far-right, and a self-described leftist who indulged in such activities would be one in identity only.)
When it was announced that Corbyn had awarded the justly respected civil liberties campaigner Shami Chakrabarti a peerage, many on the Labour right completely lost their shit. Wes Streeting, who, after his ill-advised crusade in favour of a certain tax-dodging, union-bashing fast food giant will forever be ingrained in the public imagination as “The McDonald’s MP” (just kidding, Wes Streeting won’t be ingrained in the public imagination) said the appointment “stinks.” Abbott described Streeting’s remarks as “extraordinary,” arguing that “to say her appointment ‘stinks’, what message does that give to young women of Shami’s background about stepping into the public space?”
Centrists are perfectly happy to instrumentalise women’s feelings, and their struggles, against their opponents, but equally happy to throw women whose politics they do not share under the bus, not least those society is least likely to defend; women of colour. Those who so explicitly draw parallels between the movement around Corbyn and fascism are doing an incredible disservice to the considerable number of his supporters who are members of groups persecuted by fascist organisations and regimes.
Labour MPs like to use Corbyn’s slogans against him. Former Shadow Culture Secretary Michael Dugher proudly boasts that he was “sacked by Corbyn for too much straight talking, honest politics,” when in reality he was sacked for being really bad at his job and repeatedly slagging the leadership off in papers owned by Rupert Murdoch. The most ubiquitous ironic reversal of the Saving Labour crew is to petulantly bleat “so much for kinder, gentler politics” whenever a leftist says anything remotely critical of anybody on the political centre-ground. Accounts now exist on Twitter to catalogue so-called “abuse” (some legitimate, much laughable) by both the left and the right of the Labour Party, with the sole purpose seemingly of reporting comrades to the National Executive Committee and getting them suspended from the party (the right’s account is called, naturally, Gentler Politics.) This is, frankly, an insidious culture of snitching, and is genuinely prohibitive of debate within the party. I would urge both sides to stop, and not try and disenfranchise other members just because they called us a Blairite cop slug or a hummus-gobbling Tankie wanker.
Of course one should endeavour to be kind, and to be gentle in every aspect of one’s life (except, of course, when dealing with fascists) but Corbyn’s “kinder, gentler politics” was never just about being a nice, friendly guy like relaxed Uncle Jezza, basking in the sun at his Islington allotment, cultivating that dank kush in the cool summer breeze. That’s just being kind and gentle, and some have done all they can to individualise the implications of what is in essence a collective pledge to be guided by humanitarianism. It is about about our society as a whole, the apparatus of our state, acting in a kind and gentle manner. You can’t have kinder, gentler politics without the politics, and what it signals is a rejection of some of the fundamental brutalities, some of the most inexcusable violences of our society; a vow not to let thousands of disabled people die at the hands of a welfare system that sees them as costs to cut; a vow not to have our ships float idly by as refugees drown in the Mediterranean, and to welcome those in need with open arms; a vow to stop treating homelessness as inevitable and treat housing as a human right; a vow not to let the world be eradicated in a nuclear apocalypse, or to chip away at the global populace with the piecemeal eradications of our overseas interventions.
“After the killing of Jo Cox by an alleged rightwing extremist, Angela Eagle, Jess Phillips and all the other anti-Corbyn MPs who are speaking out know that the death and rape threats from left-wing extremists may not just be bluster.”
So, Thomas Mair, who murdered a left-wing MP in the street whilst shouting “Britain First!” is an “alleged” right-wing extremist, but the stuff about murderous Corbyn supporters? May not be just bluster. Not a single violent act has been officially attributed to Corbyn-related motivations, but that’s no reason to stop journalists like Cohen, Hinsliff and Hadley Freeman – who recently wrote an article consisting largely of insanely offensive comparisons between Corbyn’s “cult” and Charles Manson’s quite literal, bloodsoaked, swastika-wielding cult – perpetuating this narrative, while their journalistic superiors, such as Owen Jones, leap to the defence of our most persecuted minority; those with marginal, fringe, views held in opposition to socialism.
It’s unfortunate that some Labour members are scared to say what they think, but I don’t mean the fear that a naughty Twitter egg’s going to call them a prick for typifying its politics as those of “deluded, undetectable Trots.” I refer to the fear some have of being purged from the Labour Party if they say what they think; for example, that Neil Kinnock has the disturbing, wretched, splittle-flecked, foot-stomping oratory manner of an overgrown 7-year-old throwing a hysterical temper tantrum. Those influential in the Labour Party – its MPs, its Lords, those on its NEC, its (former) donors, its sympathetic journalists and basically anyone right-wing enough to have their ear – are absolutely free to say what they want about its members, and have certainly done so. Since the early days of Corbyn’s leadership, the thoroughly inoffensive campaigning organisation Momentum has been portrayed by seemingly terrified MPs as a kind of vicious paramilitary group on a mission to ideologically cleanse the party. It is incredible that the Labour establishment would be so unenthused by an unprecedented growth spurt of hundreds of thousands of new members, but clearly they feel the new activist base represent a threat to their centralised power; more people who could potentially replace them and do their job better.
The (possibly feigned, assuming they are Machiavellian rather than completely irrational, paranoid McCarthyists) fear and outright contempt with which MPs discuss their members has been an incredible sight to behold, and yet it seems inexplicable to them why they might not be spoken of in the most glowing of terms. To trigger an unwanted leadership contest at a time of national crisis, prohibit hundreds of thousands of new members from voting, suspend constituency parties from meeting, and charge new “registered supporters” an exorbitant £25 for a vote, and all the while continuing to demonise the membership as bullies and thugs in national media outlets, might account for why some Labour members feel a certain antipathy for the party machinery.
But the Labour establishment are bullies. I’ve lived with bullies. I know that their quintessential technique is to do everything they can to fuck with you; to make you feel hurt and defensive; to make you angry and get a rise out of you and then, when you do eventually react in an uncivil fashion, guilt trip you for that reaction, and condemn your inability to engage in a decent, moderate debate.
I’m personally of the view that anybody on the NEC who waited until Corbyn and his allies had left the room to vote (in a secret ballot, no less) in favour of retroactively disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of comrades desperate to change society has committed a far greater evil than any normie on social media calling anyone else a “scummy Corbynista rat” or a “Blairite nonce”. If somebody holds a position where lives rest in the balance of their decisions, they have chosen to swim in emotive waters. I do not think that there is an equivalence between somebody who takes to Twitter to call an MP a “warmonger” for approving the bombing of Syria, and an MP who has sanctioned the deaths of human beings, whether or not one views those deaths as justified (I don’t.) My rude poem about Iain Duncan Smith is not as great an evil as the deaths caused by his welfare reforms. My most popular piece of writing – a hit piece criticising former Blair spinner John McTernan – will have a negligible effect our material reality next to the way McTernan has pulled the levers of power in the media and political spheres in order to further policies of state violence – military, economic, directed at refugees – of which the effects are extremely materially tangible.
In a post on his blog called ‘In defence of personal attacks‘, Sam Kriss, whose piece on Nick Cohen I linked to earlier, writes:
“This is a central Marxist insight: ideas do not exist in their own glittering sphere; they emerge from concrete relations of production and power. Henry Kissinger is not a collection of texts and concepts, but a profoundly evil man. It’s important to rebut his ideas, because they are dangerous. But if you also attack him in the face – or, preferably, in his dick and balls – it’s harder for these ideas to escape into their weightless world where any concept is as good as any other.”
This is why, if you’re predicating your invocation of the Horseshoe Theory on some intemperate rhetoric, your stupidity is a bottomless, fiendish, horrifying, cannibalistic, nightmarish, evil, repulsive, ghastly, illiterate, intellectually invertebrate, vomitous, pathetic, nauseating, chickenshit stupidity. You are a horror to behold, I think you are fucking despicable, and it does not make me a fascist to say so.
You know full well that Corbynism, whilst not yet being strictly defined as a political doctrine, is firmly egalitarian, grounded in human rights, unequivocally opposed to racism, sexism and all forms of discrimination – unless you think, say, discrimination against the rich is the proverbial “a thing,” in which case you really are a massive idiot. You maybe see yourself as a little more woke than that. But you’d sure like to argue with these ideals, only it might make you look reactionary, somehow. Rhetorically flailing, all you can muster is that their proponents are failing to live up to their virtuous values; failing on their own terms. So the line becomes, you know what’s actually more socialist than socialism? Liberal centrism. Sure, we’re not gonna significantly reform our economic system, we’ll still accept the far-right’s rhetoric on migration, and the nukes will still be sitting there off the coast of Scotland with apocalyptic capabilities. But at least we don’t call people rude names (except for when we do.) And isn’t that what socialism’s all about?
Your stupidity is raw and wild. Your stupidity is, lest we forget, bottomless and fiendish. You are the dancing chicken at the end of Werner Herzog’s Stroszek, hypnotised not by an eccentric German auteur, but by the comfort of consensus.