Anti-semitism among Corbyn supporters is not rife and the BBC must broadcast an urgent correction

There are few more egregious examples of the mainstream media’s on-going war on truth when it comes to anti-semitism and the Labour Party. On Saturday night, Frankie Boyle’s New World Order opened its second season promising more satirical critique of contemporary politics. Instead, with the help of comedic colleagues including Sara Pascoe and David Baddiel, it dutifully reinforced a disinformation narrative that has taken shape over a number of weeks, many of whose architects have surely but a single agenda: to prevent Jeremy Corbyn from leading the Labour Party into another general election.

The crux of this narrative is simple enough: Jeremy Corbyn represents a left wing cabal that is over-run with anti-semitism. The particularly blatant inaccuracy mobilised in support was this statement by Baddiel:

29% of Corbyn voters in the Labour Party think that the world is controlled by a secret global elite and that global elite are Jews

Baddiel was referring to a Yougov poll of voters in the 2015 Labour leadership election in which 28% of Corbyn supporters agreed with the statement “the world is controlled by a secretive elite”, which clearly does not even remotely substantiate the Jewish association attributed by Baddiel.

And of course, as is so often the case with such disinformation, the real facts tell a completely different story. So, for instance, more recent YouGov polling on anti-semitic attitudes among UK voters has shown that it is considerably lower among Labour voters compared to Tory, and that it has considerably declined since Corbyn became leader. But this, like the hard evidence of Corbyn’s exemplary voting record on anti-semitism issues (and in contrast to most of his Parliamentary critics) simply don’t fit the narrative that Baddiel and the BBC were exclusively promoting.

But to understand the insidious significance of this inaccuracy, we have to get to grips with the genealogy and anatomy of the wider narrative that has fermented over the last three years. Its overwhelmingly consistent feature is its assignment of guilt by association. Corbyn himself might not be such a bad guy, but he hangs around with bad people, he is surrounded and supported by bad people, and he doesn’t do or say enough to stop them. Whether its Irish Republican terrorists, muslim Jihadists, the Stasi or anti-semites, the underlying message is the same: Corbyn cannot be trusted because of the people he calls ‘friends’.

In the early and heady days of Corbyn’s pre-Brexit leadership, this narrative was actually trumped by a more vocal critique of Corbyn’s policy platform. His anti-war and anti-nuclear stance in particular was portrayed as a dangerous threat to national security whilst his economic policies were generally derided as extreme, unpopular, and a potentially disastrous hark back to the bad old days before Thatcher and her descendants supposedly put everything right.

But it quickly became clear that such policies were in fact dangerously popular not just among the British public but also many of the world’s leading economists, and his foreign policy positions on everything from Iraq to Libya were increasingly being proved right.

The clearest manifestation of this was the General Election last year when, in between an unprecedented spate of terror attacks, the briefest mainstream media spotlight was cast on Labour’s policy platform, a moment which coincided with one the most dramatic polling shifts in modern British politics.

Unsurprisingly then, the overwhelming focus of media scrutiny applied to Labour has shifted squarely back to Corbyn ‘associations’. Yet the hypocricy and duplicity of these arguments is clear to anyone who so much as peeks behind the headlines.

When Boris Johnson warmly congratulated his ‘friend’ Viktor Orban last month, he offered unqualified support to Hungary’s Prime Minister and ruling party in spite of an election campaign widely condemnded as virulently anti-semitic. The complete absense of journalistic outrage was astonishing, as it was when Theresa May offered equally warm words of support to Malaysia’s Prime Minister, who has openly embraced antisemitism and repeatedly stated that “Jews rule the world by proxy”.

The most that journalists like Dan Sugarman seemed able to offer on such ‘associations’ was a heavily qualified critique

Theresa May shouldn’t have said this. But I understand she’s the leader of the country and sometimes needs to be polite to people she doesn’t like

Such commentary never actually made it into print but it is nevertheless instructive of just how confused the narrative has become. Of course, Theresa May doesn’t have to be ‘polite’ to everyone. She didn’t congratulate Vladimir Putin on his recent election ‘victory’. So it isn’t hard to spot the obvious premise underlying this misguided logic: that it is perfectly acceptable for our leaders to be friendly with vile anti-Semites provided they represent countries that are aligned with our (western) interests.

That sets a dangerous predent indeed. But those associations do not serve the purpose of undermining Corbyn’s leadership.

Media activist, lecturer, researcher