Brendan O’Neill

The terror of Corbynism

The terror of Corbynism
Text settings

This week, the Corbynistas bared their teeth. They gave us an insight into the mob-like authoritarianism that lurks behind the facade of their ‘kind’ politics. They insisted Jeremy Corbyn wasn’t a spy for the Stalinists while at the same time exposing their Stalinist tendencies. ‘How dare you lump us in with Stalinists?’, they cried, while in the next breath making manic-eyed videos threatening the press and forming online mobs to punish those who criticise their Dear Leader. The irony has been dark.

For the first time, I feel fearful of Corbynism. Until now, I’ve seen the Corbynistas as a somewhat tragic movement, a kind of cosplay for middle-class millennials who doll up their rather staid politics — their love of the nanny state, their fear of Brexit, their preference for identity politics over class politics — in Marxist memes and Red blather. But this week we have seen another side to them. We have seen their intolerance of rowdy political criticism, their instinct for political interference in the press. This looks increasingly like a movement of petit-bourgeois vengeance.

Exhibit A is Corbyn’s positively Trumpite threat to the press that ‘change is coming’. For all the Corbyn camp’s loathing of Trump, they share his brutish disdain for the trouble-making media. In the video, Corbyn’s contorted face takes to task right-wing newspapers that have indulged the Czech spy story over the past week, and warns that when the Corbynistas come to power there will be a shake-up of press ownership and pressure on press oligarchs to pay more taxes.

His supporters present this an anti-establishment act: a brave Labourite standing up to filthy rich newspaper men. Please. Corbyn’s threatening video was directly inspired by the press’s attacks on him over the past week. He publicly denounced the press in the manner of a tinpot tyrant for one reason only: because the press has been ridiculing his naff, Soviet-tinged shenanigans in the late 1980s. This is political interference: angry at the press attacks on him, he whipped up an online mob to agitate for more press control.

Besides, we know the Corbyn team is in favour of state interference in the press. They want Leveson 2, another showtrial of the tabloid press by the great and the good. And they want to enforce Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act which would use extreme financial pressure to force every media publication to sign up to Impress, the Royal Charter-approved press-regulation body.

That is, they have thrown their weight behind the reintroduction of officialdom-approved regulation of the press for the first time in 350 years. English radicals fought and died for a press free from official regulation. But this is a radical tradition Corbynistas don’t give a stuff about and will happily overturn.

The Corbynistas’ reactionary clamour for official interference in the press was captured in an article at Novara Media, home to the weird mix of nanny statism, anti-democracy and middle-class pity for the poor that motors the millennial wing of the Corbynista movement. It congratulated Corbyn for ‘send[ing] shivers down the spine of the media establishment’, and promised that under a Labour government Leveson 2 would ‘finish the job and open up this bankrupt industry’. This promise of Leveson 2 is reason enough never to vote for Corbyn’s Labour: it would ride roughshod over the great radical history of this nation, from the Levellers to the Chartists, all of whom were repulsed by the idea of state meddling in the press.

Also this week, Corbynistas marshalled England’s repugnant libel laws against a Tory MP who said something incorrect about Corbyn on Twitter. Ben Bradley — a particular bogeyman of posh Corbynistas because he went to Nottingham Trent University and used to stack supermarket shelves — falsely said Corbyn sold secrets to the Czechs.

He deleted the tweet. But that wasn’t enough. Owen Jones, sounding like a junior Stasi, called on Corbyn to drag Bradley to court because ‘an example has to be made’. Shudder. In response to the suggestion that Bradley should apologise, Labour MP Dawn Butler said, ‘Nah forget the apology, let’s just sue!’. Sure enough, libel lawyers for Corbyn wrote to Bradley and insisted he repent for the tweet and pay damages (in the form of a charity donation).

I think this is repulsive. For a politician like Corbyn to use the clout of England’s libel law, this rich man’s law, beloved of Holocaust deniers and Saudi plutocrats, to extract an apology from a minor Tory MP feels seriously excessive. Corbyn has 1.7m Twitter followers; Bradley has fewer than 5,000. Corbyn could have set the record straight via a tweet. But it seems he preferred to play to the mob clamour that an ‘example be made’.

We now know what life will be like under the Corbynistas. The press would be subject to official interference, and mockery of the nation’s leader would be chilled. Modern leftists’ fear of open debate really speaks to their fear of the rabble. They worry that our minds might be fried by the raucous red-tops or misspeaking Tory MPs, and so they look to the state, their beloved state, to control public discussion. They try so hard to hide it, but this week it slipped out: their Stalinism, now on full display.