Like him or loathe him, there’s no denying that Jeremy Corbyn is certainly an interesting politician. The antithesis to almost all UK political leaders of the last decade (perhaps longer), Corbyn has attracted a monumental following across the UK, capturing the hearts of hundreds of thousands of disenfranchised people with a promise of a better country, a fairer society, and a kinder and gentler politics. In his relatively short tenure as leader of the Labour Party, he’s proved almost every political commentator and observer wrong, surviving a leadership challenge from Owen Smith, an attempted coup by back-benchers and his shadow cabinet, and leading his party in a General Election, which saw the Conservatives lose the majority they hand hoped to strengthen.
Yet despite all of these positive accomplishments and despite forcing so many people to eat humble pie – me included – Corbyn cannot escape controversy. Every week now it seems as though there is a new scandal, a new shady moment from his past that the media latch onto, in what seems to be an attempt to shake his followers’ confidence; forcing him out of power and triggering a return to the Blairite ideology of the 90s and early 00s. Whether it’s affiliations with the IRA or middle-eastern terrorist groups, or as seen in the last year, the scourge of antisemitism, there’s always something to talk about when it comes to Corbyn.
Unfortunately for Jeremy Corbyn, the media seems hellbent on focussing on the scandals rather than his party’s policies, which is frustrating not only for those who support him, but also for people like me who just want to learn the facts about his party’s plans for the country. However, I can’t help but feel like those who follow him do so blindly, ignoring media stories completely, even when the evidence to support their findings is so overwhelming. It appears that in many Labour members’ eyes, Corbyn can do no wrong, whatsoever. It’s because of this I firmly believe that Corbynism, like Trumpism, is now a cheerleader for post-truth politics.
Now let me start off by saying that this article is not about Labour and antisemitism, nor is it accusing Corbyn of being a racist and an antisemite. I happen to think that he is neither of those things: history shows that he’s always been a champion of unity and equality, although I happen to think that some of his actions in the past and the company he’s chosen to keen, including his reasons for such, are a little spurious.
The definition of post-truth, according to the Cambridge dictionary is as follows:
Based on this, it’s absolutely true that Corbynism, in terms of those who follow him and defend him unwaveringly, are just another string to the bow of post-truth politics.
It doesn’t matter what any journalist writes, what any news broadcaster reports, if it’s something that paints Corbyn in a negative light, the faithful will instantly shout about it being a right-wing witch hunt, a heavily biased media, or a conspiracy to remove Corbyn from office. Granted, some media outlets may indeed have this agenda, but when reputable and well-known left-wing publications such as the Guardian and the Independent run with stories against Corbyn, these arguments just don’t hold any weight. But herein lies the problem. Many Corbyn supporters will claim that despite the Guardian being a notoriously Labour-supporting newspaper, and the Independent and the i being relatively centrist, there is still some sort of conspiracy in the background making up stories about the Labour leader to pursue their own agenda.
It doesn’t matter what you say; it doesn’t matter what evidence you provide; it doesn’t matter which
commentator says it: if it’s against Corbyn, it’s a lie driven by media bias or a hidden right-wing agenda. I hear this sort of thing all the time when I listen to the radio station, LBC. Whenever they run a phone-in on a topic relating to Labour or Jeremy Corbyn, the number of callers than ring up to criticise the presenter and/or the radio station for having a hidden agenda is remarkable. Callers accusing James O’Brien (James O’Brien!) of being a right-wing mole in the mainstream media…you couldn’t make this stuff up.
According to many Corbyn supporters, you can’t trust any news outlet. They’re all out to get Corbyn. They’re all out to keep the Conservatives in power for decades. They’re all out to oppress the working classes. The only reliable source of information comes from inside the party, it would seem. I’m sorry. That is worrying. That has whiffs of fascism if you ask me.
And no. I’m not calling Labour a fascist party, before you start hurling abuse at me.
It also has whiffs of Trumpism in the United States. Fake news. Alternative facts. We laughed when we first saw these terms tweeted from Trump’s own fingers, but it’s no laughing matter. These concepts are now commonplace in UK politics. Corbyn called Hamas leaders friends: fake news. Corbyn laid a wreath to honour the memory of a known terrorist: alternative fact – it didn’t happen like that. If people question every single thing they hear in the media then I’m sorry folks, but journalism is dead. The only way to verify something as being true and accurate is to go and witness everything for yourself.
I admit, it’s often difficult in this age of 24-hour rolling news coverage and social media to discern accurate journalism from fake clickbait articles. All you have to do is scroll through your newsfeed on Facebook or Twitter and see some of the posts some of your more naiive friends or followers have shared. You read the headline and you think, “well that’s ridiculous, let me read the article to get the bottom of this. They read the headline and think, “oh that’s interesting, I’m sharing that” without even reading what the article is about, or doing the research around the topic to verify that what they’re sharing is accurate.
We’ve all been guilty of this: me included. I’m not saying that you should believe everything you see or read from the media. But for goodness sake. You cannot treat every headline or news story as though it is a complete work of fiction, and you certainly cannot trust the word of your political party alone.
For any member of any political party or any supporter of any political leader: if they do something that’s stupid or questionable, call them out. Don’t be afraid to criticise those in positions of power. The problem is, I’m afraid that since Corbyn’s election, Momentum in particular has bred a culture where criticising the leadership leads to abuse, bullying or in the case of MPs, threats of deselection or being kicked out of the Shadow Cabinet. Look at the recent case of Dame Margaret Hodge.
The Corbyn-faithful has fully embraced post-truth politics and is using it to garner more following amongst those who don’t have the nous to use their good senses to challenge questionable behaviour in the face of overwhelming evidence.
It’s a dangerous path Labour and the Corbyn-faithful are happily skipping along. And unfortunately, it’s not just the Labour Party that seem content with embracing the culture of post-truth politics. Look at the Brexiteers and their blind denial of the risks it poses, all because of their immense emotional dedication to the fight against the EU. But that’s a discussion for another time.