The social media machine that has developed around Corbyn can be credited with pulling him through any number of crises by noisily demonstrating their support and picking apart his critics.
But that machine increasingly has a life of its own, and failed to heed Corbyn’s latest video appeal for members to take antisemitism seriously. Here are six ways the online left set back Labour’s attempt to tackle antisemitism in recent days.
1 Attacking Jon Lansman for his stand on Peter Willsman
Jon Lansman faced a backlash from Momentum members after his decision to end the group’s support for NEC candidate Peter Willsman over his taped rant about the Jewish community. The split inside Momentum only widened over the weekend as members angry about Lansman’s position launched a bid to “democratise” the organisation.
2 Saying it’s okay to call a Jewish MP “the Hon Member for Tel Aviv”
An essential quality for any would-be far-left social media personality is a readiness to defend the party leadership whatever the charge, and the more controversial the defence the better. That’s how Novara Media’s Michael Walker came to defend the principle of dismissing Jewish MP Louise Ellman as “the Rt Hon Member for Tel Aviv” over her views on Israel.
3 Calling for Tom Watson to resign
Tom Watson told an Observer interview that Labour would face “eternal shame” if it failed to sort its antisemitism problem. Despite echoing Jeremy’s own article – which admitted “there is a real problem” and “we haven’t done enough” – Corbyn supporters responded with a #ResignWatson Twitter storm, a slick attack video and no less than four negative stories on alt-left blog Skwawkbox. Needless to say, attacking an MP for saying antisemitism is shameful is not the best way of showing you take the problem seriously.
4 Telling concerned members to “join the Lib Dems”
In another sign of increasingly strident opposition to anyone in Labour concerned about the party’s direction, Aaron Bastani from alt-left outlet Novara Media suggested that it’s “time for the ultra melts to join the Lib Dems”. It’s not new for Corbyn supporters to tell detractors to ‘join the Tories’, but it now appears to be commonplace even at the highest levels.
5 Worry about far-right racism instead
The far-right is on the rise again – that is why the Red Roar has published articles exposing Tory Islamophobia, UKIP links to Russia and the funding of far-right websites – but that does not preclude left-wingers from fighting Labour antisemitism too. Many prominent Corbyn supporters now talk as if Labour antisemitism is irrelevant in the face of rising far-right hate, with Aaron Bastani using Jeremy’s video on antisemitism to lecture that “Labour politicians and members must confront rising a rising far-right on the streets”. The truth is that Labour’s own antisemitism problem leaves us with less moral authority with which to challenge far-right racism.
6 Talking about antisemitism “smears”
Owen Jones has popularised one response to the antisemitism crisis that attempts address critics by acknowledging antisemitism exists in Labour at the same time as soothing angry Corbyn supporters by asserting that “antisemitism is being used to smear Jeremy Corbyn”. The problem is that “smears” are by definition false accusations. By claiming that real examples of antisemitism are being used to “smear” Corbyn, Jones is unwittingly encouraging the view that many real examples of antisemitism are in fact made up and should be treated with suspicion.