Leanne is a schoolgirl who gave a talk about something she believed in for a school speaking competition. But she spoke outside the right wing comfort area, and thus her speech got attacked online and then pulled. The Speakers’ Trust charity stated that “Following vile and hateful comments posted online during this Bank Holiday weekend Speakers Trust removed the video of Leanne’s speech.” It has since been reinstated.
The current aggressive campaign against anybody who speaks out for Palestine is gathering force. It’s most obvious manifestation lies in the ridiculous claims of “anti-semitism” against many left wing or radical campaigners who have worked against all racism their entire lives. As the establishment becomes more desperate to portray any thought or expression outside their neo-con orthodoxy as illegitimate, the related attack on supporters of Palestine becomes increasingly shrill.
It is very possible to plot the demonisation of radical thought in stark and recent examples. It brings to mind the demonisation of the Chartists as violent revolutionaries. For example, those in the openly left wing campaign for Scottish independence were repeatedly and regularly accused by the mainstream media of vicious online abuse. Bernie Sanders supporters were quite falsely portrayed throughout the mainstream media as violent after the Nevada Democratic Convention, even though widely available video evidence showing what really happened was totally contrary to what was reported. The 38 Degrees petition against the Tory bias of Laura Kuenssberg was withdrawn as “misogynist”, a charge echoed by the entire mainstream media, even though there is virtually no evidence of any associated misogynist abuse. Similarly the very slight three second mocking of Kuenssberg by the audience at a recent Corbyn event was, again with total absence of evidence, portrayed throughout all mainstream UK media as anti-woman rather than anti-Tory. The right wing meme that left wing Corbyn support is anti-female recurs almost daily in the mainstream media.
On the positive side, the establishment’s patently shrill demonisation of radical opposition is a reaction to a very definite upswell against the results of neo-liberalism. There is no denying that the SNP, Corbyn and Bernie Sanders phenomena on the one hand, and the Trump and UKIP phenomena on the other, represent a significant upsurge of popular discontent with the status quo. The Trump and UKIP side of that movement reflects a deliberate attempt by the Establishment to use the mainstream media to divert the focus of discontent away from the exploiters and burgeoning billionaires, and focus it on “foreigner” scapegoats.
The popular momentum is linked to intellectual momentum. Thomas Piketty and others proved the glaringly obvious, that neo-liberalism vastly increased wealth disparity in society. The recent IMF Research Department paper on the consequences of neo-liberalism made quite a splash. It agreed that neo-liberalism had caused a vast and growing wealth gap, and made a very significant apercu that “Increased inequality in turn hurts the level and sustainability of growth.” This is a vital challenge to neo-liberal orthodoxy. Simply put, if Mike Ashley has billions while his thousands of harassed agency workers are struggling to survive, there is less money actually circulating in the economy buying goods and services from local business and providing balanced and sustainable economic growth. Massive inequality does not drive economic growth, it damages it.
There seems to be a reluctance to accept that the Sports Direct story of massive degradation and exploitation is the inevitable consequence of the neo-liberal bonfire of workers’ rights and attack on the trade unions. Compulsory proper employment contracts with protection from dismissal and compulsory recognition of union representation are safeguards vitally needed to redress the imbalance between the fat-cats and those desperate to make a living. A minimum wage – even a living wage – is of little use if you are soiling yourself because you are scared to take time to go to the toilet, and can be dismissed on a whim of your employer.
A great many of the population now realise that they work in declining conditions and with declining means, to make an elite ever more super-rich. The mainstream media are the tool by which the population is to be controlled. Bernie Sanders’ heroic fight is drawing to a close for the present. I am hopeful that the appalling non-choice which Americans face for President will serve to fan popular discontent further and prove a Pyrrhic establishment victory over Sanders. The examples of demonisation of anti-establishment people with which I started this article all have one thing in common. They are attacks on people putting over radical views by means outside the mainstream media – social media and citizen journalism, or old fashioned standing up at meetings or organising together. The inspirational combination of new media and old fashioned community campaigning has been the hallmark of the Scottish independence, Corbyn and Sanders campaigns. It is the methodology that must give a blueprint and hope for the future.