It is time to stop believing these infantile narratives the British political and media establishments have crafted for us. Like the one in which they tell us they care deeply about the state of political life, and that they lie awake at night worrying about the threat posed by populism to our democratic institutions.
How do they persuade us of the depth of their concern? They express their horror at at the murder of an MP -- Jo Cox -- and their outrage at the abuse of another -- Anna Soubry -- both victims of the frenzied passions unleashed by Brexit.
But the political and media elites don't really care whether politicians are assaulted, vilified or threatened -- at least, not if it is the kind of politician who threatens their power. They aren't seriously worried about attacks on democracy, or about political violence, or about the rottenness at the core of state institutions. Their outrage is selective. It is rooted not in principle, but in self-interest.
Is that too cynical? Ponder this.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn hasn't faced just shouted insults from afar, like Soubry. He was recently physically assaulted, hit on the head by a man holding an egg in his fist. But unlike Soubry, our media expressed no real concern. In fact, they could barely hide their sniggers at his "egging", an attack they presented as little more than a prank. They even hinted that Corbyn deserved it.
"Kill vampire Jezza"
The media have been only happy too to vilify Corbyn as a Kremlin stooge and a former Soviet spy. Senior Tory Iain Duncan Smith this week called Corbyn "a Marxist whose sole purpose in life is to do real damage to the country," a remark that, as ever went, entirely unchallenged by the BBC interviewer giving him a platform. Just imagine a Labour MP being allowed to accuse Theresa May of being a fascist whose only goal is to destroy the country.
But the BBC has never bothered to conceal its intense dislike of Corbyn. Its news shows have even photo-shopped the Labour leader to make him look "Russian" or "more Russian," as the BBC and the rest of the media mischievously phrased it. Those who protested were told they were reading too much into it. They needed to lighten up and not take themselves so seriously.
Senior Conservatives, including the former defense secretary Michael Fallon, have regularly portrayed Corbyn as a threat to national security, especially over concerns about the Trident nuclear missile system. Many senior members of Corbyn's own party have echoed such smears -- all amplified, of course, by the media.
Those who suggested that the government and media needed to engage with Corbyn's well-grounded doubts about the safety of nuclear weapons, or the economics and practicalities of the Trident program, were derided like Corbyn as "pacifists" and "traitors."
And the mood music to these political clashes was the quite literal demonization of Corbyn by the red-top dailies. Most famously, the Daily Mail photo-shopped him as Dracula, above the headline: "Labour must KILL vampire Jezza."
Degraded political culture
Then Corbyn became the target of another sustained smear campaign. It was claimed that this lifelong, very public anti-racism activist who over decades had forged strong ties to sections of the British Jewish community, despite being a steadfast critic of Israel was a secret anti-Semite, or at best providing succor to anti-Semites as they overran the Labour party.
Was there any factual basis or evidence for these claims? No. But the British public was assured by right-wing Jews like the Board of Deputies and by "left-wing" Jewish supporters of Israel like Jonathan Freedland, that evidence wasn't necessary, that they had a sixth sense for these things.
Corbyn's supporters were told that they should not question the wildly inflammatory and evidence-free denunciations of Corbyn and the wider Labour membership for a supposed "institutional antisemitism" and, with a satisfyingly circular logic, that to do so was itself proof of antisemitism.
The weaponization of antisemitism through political spin by Corbyn's political enemies, including the Blairite faction of the parliamentary Labour party, was and is a dangerous assault on public life, one that has very obviously degraded Britain's political culture.
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