The “tragedy” of Bin Laden’s death myth:
Perhaps one the first lies about Corbyn to hit the front pages. This myth suggests that shortly after Osama Bin Laden was shot and buried at sea by American forces, Corbyn gave an interview to an Iranian TV network (make sure you remember the Iranian bit, that’s scary oOoOoOoh!) in which he called the death of the infamous mass murderer a “tragedy”. You’ll notice that one word in quotation marks all alone, I’m sure.
Headlines went from the questionable (The Independent’s “Was it taken out of context?“) to the downright atrocious (The Telegraph’s “Corbyn calls death of Osama bin Laden a ‘tragedy’“), but the press was pretty much on the same page that Corbyn’s comments were inappropriate and problematic.
Now I’ve come across many situations where people who claim their words were “taken out of context” still ended up saying pretty horrible things even after you look at the context, so I can understand why some might dismiss that as a defense. But Corbyn’s statements to Press TV wasn’t taken out of context, weren’t manipulated, they were downright fabricated. Corbyn actually said the following:
“There was no attempt whatsoever that I can see to arrest him, to put him on trial, to go through that process. This was an assassination attempt, and is yet another tragedy, upon a tragedy, upon a tragedy. The World Trade Center was a tragedy, the attack on Afghanistan was a tragedy, the war in Iraq was a tragedy. Tens of thousands of people have died. Torture has come back on to the world stage, been canonised virtually into law by Guantanamo and Bagram. Can’t we learn some lessons from this?”
Corbyn is referring to the lack of due process and the right to a fair trial, both of which are internationally recognized rights no matter what the crime. For a man who has been consistently opposed to the use of aggression and murder since he first became an MP (and even before that), it simply does not make sense that he would then perform an absolute U-turn and lament the death of perhaps one of the most famous mass murderers of all time.
It was a tragedy that Bin Laden was not dragged kicking and screaming to the doors of the International Criminal Court to stand trial before the world’s eyes. His brutality and violence should not have ended in a silent burial at sea, it should have ended with the condemnation of an international human rights judge. That is what Corbyn was saying, unless one prefers to read between the lines so deeply that their eyes hurt.
Any attempt to paint Corbyn as an Al-Qaeda supporter is not only deeply insulting to his principles, but further proof that the media categorically cannot be trusted to treat a story with fairness and integrity.
The women-only carriages myth:
As it became clear that Corbyn was going to become Labour leader in late August, Guardian columnist Anne Perkins wrote a highly snide and self-congratulatory attempt at satire, decrying supposed proposals by Corbyn’s team to segregate women on train carriages to tackle the growing problem of street harassment. Perkins went so far as to imply that Corbyn’s plans are akin to victim blaming, and called them “an affront to decades of serious work to raise the status of women, and to women’s sense of their self worth”. Various snivelling media outlets then loyally raised the same issue, because a lie shared is a lie enjoyed.
Perkins, sadly, had not done her homework. For one thing, the idea is not new – it was proposed by Claire Perry, the Conservative Parliamentary Under Secretary for Transport, almost twelve months before Corbyn supposedly conjured it up.
More pressing is that it is not Corbyn’s idea either. Not even his team’s idea, nor his party’s idea. In fact, it was merely a suggestion repeated to him many times (by women) as a possible way to reduce sex attacks on public transport. In Corbyn’s speech on the matter, which Perkins conveniently fails to directly quote, he states “Some women have raised with me that a solution to the rise in assault and harassment on public transport could be to introduce women-only carriages”, stressing that this is merely a proposal from the public that he is willing to consider, given that he’s one of those pesky politicians who actually listens to people.
Not policy, not the campaign’s policy, not the party’s policy, and not his personal policy. A suggestion by ordinary people, which is no wonder a Guardian columnist has such a problem with it. Thankfully Perkins’ anti-journalism was decried on both social media and on the comments section of the article itself, but her fabrications have still been cited by right-wing pundits who have suddenly and miraculously discovered feminism. The lie, and it is a lie, has unfortunately stuck, all thanks to one snide miserable oaf who can’t bear to see a real Labour opposition to government.
The Hezbollah-Hamas “friends” myth:
Most repugnant of the pre-election anti-Corbyn lies came from, among others, The Spectator, which repeatedly issued denouncements and scaremongering pieces on the frontrunner before he was elected, so much so they almost outdid The Telegraph in their biased rants. One in particular, which served as a basis for perhaps the most popular lie against Corbyn, is that he once referred to members of Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends” during a delegation. Soon after the far-right picked up on the story, yet another Guardian columnist chimed in to the anti-Corbyn chorus to accuse him of being an anti-Semite. That old chestnut.
Corbyn calmly and clearly defended his use of the word in a Channel 4 interview before the story even broke, despite having to answer the exact same question six times in a row. In it, Corbyn explained that he was referring to Hamas as friends in a collective sense, the same way that one can refer to somebody as a comrade or a sister without actually being a Marxist or a sibling. The story is the equivalent of making a mountain out of a mole hill, in other words. That aside, nobody in The Spectator or The Guardian seemed to question the piles of military aid sent to Israel from the UK with a big red bow attached, which so often has been used to massacre children in Gaza. That, surely, is far more weighty than calling somebody a friend, and makes for a far more better headline, since that’s all the media seems to care about.
Corbyn has been quite clear in the past that peace processes involve negotiating and talking to people whom you thoroughly dislike. If international negotiators referred to Hamas as Islamofascist baby killing anti-Semites every time they introduced them to the negotiating table, one could expect very few results. You simply cannot kill and slander your way to peace.
Still, one use of the word “friends” in relation to Hamas and suddenly Corbyn is a foaming at the mouth anti-Semite who wants to see the destruction of Israel. That’s a rational conclusion to draw. According to The Spectator’s Sebastian Payne, Corbyn’s calm reply to a question asked six times in a row “shows again why he is simply not up to the job of leading a serious political party”. Perhaps Payne’s piece shows again why he is simply not up to the job of working for a serious media organization. Oh well.
The men-only Shadow Cabinet myth:
Just hours after Corbyn won his landslide leadership election, another attempt soon sprung up to paint him as a belligerent misogynist. The Guardian’s Anne Perkins was silent this time (probably busy doing a course on how to be a journalist), but Telegraph writer Michael Wilkinson faithfully took up the anti-journalism torch in her place. Before Corbyn had even announced the make-up of his Shadow Cabinet, Wilkinson gleefully posted a collection of comments from Labour MPs expressing their “disappointment” at his sausage-fest of a Cabinet: Labour MP Jess Phillips said the announced positions were “tone deaf” to diversity, while Labour MP Diana Johnson described it as “old fashioned male-dominated Labour politics”.
Like Perkins, Wilkinson apparently forgot how to use Google. After the announcements were finalized, it was revealed that over half of Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet positions went to women, the first time in British history that has ever happened. The same cannot be said of his predecessors, however. Compare:
- Tony Blair’s 1997-2001 Cabinet: 23 positions, 18 filled by men, 5 filled by women (21% women).
- Tony Blair’s 2001-2005 Cabinet: 23 positions, 16 filled by men, 7 filled by women (30% women).
- Gordon Brown’s Inaugural Cabinet: 27 positions, 18 filled by men, 9 filled by women (33% women).
- David Cameron’s 2015-Present Cabinet: 29 positions, 19 filled by men, 10 filled by women (34% women).
- Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet: 30 positions, 14 filled by men, 16 filled by women (53% women).
Once Wilkinson and his ilk bothered to wait for the announcements to finish, headlines of “Corbyn’s man-packed Cabinet” suddenly disappeared, hastily being replaced by “Corbyn’s man-packed TOP JOBS Cabinet”. The goalposts were swiftly moved, and now Corbyn was a misogynist for not granting any of the four “top” jobs to women. The idea of “top” jobs dates back to the 19th century, and apparently only applies when a socialist is at the helm. Try as I might, I could find no condemnation of Blair’s male-only “top” jobs. Funny that.
That aside, as Lenin’s Tomb points out in an invaluable blogpost, a feminist is not somebody who arbitrarily appoints women to satisfy diversity quotas, a feminist is somebody who opposes vicious economic attacks that disproportionately affect single mothers, something Harriet Harman and Tony Blair repeatedly failed to do during their reigns.
I think this particular myth can now be put to bed, but here’s one final comparison for your own amusement:
- Telegraph Media Group Board Members: 14 positions, 14 filled by men, 0 filled by women (0% women).
These are by no means the only false attacks launched against the Labour leader so far, nor the most ridiculous. The Times recently accused Corbyn of riding a “Chairman Mao-style bicycle” to work, while the media lavished accusations that Corbyn ignored singing the national anthem across their front pages. This last story, coincidentally, fell on the same time that MPs voted to cut tax credits for struggling families. Go figure.