Tweet Checking: Why is the Truth About Antisemitism and Iran So Hard, Mr Corbyn?
Continuing to read Umberto Eco’s Travels in Hyperreality (hey, I’m a slow reader, sue me), I reached the essay “Falsification and Consensus”, which is perhaps the most prescient piece in the book. As a semiotician, Eco is fundamentally interested in what signifies the difference between the “real” and the “fake”, but this has become an increasingly harder task because people have ceased to either care about the difference, or may in fact prefer the fake to the real; falsifications become the only means of discourse, and the only way to react to falsifications becomes “other falsifications, spreading false news about everything, even about the falsifications”, vengeance against the original lies.
The “molecular consensus” of social reality breaks down between people, the triumph eventually being not of utter epistemological relativity, but of he “who lies better than the others”: “In a universe of falsifiers power is not destroyed; at most one holder of power is replaced by another.”
We have to fight this gaggle of falsifiers, so long as Eco warns we do not let our fight take “fanatical” form, leading to “a Puritan ethic of truth [that] would cut off the tongue of anyone who lied, even in a figure of speech.” A culture of absolute truth can be just as oppressive as a culture of falsifiers.
5. Katie Pavlich
To be cleat this is not innocent reportage: Pavlich is the editor of the centre-right Townhall and a regular Fox News contributor, so this is a partisan shot.
Besides the CBC having no obligation to applaud and honour a man who clearly despises them and their people, the insistence of Trumpists that Trump has singlehandedly brought down black unemployment makes no sense, as Matt Yglesias writes: “A simple eyeball of the African-American unemployment rate, meanwhile, makes it clear that Trump has nothing to do with this trend.”
And for the third time in this column I have to make it clear: low unemployment is not necessarily a good thing.
4. Kev Brock
Perhaps - and I’m just running on a wild guess here - it has something to do with the fact that Clinton is using the word “bitches” in that ‘reclaimed’ sense of female empowerment and strength, whereas Trump used the term “shithole countries” to make it clear that he is a moronic race-baiter who can’t control himself who prefers blonde Norwegian migrants to ones who may be a little darker in colour. He said it fully knowing that he shouldn’t have said it, the only possible excuse being that he was trying to protect his own assets since he doesn’t like renting to poor black people anyway.
Brock may be too, erm, intellectually limited to realise this, but you need only to look at the people embracing the use of the term to see how it is now being used:
With supporters like this et cetera, et cetera…
3. The Russian Embassy
You could say the Russian Embassy has become more “activist” in its approach to dealing with the British media, but you could also say they’re following the Trumpian model of not being able to let things go, then responding in bitter haste and making fools of themselves in the process.
I don’t usually defend Murdoch publications, but the beginning of the article in fact does no such thing as attempting to prove “Russia is aggressive by quoting Chekhov”. The article is merely citing Chekhov’s dramaturgical method—Chekhov’s gun—as a metaphor for Putin’s long-term military ambitions. This use of Chekhov, one of Russia’s greatest writers is of course ironic, and should be plain to see for anyone with a cursory understanding of, well, the English language.
This should surprise no one though: accusations of “Russophobia” have become the go-to response to any criticism of the Russian government, and have become a central part of their discursive war against the West: “The postulate of a struggle against Russophobia, which is being invoked increasingly often in the Russian media space, today represents the declaration of another stage of Russia’s communications war with the Kremlin’s opponents, both foreign and domestic. […] The Russophobe, who is a kind of classic ‘enemy’ of Russia, well suits the image of the ideological enemy; this approach makes it possible to devise categorical, extremely emotional and stimulating opinions.”
I do however worry that the sorry guy tasked with writing this paranoid bilge may eventually go the way of one of Chekhov’s most zealous characters:
“We are informed that a certain T., one of the contributors to Kievlyanin [a conservative Kiev newspaper], having read the greater portion of the Moscow newspapers, suffered an attack of self-doubt and searched his own home for illegal literature. Finding none, he nevertheless gave himself up to the police.”
—Anton Chekhov, “The Highest Heights”, Forty Stories, Robert Payne ed./trans.
2. Matt Zarb-Cousin
Firstly, Corbyn appeared five times on Press TV between 2009 and 2012, the final appearance being “six months after the network had its broadcasting license revoked by Ofcom for airing a forced confession by Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari.” Secondly, it is also not just that he “appeared” on Press TV: in 2010, he presented the show Comment, a call-in show during which he supposedly “listened uncomfortably as a caller described Israel as a "disease" and another describes the BBC as "Zionist liars."” Presenters of shows are usually not just bunged £50 as Zarb-Cousin is implying here.
There is one thing I just don’t get: Zarb-Cousin was Corbyn’s personal spokesman until earlier last year; if they’re so tight knit why doesn’t he just ask him for the real figures rather than implying this or that?
Regardless of how much he was actually paid, it stands to reason that such a prominent campaigner for human rights (*cough* *cough*) should not have gone on the state propaganda network of an imperialistfascist regime for any money at all…but to believe that, you’d have to ignore things like this. (Lying about it didn’t help either.)
1. Jeremy Corbyn
It’s a perfectly serviceable statement, but one cannot help but feel that this was written the way it was because the message he wrote in the Holocaust Educational Trust memorial book three days earlier didn’t mention Jews at all (or any group of victims for that matter).
However, this is not in any way limited to Corbyn: not only did Trump not mention Jews in his statement, neither did May nor Cable, nor, weirdly enough, the Chief Rabbi of Britain. There seems to be a strange inability amongst politicians and intellectuals (if you can me find one) to place the Holocaust within the actual history of Europe, and ask difficult questions about culture, ideology, and collective responsibility that don’t rely on simplistic notions of “ignorance” and “hatefulness”. I don’t think a hug would’ve calmed Hitler down; the roots of his political thought stretched back through the ‘scientific racists’ of the 19th century (some German, others French and English) all the way to the Reformation rantings of Luther.
But it must be said that Corbyn has a particular ‘Jewish issue’—more pressing than ever given the latest CST report linking the rise in anti-Semitism to Labour’s internal politics—and it isn’t helped by one of the most popular comments under the Facebook post linked in the above tweet:
Not to mention this one:
In fact, at least two-thirds of the comments are either about Israel, attempt some kind of Holocaust minimisation, or are right-wingers asking why people aren’t talking about Stalinist atrocities instead.
This isn’t just about Corbynites: lots of people across the spectrum are, it must said, completely fucked up on this issue.
About the author
Harris Coverley writes the Tweet Checking column for Disclaimer and is constantly looking for readers to help him correct the worst of internet. No stupidity or falsehood is too great a challenge.
He lives in Manchester and holds an MA in Intellectual History from UCL. He also writes short fiction and poetry, the former of which only Disclaimer has had the good sense to publish.
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