Thursday, 30 August 2018

A fashion for McCarthyism

A blogger by the name of Kester Ratcliff published a list of "Assadists" on Medium. The page attracted a substantial amount of attention. However, much of that attention was overwhelmingly negative. The blog was subjected to criticism, contempt and mockery. So much so, Kester has apparently removed the page; anyhow, it is no longer available even though Kester is still blogging on Medium.

The page provided a list on over one hundred and fifty people who, according to Kester, were guilty of promoting pro-Assad propaganda. These Assadists included people as diverse as Jimmy Dore, the American comedian, Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the British official opposition, Boris Johnson, the former British Foreign Secretary and Vanessa Beeley, an independent journalist.

The list is but one iteration of what has clearly become a fashion. Governments, politicians, think tanks, and corporate media organisations have produced list after list of people whose views are unacceptable to the neoliberal elite. All these lists share a disdain for actual critical analysis in favour of the use of name calling. The favourite label being propagandist, along with Russian troll and bot.

This fashion is deeply disturbing. It is reminiscent of nothing so much as the McCarthyism of the Cold War, when people's careers and even lives were destroyed by the suggestion that they were communists. People who express dissenting views, especially views which are critical of US foreign policy, are simply demonised and dehumanised. They are represented as the enemy.

Kester's list of Assadists was a classic example of the genre. It ignored the actual facts of the conflict in Syria. Kester simply assumed that the government of Syria is in the wrong and evil, and the opposition is good and in the right. On this basis, according to Kester, anyone who does not accept this view is therefore a propagandist for Assad. This is nothing more sophisticated than us and them thinking, with us being the goodies and them being evil. The fact that this binary division placed jihadists in the good camp and the popular, secular government of Syria in the bad camp, did not trouble Kester one iota.

This fashion for manichean thinking and representations is unbelievably regressive and highly dangerous. When the world is divided into good and evil, there is no place for evidence and reason; facts no longer matter. Tribal loyalty is the only arbiter of truth, which is nothing more than the favoured narrative. Power is the only way to resolve disputes. Internal dissent is transformed into treason. This fashion for McCarthyism is creating a new totalitarianism.


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