Friday, 19 July 2019

The witch finder tactic turned against a witch finder

Baroness Hayter compared Jeremy Corbyn to Adolf Hitler in the final days of the Nazi regime. She was immediately sacked from her position as Shadow Minister for Exiting the European Union. The Labour Party issued a statement describing her comments as deeply offensive, especially to Jews. The situation is imbued with irony on so many levels.

The Labour Party's response perfectly mirrored the tactic that Diane Hayter and her fellow travellers have consistently used against Jeremy Corbyn, and his allies, ever since he was elected leader of the party. The party took her words, wilfully misconstrued them, expressed outrage and responded punitively. This is precisely the tactic that Hayter et al have employed for years. They have pretended to see anti-Semitism, expressed outrage and demanded punitive action.

Now that this tactic has been employed against Diane Hayter, she and her supporters are apparently mystified that her words could have been misunderstood. She explains that she was not saying that Corbyn was like Hitler, but that like Hitler, Corbyn was not listening to information he did not want to hear.

Hayter's interpretation is of course entirely accurate. But it smacks of hypocrisy and double standards for her to offer the defence when she has repeatedly wilfully misconstrued the words of others, pretending that they constitute clear evidence of anti-Semitism, when the clearly do not.

Of course Hayter could have avoided this if she had not resorted to the use of figurative language (or trope, to use a term she and her ilk are especially fond of). If she had simply stated the Corbyn was not listening to message he did not wish to hear, it would have been completely uncontroversial. The fact that she did not stick to plain language, however, was no accident. She resorted to the Hitler trope because she wanted to implicitly accuse Corbyn of being anti-Semitic. She also avoided using plain language in order to hide her own malicious intent.

If she had simply said that Corbyn and his inner circle were not listening to messages they did not wish to hear, all she would have been accusing him of would have been groupthink. But pointing out that a party is engaging in groupthink isn't an accusation; it is a mere common place. All political parties are subject to groupthink. Indeed a political party that was not characterised by groupthink would be a political party being torn apart by internecine struggle. And this is precisely something she wish to avoid making plain, for she and the rest are tearing the Labour Party apart by engaging in internecine struggle. They do not accept the decision of the party to elect Corbyn as leader and are determined to overturn that decision, regardless of the cost. The accusations of anti-Semitism are merely the currently preferred tactic, the others having failed.

The sacking of Baroness Hayter is a step in a fight back. The use of the witch finder tactic is regrettable, but when the opposition is using this tactic, it may be the only effective tactic left.

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