The other day I went on television to discuss the former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks’ condemnation of Jeremy Corbyn.
The stampede did not take long.
Almost as soon as I came off-air my Twitter mentions were full of full of hard-left activists and Corbyn acolytes telling me how stupid I am, how awful my performance had been and goodness knows what else. The whole thing seemed designed to dent my confidence and to intimidate me into not broadcasting my views.
Such was the venom and volume of the hate that I actually changed my Twitter settings so that I cannot see messages from people I do not follow. The tirades simply disappear into the void. The immediate sense of peace I got from doing this was quite telling.
In reality, I was actually pretty lucky. The abuse I got was simply online and relatively easy to turn-off. I have not received threatening letters or phone calls to my place of work, as Labour MPs like Luciana Berger and Joan Ryan have. Nor have I had people turning up at my home and defacing the lawn with pictures of Donald Trump, as one Jewish Labour activist who spoke out about anti-Semitism at a meeting of her local Labour party reported over the weekend. (It is noticeable her Twitter account no longer seems to be active. I can only imagine the kind of messages she was receiving.)
What is fascinating is that this grotesque behaviour comes from people who believe themselves to be the good guys. As academic David Hirsh notes in his book Contemporary Left Antisemitism: “The Corbyn faction’s political practice is often to avoid debate over ideas and policies. What it tends to do instead is to define itself as the community of the good, and it positions its opponents and its critics as being outside of that community.”
It is this moral superiority, this conviction that they are “the community of the good”, that has rendered Jeremy Corbyn’s far-left supporters totally unable to deal with the issues around anti-Semitism and understand the hurt caused to the Jewish community. If you think you are on the side of the righteous it’s hard to process any criticism.
Look at the continued insistence that Corbyn has “fought racism all his life”, even as anti-Semitism infests the party he leads. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the Corbynites cling obsessively to the idea that their man is on the right side of history.
Any accusation of behaviour crossing the line is laughingly, arrogantly, dismissed. Aaron Bastani, one of the figures behind pro-Corbyn media outlet Novara Media, actually said on Politics Live he thought that a card left at and Thomas the Tank Engine toy (the deselection express, as Bastani put it on Twitter,) left at Joan Ryan’s parliamentary office was “quite funny”. As presenter Jo Coburn pointed out, the card indicated knowledge of intimate details of Ryan’s diary. That is clearly designed to intimidate.
A similar principle is true of the incident outside Jacob Rees-Mogg’s house last week, in which an older man heckled his children, telling him how awful their father is and that “lots of people don’t like your daddy” as well as shouting at the nanny that works for the family. Totally disgraceful, but the hard-left think this behaviour is justified because theirs is the just and worthy cause.
The leader of the anarchist protest, Ian Bone, response to the criticism his actions received from people across the political spectrum gives a very clear insight into this mindset. He told LBC radio: “I think that my comments to his children are nothing in comparison to the policies that Rees-Mogg believes in.”
More bizarrely, he added: “His children are going to Eton, like their father, where they’ll get mercilessly bullied anyway.”
For the likes of Ian Bone, Jacob Rees-Mogg’s politics and his wealth mean that he and his family are fair game. That people whose politics and lifestyle they regard as bad are open to any kind of abuse. It is a way of dehumanising opponents instead of debating, of making attacking them OK.
This has been going on for some time. Take the history of comments made by John McDonnell. To cite but one example, in September 2011 the now Shadow Chancellor warned any institution “that attacks our class” that “we will close you down, we will expose you, we’ll sit on your lawn, we’ll come into your offices, we’ll come to wherever you are to confront you”. There is a clear ideological line that ties this to what has been going on recently – in the mind of the hard-left, the ends justify the means.
Protest is an essential part of a democracy that should be protected at all costs. Bullying, violence and abuse should not be. It was all bad enough when the far-left were little more than cranks and outcasts. Now they are running one of the country’s major political parties and their behaviour has serious consequences.
Until they can get over their moral superiority and look to deal with the the abuse conducted in the name of their cause, our political climate will remain toxic.