I don’t mean evil spirits – although there are a number to choose from – I mean the almost inexplicable seizures of emotion followed by uncontrollable spasms indicating severe psychological trauma. How else explain the bizarre pursuit of Ken Livingstone. If it was only the Labour Party we might be more relaxed about it but the same demons seem to have gripped society and its servile media too.
Livingstone made some very stupid statements about Hitler’s supposed support for Zionism on the basis of some stray historical facts he twisted out of recognition. He was doing so in a good cause: supporting Naz Shah, the victim of an earlier anti-Semitism witch hunt. Now he is being subjected to the same bullying, the same demands for confession, contrition and apology to which she already submitted. And despite the judgement of Labour’s own disciplinary committee the pack is in full cry for his expulsion with Corbyn adding his authority to the demands for apology.
If stupid remarks that lots of people found offensive were all punished in this way free speech would be a thing of the past. Why was it not sufficient for people to properly ridicule Livingstone’s historical notions without resorting to anathema and excommunication? Because Livingstone, despite his protestations to the contrary, is a closet anti-Semite? I don’t think so. It is because a cultural virus has taken hold that twists respect for different opinions into a demand that no offence is taken and that ‘safe spaces’ are created where offensive opinions do not have to be confronted. It is not just about anti-Semitism. We have heard the same dispiriting chorus about religious sensibilities, racism, sexism and sexual politics. But just now, anti-Semitism seems to have corned the market in ‘offence’, exploiting liberal cultural confusion to denounce anything that smacks of criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism.
The guardians of anti-Semitism have their own political agenda and they have been joined by all sorts of others with an axe to grind that they would like to bury in Corbyn’s head. Corbyn himself has so little understanding of all this that he is an accomplice in his own isolation. Sadly, yet another example of the lack of political leadership in a party paralysed by the substitution of factionalism for politics.