I was debating on twitter recently with someone about the accusation that Chris Williamson had said Labour had been ‘too apologetic for antisemitism’.
It’s not usually a difficult conversation – the facts are clear, that isn’t what he said – and it’s generally over in a few minutes. But this one went on, and on, until we reached the point where I said something like, ‘But you can see with your own eyes what he said and what he didn’t say’, to which he replied that it made no difference anyway, because who cares what an antisemite says…
Or, more succinctly: words mean nothing.
#ItWasAScam seeks to assert that words, actually, do mean something, that reality exists, that there are facts about that reality which can be ascertained, and that those facts, those words, mean something: that they *matter*.
The ‘Labour antisemitism crisis’ narrative has dominated media reporting on the Labour Party since shortly after Corbyn was elected Leader in 2015. It was immediately obvious to many of us that it was a fraud, and we started to argue the cases on twitter as they came up – Ruth Smeeth and Marc Wadsworth, the mural, the wreath, the irony… Every case we examined turned out to be a fraud. Every single one. I posted a list of ten of them as a blog post a year ago, and shortly afterwards we started the #ItWasAScam hashtag. It’s trended (been one of the most widely used hashtags) quite a few times and has become a recognised shorthand for the fight against the ‘Labour antisemitism crisis’ fraud. A speaker at the Labour Party Conference last year referred to it (negatively, of course) in her speech, and commentators and prominent social media accounts such as David Baddiel, David Schneider and Paul Mason have all spoken about it, albeit to denounce it.
We used the past tense (It *was* a scam) because, at the time, we were mostly referring to historic accusations. But the ‘left antisemitism crisis’ has continued to be used by new Labour Party Leader Sir Keir Starmer to purge leftists from the party. It was a scam, and it still is a scam today.
Left (now former) MP Chris Williamson, for instance, simply did not say Labour had been ‘too apologetic for antisemitism’, as BBC’s Nick Robinson claimed in a tweet. Just plain didn’t say it. Black/Jewish activist and campaigner Jackie Walker did not say ‘Jews controlled the slave trade’ (Nick Robinson again), Jeremy Corbyn did not say ‘Jews (or Zionists) don’t understand English irony’, nor did he defend an antisemitic mural, nor did he lay a wreath for the Münich terrorists…
None of these things actually happened, and it really isn’t difficult to prove it: all you have to do is consult the public record, check the tape or transcript or recorded facts, see exactly what someone did or did not say or do.
Basic fact-checking, in other words. #ItWasAScam fact-checks these accusations and finds them to be fraudulent.
Not merely false, mind – these are not innocent errors – but deliberately and intentionally designed and intended to deceive.
All of them.
Unsurprisingly, there has been a certain amount of resistance to this.
There have been two main lines of attack thus far. The first is that #ItWasAScam is a ’conspiracy theory.’ And it don’t half sound like one, who can deny it? Conspiracy theories often make grand, sweeping assertions – that the Moon landings were a hoax, for instance, or that Donald Trump, and not Joe Biden, won the 2020 US Presidential election – and in order to argue the case, will cite false and fraudulent ‘facts’. It will often be necessary for an advocate of a conspiracy theory to dispute widely held and well evidenced statements about the world: there will be the claim that there exists a ‘conspiracy’ amongst news media and other authorities to prevent the ‘real’ facts being presented.
So when #ItWasAScam asserts that the entirety of our mainstream media, print and broadcast, state and commercial, have for the last seven years engaged in a monumental and concerted fraud, it’s not at all surprising that some may think it’s a conspiracy theory, because it sounds exactly like one.
But this is where the fact-checking comes in.
It starts small. What did Chris Williamson *actually say*, compared to what he is accused by BBC’s Nick Robinson of saying? Are the two things the same?
Gentle reader, they are not, and anyone can check this for themselves in minutes. The link below has chapter and verse on on it. Check for yourself.
Well OK, but that could just be an honest mistake… Alas, no. I took Nick Robinson’s tweet about Chris Williamson through every stage of BBC’s protracted complaints procedure, right up to a final appeal to the Director General as Editor-in-Chief, and at every stage it was passed as ‘accurate’. The tweet is still up today.
But that’s just BBC… Again, no: Chris Williamson was vilified as an antisemite by every media outlet in the UK. No exceptions. (Honourable mention here must go to right-wing journalist and author Peter Oborne, who steadfastly refuses to collude. He left his senior position at the Daily Telegraph in 2015 and now writes for the online journal Middle East Eye.)
Alright, but that’s just one case…
I’ve listed ten here https://medium.com/p/f729646378e6. Each one a major ‘news’ story, each one a demonstrable fraud. These ten cover, at a guess, 90% of the ‘crisis’ coverage. The Big Three alone – the mural, the wreath and the irony – have all been cited thousands of times as evidence of this ‘crisis’.
And they’re all frauds.
To be clear: that is not denying antisemitism existed within Corbyn’s Labour party. It did, as it exists across society, though at a very low level. Statistics show antisemitism in Corbyn’s Labour Party at <0.1% of the membership. https://labourlist.org/2019/02/jennie-formby-provides-numbers-on-labour-antisemitism-cases/… A YouGov poll from 2017 found antisemitism, as measured by agreement with one or more antisemitic statements, significantly lower among Labour supporters than Conservative supporters. https://antisemitism.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Antisemitism-Barometer-2017.pdf… There’s also evidence from two YouGov polls of Labour supporters commissioned by the charity Campaign Against Antisemitism, taken in 2015 and 2017 – ie the year Corbyn became Leader and two years after that – which found that antisemitism fell significantly over this period. https://skwawkbox.org/2018/03/29/exclusive-caa-yougov-data-show-labour-significantly-less-antisemitic-under-corbyn/… The more the new members flooded into the party, the fewer antisemites there were as a percentage.
None of this has ever been mentioned by our media. BBC, again, had to be forced to publish the correct figure, and even when they did they first exaggerated it tenfold and then claimed it was ‘disputed’ (it isn’t). They have never talked about it.
Every case is important, of course: there just weren’t many of them.
There is no statistical evidence of a ‘crisis’, or anything resembling one.
So Jeremy Corbyn’s comment, on publication of the EHRC report into antisemitism in the Labour Party, that accusations had been ‘dramatically over-stated for political reasons’, is difficult to dispute. A Survation poll conducted in 2019 found many people believed the figure was as high as 30%: it was in fact less than one tenth of one percent, and falling under his leadership.
All our media are accused. For seven years and counting. The evidence is unarguable and overwhelming, and the conclusion inescapable: we’ve been lied to, on a scale rarely witnessed in any of our lifetimes, and we’re still being lied to today. There never was a ‘Labour antisemitism crisis’; our media simply made it up.
So yes, for most people, asking them to believe that is like asking them to swallow a horse, which is why we break it down into manageable chunks, such as what exactly Chris Williamson did or did not say. A conspiracy theory relies on frauds; we rely on facts. If there’s a conspiracy theory here, it’s that there ever existed any such thing as a ‘Labour antisemitism crisis’.
The second accusation is, of course, antisemitism. Well, what else? #ItWasAScam demonstrates that fraudulent accusations of antisemitism were made, and is itself promptly the subject of – fraudulent accusations of antisemitism. It’s neatly circular, if perhaps a little trite. We are charged with ‘accusing Jews of lying’.
Plainly, provably false. #ItWasAScam accuses some members of the PLP and the entirety of our mainstream media, both state and commercial, of fraud. Claiming that’s antisemitic necessarily means first claiming that our politics and media are – well, Jews. And I’m no expert, but I rather suspect there might be something of a trope lurking somewhere in there? #ItWasAScam accuses the Archbishop of Canterbury and, the last time I checked anyway, he isn’t Jewish. Many supporters of the hashtag and many victims of the scam are themselves Jewish. The accusation is absurd.
#ItWasAScam makes credible and well evidenced claims anyone can check for themselves, that our political/media estate created and sustained a monstrous fraud – the ‘Labour antisemitism crisis’ – which distorted our democracy to such an extent that the legitimacy of the General Elections of 2017 and 2019 can plausibly be called into question, and which is still operative today.
Lives have been ruined, careers destroyed, reputations shredded. Good, decent people, many of them lifelong Labour members and activists and many of them themselves Jewish, have been subjected to rough justice, thrown to the media pack, hounded, doxed, threatened, libelled, traduced. Persecuted.
One example: I was handing out #ItWasAScam leaflets outside the Labour Conference in Brighton last September. A woman approached me and told me she was Jewish, had been an activist in the party her whole political life (she was now in later middle-age) and had just had her Conference pass disabled. She’d had an email saying she was under investigation for antisemitism. While she was telling me this, her eyes started to fill up, and do did mine. These are real people, these who have been so casually slandered and mocked and cast out, real people, whose feelings are important and whose stories need to be heard.
Words matter. Reality matters. Truth matters. #ItWasAScam is about nothing more nor less than what’s true and what’s false, what’s real and not real. What happened and what did not happen.
And if that doesn’t matter, nothing matters.
Editors note: in an earlier version of this article the amount of antisemitism was reported as >1%, it should have read <1%. This has now been corrected.