Red Smear | Why the Press Painted Corbyn as a Communist

On the 9th of June Jeremy Corbyn, a man with a face like a kindly, but worn old shoe, led the Labour party as it secured 262 seats in the British parliament. This successfully denied a majority to the Tories, the Slytherin House of the British government. Winning those seats was no small feat, Corbyn was beset on all sides by the unscrupulous Tories, dissenters within the Labour ranks, and notably; the mainstream press.

The campaign of misrepresentation, mockery, and general unpleasantness was spearheaded by the Tabloids. Of course, the broadsheets weren’t innocent, The Guardian being a notable participant in the media point-and-sputter.

The initial wave of coverage attempted to frame Corbyn as an unpopular, ineffectual leader. He was referred to as ‘Jezter’, which is like a jester but with Jez, his name, attached to it. These jabs were baseless, as Corbyn is currently the most elected leader of Labour ever. The next attempt at discrediting him was an old right wing classic: calling Corbyn a dirty, filthy, freedom hatin’ Commie.

This tactic is nothing new, the right has always attempted to undermine the left by framing their policies as subversive Soviet sabotage. This grand old tradition of calling people you disagree with gulag-crazy reds harks back to the 1940s.

Jeremy Corbyn -
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The McCarthy era, or the second red scare, came about in opposition to the growing influence of labour unions and because of good ol’ fashioned hysteria. Named after Wisconsin senator and froth-at-the-mouth demagogue, Joseph McCarthy, this era defined the mainstream perception of communism.  

Originally the movement was intended to counter Soviet espionage, but it quickly became a witch hunt that ruined innocent people’s lives; imprisoning hundreds and causing tens of thousands to lose their livelihoods. Under McCarthyism everything from child labour laws to homosexuality were framed as sinister communist plots designed to undermine truth, justice, and unregulated oilgarcism.

This theme of vague ‘bad things’ has become a key part of any conservative smear campaign; framing social reform as a direct attack on the fabric of society and those supporting left wing policies as being saboteurs or turn coats. Large media companies, like say, News Corp tend to frown upon such policies.

The press

Corbyn is a republican living in a monarchy, a vociferous activist, and a proud democratic socialist. His policies are strikingly left leaning; featuring an introduction of a £10 minimum wage and higher taxes for the richest in society. The richest, like the high ups in News Corp.

Repeatedly the press accused Corbyn of being some manner of Marxist extremist, only a few votes away from sparking a revolution, punching the Queen and punting her corgis into the Thames. Throughout the course of this smear campaign Corbyn was compared to Chairman Mao by The Sunday Times, because he owned a bicycle. He was compared to Vladimir Lenin by The Sun because they have similar-ish hats.

He was accused of hating the Queen and loving the RA (that’s considered a bad thing in England). Finally he was chastised for his unwillingness to purge the enemies of the British Empire in the nihilistic holocaust of nuclear armageddon.

Corbyn hat -
Image via The Sun

All these smear attempts are very much in the mold of a McCarthy witch hunt; Corbyn was painted as subversive, un-British, and a gulag-crazy tyrant. On top of that when they weren’t calling him names they were blatantly misrepresenting him. A study held by the London School of Economics found that 74% of the reporting on Corbyn either distorted or omitted his views entirely.

His policies were framed as ‘radicalised’ and ‘hard left’, critics repeatedly called him a Leninist, Trot, Marxist, and a straight up communist. Nowhere in the Labour manifesto is there any call for the abolition of private property, revolution, or a dictatorship of the proletariat. All it contains is fully costed, sensible social policies, which are very dull and don’t so much as hint at the construction of gulags.

Here we, here we, here we fucking go

The machinations of the Tories and the civil war raging within Labour made Corbyn’s campaign an uphill battle. The addition of the press’ hackery made this particular battle one where apes with notepads screamed and flung shit from the sidelines. Despite this Corbyn managed to tap into a huge wave of support from young, politically engaged voters. They formed a grassroots rebuttal to the smearing of the mainstream media, reporting on the successes of Corbyn’s campaign with more accuracy, honesty, and integrity than seasoned journalists.

The standard-issue red scare tactics didn’t work on young voters, who for the most part were born after the collapse of the Soviet Union. These young voters had watched right wing neo-liberal policies steal their future. They were angry at the greed that had led to an economic crash that obliterated many opportunities available to them. They were rallying against the godawful mess that was Brexit

Corbyn campaign -
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‘Comrade Corbyn’ took to the streets and actually talked to his voters. He eschewed the usual political posturing and condescension in favor of innovative tactics like good policies and principles.

For young people who are increasingly losing faith in capitalism, he was a welcome alternative. This election saw a massive youth turnout of 75%, robbing May and the Tories of their majority government and increased Labour’s share of the vote by more than any other of the party’s election leaders since 1945.

This mobilised youth vote could be the only thing that can bring down the posh shiteheap that is the Tory party, and the wildly irresponsible neo-liberal parties that squat in what seems to be every government in the world.

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