The Media Reform Coalition condemns the distorted and skewed coverage of anti-semitism within the Labour Party by large sections of the UK media. To give one recent example of the countless inaccuracies and misleading statements made by the ‘serious’ press, the Sunday Times has claimed to have exposed a ‘hate factory’ targeting Jews on closed Facebook groups that support Jeremy Corbyn. Their exclusive reported evidence for this was “2,000 racist, antisemitic, misogynistic, violent and abusive messages” uncovered by their journalists, with no mention made of the actual number of anti-semitic comments identified or what criteria were used to identify them.
Even assuming that the total number of anti-semitic comments uncovered was indeed around 2000, across the 20 leading pro-Corbyn Facebook groups monitored (and assuming that none of them were made by people merely seeking to smear Corbyn and his supporters), this would represent a tiny fraction of the content posted on these pages by even the most conservative estimate (0.05%). Yet, for the Sunday Times, this was sufficient to describe anti-semitic hate speech as ‘routine’ and ‘rife’ among these groups.
All anti-semitic comment should be condemned. But the problem should not be trivilialised by inaccurate reporting clearly aimed at deligitimising an entire political movement, or a politician whose record on fighting anti-semitism is well-established.
We are also gravely concerned by the way in which Corbyn has been attacked for spending Passover hosted by a left-wing Jewish group. This exposes the underlying political agenda behind the coverage and raises serious questions about the way in which some journalists are assigning legitimacy to Jewish identity based on political leanings.
We are re-posting here a letter originally published in the Guardian with additional signatories:
One of the main concepts in journalism education is that of framing: the highlighting of particular issues, and the avoidance of others, in order to produce a desired interpretation. We have been reminded of the importance of framing when considering the vast amounts of media coverage of Jeremy Corbyn’s alleged failure to deal with antisemitism inside the Labour party. On Sunday, three national titles led with the story while news bulletins focused on the allegations all last week. Dominant sections of the media have framed the story in such a way as to suggest that antisemitism is a problem mostly to do with Labour and that Corbyn is personally responsible for failing to deal with it. The coverage has relied on a handful of sources such as the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Leadership Council and well-known political opponents of Corbyn himself.
Yet where are the Jewish voices who support Corbyn and who welcome his long-established anti-racist record? Where are the pieces that look at the political motivations of some of Corbyn’s most vocal critics? Where is the fuss in your news columns about the rising tide of antisemitism in Europe, such as in Hungary, where the Fidesz government has used antisemitic tropes to bolster its support, or in Poland, where the government is attempting to criminalise revelations about the country’s antisemitic past? Where are the columns condemning the links between Conservative MEPs and rightwing parties across Europe in the European Conservatives and Reformists Group which trade on antisemitism?
It is not “whataboutery” to suggest that the debate on antisemitism has been framed in such a way as to mystify the real sources of anti-Jewish bigotry and instead to weaponise it against a single political figure just ahead of important elections. We condemn antisemitism wherever it exists. We also condemn journalism that so blatantly lacks context, perspective and a meaningful range of voices in its determination to condemn Jeremy Corbyn.
Prof Des Freedman Goldsmiths, University of London
Justin Schlosberg Birkbeck, University of London
Prof Peter Golding, Northumbria University
Prof Lynne Segal Birkbeck, University of London
Prof Mica Nava, University of East London
Prof Greg Philo, Glasgow University
Prof Annabelle Sreberny SOAS, University of London
Prof Jeremy Gilbert, University of East London
Prof Joanna Zylinska Goldsmiths, University of London
Prof Bev Skeggs, London School of Economic
Prof Graham Murdock, Loughborough University
Prof James Curran, Goldsmiths, University of London
Prof Julian Petley, Brunel University
Prof Natalie Fenton, Goldsmiths, University of London
Prof David Miller, University of Bath
Prof David Buckingham, Loughborough University
Prof Gary Hall, Coventry University
Prof Neve Gordon, Queen Mary, University of London
Prof Michael Chanan, University of Roehampton
Prof John Storey, University of Sunderland
Prof Allan Moore, University of SurreyJo Littler City University
Dina Matar, SOAS, University of London
Bart Cammaerts, London School of Economics
Tom Mills, Aston University
William Merrin, Swansea University
Catherine Rottenberg, Goldsmiths, University of London
Richard Macdonald, Goldsmiths, University of London
Milly Williamson, Goldsmiths, University of London
Margaret Gallagher, Senior research consultant
Jane Dipple, University of Winchester
Gholam Khiabany, Goldsmiths, University of London
Peri Bradley, Bournemouth University
Dean Lockwood, University of Lincoln
Maria Chatzichristodoulou, London South Bank University
William Proctor, Bournemouth University
John Cunliffe, Birkbeck, University of London
Zeta Kolokythopoulu, London South Bank University
Becky Gardiner, Goldsmiths, University of London
Jill Daniels, University of East London
Michael Klontzas, University of Huddersfield
Seth Giddings, University of Southampton
Maria Sourbati, University of Brighton
Richard Smith, Goldsmiths, University of London
Ruth Catlow, Co-director, Furtherfield
Jonathan Eato, University of York
Michael Bailey, University of Essex
Theodore Koulouris, University of Brighton
Ken Fero, Coventry University
Daniel Ward, University of Sunderland
Shohini Chaudhuri, University of Essex