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Jeremy Corbyn: Casts himself as a victim of “McCarthyite” intolerance (Chris McAndrew CC BY 3.0)

The corruption of language always precedes the corruption of society. You should know that trouble is upon you when words are turned upside down and pulled inside out. The most violent twisting in our day is found in the propaganda of vicious men and women who want the world to see them as victims rather than aggressors. They would have you believe that spite from their lips is no longer menacing but a legitimate response to the provocation of powerful and sinister forces.

The viciousness cannot be doubted. No one can hold on to the old national myth that Britain is a gentle, moderate country. Read the papers or surf the web and it seems as if it is on the verge of civil war. The Daily Mail calls judges “enemies of the people”, Conservative politicians who oppose Brexit “traitors”, and members of the House of Lords “saboteurs” for defending British membership of the single market.

The Corbyn Left uses identical language to denounce Labour MPs and supporters. Here is Chris Williamson, a Corbynite MP, on his colleagues who broke with their leader when he implied that Russia might not have been behind the chemical weapons attack in Salisbury. They were “baying for blood”, he said, and had to be purged. “We mustn’t allow the tiny minority of irrelevant malcontents that sit on the green benches on the House of Commons to deter party members.”

So similar is the invective, you could write a catchall piece of prose that might appear as easily in the Mail or an Owen Jones column:

An elitist hatred of the people/Labour members (delete where applicable) drives the coup-leaders and malcontents. Don’t listen to them. They have no honest motives, only grubby personal ambition and a desire to please their corrupt friends in the liberal elite/neocon establishment. Here is our ultimatum. They must shut up and respect the referendum result/Jeremy’s mandate. If they persist with their treason, we must crush, expel and deselect them before they sabotage the people’s will.

Like gangsters and spoiled children, Right and Left know the best way to justify their malice is to blame their crimes on everyone but themselves. In a textbook example of the manoeuvre, Jeremy Corbyn cast himself as a victim of “McCarthyite intolerance of dissent” after he was criticised for refusing to accept Russian culpability for the Salisbury attack.

Far from being sinister, Corbyn said he was the moral equivalent of the leftists and former leftists whom Senator Joe McCarthy persecuted because they were once members of the American Communist Party. Understand the true meaning of the word, and you will understand his brazenness. In the 1950s, Hollywood scriptwriters and directors were fired, not because they were producing communist propaganda or were still communists, but because they had once been communists in their youth. McCarthyism, if it means anything in the 21st century, means the punishment of people for opinions that are irrelevant to their work. Now Corbyn and the wider Left say it is “McCarthyite” to hold politicians to account for political opinions, which are the essence of their work. They damn the normal mechanisms of democracy as persecution and demand the sympathy we feel for the persecuted for themselves.
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