The controversy surrounding Derby North MP Chris Williamson continues. Some of those passing comment have been measured in their approach; others have appeared as if they are emulating the pouring of petrol on a bonfire. Some interventions have been unexpected, and with the pronouncement of Billy Bragg, we have an unexpected intervention in the petrol-pouring category. Maybe even the whole can.
Bragg begins in a calm and reasoned manner, as might be expected from one of the left’s more level-headed people, before making a move that is way too clumsy to call a mis-step. “Been getting some negative responses to my comment that Chris Williamson is part of the problem that Labour has with anti-semitism, rather than the solution. Here's a thread explaining why I believe this to be the case” he tells. OK. What’s his response?
“To dismiss those sensitivities on a purely legalistic reading of CW's comment is to underestimate the role that insensitive statements play in the normalising of abusive behaviour. Take the example of Carl Benjamin, the misogynistic YouTube provocateur aka Sargon of Akkad”. Woah! WHAT? And how does he stand that one up?
“In 2016 he tweeted “I wouldn’t even rape you” to Labour MP Jess Phillips, in a message featuring the tag #feminismiscancer. Phillips said she subsequently received over 600 rape threats. When confronted about his comment, Benjamin doubled down … the insensitivity of a man using the threat of rape as a means to put down a woman was clear to all but a tiny minority of free speech warriors and misogynists. When Benjamin was adopted by UKIP as a candidate for the EU elections, the party paid a high price”. No. Just no.
But let’s allow him to finish. “Had Benjamin got away with his 'I'm only joking' defence, it would have emboldened misogynists everywhere”. No again. But do go on. "Like Benjamin's rape comment, it sent a message that CW doesn't care what the victims of abuse think. Given the Labour Party's proud tradition of standing up for the rights of victims, such an insensitive attitude should not be tolerated”. Ri-i-i-ght.
Let’s get one matter out of the way first: Carl Benjamin’s disgraceful attack on Jess Phillips was not the reason UKIP gained no seats at all in the European Parliament elections. The party was already dead, led astray by Adolf von Batten into far-right street-protest territory and effectively supplanted by the Brexit Party.
Let’s also nail one other point: Williamson has on at least two occasions made apologies for any offence he caused. Because, while he has caused offence to some, he has not intended to cause offence. Benjamin’s whole modus operandi, on the other hand, is about both deliberately causing offence, and not apologising for it. Hence the use of the term “Edgelord” to describe him and others like Mark Meechan, aka Count Dankula.
Carl Benjamin. Very failed non-politician
And let’s not lose sight of the minor detail that the comment that got Williamson suspended from the Labour Party was taken out of context: he was defending his party’s record on anti-racism, not trying to diminish the acts of those being racist. Yes, he was clumsy, and yes, he may have offended some, but he wasn’t setting out to offend. Benjamin was.
The rush to condemn seems to be starting earlier and earlier. I’ll just leave that one there.
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