The usual rule for our free and fearless press is that when one of their own is attacked - by whatever means, whether verbally, in writing, legally or physically - they will stand in solidarity with whoever is attacked. This rule, though, has been given the modification of a significantly sized asterisk after campaigner and pundit Owen Jones was jumped outside the Lexington pub in Islington during the early hours of last Saturday morning.
Despite several right-leaning voices condemning the attack unequivocally, one of those being its own contributor the loathsome Toby Young, the increasingly alt-right Spectator magazine has managed to stand in less than total solidarity with Jones. Worse, both the magazine’s editor, and his boss, have pretended they were thus standing, while they knew full well - or should have figured out - that they were not.
The blogpost which claims to show solidarity with Jones is paywalled, and so no link will be provided, but what we do know about it is that it was written by the deeply unsavoury Rod Liddle, someone who knows a little about physical assault, as he is now the proud owner of a criminal record, having accepted a Police caution for that very offence.
The post begins “Much as the appalling Shami Chakrabarti has insisted, I stand ‘in solidarity’ with Owen Jones”. And off goes the bullshit detector: One, having to put that phrase in quotes means he does no such thing, and Two, oh look - the photo of Jones used is, most likely not accidentally, one that makes him look, well, a little camp.
Still, it was enough for Spectator editor Fraser Nelson to declare “In solidarity with Owen Jones. By Rod Liddle”. What he did not tell is that Liddle’s post attempted to equate violent physical assault with having a milkshake poured over someone. Jones had not issued sufficient condemnation of milkshaking. So the Speccy wasn’t really standing with him.
But it was enough for Spectator publisher Andrew Neil to get on his high horse and declare “I stood in solidarity with Mr Jones on live TV when he was attacked in Westminster. He immediately turned on me. I stand in solidarity with him again”. Did he really?
Jones’ recollection was rather different. “I didn’t turn on you. I held you accountable as the Chairman of a magazine which defends Greek neo-Nazis, demonises Muslims, said there wasn’t enough Islamophobia in the Tories, and is riddled with racism. The far right is fuelled by media outlets and you will be held to account”. Actually, the Speccy doesn’t just defend Greek neo-Nazis, it publishes praise for the Wehrmacht too.
That’s on top of the occasional anti-Semitism, straightforward racism, and yes, the rabid Islamophobia, the last-named ever-present with the Speccy continuing to publish the likes of Doug Murray The K. Moreover, Jones had read Liddle’s post: “(Oh by the way, that article by Rod Liddle - the pub bore’s racist - isn’t an expression of solidarity, obviously, just standard trolling from a racist magazine which thinks bigots having a milkshake thrown at them is akin to being karate kicked to the ground)”. Well, quite.
That the Spectator - with the clear approval of its editor and publisher - pretends to stand in solidarity with Owen Jones, while weaselling out of doing so, tells you all you need to know about the rotten state of right-leaning journalism today. I’ll just leave that one there.
Enjoy your visit to Zelo Street? You can help this truly independent blog carry on talking truth to power, while retaining its sense of humour, by adding to its Just Giving page at