The veneer of sophistication, tolerance and intellectual rigour that had previously attached to the member for times long past Jacob Rees Mogg began to fracture recently with his use of Parliamentary privilege to defame someone of inconvenient view. It has, whisper it quietly, now been utterly shattered after an outburst during a Commons debate.
Rees Mogg used a crude and blatant anti-Semitic smear to attack Tory MP Oliver Letwin and Speaker John Bercow. You may not have heard about this; after all, newly-anointed anti-Semitism supremo John Mann has said and done nothing about it. Our free and fearless press has said and done likewise. There have been no carefully phrased articles from Gabriel Pogrund and Jake Wallis Simons. Why not?
Ah well. Here we need to consult Michael Berkowitz, historian at University College London, who has posted on “Jacob Rees Mogg’s alarming cry of ‘Illuminati’”. Here is what he has to say about the episode. “Few seem to have noticed an expressly antisemitic sentiment articulated by Jacob Rees-Mogg in the vociferous Brexit debate during the evening of Tuesday, 3 September 2019”. There is more.
“As a historian of antisemitism who has published on the stereotype of ‘Jewish criminality’ used by the Nazis and their accomplices, it was extremely unsettling for me to hear Rees-Moog castigate his opponents, particularly his two fellow Tories of Jewish background, Sir Oliver Letwin and Speaker John Bercow, as ‘Illuminati who are taking the powers to themselves.’” The utterance came as the Bill removing a No Deal Brexit was debated.
Here is what Berkowitz says about the term “Illuminati”: “Superficially, the term ‘Illuminati’ refers to a short-lived Central European fraternal organisation of the late eighteenth century. But far more significant than the actual, inconsequential history of this small organisation is the afterlife it has assumed in a number of conspiracy theories, which have been frequently used as justification for violence”. Do go on.
After noting three works which use the term, he tells “Common to all these works is the allegation that the ‘Illuminati’ infiltrated the ranks of European Jewish bankers in the nineteenth century. Following the lines of the notorious forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, these books assert that the bankers/Jews/Illuminati were behind the Bolshevik Revolution - as well as the creation of the Federal Reserve system in the United States. They then, so the tale continues, went on to form the influential American think tank Council on Foreign Relations and subsequently what the far-right refers to as The New World Order - whose tentacles are said to be comprised of institutions such as the United Nations and the European Union”. The full set of anti-Jewish conspiracy theories.
Berkowitz concludes “There is no other, anodyne usage of this term in current political discourse … With his nod to ‘Illuminati’ - pointed at Letwin and Bercow - Rees-Mogg is knowingly trafficking in the portrayal of Jews as underhanded and sinister … while studiously avoiding the word ‘Jew’, he has exhumed, embellished, and rebroadcast one of the most poisonous antisemitic canards in all of history”. Rees Mogg bang to rights.
As he’s entirely consistent, I expect John Mann to be down on Rees Mogg like the proverbial tonne of bricks, camera crew and all. Once someone has explained it to him.
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