Saturday 22 May 2021

Double Standards: a case of selective outrage

 Chapter 2 (Chapter 1 follows this)

A doctored image appears on twitter. The image is one from several years ago of Corbyn reading 'We're Going on a Bear Hunt' by me and Helen Oxenbury published by Walker Books. The doctoring leaves everything intact, apart from the book, on to which is superimposed the words 'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion'. Accompanying this is a parody of some of the words from the book. I reacted by calling it 'loathsome and antisemitic'. For people interested in knowing why these obscure words matter so much, please read the wiki entry on it or take my word for it that this was a highly influential antisemitic text fraudulently claiming to be by Jews who aimed to take over the world. Henry Ford published half a million of them, the document still circulates. It is possible to argue that it fuelled pogroms and the propaganda machine of the Nazis, including 'Mein Kampf'. 

I didn't say that the person who did this tweet was 'an antisemite'. I said that what had been done to our book was 'antisemitic'. I had a name for who posted this doctored image but knew nothing about him. 

The person has the name of his university on his profile. I wrote to him at his university address; I wrote him a private message on Facebook. No reply. I contacted his university. I did this because as him and me are both academics this might be a suitable arena in which to talk about this. At no stage did I seek to have him sacked or even suspended. I always made this explicit. Indeed, later when people on twitter responded by saying he should be sacked, I wrote repeatedly that I didn't want him sacked - not that my word has that sort of power anyway! Far from it. 

I also contacted Hope not Hate and the Jewish Chronicle, thinking that they would be horrified by this use of the title of 'The Protocols' on a book which has my name on it. I tried to think of analogies - putting the name of the KKK on to a book by a person of colour, perhaps more particularly an African American. Wouldn't that be equally outrageous? And equivalent.

In the kerfuffle that followed, the university got in touch with me. That's confidential for the moment but I consistently and repeatedly said on no account was I looking for him to be sacked and that I would accept an apology. 

I hope this gives some context for what followed: many people seemed to like the overall image of Corbyn reading our doctored book, as it was a satire of Corbyn's alleged antisemitism. Some claimed that there was no way of knowing that the book was connected to me. This requires people looking at the tweet, to not recognise the words of the parody, not recognise the book, not recognise the original picture before it was doctored, and even to claim that the tweeter didn't know this himself.  It's for others to judge whether 'Bear Hunt' is more known than others have claimed. 

There have also been arguments about how really the total image is an attack on Corbyn and is nothing to do with me. I have said repeatedly that I haven't addressed the matter of the total image. I am only and specifically talking about how our book has been doctored with one of the names of one of the most notorious antisemitic documents of all time. Just that ie the single matter of how I am affected by that image.

A good deal of effort has been put into trying to prove that I am not entitled to object to this use of the words and the doctored image taken from our book. 

It emerged in this that the tweeter in question is a director of Labour Against Antisemitism. (Please remember that). I didn't know this until people told me after my original tweet about how I found the doctored image 'loathsome and antisemitic'. 

Finally, no public condemnation of this doctored image has come from any of the bodies or individuals who have raised the matter of alleged antisemitism in the Labour Party has appeared. Not one. 

This surprises me. 

 I genuinely and naively thought that the doctoring was so obvious and blatant that bodies that might in other circumstances disagree with me or even hate me would be so appalled by this flippant use of the name of this famously horrible document that they would want to condemn it. After all, most of these bodies refer to me as 'Jewish' so it's a Jewish person being defiled. Horror? No. 

People will remember that during the furore about alleged antisemitism in the Labour Party, it was repeatedly stated that the victims of antisemitism are entitled to declare it: if you are Jewish and feel that people have been antisemitic towards you, then that's what it is. Victims' call, if you like. Clearly, this rule has not been applied to my situation. Double standards? 

Instead, I've received a stream of outraged tweets that have either a) approved of the overall image or b) falsely claimed that I had tried to get the tweeter sacked. Please note that. 

Chapter 1

Several years ago I was presenting a radio programme on legal language. This is in a programme I present. I wasn't being hired as an expert or contributor. One of the directors (not the one who doctored the image of Corbyn reading 'Bear Hunt') of Labour Against Antisemitism tweeted directly to the BBC saying that I shouldn't be allowed to do this. I should be taken off air because - and there was a set of reasons for this including that I am, he claimed a 'racist ****er' (his asterisks). 

In other words, he was demanding that the BBC sack me. 

Strangely, this too, has not received condemnation from any of the sources who have been outraged by alleged antisemitism in the Labour Party. 


So here we have an example of 'selective outrage'. When Rosen contacts the university of one of the Directors of Labour Against Antisemitism, this is supposedly my outrageous attempt to remove the tweeter from his job. (It isn't,  because I have repeatedly made clear that that is not what I was seeking by way of a response.)

When another Director of Labour Against Antisemitism explicitly tries to remove Rosen from his job, there is silence. No condemnation. No outrage. 

Double standards?

I assume from all this that I am in effect the 'wrong kind of Jew'. 

As always in the matter of the doctored image and the parody of the book's words (ie the tweet), I have said that I would be happy to resolve this matter, should the tweeter get in touch with me directly and confidentially.