Double Standards: a case of selective outrage

JVL Introduction

Michael Rosen is a model of restraint in this latest post on his blog.

A few days ago, as he points out, a doctored image appeared on twitter of a page from his universally loved “We’re going on a Bear Hunt”.

It was the image of Jeremy Corbyn reading to a group of children – but now he is reading something from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Pretty shabby. As Rosen said, “loathsome and antisemitic”.

And made even shabbier by the fact that the person who posted the doctored image is a university lecturer and a Director of Labour Against Antisemitism.

But not to worry. Surely all those who found antisemitism at the drop of a pin when Jeremy was leader will now be rallying against a grotesquely offensive, distorted fabrication.

Surely Dave Rich of the CST is there vying with Alan Johnson of Fathom magazine to be the first to condemn this, with Marie van der Zyl of the Board of Deputies coming in close behind.

But hang on. Nothing. Shtum to every last hypocrite among them…

This article was originally published by Michel Rosen's blog on Sun 23 May 2021. Read the original here.

Double Standards: a case of selective outrage

Saturday, 22 May 2021


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.

Comments (24)

  • Linda says:

    Rosen is quite obviously much nicer and more tolerant than I am. In the same circumstances I WOULD be calling for the Director of Labour Against Antisemitism to be sacked from LAA. I’d also be asking LAA to publicly repudiate and apologise for what their Director had done.

  • Gorria says:

    Is there any petition to submit our signatures to the Vice Chair of Northumbria University requesting the dismissal of Dr Pete Newbon for engaging on antisemitism?
    I would gladly add my name, if JVL publishes the link.
    I agree with Linda’s comment too.

  • DJ says:

    They go low Rosen goes high. Hang your heads in shame LAA and your co conspirators.

  • John Bowley says:

    I am glad to see that Michael Rosen has made an excellent recovery from the very serious illness which he had, to the extent that he is neatly and calmly calling out the hypocrites which we nowadays have in such over abundance.

  • John Morgan says:

    Do these Directors of Labour Against Anti-Semitism have names?

    While I respect Michael Rosen’s statement that he does not want someone sacked, it might be nice to know who not to vote for.

  • Alan Wallace says:

    Is it possible to compile a collection of examples of the experiences of the so-called “wrong kind of Jews” (to use Michale Rosen’s term) of which there are clearly very, very many. There is something about scale which eventually demands a response from even the most obtuse of the ostrich type of politician, journalist or commentator and the example are mounting . If there is a shift in the general tenor of response to what is happening in Palestine (see e.g.’ recent articles by Freedland in the Guardian), then maybe there will at last be movement away from the blind and unthinking acceptance of the right’s monopoly definition of what constitutes anti-semitism.

  • Jack T says:

    Another wise and amazing man here but similar to Michael Rosen, ‘the wrong type of Jew’

  • John Burton says:

    Well done Michael. You are an example to us all and you give me hope. Thank you.

  • Mary Davies says:

    Solidarity with the wonderful, principled Michael Rosen.

  • George Wilmers says:

    A recent post on the LAAS website shows a photo of the slogan “Jewish lies matter” painted on a wall, and observes with uncharacteristic restraint that “The clearly political nature of this graffiti is very concerning. It was sprayed on a wall just down the road from one synagogue & within 5 minutes walk from two others.”

    Unusually I find myself in agreement with the content of an LAAS post.
    But who is more responsible for antisemitic graffiti of this kind than the LAAS itself, together with the CAA, the Board of Deputies and the legion of cynical politicians and collaborators in the yellow media who have been spewing forth endless lies and defamation for the last five years?
    Given that such people (1) falsely claim that political Zionism is inseparable from Jewish identity, (2) consistently defend the indefensible atrocities of the apartheid state in the name of a settler colonial ideology which they conflate with Judaism, and (3) falsely accuse anyone with any sense of human decency of “antisemitism”, why should they be surprised when ordinary people interpret these ethnonationalist ravings literally. and in their confusion begin to wonder if antisemitism might not after all be rational?

    As Jonathan Cook has correctly observed such people are objectively inciters of antisemitism, and none more so than the present leader of the labour party.

  • The simple lessons to be drawn from this is that:
    i. Labour Against Antisemitism should be sued under the Trades Description Act
    ii. The Labour ‘antisemitism’ affair was never about anti-Semitism and

    iii. Newbon should be sacked for racism or rather people should refuse to work with him and students should boycott the lessons of this so-called academic

  • Alan Marsden says:

    I understand and applaud Michael Rosen’s restraint but he is on this occasion siding too much with the angels. Dr Peter Newbon and his ilk need calling out for their vicious attacks on decent Socialists. The impunity that Rosen offers them is the last thing truth and justice require.

  • Ruth Sharratt says:

    Doesn’t this parody potentially break copyright laws? If so then the tweeter/LAA should be sued, asked to remove the image and proffer a full apology. Of course they should do all this anyway.

  • Susan greaves says:

    So glad Michael is recovered. This story is monstrous. One good thing might come out of it which is that this organisation Labour Against Antisemitism must now be viewed as entirely disreputable by any half decent person who mistakenly might believe otherwise.

  • Hazel Davies says:

    Personally, I feel that anyone who could doctor an image in such an offensive and antisemitic form is totally unsuitable to work in a university. Certainly not to tutor students! Such conduct is vile!

  • goldbach says:

    My memory isn’t what it was. Am I correct in my recollection that LAA was amongst those involved in an attempt to get Michael Rosen and Ken Loach removed from a panel judging a competition, alleging that they were both antisemitic?

  • Rory Allen says:

    Courage and honesty are the only ways out of the cess pit of lies and hatred in which we find ourselves. Michael Rosen has given an example of both courage and honesty in his measured response. Perhaps I should add intelligence to this mix. It may seem that the promoters of hatred are winning, but while there are few sane voices speaking out like this, there is hope for us.

  • Allan Howard says:

    What sort of mindset conceives of such an idea?! Oh, right, and it was such an amusing idea it just HAD to be realised!

    Well I mean, how could one resist doing so, and amusing all those other people out there with the same mindset – ie the tens of thousands that know that Jeremy Corbyn was ‘transformed’ into an anti-semite with massive Big black Lies and falsehoods and distortion and mountain-loads of faux outrage AND who found it endlessly amusing as it was happening at every ‘step’.

    I know what *I* call them!

    And needless to say, none of these groups who have conspired in the A/S black op against Jeremy and the left had anything to say about Marie van der Zyl’s massive falsehood about Jeremy spending more and more time with terrorists etc. And THAT tells you ALL you need to know about THEM, and how legitimate their claims of A/S against Jeremy and Ken and Jackie and Chris and many others ARE!:

  • Linda says:

    @ John Morgan (“Do these LAA Directors have names?”).

    I think Skwarkbox did a recent post about the same incident prompting this article. Skwarkbox showed the Companies House data on the LAA (names and some personal info – the same info on Directors is required of every company).

    The Directors’ addresses listed (Kemp House) must be LAA’s registered company address.

  • Mike Brogan says:

    They won’t get in touch Michael , they are hypocrites and they are aware of the fact.

  • Paul Leach says:

    We are entitled to be heartily sick of this prolonged attack on the integrity of a man who has served his party for decades. For five years Corbyn endured establishment approbrium but lead his party to its best electoral performance (2017) in years. One should ask of Keir Starmer “Do you really sanction this persecution of the former leader whom you supported to become Prime minister, and for whom 10.3 million Britons voted in 2019?” Don’t they know an anti-Semite when they see one? The spiteful and hurtful posting of a malicious meme that someone of supposed intelligence wasted his time creating speaks to a scorched earth political vendetta that achieved its original ends but careers onward powered, it seems, by a visceral hatred all its own. The author of this slander seems to have lost sight of the moral imperative of countering anti-Semitic hate, indulging instead in a simple undenominated hatred he carries in his own heart.
    Enough !

  • Kathleen Bellucci says:

    Really shameful behaviour against Michael Rosen and Jeremy Corbyn, I did not know about “The Protocols” but I do now. Michael has every right to be very angry at this individual, but both are dignified and honest, something that this man is not. But the silence is the most shocking and shows the hypocrisy and lengths that right will go to to discredit good people.

  • To be clear: the main copyright that is breached is Getty Images who own the original image. As ‘Bear Hunt’ is pictured in a news photo, tampering with the text of the book is not a breach of copyright. The parody of lines from the book is fair use under rules in England to do with parody and satire. The overall message of the whole tweet could be disputed but no one would win such a case. As for my issue, I would have to prove that the doctored image of our book damaged my reputation (does it?) and/or that it caused me harm and distress. (does it?) I’ve said over and over again, I defend the right for someone to create the satire but I object to what it says. That’s not in order to ban it, or for Newbon to be sacked. Calls for this are, I think, misguided. As for the matter of proving that either the whole tweet or my part of it (ie purely and simply the defaced image of ‘Bear Hunt’) is antisemitic is now legally a matter of opinion. The main reason why the law doesn’t want to be prescriptive on this is that the amount of litigation that would stack up with charge and countercharge would be huge! (Finally, we should be very careful to demand that the state increase its powers in areas of culture. Whatever tiny victories the left might win, we would be sure to lose big time overall.)

  • Kuhnberg says:

    I am not in the least surprised by this story or the apparent impunity of those who launch false accusations of antisemitism for political purposes. The great opinion-formers of our times – schools, print media, television, ‘centrist’ politicians, judges: in other words, the right in all of its manifestations — have decided that in this debate only those who launch an accusation can be in the right. Thus Jeremy Corbyn, a good man who has been scandalously calumniated ever since he became leader of the Labour Party, can do nothing about it, and the calumniators everywhere go scot free, to calumniate whoever they want.

    We are dealing here with a tyrannical orthodoxy that allows no opposition. When someone on the left points this out, the orthodoxy complains that it, and it alone, is the victim of ‘cancel culture.’ Those who have seen through this disgraceful assault on those who would speak up for the oppressed have no power of redress.

    Fortunately the great body of young people are refusing, as always, to play by the rules; instead they make their opinions felt on the streets. Uncensored social media, which comes in for so much criticism, is here proving to be a force for good. What is happening in Israel is being captured on video that can be viewed by everyone in their own homes,and the shapers of orthodox opinion have so far found no reliable way to combat those compelling images. Nonetheless they are trying to combat them, and will continue to find ways of doing so with increasing vigor. Julian Assange sits in a cell in HM prison Belmarsh in conditions that amount to torture as punishment for exposing the war crimes of the USA, and traditional media like The Guardian — the same organ that benefitted from his most radical scoops — make not a single squeak of protest. We should remember this when we add our own voices to the protest against the detention of a journalist in Belarus: the UK and the US do precisely the same thing when it enables them to insulate the public from any truth that is inconvenient to their control of the narrative.

    In the foreword to ‘Cyberpunks’ Assange wrote: “the Internet, our greatest tool for emancipation, has been transformed into the most dangerous facilitator of totalitarianism we have ever seen.” It is the absolute duty of anyone who opposes this process to keep the truth alive by every means jn their possession.

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