Article: John Lynch Sodium Haze
Its time that people in the Labour movement woke up to how dangerous Owen Jones is – dangerous because he wants a swift return Labour failures of the past – dangerous because he bats for the status quo while pretending not to – dangerous because he has a platform in the corporate media.
Given all the exciting changes happening on the UK political landscape, his articles miraculously remain comfortably within the electric fence of permissible views that right-wing politicians and media outlets enforce.
He oft appears at left wing rallies as a bizarre ‘celebrity’ pundit and he clearly values his ‘activist’ status. The trouble is, his value for the media types that pay his wages depends on his ability to pour scorn on genuine socialist agitation from inside the movements he lambasts.
Owen’s need for influence both within activist circles and the establishment media necessitates some egregious lip service to socialist principles, but his articles always end up with him supporting the establishment’s views.
Owen can’t seem to separate what ingratiates himself to people he views as important (hacks in the corporate media and politicians), what facilities his career and what the truth is. While some playing this shell game retain some awareness of what they are doing, I think Owen genuinely believes that we need his specious pronouncements like a needy child needs a good parent.
Owen has boundless self belief and drips with the sincerity of an embattled victim and a heroic crusader. As we learnt from Tony Blair, the ability to get people to like you (Owen makes much of his huge social media following) twinned with winsome eyes of victimhood and a quick tongue are no substitutes for actual principles. Owen Jones is exactly the kind of person who turns into a Tony Blair, someone who has done such a headfuck on himself that he believes his own headlines.
Lets examine two recent sermons that define his art.
In perfect harmony with The Guardian (and the rest of the corporate media) we observe his brand of pragmatic collusion while endorsing Hilary Clinton.
His readers are invited to notice that Hilary Clinton isn’t Donald Trump. No matter how venal, deceitful and downright dangerous Hilary Clinton is, she isn’t Donald Trump and therefore we should endorse her at the ballot box. As this off-guardian article explains acidly:
The likes of Jones are paid to surrender their dignity and ethics and pretend this macabre farce is something called “democracy”, and to sell the decaying relics offered up for candidacy as if they were real choices. That doesn’t mean we have to pretend to believe them. If I were a US citizen I’d take the only truly free choice left and decline to play this game of fake reality any longer. And if we all did that, the game would be over, wouldn’t it.
Owen Jones is the bully of pragmatism – he talks the talk:
the Sanders phenomenon is a beacon – and proof that political change can be achieved, however gruelling and difficult it often is.
But when push comes to shove…
Yes, his most zealous supporters refuse to distinguish between Clinton and Donald Trump. There is nothing radical about failing to take a stand on a far-right racist demagogue sweeping to power in what remains the world’s most powerful nation.
Those sane people who refuse to endorse a racist lunatic like Trump OR a neocon shill like Clinton are thus placed into a box marked “silly people” and invited to swallow the laughable idea that a Clinton administration will give a hoot about left wing sensibilities once elected. Even for Owen Jones this paragraph is utterly ridiculous and deceitful:
The task ahead is to ensure Trump’s defeat – as decisively as possible – and Democratic control of both Houses of Congress, and then to build pressure from below to enact progressive legislation.
Owen knows as well as we do, that a Clinton administration elected with a broad base of support will feel emboldened – nay entitled to do whatever it wants with the mandate given to it – and Hilary’s corporate sponsors will want (and get) their money’s worth.
Owen never stands for anything which might mean a genuine struggle to change the political landscape – we must merely adapt as he does. His message is crystal clear – accept the options that are provided and vote for the least worst, this apparently representing some kind of noble enlightened sacrifice. Poor Owen bleeds about Hilary and Bernie:
I desperately wanted Sanders to become President, not just for the United States, but in the interests of the world as a whole.
Owen always weeps with sorrow about not getting what he really believes in before inviting you to support its antithesis – in this case Clinton.
I regard her, yes, as a pro-war establishment corporate politician, much like those who have dominated US politics for a long time.
And he further fluffs his left wing feathers thus:
A Clinton administration will fail to deal with the monstrous inequalities and injustice which define US society, the inequalities and injustices which partly led to the rise of Trump in the first place.
But Owen supports that status quo – vote for her anyway because we have no alternative. That is always his message – give up any hope of getting out of the mesh – support the corporate friendly options provided.
Media Lens said this about him in a 2014 Media Alert:
In truth, Jones is part of an Oxbridge, Guardian/Observer/Independent/New Statesman/BBC niche on the ‘liberal-left’ of the Establishment. It is acceptable because it indeed does not offer the kind of radical perspectives needed to question the very foundations of the status quo.
In a review of Jones’s book in the Independent, Archie Bland – former Independent foreign, Saturday and deputy editor, now senior writer – asked ‘whether Jones himself, a prominent, well-connected figure who knows powerful people on first-name terms, counts as part of the Establishment, or an establishment, anyway…’
His latest missive is horribly misjudged and we at The Haze have hope that this may yet see him displaced from his season ticket atop left wing platforms.
Flowing from a clickbait headline that would feel at home in The Sun or The Telegraph:
“Questions all Jeremy Corbyn supporters must answer”
Owen goes on to recycle every attack line used to berate Corbyn and his supporters – including the oft repeated insinuation that (like Bernie Sander’s supporters who won’t get with the program and vote for Hilary Clinton) we are all stupid and don’t know what is best for us.
He opens the article defending a deserving cause – Owen Jones.
Labour and the left teeter on the brink of disaster. There, I said it. I’ll explain why. But first, it has become increasingly common in politics to reduce disagreements to bad faith.
In other words ,we are not allowed to question his motives, how he earns a living and the role he plays on the political landscape – if we do, he raises the straw man argument that he has to be wholly uncritical of Corbyn or be labelled a traitor.
There are some who expect me to mount an uncritical defence of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and leave it at that, suppressing any fears that I have…my failure to do so has led to a number of charges being levelled against me.
Let us be clear – I might have some criticisms of Corbyn, nobody is forcing me to censor them and nobody is forcing Owen – he plays the victim card to try and occupy a moral and intellectual high ground that we are invited to accept without question. Thus he draws attention away from his establishment supporting views and puts the onus of justification on to his critics – a sly trick.
He shores up credentials as a sacred scribe for the left by name dropping all the political people he has access to via the well trodden path of University College, Oxford and a job at Westminster.
I was at the first Corbyn campaign meeting, and the last campaign meeting, too. I not only spoke at Jeremy Corbyn leadership rallies: I introduced him at the final one. I helped choose the name for Momentum. This isn’t a milieu that I know well: it’s a milieu I’m part of.
But as this article on the World Socialist site notes:
Jones was prepared to bask in Corbyn’s reflected glory so long as this served his own ends. But his support was always conditional on the movement that has developed around Corbyn not jeopardising the status quo by leading to a genuine, socialist opposition
Indeed Jones admitted he wanted to replace Corbyn right from the outset:
A confession. There was a plan that, along with others, I subscribed to. The general election was scheduled to take place in 2020; two years or so before, a younger left-wing member of the new intake would take Jeremy Corbyn’s place.
So this guy was sharing a platform at rallies with a man he was already conspiring to undermine? At what stage during Corbyn’s campaign for leadership did he decide to jump ship – or was he ever truly on it? Why do people trust a man like this? How does he get away with it?
Once he has paid enough attention to singing the opening hymns “how great I art” and “how I suffer to lecture thee” he returns to the main theme of his sermon – why supporters of Corbyn need to listen to his string of criticisms.
He offers nine questions we all MUST answer
Except Owen doesn’t actually address these as questions – more launch points for cherry picking data which suits his attacks on Corbyn. Sound familiar – yeah you’ve been reading this guff in the media 24/7 for months on end.
The questions are legitimate of course – but they are questions which any political party and leader have to ask all the time. Owen offers no solutions whatsoever to any of them except wistfully hoping that his mate Clive Lewis might take over.
It begs the question, why does a man continue to contribute to what has become a self fulfilling prophecy – a point made (ironically) by his mate Clive Lewis – why does he not work to fix the problem of the ‘Corbyn is unelectable’ smears from within? Instead he contributes to them and gives new attack angles for Corbyn’s corporate opponents.
“When elements of your own party are saying that and you’ve got pretty much the establishment media, including the so-called liberal wing of that media saying that, it does become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
The one solution Owen never contemplates is the only one that will work for any leader of a genuinely left wing party anywhere – namely that we unite and try and win the arguments in favour of socialism and cooperation. Why is that never mentioned?
What Owen invites Labour to do is to abandon trying to make the argument and instead find a ‘media strategy’ and ways to dupe tory voters. Sound familiar? Its the same empty strategy that cost Labour two elections and its soul. There is no way the corporate media in this country will be tricked into supporting left wing politics. Owen lives in a dream world where he can manipulate elections as easily as he has inserted himself inside the Westminster / media bubble.
Jones couches his rhetoric carefully – he never mentions courting the ‘centre ground’ of British politics (that would upset his chums at Momentum) but invites his readers to embrace that themselves with his hand wringing despair about Corbyn. But as George Monbiot stated when he wrote before the last leadership election:
Jeremy Corbyn is the only candidate who can revive the Labour Party. It’s the others who are chasing an impossible dream.
In fact, in this contest of improbabilities, Corbyn might stand the better chance. Only a disruptive political movement, that can ignite, mesmerise and mobilise, that can raise an army of volunteers, as the SNP did in Scotland, could smash the political concrete.
To imagine that Labour could overcome such odds by becoming bland, blurred and craven is to succumb to thinking that is simultaneously magical and despairing. Such dreamers argue that Labour has to recapture the middle ground. But there is no such place; no fixed political geography. The middle ground is a magic mountain that retreats as you approach. The more you chase it from the left, the further to the right it moves.
What Owen Jones doesn’t say is as illuminating as what he does say.
Who does Owen suggest we vote for in the leadership election? Owen won’t say. Why not? Labour members must choose between Smith and Corbyn – that is the reality. Clearly he won’t endorse Corbyn but he won’t endorse Smith either. What does the bully of pragmatism say about that?
He hasn’t breathed a single word of criticism for the sewage spewed out by his employers The Guardian against Corbyn every day – ‘coverage’ which has included blatant lies and endless distortions.
Why do all the generic questions Owen insists Corbyn supporters MUST answer – not apply to supporters of Owen Smith?
Smith’s campaign has been nothing short of an utter embarrassment – inventing new meaningless phrases like ‘Labourism’ and holding empty rallies in front of ice cream vans and bored looking teenagers holding placards. What answers does Owen Smith have? Jones never asks those questions – why not?
Why was he not predicting an impending calamity for Labour when it had a nicely suited, on message and ‘credible’ neoliberal robot in Ed Milliband at the last election? Why is it suddenly facing a calamity now, just when the party has revived the political hopes and engagement of millions of people?
Why is the onus on Corbyn to repair (instantly) the decades of dreadful damage done to Labour by Blair and Brown – especially in Scotland? Why are there no questions for the PLP and the plotters within the Labour movement who have worked tirelessly to subvert Labour in the public’s mind since Corbyn’s election?
Why can Owen not see, as the overwhelming majority of the public can, that the right wing rump of sitting Labour MP’s would rather destroy the Labour Party before accepting the democratic wishes of its own membership?
Why does all the onus for clarity and compromise rest with Corbyn and his supporters – what clarity does Owen Jones offer and what compromise?
Why won’t Owen accept the simple truth that democracy cannot be put back in its box now that Labour has embraced it? Why cannot Owen accept the democratic wishes of the overwhelming majority of the Labour Party’s members and supporters? Why did he feel anyone had the RIGHT to plot from the outset to undermine their freely expressed wishes?
We could go on – but you get the point.
Owen Jones is part of the establishment – he has a cosy niche at The Guardian, turns a blind eye to their abuse of Corbyn and his supporters and then presumes to lecture us from on high.
He uses his connections within politics to serve his own ends – he has a vested interest in maintaining the power of people who give him privileged access and a platform. He weeps and wails about the fate of Labour but I suspect he argues out of desperate concern for himself. He can see as clearly as some Labour MP’s that a truly democratic and socialist Labour Party would have no need for the kind of empty political punditry that he exemplifies.
Owen Jones is dangerous because he weaves a tangle of sophistry over his articles to disguise his true intentions. Labour and the world has suffered enough by listening to specious pleas to stay inside the political limits defined by the neoliberal consensus in order to get what we really need later. IT DOESN’T WORK.
The only time I have ever truly admired him was when he stormed out of the Sky News studio following the murders of gay people in Florida – when its closer to home and it really matters, cooperation with the media is not the only option.
A little pop up has just emerged inviting me not to miss his next ‘story’ on his blog. Miss it? It’s all so predictable I could write it for him.
See also: follow Sodium Haze on Facebook
Reporting on culture travel, creative events and social issues.
Why not subscribe to our mailing list for some occasional updates from 55factory.