Skwawkbox and Corbynite Social Media
Focusing on the Skwawkbox blog and Corbynite social media generally may be deemed to be an irrelevant task in the grand political scheme of things. Nonetheless, these Corbynite websites and blogs are sometimes more widely read and popular (in terms of the number of readers) than national British newspapers.
For example, BuzzFeed News (in a piece called 'The Rise Of The Alt-Left British Media') once claimed that in the weeks running up to the last general election, these Internet outlets were attracting “enormous audiences”. In terms of Skwawkbox itself, one BBC New at Ten piece stated that “many of his articles go viral, with some achieving hundreds of thousands of readers”. More precisely, before the last election Skwawkbox reached 500,000 people a month. It's now said to reach up to a million.
In addition to that, take the words of the “Marxist writer” and Jeremy Corbyn supporter (though a man with an intense dislike of the Labour Party itself), Richard Seymour. In his book, Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics, he states:
“... pro-Corbyn websites like the Canary were able to beat the BBC, the Mirror, and the Telegraph in terms of shares on Facebook, while Another Angry Voice, run by a dedicated individual blogger, beat the Daily Mail and the Express.”
Elsewhere Richard Seymour writes:
“Novara Media produces high-quality multimedia content, its personalities making regular, assured appearances on national broadcasters. A range of blogs like Another Angry Voice attract phenomenal readership that at times, and with few resources, outperform the press. Left-wing social media churn out a glut of daily content on Twitter and, more importantly, Facebook.”
So in view of Seymour's position, perhaps we should particularly mention Another Angry Voice here (which Richard Seymour also mentioned) before moving onto Skwawkbox .
This is both a very nasty and a very popular blog. (It once had a single post shared 100,000 times.) It is written by Thomas G. Clark. Another Angry Voice is very similar to Skwawkbox in terms of both its prose-style and its political content. However, if anything, AAV is even more aggressive and intolerant than Skwawkbox. Clark (who seems to permanently foam at the mouth and has zero sense of humour) has a profound hatred of all his political enemies: from every single right-wing newspaper all the way to Labour Party centrists and “Blairites”. And like Skwawkbox, every piece either defends/supports Jeremy Corbyn or viciously attacks the Tories – often both at the same time.
Yet despite the popularity of - and the large readership for - these leftwing “news and comment” outlets, the political group Stop Funding Hate and many Corbynites still want to literally silence (though, of course, this is never explicitly stated) the entire right-wing press . This is strange when you consider the words of Richard Seymour again:
“It is part and part and parcel of a political scene in which the ideological monopoly of the traditional media is breaking down. With the rise of alternative sources of information... there is far less deference to the dominant television and press outlets than there had been before.”
Actually, Stop Fund Hate's and the Hard Left's (Seymour often uses the term “Hard Left” in a positive manner) positions aren't strange at all. Despite the dwindling sales of the platonic Mainstream Media, it seems that there's still too much right-wing Difference (to use a term from post-structuralism) in the media for “radical socialists”. So when Stop Funding Hate, for example, denies being against free speech (and even denies being leftwing), we must consider this joint situation of falling newspaper sales and the rocketing success of leftwing outlets.
That must mean that just like the Marxist-socialist states of the 20th century, Stop Funding Hate and other leftwing groups seem to want an ideological and political monopoly (or Gramscian “hegemony”) of exactly the same type that they claim the Daily Mail, etc. has. And no matter how leftwingers and Stop Funding Hate dress their positions up, this strong desire for a leftwing media monopoly is crystal clear.
Skwawkbox itself was created in 2009. The blog is run by a Unite the Union (Unite) activist by the name of Steven/Steve Walker. He's also the Constituency Labour Party (CLP) Chair (or “party officer”) of Garston & Halewood Labour Party. (A newspaper piece - from January 2018 - claims that Steve Walker is due to be “deselected”.) Walker is also classed as a member of Momentum by Liverpool's Echo newspaper.
Interestingly enough, Steven Walker is also the sales director and CEO of Foojit. This is a company which provides "mailing solutions to the NHS". In 2015, Wilson and two other people invested £400,000 to set up Foojit.
The articles in Skwawkbox are almost exclusively about Jeremy Corbyn and his campaign to achieve “state power” (to use a Marxist phrase). Skwawkbox's primary job is to help Corbyn achieve that aim. (Steven Walker/Skwawkbox often refers to Corbyn on a first-name basis.)
Clearly Skwawkbox isn't a newspaper and can't even be classed as a news journal. A blog run by a single person could hardly be called a news journal or newspaper.
Apparently, “sources close to Jeremy Corbyn” have said that Skwawkbox gets “inside information” from important people in the Labour Party. It's also rumored that those close to both Len McCluskey (the General Secretary of Unite the Union) and Jeremy Corbyn himself feed Skwawkbox with information and political comment. Indeed Steven Wilson's blog exists primarily because of “anonymous sources feeding it information”.
Skwawkbox is a Sleazy Political Tabloid
Let this leftwing commentator (in a Social Lay piece called 'Corbyn and the peace prize: Skwawkbox embarrasses the Left once more') sum up some problems with this pro-Corbyn blog:
“Skwawkbox, along with fellow alt-left websites Evolve Politics and The Canary, is simply participating in a leftwing model of Breitbart-style pretend information. It discredits the Left after we endorse this type of nonsense.”
“... Skwawkbox’s approach is entirely counterproductive. Far from defending Corbyn against right-wing attacks, this irresponsible nonsense just provides ammunition for his enemies, allowing them to portray the Labour leader’s supporters as a bunch of liars and political fantasists. It also degrades the political culture of the left, by sidelining serious analysis and debate in favour of false polemics and crackpot conspiracy theories.”
Perhaps more tellingly, take what Labour MP John Mann (“Blairite vermin”?) had to say:
“Skwawkbox is not a credible or decent media outlet. They make it up as they go along. They have no credibility. It is a nasty, pernicious outlet.”
One thing one can immediately see about Skwawkbox is how “tabloid” it is. Obviously there are no “tits 'n' bums” and no “celeb-talk” (except about “Jezza” himself) in the blog. However, even without tits 'n' bums, this Corbynite outlet still replicates and magnifies (a hundredfold) the political bias and rhetoric of “the mainstream media”. If anything, Skwawkbox is far more crude and biased (in terms of party politics) than anything you'd find in the Daily Mail, Telegraph, etc.
So it can be supposed that Steven Wilson sees Skwawkbox as fighting fire with fire.
Skwawkbox and Stella Creasy MP
It's often said that there is a “Corbyn Cult”. And it certainly can also be said that Steven Wilson (or Skwawkbox) is a zealous and vicious member of this cult. However, like all terms in politics, the word “cult” can become a cliché (much like “Blairite”, “far Right”, “Zionist”, “neoliberal”, “Corbynista”, etc.). So let's substantiate this usage a little.
Take the case of Stella Creasy, the Labour Party MP.
According to Skwawkbox, Stella Creasy's political sin was to have attended a gig with the Conservative MP Thérèse Coffey!
A Jack Moore recognised Skwawkbox's cultish response to this fact when he wrote the following:
“Stella Creasy has committed the mortal sin of having friends that she may not 100% agree with politically. You know, like a normal person.”
No surprisingly, Skwawkbox was accused of the “deeply sinister bullying” of Stella Creasy.
Believe it or not, Skwawkbox actually messaged Creasy for comment on her political sin. That message said that her friendship (if that's what it is/was) with Thérèse Coffey “raises questions about cosiness between Labour MPs and their Tory counterparts”.
This is what Creasy herself said to Skwawkbox:
“Just to be clear @skwawkbox if you think you can choose what’s on my office stereo, you are even more deluded than I thought about your power to control women in the Labour Party. Or possibly jealous you missed a great @shedseven gig…either way #jogon #noshittakingindiemp...”
It was also the case (at least according to Creasy herself) that Skwawkbox wanted her deselected for her political crime. She wrote: “Deselecting me for my musical choice? makes a change...”
However, Skwawkbox insisted the issue was “in the public interest”. In full, and in response to Creasy, Steven Wilson wrote:
“Extraordinary response to a press enquiry giving you chance to comment on something of public interest.”
All this Skwawkbox subterfuge didn't stop a Victoria Smith coming to the defence of Creasy. As published in HuffPost's, “Skwawkbox Accused Of 'Deeply Sinister Bullying' Of Stella Creasy Over Shed Seven Gig”, she wrote:
“Solidarity with Stella Creasy. Sneering over the social life of a woman who's taken on Wonga and fought hard for reproductive rights strikes me as at best self-indulgence, at worst straightforward sexism.”
Three Easy Skwawkbox Pieces
On the Grenfell Tower Fire
Like the “savagely dishonest hard-right attack rags and gutter press” (to quote Another Angry Voice), Skwawkbox had been accused of lying and also to having deceived its readers.
Take Skwawkbox's stance on the Grenfell Tower fire. (This piece - at one point - had been shared more than 16,000 times on Facebook alone.)
On the 16th of June 2017, Skwawkbox published an article called 'Video: Govt puts D-notice gag on real #Grenfell death toll #nationalsecurity' (which seems to have been deleted since publication). This article was a response to what “grime artist” MC Saskilla had said on the BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme. Saskilla claimed that the number of victims of the Grenfell Tower fire was actually much higher than the official figures.
Thus the Daily Telegraph published a piece called 'Corbyn-backers spread fake news about blaze toll'. This piece attacked Skwawkbox’s coverage of the Grenfell Tower fire. The article stated:
“A Corbyn-backing blog called Skwawkbox claimed that the Government had banned the media from reporting the true death toll in the tragedy for reasons of 'national security'. It claimed that 'multiple sources' had confirmed that 'the Government has placed a D-notice on the real number of deaths in the blaze'.”
Okay: the Telegraph is “hard Right”, “neoliberal”, etc. and therefore not part of the Corbyn Cult. So what about this leftwing account instead? -
“Faced with the collapse of its story, Skwawkbox was forced to back off and post a grudging retraction: 'EDIT: the SKWAWKBOX is now satisfied that no D-notice was issued. No plain answer to this blog’s question of other restrictions on information about lives lost at Grenfell has yet been provided, but a ‘D-notice’ (or DSMA-notice as they are now termed) was not.”
This writer added:
“In a quite astonishing display of chutzpah, he [Steven/Steve Walker, who runs Skwawbox] declared that he himself had been the victim of 'fake news'!”
Steve/Steven Walker later said that he hadn't actually claimed that the government had imposed a D-Notice on the media coverage of the Grenfell Tower fire. Yet the following – among much else – is what he had actually wrote:
“.... if it is true that the government has issued a D-notice, and every instinct is screaming that it is!”
On Corbyn's Meeting a Loyalist Terrorist
Another Skwawkbox piece (called 'WORLD EXCLUSIVE: #CORBYN – MOWLAM’S ENVOY, MET IRA AND LOYALISTS') was a reaction to the many people who've claimed that the very idea that Jeremy Corbyn was part of a “peace process” in Northern Ireland is absurd and even offensive. In order to refute this, Skwawkbox tells us that Corbyn didn't only meet IRA and Sinn Fein members and leaders (as many people claim): he also met Loyalists and Unionists.
Skwawkbox offers the example of Corbyn meeting a former Loyalist terrorist - none other than David Ervine . David Ervine used to be a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF); which was an armed loyalist group. Indeed he was arrested in 1974 while driving a car which contained a large quantity of explosives.
David Ervine was released from prison in 1980. He then stood as a local candidate for the Progressive Unionist Party; which he later led.
Now as for David Ervine meeting Corbyn. That's certainly true. Irvine (as a “socialist”) was indeed invited to the Labour Party conference in 1994.
So what Skwawkbox told its readers is that Corbyn met a “former Loyalist terrorist” at a Labour Party conference (which was held in England) some 15 or more years after the man had given up terrorism! Yet, on the other hand (as everyone now knows), Corbyn met IRA and Sinn Fein members/supporters who were still engaged in “the struggle” and he did so well before the “peace process” of the 1990s.
On Corbyn's Iran
This piece ('FAWKES’/MSM ‘FAKE NEWS’ ON CORBYN RE IRANIAN TV') was Skwawkbox's reaction to the many comments which had been made about Jeremy Corbyn's many political, ideological and indeed (former) financial links to theocratic Iran.
Consider this passage from Skwawkbox:
“The MSM have also criticised Corbyn for his supposed ‘reluctance’ to speak out about human rights in Iran, implying that he has bitten his tongue because of the fallacious £20,000.”
And now note the immediate jump to:
“But Corbyn has signed multiple ‘Early Day Motions’ on human rights in Iran.”
Yes, what we have here is a deceitful jump from Corbyn's “supposed 'reluctance' to speak out about human rights in Iran” to Corbyn signing Early Day Motions on Iran. Now speaking out in the Commons (or anywhere else) certainly isn't the same as signing EDMs.
So what are EDMs? This is one definition:
“An early day motion (EDM), in the Westminster system, is a motion, expressed as a single sentence, tabled by Members of Parliament that formally calls for debate 'on an early day'. In practice, they are rarely debated in the House and their main purpose is to draw attention to particular subjects of interest.”
Yes, according to Skwawkbox, signing a piece of paper with single-sentence question (or statement) on it is exactly equivalent to “speaking out” against Iran.
Interestingly enough, even more recently Skwawkbox has made exactly the same claims about Jeremy Corbyn signing EDMs in response to communist Czechoslovakia's clampdown on political dissidents and students in the 1980s. Again, there's no record whatsoever of Corbyn actually “speaking out” against the communist regime. Indeed, if there were such information, you can bet your life that Skwawkbox would have quoted it again and again and again.
Journalism as it Should Be
It's not a surprise, then, that one commentator summed on Skwawkbox in this way:
“[Skwawkbox is] peddling untruths as hard as the Tory press do. Possibly harder. But of course, if you can't beat them, be a complete shitbag and join them, right?”
The leftwinger Bob Pitt (in a Medium piece) also wrote this:
“Skwawkbox has established an unenviable record of spinning evidence to produce attention-grabbing stories that lack any solid basis in and are often directly contrary to the facts.”
However, because these commentators (or critics) are outside the Corbyn Cult, Skwawkbox and many other Corbynites will deem them to be “Tory liars”, “Tory filth”, “Red Tories” or possibly “Blairite scum”.
Yet despite all the above, Skwawkbox has a featured post (which reads as if it were actually written by Steve Wilson/Skwawkbox) that includes this tweet from an fervent admirer:
“This blog is journalism as it should be. True, fair, accurate and in the public interest.”