One of the most alarming developments in British politics over the past few years is the way far-right ideas have become an accepted part of the political mainstream. Tory politicians and newspapers rant about the wicked influence of George Soros, vilify their opponents as “traitors” and “enemies of the people”, and single out ethnic minorities for abuse and legal harassment.
The Sun and its political editor, Tom Newton Dunn, crossed a new threshold on December 7th, taking us to a very sinister place. Newton Dunn promoted a website that drew on neo-Nazi propaganda and antisemitic conspiracy theories to demonise prominent left-wingers as enemies of Western civilisation.
Within hours, Rupert Murdoch’s flagship title had taken down the article, without any apology or acknowledgement, its poison already injected into mainstream discourse. Newton Dunn himself has carried on writing puff pieces for Boris Johnson, or tweeting about the election-day weather forecast, as if nothing ever happened. And none of his colleagues in print or broadcast media have had anything to say about this attempt to launder fascist ideology, either.
Something that should be a scandal at any time — let alone during a febrile election campaign — has thus far passed through Britain’s media without causing so much as a ripple.
“Extraordinary and Extensive”
Newton Dunn’s article breathlessly praised the “Hijacked Labour” website as “an extraordinary network of hard-left extremists pieced together by former British intelligence officers”, documenting Jeremy Corbyn’s “spider’s web of extensive contacts [that] stretch from Marxist intellectuals to militant groups and illegal terror organisations”.
According to the Sun’s political editor, a regular guest on BBC news programmes, the network had been “drawn up by the ex-military veterans in their spare time to expose what they insist is now a party in the grip of a hardline cabal”.
The Sun named one of those “veterans”, ex-SAS officer Mark Bles, who claimed that there was a “direct link” between “Labour’s hard-left leadership” and “postmodern neo-Marxism in its various forms”: “Their links are extraordinary and extensive. We thought, we must map this all out so people can see the network for themselves.”
The “spider’s web” mapped out in visual form was a recycled version of the “Traitors’ Chart” circulated online a few months earlier. Bles and his comrades added their own commentary on the groups and individuals named on the chart, with citations to outside sources.
Those sources included neo-Nazi websites. While purporting to oppose “extremism”, the Sun provided a direct channel between its readership and a site called “Aryan Unity”.
The citation can be found on the “Hijacked Labour” chart — archived here — if you click on the entry for Searchlight, a well-known anti-fascist magazine (one of the blue circles in the upper-right corner). “Aryan Unity” is presented as a reliable source of information about the Searchlight founder Gerry Gable.
The “Aryan Unity” site currently appears to be off-line. In a paper on hate speech published last year, researcher Raphael Cohen-Almagor identified it as the platform of the British People’s Party, a neo-Nazi group that denounced other far-right organisations for attempting to distance themselves from Nazism. According to Cohen-Almagor, the site published the text of Hitler’s Mein Kampf and “Aryan poetry”.
This was not the only far-right source drawn upon by Mark Bles and his associates. The chart contains an entry for the so-called “Anti-Fascists Network” (a large green circle in the cluster on the far right of the diagram). It refers approvingly to a “critique of Antifa” from a website called The Millennium Report.
This “critique” is a rambling diatribe that identifies George Soros as the “anti-national identity bankroller” supporting “globalist controlling bastards” against honest European patriots like Viktor Orban:
“Soros is up to his neck in the covert support of widespread illegal migrants from Muslim Africa to Italy and Spain. Soros will back anyone and anything that sows confusion, division and anarchy in a sovereign State: so his support for Islamist migration and Antifa violence at one and the same time represents no conflict at all.”
Elsewhere on the site, we can find an article claiming to have found “indisputable proof” that 9/11 was a “Mossad job”, and another suggesting that Israel would carry out “false-flag attacks” on US targets — acting on behalf of “the global crime syndicate known as the International Banking Cartel” — in order to foment a war with Iran.
The Millennium Report also published articles such as “New World Order pledged to Jews” and “Why are the Jews so reviled worldwide? Have they brought this judgement on themselves?”
A Dangerous Lure
The use of such sources is entirely in keeping with the general spirit of the “Hijacked Labour” site.
At one level this paranoid diagram is merely laughable: Labour’s shadow education secretary Angela Rayner can be found sandwiched between Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood! Much of the information appears to come from random web searches, and the “researchers” couldn’t even copy the material from their trawling without adding mistakes (the names of Sinn Féin politicians Martin McGuinness and Pat Doherty are spelt incorrectly).
But there’s nothing comical about the chart as a whole. Its goal is to suggest the existence of a sinister conspiracy against the British way of life, connecting Labour politicians to Irish republicans, Islamists, eastern-bloc regimes and “postmodern neo-Marxist intellectuals”.
The entry on “postmodern neo-Marxism” (a blue circle at the top) lays the theoretical underpinnings of the whole enterprise bare:
“Postmodernism, whether neo-Marxist, cultural Marxism or whatever, is the motivating ideology behind the hard, radical Left in Europe, the USA and other western countries . . . it is the ideology behind all the language, resentment and victimhood of Group Identity Politics, Feminism, Gender issues, Equality of Outcome, Political Correctness etc. . . . these concepts were intended to attack Western Christian-Judeo cultural and historical values, those pillars of western society.”
The whole concept of “postmodern neo-Marxism” is absurd — the philosophical equivalent of “Protestant Catholicism” — but that’s not the point. Like the related idea of “cultural Marxism”, also cited by the “Hijacked Labour” team, it is a far-right, antisemitic conspiracy theory.
As Samuel Moyn wrote last year:
“The wider discourse around cultural Marxism today resembles nothing so much as a version of the Judeobolshevik myth updated for a new age . . . That “cultural Marxism” is a crude slander, referring to something that does not exist, unfortunately does not mean actual people are not being set up to pay the price, as scapegoats to appease a rising sense of anger and anxiety. And for that reason, “cultural Marxism” is not only a sad diversion from framing legitimate grievances but also a dangerous lure in an increasingly unhinged moment.”
The publication of the “Traitors’ Chart”, and its promotion by the country’s leading newspaper, is self-evidently “a dangerous lure in an increasingly unhinged moment” for British politics, offering up its subjects “as scapegoats to appease a rising sense of anger and anxiety”.
The entry for Owen Jones — easily the most prominent left-wing commentator in the British media, and already the target of a violent assault — is especially creepy (“Jones, it is said, is gay” — as if this was secret information, and not something that he has been proudly open about at all times).
There have been several attacks on Labour canvassers during this campaign. In 2016, a far-right extremist murdered Labour MP Jo Cox while barking out slogans that could have appeared on the front page of the Sun; two years later, another fanatic plotted to kill Jeremy Corbyn and Sadiq Khan outside a mosque in London.
By promoting a far-right website that vilifies “traitors” with material drawn from neo-Nazi sources, Tom Newton Dunn and the Sun have put people’s lives at risk. In itself, this episode should be enough to end Newton Dunn’s career.
The reaction so far has been a deafening silence. One right-wing commentator, Giles Udy, praised the “Hijacked Labour” site as “one of the most significant pieces of research I’ve seen for a while”. He even condoned its reliance on “Aryan Unity” as a source:
“‘Hitler noted the sun was shining” doesn’t become untrue just because he reported it. The Left will want to smear this by association.”
Udy is a regular contributor to newspapers like the Telegraph and the Times, where he depicts the Labour leadership as Stalinists bent on installing a dictatorship if they win power through the ballot box. His complacency speaks volumes about the flow of intellectual traffic between mainstream British Conservatism and its ultra-right confederates.
Other pundits haven’t even bothered to comment. Ellie-Mae O’Hagan, another left-wing journalist targeted by “Hijacked Labour”, said that she found this profoundly disturbing:
“The thing I’m most unhappy about is not the article itself, it’s the silence from people I’ve worked with for the best part of a decade. I don’t think any colleagues have even contacted any of us, even though the threat of far-right violence is very real.”
In a media culture where Facebook comments from unknown members of the public have inspired front-page news stories, this collective failure — of courage, of professionalism, of basic human solidarity — is genuinely startling. The Sun is enabling the far right, and the rest of the British media is enabling the Sun. They’ll all share in the blame if this ends in predictable tragedy.