One of the favourite tactics of the far-left in the West today is to carry out hit-jobs by utilising the tool of ‘adjacency.’ This is the new only slightly fancy term for what has usually been known as ‘guilt by association’. However, while UK Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn is endlessly pictured with Islamist extremists or a whole range of anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers, his proximity to the worst people is never evidence of ‘adjacency’: merely of saintliness at best, and bad luck at worst. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
One of the favourite tactics of the far-left in the West today is to carry out hit-jobs by utilising the tool of ‘adjacency.’ This is the new only slightly fancy term for what has usually been known as ‘guilt by association’. Where there was once an agreement that people should be held responsible for their own views, now they can apparently be held responsible for the views of anyone beside whom they once stood.
So for instance, last month Jordan Peterson was denied a visiting fellowship at Cambridge University because he had once been photographed (at a post-speaking event meet-and-greet) with somebody wearing a T-shirt saying ‘I’m a proud Islamophobe’. Activists who wish to take decent people out of the parameters of legitimate discussion no longer merely smear them by trying to claim that their opponent is an extremist. Instead, they hint that even if their opponent might not be an extremist, here – for instance – is a photograph of him standing beside someone better able to be described as an extremist. Thus has the smear machine found a happy pastime and a fairly useful tool in its game of political warfare.
This tactic is rarely used by the right against many on the left. Or if it is, its legitimacy is denied. For instance when the British Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, for instance, is endlessly pictured with Islamist extremists or a whole range of anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers, it is agreed that he is not ‘adjacent’ to these people, but merely to be pursuing his often strangely uncredited role as the international community’s informal peace-keeper-in-chief. His proximity to the worst people is never evidence of ‘adjacency’: merely of saintliness at best, and bad luck at worst.
If there is a reason for this, it is that the far-left utilises the ‘adjacency’ tool most readily on people it can claim to be far-right. It tends to have little interest in Islamist extremists (let alone, for obvious reasons, far-leftists) and would appear in general to have rather little interest in anti-Semites in general. So a recent event in London provides an interesting opportunity to return a favour in the arts of tactical political warfare.
On May 11, in London there was a march – attended by around three thousand people – and organised under the banner ‘National Demonstration for Palestine: Exist! Resist! Return’. The event was backed by – among others – the leader of the Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn. In Twitter and Facebook messages sent to marchers, he expressed his support. This message, read out at the rally said, among much else, ‘We cannot stand by or stay silent at the continuing denial of rights and justice to the Palestinian people.’
The message was not read out by some obscure anti-Israel activist, but rather by one of Corbyn’s closest political aides, the Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott. Other speakers included the Labour party’s Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Richard Burgon, who just last month was found to have lied to the British media about an earlier speech he had given in which he said that ‘Zionism is the enemy of peace.’
In many ways there was nothing remarkable about the protest. Aside from the addresses from senior members of the Parliamentary Labour party, it consisted of the usual commonplace acts and claims by ordinary participants. Protestors, for example, waved placards claiming that ‘Israel provokes anti-Semitism’. During the speeches, one of the representatives from ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’ (a shell organisation set up to defend Jeremy Corbyn from accusations of anti-Semitism) claimed that Jews are ‘in the gutter’.
Nothing was particularly noteworthy in all of this. Except for one interesting fact, spotted by the British-based ‘Campaign Against Anti-Semitism’. This organization, having attended the march to monitor it, noticed a number of extremely interesting attendees. According to the ‘Campaign Against Anti-Semitism’, these included a man called Tony Martin, who is the leader of a neo-Nazi organisation called the National Front. This is not an organisation that is called ‘neo-Nazi’ or ‘fascist’ as some sort of rhetorical colouring required to win a debating point. It is described as that because that is what it is. The National Front in Britain is steeped in the politics of the far-right and actual neo-Nazism, hard as it might be for people to credit that in an era in which nearly everything and everyone can be called by these names.
The presence of the obscure and reprehensible Mr Martin at the demonstration in London on May 11 raises an important question. Does this not mean that Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott, Richard Burgon and others (including everybody else who attended or otherwise gave their support to Saturday’s march) should now be described as ‘fascist-adjacent’ or ‘neo-Nazi adjacent’? Or perhaps the type of slippage in definition and association in which many on the far-left have so merrily engaged over recent years can be played back at them. Perhaps we can cut out the middle man and just call all the members of the Parliamentary Labour party who attended the May 11 march ‘neo-Nazis’, ‘far-right’ and ‘fascist’. It is hard to see why not. By their own standards and tactics they eminently qualify for the description. Perhaps they will embrace the terms. Or perhaps they will begin to recognise that the stick they have been using to take out perfectly innocent opponents for political gain is in fact a boomerang that can just as easily come right back at them.
Douglas Murray, British author, commentator and public affairs analyst, is based in London, England. His latest book, an international best-seller, is “The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam.”