Recently I wrote an article about Green ideology, and in particular, I explored the tension between environmentalism, human rights, equality and social justice. This is an important issue, because how ideologies are translated into policy often has profound and far-reaching social consequences.
I discussed the environmentalism and “blood and soil” philosophy underpinning the Volk and Nazi movements, the Nazis being an exemplar of the problematic issues I raised. I also discussed Malthus, and his ideas on population growth and the finite nature of resources. I linked some of the Green philosophy and policies with Malthus’s ideas. My point was that it is not the ideas in themselves that are problematic: it is the context, the application, the way those ideas are translated via policy and the consequences that warrants some discussion.
Malthus’s ideas both informed and were informed by a context of Social Darwinism, eugenics, laissez faire capitalism, competitive individualism, all of which were the basis of a dominant paradigm at that point in history. One consequence of that was the terrible Poor Law Amendment Act in 1834, which saw the introduction of the dreadful, punitive workhouses.
One person – Tanya Jones, a Green Party Parliamentary candidate- engaged very courteously with some of the issues raised, and said thanks for the opportunity to discuss them. That was the kind of response I had hoped for.
However, the overwhelming majority of responses that followed the article being published constituted an organised hate campaign by a group of Green supporters and Party members on Facebook, Twitter and on my blog site. Whilst I appreciate that some Green supporters – those included on my friend list, for example – engage in dialogue that is civil and cooperative, I’m finding that many others don’t.
There’s always the possibility that some of the comments and threats are not from Green supporters at all, of course, but I can say that there has been two years worth of comments on Facebook that constitute quite vicious personal attacks, and these definitely come from a known group of Green Party supporters.
Here are a few of the comments and threats I have received:
Thought you should know that the following has been posted about you on facebook today (not my page i should add) But a facebook user and activist with a host of contacts across Britain, all of whom will now have read this :
“And the ‘spook of the year award’ goes to Sue Jones (below). She hosts a blog under the name of ‘kittysjones’ which she uses to disemminate fabrications against organisations on the left. She appears to being ‘run’ by Scotland Yard’s Confidential Intelligence Unit. Remember her role is to collect information about you and to spread lies and plant false stories about the British left, as can be seen in her latest blog entry. Now she’s been ‘outed’ her capacity to do harm will soon thankfully be over – hope she spent her ’30 pieces’ wisely
As far as threats go, this is one of the more bizarre from the Green Party membership that I have received. Nonetheless it is still a shameful attempt at intimidation and an attempt to discredit. And furthermore, it’s a lie of course – typical of the ongoing green smear campaign that I’ve been subjected to for the past couple of years. Other smears include I have 500 fake profiles, and numerous people, some that I didn’t even know, have actually been accused of being me and have been bullied. I’ve been called a “retard,” a “tranni” and a “Labour troll” amongst many other things.
Bravo. This Green gets the Thug of the Year Award.
Henry’s email address, which appears on my notification of his comment, along with his IP address, is: firstname.lastname@example.org
This one was sent as a personal message on Facebook:
Conversation started Tuesday
The word is youre on a retainer from people in the british nuclear industry Ms Jones? Is this true? It’s certainly a very serious charge, and one which you should be very concerned about Ms Jones.
Nothing worse than being publicly tarred a ‘snout’ for the British State.
Have a very merry christmas wont you – and pass on yuletide regards to your friends PC Mark Kennedy and co.
Yeah, you’d think the “retainer” would have stretched to a new laptop, posh blog site and a decent fake ID, wouldn’t you. And surely I wouldn’t be a Labour Supporter, one that particularly sticks my head so conspicuously above the parapet, often. How very dare I, eh?
Then there were the threats of “libel”:
Robert Price says:
December 23, 2014 at 2:53 pm
As a lawyer I know what proper construction means in terms of the laws of libel; the law is clear to me in this issue. What confuses me, as someone who thought you a writer who shared many of my values and concerns for the nation we live in, is why you’ve written this. People are often more complex than the law.
In see my previous comments are still awaiting moderation. You have moderated this comment and not those. I do hope that isn’t a further attempt to misrepresent either my character, or those of other Green Party members. Sue, Ms Jones, I don’t understand why you write something so clearly defamatory.
Robert Price says:
December 23, 2014 at 3:11 pm
You’ve defamed the character of an identifiable group of which I am a member. I haven’t threatened you. Quite the opposite, I simply remain bemused you should do this, and further troubled that you choose only certain items to allow in counter argument.
It appears that is the way it must stand on this page. You have made it clear what your position is. I am most disconcerted. Perhaps the advice or counsel of a colleague might help. I don’t think I wish to informerly communicate with you further. I also believe there is little chance of you allowing the unmoderated items to be seen.
(The sheer volume of responses to moderate meant there was a huge backlog, many were abusive and some were pretty foul. It took me ages to wade through them. Those comments made most recently are those which appear at the top of the notifications list)
This was one response:
Mike Sivier says:
December 24, 2014 at 1:32 am
I’d like to interject a word of warning to Mr Price and anyone else who wants to try their luck with defamation claims: You are not libelled by this article. Any attempt at legal action against the author would be laughed out of court if it even got that far. The laws on defamation are very clear and so are the defences against inaccurate accusations; the author of this blog is, legally, stating honest opinions based on clear evidence. If Mr Price really is a lawyer, then he should know better.
(Several commentators claimed the article was “libelous” and “defamatory”.)
And the more traditional “we know here you live” kind of threats:
December 24, 2014 at 8:10 am
You think you seen bulling and threats but you aint seen nuthing yet. thats a promise. you cant hope to get away with drivel like this and not expect a payback. they are coming
December 24, 2014 at 1:35 pm
stop playing the victim. Your entire peice is an appalling smear and people have a right to be angry with you. you deserve a kicking and thats what you get. its overdue. many of us hate you and your lame posts about labour but you never stop. labour are fascists with neoliberal policies and your to stupid a bint to see it. now shut the fuck up.
In reply to Mandy:
December 26, 2014 at 10:39 am
could not have put it better myself
Other comments were rather more crass and vulgar, I’ll spare you those. Others condoned the threats and abuse, claiming they were warranted because the article was “hysterical, smearing, desperate, shit…” (critical.)
Sample of comments on Facebook:
Rhionna Mackay written by a deluded labour supporter I see.
Francis Farmer Sue Jones your full of shit …. fuck you, you lying shit cunt….
I wrote a critical article, instead of engaging with the issues in the article, people largely decided to attack me, attack the Labour party, lie about them and behave like thugs. This doesn’t bode well for the Green Party’s general accountability, transparency and democratic engagement, does it? Nor does it demonstrate principles of ethics and social equality. In short, it’s not much of a “real socialist” response.
This is the only article I have written about Green ideology and I’ve written going on for 300 articles in the past couple of years. During that past couple of years, the pro-Labour articles have attracted the attention of a group of hostile Green supporters. This incident is by no means a one-off. I don’t mind debate and criticism, even “heated debate”, but this is not that. Some of the personal attacks made on me around Facebook have shocked friends (some are also Green Party members, I should add) because of how vicious and vindictive they have been. Not that it’s ever stopped me from doing what I do. And it never will.
But since when did this become acceptable behaviour? I know I am not the only person that has experienced this, too. Political beliefs and preferences are not an excuse for bullying.
Time and time again I see Green Party members lying about or misrepresenting Labour’s policies. Yet when that is reasonably challenged and evidence for that challenge is presented, abuse and threats follow, instead of reasoned debate.
It is important to contextualise ideologies, which don’t arise in a vacuum, but rather, they develop over time in a context of dominant paradigms and economic/social conditions. You don’t need me to tell you the dangers of far-right ideologies, sure, yet we live in times when fascism is again on the rise, globally, and when far-right parties such as UKIP have gained support in our own Country.
We live in times when it’s become acceptable for the poor to be left without support, and people are dying because of benefit sanctions and cuts. We live in times when it’s acceptable to demonise minority social groups all over again – to ‘other’ them. I have drawn parallels with Nazi ideology and propaganda techniques in other articles, using Allport’s scale of prejudice to indicate that the same process is unfolding here, stage by stage. As a disabled person, I feel this acutely. We live in times when bullying and oppressing others who disagree with you is acceptable, too. That’s not remotely “socialist”: it has nothing to do with the core principles of co-operation, community ideals, rationality and solidarity.
The Greens and Labour ought to be able to find more commonalities than differences. Both parties need to be focused on attacking the Tories and their destructive policies. Yet this past two years, at least, I have seen the Greens attack Labour rather than attempt to build bridges.
There’s another important point concerning how the current electoral system stands. Any split amongst the left-wing voters will ensure another 5 years of the Tories. That can not and MUST not happen. For me, that is the most pressing issue we face. Because if the Tories remain in Office after May 7th, 2015, there won’t be anything left of our society to fight for. If you think things are bad now, just wait until the Conservatives repeal Labour’s Human Rights Act and withdraw from the ECHR, as they have promised .
Those same human rights were formulated internationally as the basis of establishing decent codes of conduct for democratic governments, as a response to the atrocities of world war two and fascist governments, such as the Nazis and the Stalinist regime.
I have no problem with genuine criticism, and no party is above that. However, many of the Green’s constant and often unwarranted attacks on Labour are not founded on truth and facts and are not helping to achieve anything. For me, it’s pretty unforgivable that some people are purposefully undermining our chances of being rid of the authoritarian Tory-led Coalition. People are suffering and dying now as a consequence of policies. That did not happen under the last government. The only viable option we currently have to ensure the Tories are outed is a Labour vote. That’s basic maths and the way the current electoral system is, which is not my doing.
We need to escape this Tory-designed perdition first, then we can discuss the finer points of personal utopias and debate what constitures “real socialist principles.” And aside from that, a genuinely socialist approach entails the basic recognition that the outcome of our own vote doesn’t simply affect ourselves: it profoundly affects everyone.
We need to learn from our collective history, too.
A Few Words About Respect – Mike Sivier
The Green Party’s women problem – Neil Schofield
Sticks and stones: abusive labels, self concept – when words become weapons