Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/700/13463
Reader's comment: The right wing media and Diane Abbott
Senan, Tamil Solidarity international coordinator
Shadow health minister Diane Abbott was wrong when she said: "White people love playing divide and rule". The 'Twitter defence' of being 'unable to express everything in 140 characters' does not hold.
Diane is wide of the mark even if she was referring to the period of slavery in the 18th and 19th century. It is absolutely vital to insist on the difference between the 'white masters' who enslaved all races, and the white working class who often showed huge solidarity, struggling for better conditions for all. Clearly grasping the class divide has never been Diane's cup of tea. When has she gone on the defence of the working class, white or black?
But, following her tweet, there have been calls for her resignation from all sides. This is ridiculous.
That is not to say there are not reasons to demand she quits. For example, many would argue she should have been asked to stand down as a Labour MP, elected to represent working class people, when she sent her son to a private school while her New Labour government undermined state education.
Diane failed to effectively defend black people in Hackney when their services were slashed out of existence by 'posh white boys', as she correctly calls the Con-Dems. And, during the August 2011 eruptions of anger in London she notoriously advocated a curfew - in effect an argument for bringing the military onto the street. We do not support rioting as a method of protest, but research has proved that it was anger over cuts and police harassment that fuelled these events.
However, the portrayal of Diane in the media as an 'outright racist' is wrong and crude. And, crucially, it sews seeds of confusion about what racism is and why and how it must be fought. It has created sympathy among some of the black and Asian population for her - sympathy which is undeserved given her record.
Diane would be absolutely correct to direct an accusation of 'divide and rule' towards the ruling elite, who are mostly from white rich families. Warmonger Tony Blair called for black or Asian mothers to control their kids and report on them to the police.
David Cameron got away with calling part of the community 'sick' referring to poor black people while the 'Black and Asian' MPs provided no explanation for the anger on behalf of people living in the most deprived boroughs in the country.
There was no major outcry in the media when so-called historian David Starkey on BBC's Newsnight caricatured the rioting as 'black culture'.
The list is very long. But Diane is not aiming her attack at these people, hence the outrage.
However, the media has picked on the tweet partly to divert attention from the conviction of Stephen Lawrence's murderers and all that it exposes.
The big-business owned media seems happy to focus on nationalism and racism, issues that can sew division and atomisation of society. But it took a vibrant thousands-strong student demonstration before they caught up with growing unemployment and the Education Maintenance Allowance theft. They are still refusing to dedicate enough time to talk about the effects of the cuts, youth unemployment, etc.
When it comes to issues of organised workers' action such as strikes and occupations, protests outside government offices, etc, there is rarely sufficient column space, apart from space given to condemn such actions. They even pass on momentous historical events. For example there was virtual media silence when more than 100,000 Tamil-speaking people marched through the streets of London in 2009 demanding a halt to the massacre of Tamils by the Sri Lankan military.
Murdochgate has exposed the connection to the ruling elite and the police. But so far the vast majority are carrying on as normal. Even the disgraced former News of the World editor has found a cosy editorial job in the USA.
As we fight the cuts, made by those who defend the interests of big business and the banks, we must also fight their mouthpieces in the media.
In The Socialist 11 January 2012:
Socialist Party Interview
Them and Us
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party features
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party women
Socialist Party news
Socialist Party reviews and comments