As I write, the coronavirus pandemic has brought about changes to virtually every aspect of our ways of life.
Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives or experienced devastating illness, while countless millions have lost livelihoods, opportunities and aspirations.
Country after country, state after state, community after community are experiencing restrictions on movement, and various levels of government authority have exercised their power to legislate and enforce numerous changes to our daily lives.
Unfortunately, but perhaps inevitably, reactions have included acceptance of conspiracy theories – by which I do not mean healthy scepticism and critical thinking – particularly on the origin and early spread of the virus.
The central villains in the malevolent conspiracy theories vary from culture to culture and subculture to subculture, but those open to the conspiracies universally share a failure to consider that the human beings making decisions could be speaking and acting honestly and with responsibility.
With the virus dominating the media in the United Kingdom, evidence of this conspiratorial mindset came to light in the context of a leaked report on antisemitism in the British Labour Party – which essentially dismissed the problem as a beat-up by opponents of former leader Jeremy Corbyn.
The 860-page in-house assessment of the way antisemitism was dealt with by the Party addressed allegations made against people promoting anti-Jewish bigotry and hatred within the Labour movement since Corbyn’s ascension to the leadership in 2015.
Its dismissive attitude revealed not just that the party has a problem with antisemitism but also that it is peopled by factional warriors who have complete contempt for anyone who is not the correct shade of leftness.
The report’s authors failed to address the corrupt ideologies driving so many who had gravitated to the Labour Party or appreciate why it was that so many previously rusted-on Labour voters simply, well, rusted off.
The authors of the document displayed an astonishing lack of self-awareness by treating victims of racist anti-Jewish bullying as the perpetrators of an offence against progressive thinking.
My own experiences with far-left groups while a student exposed me to their complete contempt not only for people who draw different conclusions about what is best for the population, but also for values such as truth or honesty.
I had first-hand experiences of well-to-do activists cynically campaigning to stop economic programmes which would help disadvantaged and needy people because they thought that the suffering of the destitute was the best way to have the “working class” see the political light.
Having been present in discussions as to how to manipulate political processes to exact influence well beyond that justified by popular support, nothing done or said by far-left activists surprises me.
But not being surprised doesn’t mean not being concerned – or even alarmed.
For, as scholar and author of Contemporary Left Antisemitism David Hirsh has observed, the underlying thesis of the Labour Party report was the idea that the success of the Corbyn project was derailed by conspirators, enemy agents and deplorable double-dealers.
Hirsh noted, “It is a classic ‘stab in the back’ myth.” The Labour Party “blames the issue of antisemitism for its defeat. It focusses the blame onto political opponents. And the Jewish communities which were loudest and clearest in their opposition to antisemitism … are the unmentioned, unseen villain.”
Dave Rich, author of The Left’s Jewish Problem, wrote that, “the repeated message from the top of the Labour Party and their outriders and supporters was that allegations of antisemitism were exaggerated or invented to prevent socialism and defend Israel.”
Another expert observer, Dr Alan Johnson, noted that the report confirms the Labour Party was institutionally antisemitic, and provided a comfortable home for those who are antisemitic.
To return to this issue of the coronavirus, conspiracy theories have the potential to lead to misdirected anger and destructive behaviour.
The conspiracy theory which has infected the British Labour Party has the power to harm Britain for a generation or more.