The journalist, Sam Kriss — a member of the Labour Party — has been accused of sexual harassment. So has the journalist, Rupert Myers — a member of the Conservative Party. And so, on the other side of the Atlantic, have the movie mogul, Harvey Weinstein — a supporter of the Democrats — and the TV host, Bill O’Reilly — a supporter of the Republicans. There is nothing specifically left or right wing about misogyny.
But there is something very specific indeed about the misogyny of the contemporary British Far Left: something very specific that is very specifically denied when Corbyn’s cheerleaders enthuse that ‘Corbynite slang is remarkably unproblematic in its derivation’, or insinuate — however ridiculously — that ‘centrists’ are particularly prone to transphobia, or suggest, with unintentional irony, that the real threat faced by left wing women is that of ‘centrist dads’ who ‘want to educate you and hate fuck you’. (Honestly, there’s nothing new about the sexual abuse of women on the far left by men more highly placed in the far left’s brutal hierarchy.)
Sam Kriss’s public associates cannot be held responsible for his private behaviour. They must be assumed to have been ignorant of it. But here’s the thing. It’s not just that we now know him to have behaved appallingly in private. It’s that his public behaviour has also been appalling — and in a closely related way that everyone knew about. Kriss’s accuser drew specific attention to this in her account of his behaviour towards her, published on the Facebook group, Monitoring the Left’s Support for R pe Culture:
I had hoped I would never have to write this account. But watching a man who repeatedly groped me, twisted my neck to forcibly kiss me, ignored any attempt I made to stop him, and refused to ‘let me’ drink non-alcohol, unashamedly attack feminists online, use misogynist language, singling out women for ridicule time and time again, means I’ve not really been able to forget.
Kriss’s accuser draws a direct parallel between the way he treated her — ‘repeatedly grop[ing her], twist[ing her] neck… ignor[ing] any attempt [she] made to stop him’, etc — and the way that he ‘unashamedly attack[s] feminists online, use[s] misogynist language, [and] singl[es] out women for ridicule time and time again’.
Kriss’s comrades-in-arms were not to know about how he behaved on dates — or at least, on dates with women in comparison to whom he was (in his accuser’s words) ‘very powerful’. However, they knew perfectly well about how he behaved on social media. And with that, they had no problem. But the point that his accuser makes in the above is that his private behaviour towards her was not only consistent but continuous with his behaviour online. His very public behaviour online. His behaviour online that got him tens of thousands of followers — followers who would reliably back him up (because the Twitter pile-on is the primary mode of online discourse on the Corbyn Left) in his attacks on whoever had incurred his celebrated wrath — including and especially women.
One might say that the signs were there — the signs from which Sarah Ditum suggests that we habitually avert our eyes:
In the post-Hefner, post-Weinstein roar of women speaking out, I find myself repeatedly thinking: ‘Oh that guy? But, of course.’ In most cases, there was something. Not enough to be certain, perhaps, but enough to have had my doubts.
Maybe I’d previously clocked that this man sure seemed to like imagery of beaten and broken women, or that he showed notable relish when it came to putting women in their damn place, or maybe I’d heard rumours that he had ‘difficult’ relationships with the women he worked with. Maybe he was even an actual pornographer, which, let us be honest, is a great clapping knob of warning sign. But whatever the something was, I’d ignored it; found a way to put the something into the contained environment of suspended judgement.
But in Kriss’s case, this doesn’t quite do, because, in Kriss’s case, the warning signs were not ignored. Indeed, they were the very thing that made him so valuable to his allies, who need abusive men in order to maintain their dominance online. Paid to achieve the same outcome for the Russian state, a former member of Vladimir Putin’s professional ‘troll army’ told Shaun Walker of the emotional pain that the job put him through: ‘if every day you are feeding on hate, it eats away at your soul’, he said. It takes a certain kind of personality to enjoy a working life devoted to the erasure of dissent through sheer force of hatred.
What kind of personality? Naomi Craker and Evita March (2016) studied the psychological motivations of online trolling, and found such behaviour to be predicted by psychopathy, sadism, and — above all — a taste for what they call ‘negative social potency’. In a separate piece, Craker defines this as
the rewarding feelings that some people experience when creating social discord, through selfish or self-serving behaviours and interactions. Individuals who seek negative social potency are likely to enjoy inflicting psychological pain and distress on others.
The Left — the Corbyn Left, the British neo-Stalinist Left — needs individuals like that right now. It needs them because it needs its critics to be bullied into silence, and, for that, it needs bullies — ‘socialist’ bullies whose love of ‘socialism’ is simply the love of a good punch-up in which the most vulnerable will suffer horribly, as should have been — and indeed, was — apparent from the following 19-word manifesto:
But this is how things are now. This is the Left. It loves all kinds of strongmen, from social media bullies to tyrants and dictators. There’s no virtue in pretending that the ‘real Left’ or the ‘real Labour Party’ are somewhere else. This is the Left: that network of alliances between men with media careers to build and men who siphon off six-figure sums from trade unions and men who drag entire nations into violence, poverty, and despair.
That’s all it is, there’s nothing else now, and you’re either with it or it’s against you.
At least until it tears itself apart.