Socialists, Scarfe’s Cartoon And Inverted Commas

Socialists tend to expound socialism, the view that there is something beyond the bleak and avaristic world that we live in, or at least that is what they used to do.

Nowadays many on the Left have an unhealthy attitude towards one particular ethnicity, Jews.

So watching modern-day socialists discuss the atrocious Scarfe cartoon is not for the faint hearted, or those with any appreciation of antiracism.


Rather than debate what is offensive, what is racist and why, the discussion in the comments box hinged on whether not is acceptable to put the word, Holocaust, in inverted commas.

One of the posters had objected:

“10. Moderator: putting the world “Holocaust” in inverted commas is highly abusive, particularly if, like me, you know what concentration camp your relatives were sent to.

CJB ought to be banned. He could always go to some Holocaust denial site and post his garbage there.

Posted by prianikoff 30 January, 2013 at 9:48 am”

The moderator finally came out with a bizarre explanation:

“Moderator: putting the world “Holocaust” in inverted commas is highly abusive, particularly if, like me, you know what concentration camp your relatives were sent to.

Prianikoff, I guess you’re seeing a completely united management team here – it’s clear that me, John and Andy agree that aspects of your posts have been abusive.

However: I’m the one who put the “abuse deleted” in yours – and CJB’s – posts.

Let me explain: You can argue hard against him using quotation marks around the word ‘Holocaust’ without calling him a piece of shit. Cos you don’t know why he did it – he used the word twice in his post, once in quotes and once without. That *might* mean he has a nuanced position on the Holocaust as a historical fact, and the “Holocaust” as an ideological industry. I don’t know – but your politics are solid enough for you to be able to put a decent argument in without calling him names.

So, his use of quotation marks isn’t offensive unless he then comes back and starts denying that the Holocaust happened. You didn’t know at the time, and since then he’s come back and given an explanation.

I hold you to quite a high standard as it goes – I told Andy last night that I find you really interesting to read. You can do this without calling people names.

Posted by Tony Collins 30 January, 2013 at 10:33 am ” [My emphasis.]

It’s depressing that many modern socialists can’t see where this type of debate leads or why certain individuals put the Holocaust with in inverted commas. There is an almost complete lack of perception and understanding of how anti-Jewish racists work and their methods.

In the past there was a more direct confrontational approach taken by these racists, but with the advent of the Internet they change their approach, slower, subtler, pushing discussions towards a certain area and seeing who bites. Who takes up or agrees with their anti-Jewish sentiment.

But it is a damning indictment when socialists can’t discuss these issues with any degree of sensitivity, are unable to comprehend the background to real racism affecting Jews, its implications, why racist and bigots purposefully denigrate the memory of the Holocaust. They have truly lost it. By way of comparison, at Engage there is an intelligent discourse on the significance of David Ward’s remarks and where such thinking leads.

Steve Cohen provided plenty of examples of this detachment and ambiguity towards Jews amongst elements of the Left.

Still, I can’t help thinking that socialism needs better advocates. Some that grasp the techniques of the Far Right and salami-style Holocaust revisionism. Particularly those that understand when the **neo-Nazis at Stormfront approve of a cartoon then something is seriously wrong.

[**Warning: Indirect link to neo-Nazi filth at Stormfront as a record of their views.]

Update 1: It might be argued that the above is a poor example, isolated or not representative, however, a similar hostile attitude towards Jews can often be found at Liberal Conspiracy, Why aren’t the usual suspects defending the Sunday Times over its ‘anti-semitic’ cartoon?

Update 2: It seems that the penny has finally dropped and one of the moderators sees the issues, after it was highlighted.

Update 3: I think Norm makes many good points in his Alibi Antisemitism, notably when he argues:

“A second form of the Israel alibi for antisemitism is the plea that antisemitism should not be ascribed to anyone without evidence of active hatred of Jews on their part; without, that is to say, some clear sign of anti-Semitic intent. A well-known case of this second form arose with Caryl Churchill’s play ‘Seven Jewish Children’, following upon Israel’s invasion of Gaza in 2008-9. This play puts into Jewish mouths the view that Palestinians are ‘animals’ and that ‘they want their children killed to make people sorry for them’; but that there is no need to feel sorry for them; that we – the Jews – are the chosen people and that it is our safety and our children that matter; in sum, that ‘I wouldn’t care if we wiped them out’. I will not insist here on how this echoes the blood libel; it is enough that Churchill ascribes to the Jews, seeing themselves as chosen, murderous racist attitudes bordering on the genocidal. On the face of it, one would think, this is a clear candidate for anti-Semitic discourse. ” [My emphasis.]

Update 4: It seems that Liberal Conspiracy moderators are filtering out the worst comments from obvious bigots. Most commendable. I hope they continue this approach as they will, unfailingly, touch on related subjects in the next weeks and months.

Update 5: Liberal Conspiracy appeared to be down, but this comment from the Google cache was illuminating:

“Shuggy 12:34 am, January 31, 2013

Oh for goodness sake! Anyone familiar with the history of anti-Semitic imagery and propaganda calls this out of what it is. Those that don’t need to go back to school.

Look, it’s a simple distinction between a right and an obligation; the former doesn’t necessitate the latter with regards to publication. Take three recent examples:

1) The Guardian has the right to publish Burchill’s article but since it was a piece of shit, they shouldn’t have.

2) The Sunday Times has the right to behave like Der Sturmer, I suppose, but anyone with any knowledge of European history would hope they might have more sense.

3) Most recently, we have an anti-Scottish racist cartoon by Steve Bell. I would defend the right of the Guardian to publish it – but obviously as a Scot, I rather wish they hadn’t.

But I’m not that surprised because quite frankly the British ‘quality’ press has a bunch of thugs working in it these days and it would be refreshing if you had something to say about that rather than, “Ooh, Nick Cohen defended this but doesn’t defend that…” You both work for the same increasingly shitty paper, after all – and you haven’t even touched upon the cesspit that is the Daily Telegraph, which is – as they like to remind us – Britain’s best-selling ‘quality newspaper’. [My emphasis.]”

Shuggy calls out the Liberal Conspiracy’s piece as more of a spat between media types than any particular concern for correctly analysing antisemitism.

That seems a fair judgement given the LC’s coverage of such matters.

Update 6: The Guardian contrasts two views on that awful cartoons, however the comments box is as poisonous as ever.


3 thoughts on “Socialists, Scarfe’s Cartoon And Inverted Commas

  1. Robert 30/01/2013 / 17:06

    Hold on, how is the LibCon post you cite in the update related to holocaust denial. I’ve read the post, and Sunny is a) asking why the anti-censorship lobby are not defending Scarfe’s right to be offensive and b) in his PS, venturing his view that the cartoon is not anti-semitic (he cites a persuasive Haaretz article in support of that view).

    Defeding someone’s right to free expression is definitely not the same as endorsing or supporting what they say. c.f. Voltaire, &ct. And I don’t think discussing whether a cartoon is anti-semitic or not is by definition anti-semtic. That’s circular logic.

    There’s really nothing on the @LibCon piece that is in the same unpleasant ballpark as putting the holocaust in quote marks, which I agree implies distain for the term and hints at holocaust denial.

    Or, do you mean the comments on the @LibCon post. I’ve scrolled through and don;t see anything comparable to the Socialist Unity site, but maybe I missed something.

  2. Jim Jepps 30/01/2013 / 17:31

    Well, I’m a harsh critic of Israel’s government and certainly did not think Scarfe’s cartoon was anti-semitic, as it seems to fit with his body of work in tone and style, but I am utterly bemused at how some people – often on the left – seem to think Holocaust Memorial Day is actually “Criticise Israel in the most clumsy insensitive way possible day”.

    I’ve got no objection to people talking history or taking a swipe at any nation state but to use this day in particular to make an annual announcement about “Jews” that minimises the Holocaust is, I think, wrong and more than a little unpleasant.

    Personally I’d like people to spend a few moments on HMD to actually give a thought to the Holocaust without using it to grind any axes. That’s not incompatible with critiquing the role of Israel in the region. It seems the respectful approach to a world historic tragedy.

    I’d assumed the person using inverted commas was trying to make a point that there is a difference between the historical and undeniable event of the holocaust and the various narratives that have grown up around it, so I went to have a look. I think it’s worth quoting so people can see what the discussion is about;

    “the Zionists are never going to let people move on or forget about the “Holocaust” because there’s just to [sic] much money to be made from it… ”

    It’s very easy to see why there were objections and it doesn’t look like a nuanced or reasoned point but something more worrying entirely.

  3. soupyone 30/01/2013 / 18:19


    Precisely, timing is an issue, but also content and how there is such slippage, which goes unnoticed. That is most worrying.

    We know the Extreme Right exploits these issues yet there is a tin ear to any concerns raised. The major objection was issued *after* this post was referenced on their blog, prior to that the moderators felt putting holocaust in quote marks wasn’t an issue. That I find troubling. There is inability to see way such arguments are going.


    As I pointed out previously your comments threads often littered with sophisticated animosity towards Jews, not the crude stuff of knuckle scraper. I did not talk of Holocaust denial rather a certain ambivalence, ambiguity towards Jews and almost complete lack of sensitivity. That is my point.

    I like LC, it has some very informative articles, good discussions.

    But I know if any post at LC relates to Jews that discussion will be appalling & go downhill quickly. I feel that Voltaire aside, the moderators at LC should at least be aware of Far Right provocateurs and attuned to some of the sensitivities.

    I am not asking LC to change their views or stop criticising particular governments. I would just prefer if LC could treat these issues with balance and political sophistication, as they do with other issues.

    Robert, is that too much to ask?

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