Liberal-Democrat whip in the House of Lords. House of Lords

Transition: From Concerned to Jenny Tonge and Ken O’Keefe.

While studying the phenomena of support for Jenny Tonge I have been struck by a number of things:

1. The level of shared paranoia and slippage into conspiracy theories that occurs.

2. How many of her defenders subscribe to her conspiratorial views or paranoia about some supposedly all-powerful “Zionist” lobby.

3. How distasteful it is to see once cynical individuals don rose tinted glasses when dealing with Tonge’s comments.

Granted, my sampling was only every reference to Jenny Tonge on Twitter for a 12+ hour period and there might be other interpretations. Nevertheless, they do seem to illustrate much of the above.

Naturally, there is a degree of variation and intensity in those expressing support for Baroness Tonge.

It is rather like a sliding scale, comparatively moderate at one end, increasingly vociferous and extreme at the other.

We can see how, otherwise, decent people may feel some sympathy for Jenny Tonge, as her supporters portray her as a victim.

The reality is, of course, very different. Baroness Tonge merely resigned the party whip, not from the Liberal Democrats. She is still a member. In fact, she has more freedom to shout off her mouth.

But it is understandable that some take pity on her.

Slightly further down the scale you have the political activists who have a chip on their shoulder about Israelis, and some that even share Baroness Tonge’s obsession with the supposedly all powerful “Zionist” lobby.

Inching along the scale we find cranks, such as the London BDS, which make inflammatory and perplexing remarks:

“Please write to Baroness Jenny Tonge to show your support. Israelificated Zionists controlled media trying to…”

And:

“Lib-Dem and Labour Zionists purge Jenny Tonge « Red Scribblings”

On the surface comparatively moderate, however, digging deeper revealed a blog which proffers a strange mix of Holocaust denial, outright racism and stupidity.

All this might suggest that many people start off with understandable sympathy for the Palestinians, some migrate over time to Jenny Tonge’s stance and then possibly on to sharing Ken O’Keefe’s extremist views.

Readers will remember him ranting about 9/11 and Mossad, as the JC reported:

“Baroness Tonge was sitting next to Mr O’Keefe as he screamed at audience members, said Israel “must be destroyed” and claimed Mossad was “directly involved” in the September 11 terror attacks on the United States.”

That shared paranoia seemed almost infectious.

When questioned Tonge’s supporters are apt to respond with incredulity. They can’t see how their weird views could be seen differently from the outside. They show an almost complete lack of introspection.

That is the danger.

Starting off with good intentions, but after swimming around in this bizarre paranoid  dogma become obsessed with “Zionists” ending up like Ken O’Keefe, ranting on about Mossad and 9/11, almost foaming at the mouth.

Many people are concerned with these issues, but some succumb to Jenny Tonge’s polite racism and paranoia, and can become purblind to the implications of Ken O’Keefe’s views.

Frightening.

After Tonge

The discussions ramble on concerning Jenny Tonge losing the Liberal-Democrat whip in the House of Lords.

On Twitter Tonge’s supporters have been rather vocal, however, have sometimes undermined their case by citing Ken O’Keefe or the racist, Stuart Littlewood.

Some have sought to make Tonge into a victim, that her rights to freedom of speech somehow curtailed.

They have not been.

Tonge is free to shoot off her mouth where and whenever she wants.

In fact, I wish she would, so we can dissect this polite racism and point out the problems with it.

Tonge is still a member of the Lib Dems. They haven’t kicked her out, just remove the whip, which is a minor inconvenience.

There are broader societal issues involved in this type of racism that we should be discussing. We should be examining the use of polite racism in society, conspiratorial language and why otherwise intelligent people are not sensitive to it.

Sunny Hundal at Liberal Conspiracy explains the issues with refreshing clarity, Why Jenny Tonge had to go for her comments on Israel.

Martin Bright’s piece is good, Goodbye Baroness Tonge, it has been a long and troubling ride.

The comments box at the New Statesman are depressing and overflowing with racism, that is despite the NS’s moderator deleting comments.

Elsewhere in the world, Mother Jones covers anti-immigration laws in America, all 164 of them.

The Tablet looks at Julian Assange’s Chutzpah.

CNN provides good but dispiriting coverage of Syria.

In the Middle East, OneVoice Israel launches campaign against illegal outpost. The settlements don’t help peace. They are a thorn in the side of any long term agreement and should be removed.

A debate in the British House of Lords draws out how poorly the Church of England pays its staff, Bishops’ chauffeurs ‘deserve more pay’.

How the Syrian regime is slaughtering defenseless people, Syrian Army Using World’s Biggest Mortar Against Own People.

Finally, Beyond the Headlines is a very worthy endeavour.