The annual assault of antisemitism [PART 1]
What role has the press played in Labour’s seasonal saga?
On 12th August 2015, The Jewish Chronicle ran a front page editorial alleging of Jeremy Corbyn that, “there is overwhelming evidence of his association with, support for — and even in one case, alleged funding of — Holocaust deniers, terrorists and some outright antisemites.”¹
The following day an article in The Guardian ran with the headline, “Jewish Chronicle accuses Corbyn of associating with Holocaust deniers.”² It was the first story ever to be published in a UK national newspaper with the words ‘Corbyn’ and ‘antisemitism’ in the same sentence.
The voting process of the Labour leadership election began a day later, on 14th August 2015, and since then a further 1,426 such articles have been published. This number climbs to 2,087 for those with ‘Labour’ and ‘antisemitism’ in the same sentence.³
During the three years of Corbyn’s Labour leadership, the association of antisemitism with the Labour Party has been a relentless media narrative. The 2,087 articles published in that time have come at an average of nearly two per day.
Yet in more than six and a half years prior to his election, just 178 articles were published associating the Party with antisemitism, at an average of one every fortnight. Is antisemitism 25 times more prevalent in the Party now?
Perhaps the most surprising trend is the recent drop in stories about antisemitism that don’t associate the problem with Labour. In the five years prior to Corbyn’s leadership such stories steadily grew in frequency, but the past two years have seen a progressive decline (despite the overall number spiking massively).
What of Islamophobia?
Coverage of Islamophobia in the UK national press has been significantly scant in comparison: in the last 10 years, articles with the word ‘Islamophobia’ printed have been outnumbered nearly four-to-one by articles featuring ‘antisemitism’.
There have been more articles about antisemitism in this year alone⁴ than there have been about Islamophobia since the start of 2013. In 2016 there were more articles about antisemitism than there had been about Islamophobia in the prior eight years combined.
There is no way to reliably compare the incidence rate of each⁵, but it is safe to say antisemitism has not been four times as rampant as Islamophobia has in the UK over the last decade: there are more than 10 times as many Muslims as there are Jews in Britain⁶.
If the disparity in reporting on each were reflective of the real differences in the experiences of each community, that would mean that — on average — a Jewish person experiences antisemitism 39 times more frequently than a Muslim person does Islamophobia. This is patently absurd.
So if the overwhelming disparity in press coverage is not representative of reality, then what is behind it?
Is Islamophobia inherently less newsworthy?
Do stories on antisemitism sell more papers and attract more clicks?
Whatever the reason, one thing is certain: Islamophobia in the Conservative Party has hardly registered as a subject of interest in the press. Over the last ten years there have been just 133 articles linking the two; they are outnumbered 17:1 by stories linking antisemitism with the Labour Party.
Part 2 Preview:
There is no smoking gun evidence of a coordinated media campaign to paint Jeremy Corbyn as a figurehead for antisemitism. Nevertheless the data — when viewed as a timeline — is compellingly suggestive.
- Part 2: I will analyse the data on antisemitism and Islamophobia in the UK, and explore the impact press coverage has had on public opinion of the two major political parties.
- Part 3: I will ask whether the press has failed to hold the Conservative party to account over Islamophobia in its ranks?
¹ Anonymous. “The key questions Jeremy Corbyn must answer.” The Jewish Chronicle, 12 August, 2015. (Accessed: 21 August, 2018)
² Rowena Mason. “Jewish Chronicle accuses Corbyn of associating with Holocaust deniers.” The Guardian, 13 August, 2015. (Accessed: 21 August, 2018)
³ All data on newspaper coverage has been compiled from Nexis News searches. The dataset is accessible on Google sheets.
⁴ All data was last collected on 19 August 2018, so all 2018 data is up to and including that date.
⁵ Police data on hate crime does not make a categorical distinction for either.
⁶ 2011 Census data. Muslim population: 2,706,066. Jewish Population: 263,346.