Recently we spent several days getting acquainted with Ben Norton, a baby-faced American whose callow, knee-jerk-leftist pieces for Salon and elsewhere have caused him, inexplicably, to be taken seriously as commentator on world events. He is a walking poster boy for unthinking ideological conformity: he hates his own country, he despises Israel, he’s been a consistent apologist for chavismo in Venezuela, for the Kirchners in Argentina, and for Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, and he’s a staunch defender of the Palestinians, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islam generally.
You could be excused for getting Norton confused with the equally boyish-looking Owen Jones, who is currently a columnist for the Guardian. Jones used to write a column for The Independent, and has also contributed to the New Statesman, Mirror, and other leftist outlets. Like Norton, he’s also a fixture on political TV programs. The main difference between these two lads is that Jones is British. Otherwise they’re both singing almost exactly the same tune: anti-American, anti-Israeli, pro-all those Latin American socialists, and, last but far from least, pro-Islam.
Jones, an Oxford grad, has a far-left pedigree: his grandfather was a member of the British Communist Party, and his parents met as members of a Trotskyite group. So he’s not exactly a rebel; he’s just gone into the family business. At 31 (though he could pass for a high-school student), he’s already written two books: Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class (2011), which made his name and resulted in his gig at The Independent, and The Establishment: And How They Get Away With It (2014). His rise, like Norton’s, has been lightning-swift: in 2013, The Telegraph named him the seventh most influential member of the British left.
What has he done to earn all this attention? As with Norton, one is compelled to conclude that he’s become a welcome voice in the pages of the left-wing press and on the politically oriented chat shows because, first, his views are entirely predictable and thus perfectly suitable for the crude this-side-vs.-that-side mentality that governs much of the legacy media and, second, he’s young and cute and lively, a creature of the social-media age whom the powers that be at geriatric media organs like the Guardian, the Beeb, and Sky News think will help improve their sickly readership/viewership numbers among members of his generation.
Certainly he hasn’t brought any fresh thinking to the table. “Modern capitalism is a sham,” he has written, and “democratic socialism is our only hope.” He has made this same statement over and over again, using somewhat different words each time, in innumerable pieces and media appearances.
As for the Islam issue, Jones, like Norton, is less interested in writing about cases of mass slaughter by jihadists than about incidents in which, say, some non-Muslim is alleged to have pulled a hijab off of a woman’s head or to have yelled some naughty word at her on the street. Indeed, his standard response to those giant terrorist attacks is to wring his hands about anti-Muslim backlash. Last November, he wrote that “in the US Muslims have to endure growing threats of violence and abuse.” He routinely spreads disinformation about Islam (“the Qur’an forbids the killing of innocent people”). This spring, he vocally championed the successful candidacy of Sadiq Khan, a Muslim, for mayor of London, despite Khan’s ties to a radical imam and Islamic State supporter. (Khan, who has supported the “right” of women in the UK to wear full burkas, has already ordered a sharia-like ban on images of “indecently” clad women on public transport and refused to ban Hezbollah from London.)
What about that little above-mentioned detail about his own personal life – namely, the fact that he’s gay, and would therefore automatically be imprisoned, tortured, or executed in Islamic countries? We’ll get to that tomorrow.