Who is really to blame for British army soldiers using Jeremy Corbyn for target practice?


Source: The Independent

What can be done about the state of the press and politics in Britain before someone else actually gets killed?

To a trained eye the video of three paratroopers shooting at a picture of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn looks dubious in the details. The “range” is cluttered, the pistols sound wrong, there are no firing lanes marked on the floor and the soldiers are wearing no ear defence. But the idea behind the post is clear and the reception to it in the most reactionary corners of the country is joyous.

This short video, originally posted on Snapchat, suggests that the spectacle of British soldiers shooting at socialist Labour leader Corbyn as if by firing squad is, if not a wholly desirable outcome, at least serves as good banter.

It is neither. This new scandal is a tragic commentary not just on our military’s internal culture, but on the state of our national politics. It comes at a moment of intense political danger when a viciously right-wing government teeters closer to collapse.

Meanwhile Corbyn, who could potentially take power from the Tories at any moment – unless another Conservative candidate steps into the breach – was himself physically attacked only weeks ago. Let us also recall: a Labour MP was murdered not too long ago and only yesterday the trial of a neo-Nazi accused of plotting to kill another Labour MP reached a crescendo.

Across Europe and the world (in and out of uniform) fascists are emboldened by victories like those of Bolsonaro in Brazil and Trump in America – their rise precipitated by the terminal decline of neoliberal centrism and the heightened inequality it triggered.

Since the early 20th century, the far right’s targets have not changed: migrants, the political left and anyone notably different. The footage of the British soldiers shooting at the image of the leader of the opposition both emerged from and will feed back into exactly that kind of politics.

Of course this latest episode raises once again serious questions about the military – as well as cutting through the army’s glossy waffle about diversity and inclusion. The military, as I have argued elsewhere, remains anchored to the political right, functioning at times (by design) as a far-right organisation in which power, submission, obedience, violent mythology and military ancestor worship, shape service personnel’s views and keep them in check so that they are better equipped to carry out violence in pursuit of UK foreign policy goals.

Yet let us be clear our army is a reflection of the population from which it is drawn and the class by which it is led. If we understand that we can take lessons from it. One clear takeaway is that Jeremy Corbyn has been dehumanised by his enemies in the media and the political sphere to the point of being seen as fair game. His death is no more than a joke. Some of the more extreme centrists and conservatives seem at times to ache for it and fantasise over it.

Three years of being falsely accused of being an IRA and Hamas sympathiser both in parliament and in print; being portrayed as a Dracula figure in the gutter press and made the focus of a contrived antisemitism scandal have left Corbyn – and for that matter other prominent people on the left – not just dehumanised, but a potential top target for every gammon, crank and right-wing buffoon in the land.

In 2015 a serving general anonymously threatened a military coup against Corbyn if he was ever to take power. Sadly investigations failed to discover who this “enemy within” was. If only there was a way to find out… perhaps GCHQ could lend a hand?

Regarding the video, the army has said it is investigating itself (as is always the case) and it wouldn’t be surprising if a soldier or two end up going round the corner from their garrison in Colchester to spend a bit of time in the military jail there. But the incident makes the army’s ongoing identity crisis and its growing contempt for democracy at all levels all the more urgent a question to answer.

Far more important though, however bleak it sounds, what can be done about the state of the press and politics in Britain before someone else actually gets killed?

Joe Glenton is an Afghanistan veteran, journalist and the author of ‘Soldier Box’


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