Nick Cohen

Trump and Corbyn are both now leaders of losers’ cults

Supporters of both politicians 'live in fantasy worlds', says Nick Cohen


A Labour supporter dressed as Father Christmas and holding an image of US President Donld Trump and a "Save our NHS" banner, reacts as he awaits the arrival of Britain's Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn at a general election campaign event in Stainton Village, near Middlesbrough, north east England on December 11, 2019. - Britain will go to the polls tomorrow to vote in a pre-Christmas general election. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

January 21, 2021 12:59

The similarities between the supporters of Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn are as striking as the differences. Both have elevated their leaders to quasi-divine status. Both live in fantasy worlds and refuse to take responsibility for the disasters they have inflicted on their movements.

In the 20th century, sociologists studying religious and political cults talked of “milieu control”. The leader would cut his supporters off from friends and family who might warn against believing his propaganda. They would live together, marry or pair off with each other, and invest so much time in the cult they could not contemplate the thought they had wasted their lives on a worthless endeavour.

Social media bubbles and, in the case of the US,  politically biased TV networks allow millions to live in ideologically controlled milieus today. Trump lost the White House, Senate and House of Representatives and heaped shame on the conservative movement when his mob stormed the Capitol. American commentators ask when Trump’s followers will accept that they lost the election he tells them they won, and break free from his grip. The evidence from the UK is that a significant minority will never concede that they were wrong. They will live in a happy state of righteous denial until their dying day. 

Like Trump, Corbyn was a loser. He handed the Conservatives an impregnable majority that might take a decade to overthrow. The abuse of opponents, Labour’s anti-Jewish racism, and a left version of populism that insisted the great leader could fix a “rigged system” just by being great, ensured that in the UK as well as the US ignominy slouched side-by-side with failure.

One should not exaggerate the strength of the Corbyn movement. The majority of Labour members are sick of defeat, and there are significant divisions among socialists. But Corbynism remains the left’s dominant ideology — if the demeaning spectacle of leader worship can be dignified with such a grand title. It manifests itself not in the denial of election results or insurrection, but with an argument so dumb that I am embarrassed to repeat it.

No one can blame them or their leader for their defeat, they say. If people who hated what Labour had become by 2019 had nevertheless voted for it, Boris Johnson would have lost the election. Obviously, there’s truth in that. Equally obviously, the Monster Raving Loony party would now be in power if enough people had voted for it too. The point about democracies is that they work on the assumption that voters judge politicians rather than the other way round. If the electorate rejects your party, you should blame yourself rather than the voters for your catastrophic errors. 

The far left would rather blame anyone but itself. It salvages its conscience and tries to keep its failed project on life support by insisting that those who once doubted the leader beg forgiveness for the sin of failing to respect the boss.

A dismal and depressing cameo has played out on Twitter. Jack Monroe, the wonderful campaigner against food poverty, who did so much to ensure the government did not get away with allowing children to go hungry, has issued an apology that no free citizen should ever feel the need to make to a politician.
In the past, she had published her dismay at left-wing antisemitism on Twitter. In 2017 she told the London Evening Standard that the more his supporters deified the  “arrogant” and “divisive” Corbyn, “the more he believes his fan club. It’s not democracy if you can’t question the Dear Leader.”

As to prove the Dear Leader was a deity, Monroe published a recantation she had sent Corbyn. “I would like to sincerely apologise for my words. For misrepresenting your character, for allowing my own messes to blur my vision, and for leading myself astray and away from the one solution this country had to resolving food poverty once and for all.”  

I wrote a private note to Monroe in 2018 thanking her for standing by a frightened Jewish community when so many on the left had decided that tolerating racist conspiracy theory was a price worth paying for socialism. I checked as I was writing this piece, and found she had deleted her supportive tweets. 

Thousands liked her self-criticism. Not one I could see said words to the effect of “for goodness sake, what kind of gormless, servile cult demands that a good and tireless campaigner abases herself by asking forgiveness of its leader.  Corbyn’s a politician not a messiah, and we are socialists not Scientologists.”

Monroe did not respond to my attempt to speak to her. She may believe every word of her apology, but it will also get her enemies off her back. She recently complained about their accusation that “I single handedly lost the election”. Presumably, her accusers will move on to another target now.

Corbyn lost 11 months before Trump’s defeat. Monroe’s apology is a sign that his supporters have no intention whatsoever of admitting to their mistakes. I would be astonished if Trump’s supporters had any more integrity. We are stuck with both for years to come.

January 21, 2021 12:59

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