Joanne Bell

When Rosie met Jim: the anti-racism picture that wasn’t

A purportedly heartwarming image from a recent Black Lives Matter protest that went viral was in reality the very opposite of heartwarming

June 16, 2020 13:42

After last weekend’s Black Lives Matter demonstrations, a heart-warming picture emerged on the internet. A kind-faced, suit-clad, elderly white man with a sign saying, ‘Racism is a virus, we are the vaccine’, sat deep in thoughtful conversation with a young Black woman. The image went viral on Facebook and Twitter garnering millions of views and hundreds of thousands of likes and shares. An apparent beacon of hope against racism.

One minor issue. That kindly, elderly man? His name is Jim Curran, an Irish nationalist and regular attendee at meetings of the Far Right/Left crossover group, Keep Talking. This extremist organisation was recently exposed by the CST and Hope Not Hate. They detailed how extremists from across the political spectrum (ex-Labour members Elleanne Green and Peter Gregson, Gill Kaffash and Tony Gratrex formerly of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and convicted Holocaust Denier Alison Chabloz and former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke compatriot, James Thring) met to obsess over antisemitic conspiracy theories: from the ‘Jews did 9/11’ to outright Holocaust denial.

Of course no-one can be expected to know that from seeing the picture. But what happened when it was brought to their attention? That’s where things got really alarming.

Curran’s identity been brought to my attention by antisemitism researcher, David Collier, I tweeted at two top accounts who were sharing the picture to explain Jim Curran’s background.

Their response? To block me. And not just me, but everyone raising the issue.

Meanwhile, when I tweeted the woman in the picture, Rosie Smith, she said: “He is an activist and a beautiful man. Spoke some real deep truths”. And then – chillingly – “His words brought me to tears. He said the genocide the news [sic] went through, was nothing on slavery and what black people endured and are still enduring”.

It seems Jim Curran had literally been dripping Holocaust denial into her ear, at an anti-racism rally.

Ms Smith went on to say: “I…judge him on our convo and from his vibe and his work. The jews are not innocent, #israelosnotinnocent they deal with mad racism!”. And also blocked me.

Despite the fact that concerns about Mr Curran were now flowing around social media, a series of prominent media and social justice organisations were more interesting in promoting the romantic narrative that than the messy truth. The Labour group, Momentum, posted the picture on their Facebook page with the caption “more of this please” and a leading figure in Amnesty UK shared it. Pro-Europe organisation, Best for Britain, defended their decision to promote the image on their Facebook page (to my utterly jaw-dropping disbelief) saying:

“Some people have identified that the old gentleman in the photo is a holocaust denier. We believe that this fact makes it even more important to share this image. It is worth applauding the fact that these two people from different generations have found common ground, and had a friendly conversation in the middle of a day of violent protests.” (My italics).

A common ground of Holocaust denial and antisemitism? No. I don’t think that’s to be applauded, Best for Britain, not really, no.

And, even more worryingly, over 24-hours after details of Mr Curran has been brought to light, ITV News hosted Mr Curran and Ms Smith on their “and finally” segment. ITV News are deleting comments on their Facebook page raising the concerns.

At a time when there is so much positivity about tackling racism in this country, this whole series of events shows something deeply rotten. We’re at the stage where actual Holocaust Denial is dismissed or downplayed for ‘the greater good’ or because it’s inconvenient to ‘the narrative’. The romance of the picture more important than the truth. Something as a campaigner with Labour Against Antisemitism I’m all too familiar with. Corbyn fraternising with the IRA and Hezbollah? Mere details. Jeremy is a good man, a life-long anti-racist.

It’s easy to understand why antisemitism is so attractive to the modern Left. It pits ‘rich white Jews who benefit from the Holocaust and oppress the Palestinians’ at the top of the pile against poor, dispossessed people of colour. It makes Jew-hate edgy, striking back against ‘the man’. Making it a zero-sum game, that Jews can’t win.

Calls have been made to incorporate Britain’s colonial exploits and Black History into the mainstream history curriculum. I wholeheartedly agree. But going by recent days, the history of the Jews and antisemitism needs to be right along beside it.

June 16, 2020 13:42

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