by Marcus Hillier
Any casual observer of UK politics would have been left decidedly befuddled this week by the mainstream-media’s coverage of UKIP’s EU-elections launch. Instead of quizzing the party leadership and prospective election-candidates on policy and their message for the country at-large (which some would regard as quite important topics given the present uncertainty surrounding the direction of Brexit), the BBC opted to fixate on a three-year-old “rape tweet” from UKIP-candidate Carl Benjamin (better known by his Youtube moniker, Sargon of Akkad). Said tweet allegedly – yet obviously erroneously – is claimed to have threatened rape against Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, Jessica Phillips.
In dissecting the press’s latest targeted-smear of Benjamin and UKIP, we are invited to engage in an exercise in context; both of the original-tweet directed at Phillips and of the media’s purpose in resurfacing it after all this time.
First, a not-too-recent-history-lesson: back in the fall of 2015, Jess Phillips contracted internet-infamy when a video emerged of herself openly and childishly laughing at Conservative MP Philip Davies’ request for a Commons debate concerning men’s rights during a hearing of the House of Commons Backbench Business Committee.
Throughout the ten-minute-exchange (which can be viewed here in-full), Phillips mocked and derided Davies’ request, defiantly pontificating that “in the fight for [gender] equality… these men [set to debate men’s issues] do not have that much to fight for.” She then went on to add, “when I have [gender] parity, you [Davies] can have your day [of debate]. And that will take an awfully-long time!” Phillips then promptly burst-out in a conclusive fit of sniggering before literally bonking her head on the table in front of her. How she was able to perform such a feat of degeneracy in response to a modest request to discuss issues such as the disproportionate amount of male-suicides is disturbing.
“In the fight for [gender] equality… these men [set to debate men’s issues] do not have that much to fight for… When I have [gender] parity, you [Davies] can have your day [of debate]. And that will take an awfully-long time!Jess Phillips, MP
Well, perhaps given the thirteen UK-men who committed suicide that day (ONS, 2014), the two-hundred that died prematurely of cancer (ONS, 2014) and the thousands that were to experience domestic-violence (ONS, 2015) one could argue that a mere debate concerning men’s’ rights just might have warranted a higher degree of both consideration and class.
This incident (so-called ‘Sniggergate’) was likely the first of several ill-fated episodes involving Phillips which drew the ire of her political-opponents on Twitter. Suddenly a barrage of online-criticism hit the rookie-MP (whom had just been elected from an exclusively-female Labour shortlist earlier that year); much of it far beyond the limits of polite political debate but only exceptionally were there instances of threats of violence.
To the average public-figure on Twitter, this is nothing new. Wackos and crazies, trolls and edgy-personalities roam in abundance, and when their presence emerges most individuals will simply ignore their comments and move on.
However, for Jessica Phillips, this was simply not considered an option. The self-styled feminist apparently came to be of the opinion that she was entitled to be inoculated from such criticism; as can be seen with her writing in the Guardian:
It might be easy to brush away the febrile atmosphere online as a nasty by-product of free expression. It’s less easy when it happens to you.Jess Phillips, MP
In other words: ‘I’m okay with the people I disagree with being criticised and mocked, but when they’re doing it to me, now that’s not allowed.’
Believing herself to have immunity from any and all political-criticism (a strange outlook for a Member of Parliament to take), Phillips decided to utilise her public-platform as an MP to engage in a so-called ‘anti-bullying campaign’ – lobbying social-media platforms such as Twitter to more heavily censor and self-regulate their sites (the likely side-effect of this being a stifling of free-expression and thus preventing her political-opponents from countering her left-leaning ideology). Such self-regulation would (and now, in 2019, has) caused a marginalisation of libertarian/conservative voices on the political-spectrum and a new government White Paper on social-media regulation uncovered this year threatens to go much further.
Enter: Carl Benjamin, whom in 2016 (prior to any formal-involvement with UKIP) decided to satirically expose Phillips’ disingenuous campaign by tweeting at her Twitter-profile: “I wouldn’t even rape you.” The tweet – its raw form being the antithesis of a rape-threat (really an anti-rape-threat) – was intended to exemplify that both Phillips’ and her loyal media-allies would likely interpret the tweet as a call to sexual-violence (even though, as explained, it was the opposite of this). This, in-turn, would expose the mainstream-press’s politically-correct inclinations to interpret any and all things as being charged with misogyny, and the tendency for such ‘anti-bullying campaigns’ to overstep their mark.
As expected, both Phillips and the media took the bait, and Benjamin’s sense that her campaign was predicated on faux-concern for those harassed online and really was just an excuse to engage in a witch-hunt of her political-enemies was vindicated.
Despite this, both Phillips and the leftist-media continue to peddle the narrative that Benjamin’s tweet was an incitement to harm the MP.
In a marked-display of a lack of self-awareness, Phillips herself has made spurious threats in the past, however seems capable of understanding that they are meaningless when she does it – publicly telling Owen Jones in 2015 that she had told Jeremy Corbyn, “… I won’t knife you in the back, I’ll knife you in the front.” In response to criticism about her choice words, Phillips remarked on Twitter: “I am no more going to actually knife Jeremy Corbyn than I am actually a breath of fresh air, or a pain in the arse.”
I would vote for the latter. In all sincerity though, this makes Ms. Phillips’ dishonesty and hypocrisy even more obvious.
However, as time passed – both as Jess Phillips fell into relative political abeyance (probably as even the left-leaning media grew tired of her constant, tediously narcissistic outbursts) and as Carl Benjamin became more prominent within UK-politics – the nation’s establishment press has now sought to revive the instructive incident in order to character-assassinate the UKIP-candidate.
In 2019 – during the latest-instalment of the “rape-tweet”-saga – the press have attempted to use this as their new club to beat over the head of Benjamin (and thereby UKIP). Yet, despite their frequent – and I do mean frequent – attempts to take him down, this does not appear to be going to stick. As Benjamin rightly responded at the UKIP-launch:
That [past tweet] is all you want to talk about? Our country’s future is on the line [and it’s] all you can talk about, and the vast majority of people out there couldn’t care less.Carl Benjamin, UKIP MEP Candidate
Ultimately, Mr. Benjamin is right on the money: it’s substantive issues of public-policy; not shallow political-jabs, that are considered to get the public’s “noggin’ a’ joggin’”, as he puts it. It is the issues of the day that the public consider to be important.
Well, that is apart from Jess Phillips…
In a final, self-absorbed, whimpering contribution to the collective-media circus, Phillip’s tweeted:
‘Comedy’ is a has-been middle-aged politician operating in professional obscurity whom has been dragged-out of the refuse bin by the media in order to be the pawn in a low-brow attack on an up-and-coming politician? And whom narcissistically revels in the aftermath?
That is not comedy, little Jess.
That is tragedy.