Notes From the Margins…

Hellhounds on my Trail

  • December 08, 2015
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I wasn’t going to write about the Stop the War/International Brigades fiasco again.  In fact I had hoped that it was all beginning to quieten down and I could return to normal and write about something else.  For  the time being at least, normality is no longer possible, and so I feel I have no choice but to try and surf the toxic wave that my response to Hilary Benn’s speech has created, if only to avoid being swamped by the garbage.

Now some of you might think that it is every blogger’s dream to see their site traffic ballooning day after day; to open a newspaper or go onto a webpage and find your words being quoted in a nice little screenshot, even if the articles in question don’t even mention your name; or to know that those same words are floating back and forth in twitter arguments.

Well in this case you would be wrong, because there is really nothing very enjoyable at all about seeing your own words being appropriated in the service of a vicious political lie. Today, for example I found an article by James Bloodworth on the website on why Jeremy Corbyn should leave the ‘repugnant’ Stop the War, which contained a screenshot of my International Brigades reference as proof that STW ‘praised’ Daesh.

I wrote to’s editor Adam Bienkov and pointed out that I had issued clarifications and a rebuttal, and he took the screenshot out.  But no sooner was that over than I discovered that Caroline Lucas had resigned from Stop the War because of ‘positions’ that the organization had taken.

I’m a great admirer of Caroline Lucas, so I was almost relieved to discover that these ‘positions’ did not include my own article, and referred to events that had preceded it.  But I still found my ‘International Brigades’ screenshot on a piece on the Huffington Post website referring to these ‘positions’.   So I wrote to HuffPost’s political editor Owen Bennett and pointed out that I had written a rebuttal and an apology, and now the piece refers to the latter.

Even then it was still not over.   By the end of the day I found my International Brigades piece yet again, in an article in the Guardian about Lucas’s resignation, so I am beginning to conclude that firefighting is an impossible exercise, and that journalists like Bloodworth  are either too lazy or too dishonest to actually check the ‘truth’ they are repeating, and that too many media outlets  only too willing to uncritically recycle what they say..

If these journalists had any integrity, they could easily have looked into why someone would have done something so outlandish as to ‘praise Daesh’ and read my original piece.   They would have realized  from the context that I did no such thing.  They might have quibbled at my wording; they might have argued or disagreed with me; or they might think that I was being unclear, as some people who have written to me have already  suggested.

But there is no way that any intelligent, honest or thinking person could seriously believe that I ‘praised Daesh’.   If they still had doubts, then any reading of my rebuttals or apology, or a look at some of the other pieces I had written would surely have dispelled them.

Instead an extract from a paragraph taken out of context has become a kind  of self-contained ‘truth’ which has nothing to do with truth at all, to the point when my own words have become a kind of alien language to me.   And the more this ‘truth’ spreads through the Internet, the more it has acquired the status of an uncontested fact; that Stop the War has praised Daesh..

I’m not sure if this Kafkaesque or Orwellian, but it is certainly kind of nightmarish, like chasing after a train that is always just in front of you; or  waking up to find that you’ve turned into Katie Hopkins; or finding yourself at the bottom of a dank hole with James Bloodworth and Dan Hodges nibbling pieces of flesh off your feet and handing them onto the Guardian and the Telegraph for a little snack before the big dinner of wrecking Stop the War, Jeremy Corbyn, and the single most promising leftist revival in decades.

Among the most depressing aspects of this new portal that I’ve stepped through are the gleefully contemptuous tweets, which seem to take a weird delight in insisting that I really meant what I did not mean, no matter how many times I insist that I didn’t mean it.   And the increasingly shrill and overheated messages I’ve received, such as the one ranting about throat-cutting Muslims in a way that seems to suggest I am somehow in favour of cutting throats, and another  suggesting  that I would have once supported gassing Jews, or something.

I am not posting these rants, neither of which seems to show the slightest understanding of what I actually said. One of them refers to my rebuttal and then paraphrases it to prove that even though I denied  that  I ‘praised Daesh’, I didn’t mean it.  I have the feeling that even if I wrote out ‘I did not praise Daesh’ a thousand times, like lines, or hired a plane to float these words on a giant placard in a nationwide tour,  there would still be those who would  say ‘ You praised Daesh.’.

There is nothing I can do to change their minds and convince them that I really, really, don’t love Daesh, and neither does Stop the War.   Too many people, it seems, don’t want to believe this, and believe what they have already chosen to believe, and the words I wrote have acquired a malignant life of their own that is entirely independent of my intentions and which I can neither clarify or reclaim .

So in this context, I am really grateful for the positive and supportive messages I have received on this blog and elsewhere, and also for the thoughtful discussions I have sometimes been able  to have, even with people who disagree with what I said.

They remind me of a world where dialogue, debate and discussion are still possible, where ‘truth’ is not confined within a screenshot, where conversations can continue, and ideas can be criticized and revisited.

And they also remind me why I started writing this blog, and why I will continue to do so.


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  1. Richard Carter

    8th Dec 2015 - 11:00 pm

    Firstly, Matt, I wanted to say how horrible for you it must have been these last few days to see people who are either unpleasant or lazy (or both) traducing you in the shabby way that they’ve been doing. On one level it’s inevitable that if you express a view that’s not the received one, what you’ve written will be distorted: it happens everywhere and I suppose we just get used to it. But on a completely different level, it’s vile and sickening, and any decent person must feel sympathy for you – hence this message of support from me.

    One thought remains: I wonder if, in responding to this stuff, you’re in some weird and self-contradictory, way reinforcing the view of the morons and the ill-intentioned. Does it look like an attempt at self-justification to respond as you’ve done? Would it have been better to have ignored it: after all, what you wrote seemed clear enough to me, and it’s hardly your fault if people like Hodges and Bloodsworth then distort it, quoting you out of context – a practice that theatre managements have been indulging in for decades of the kind that reduces comments like “You’d be mad to go and see this play!” to “Go and see this play!”

    But that’s a small thought beside the main one which is: there are many of us who greatly value your writing and look forward to your emails, so please don’t be put off by these slimy and false comments!

    • Matt

      9th Dec 2015 - 3:58 am

      Thanks Richard. Your thoughts very much appreciated, as always. I have wondered whether I should have just ignored all this, but I also feel I should fight back with the (few) weapons I have, and do what I can to contest these slanders and point out their political purpose. I think in some ways that it’s a lose/lose situation, and I certainly don’t intend to keep referring to it because, as you say, I can’t really control who comes to watch this particular ‘play’.

      • Richard Carter

        9th Dec 2015 - 9:41 am

        Thanks, Matt, it’s good that people here are supporting you against all the shit being thrown. In that cpntext, it was interesting to read a letter from Chris Floyd in the Guardian today ( saying about the treatment of his blog that it’s exactly what you’ve been experiencing. He concludes: “It has been disheartening though highly instructive to see how the opinions of a private citizen can be so twisted by a political system that puts the struggle for petty partisan advantage above all else,” which are words you could have written.

        I haven’t come across his blog before (the “offending” piece is at but it looks interesting – and maybe here’s a crumb of comfort in this for you: that the hoo ha may actually draw people to your blog. I hope so anyway!

        • Matt

          9th Dec 2015 - 5:31 pm

          Yes I know Chris’s blog, Richard. I didn’t realize he was the ‘reaping the whirlwind’ guy, till you pointed this out, thought. I’ve written to him to offer him my solidarity/condolences…

  2. facebook_Matthew Press.10153785834387138

    8th Dec 2015 - 11:18 pm

    Keep up the good work. Seems a confession of the vacuousness of the warmongers case that they seize with such enthusiasm on lies to bolster their case.

  3. Ken MacLeod

    9th Dec 2015 - 6:57 am

    Don’t blame yourself for the original piece — which was perfectly clear — or the use that has been made of it. You’re up against people with no scruples whatever in these matters.

    I tried fighting this smear as soon as I saw it on Twitter, to no avail. Perhaps a line of counter-attack might be trawling through what the pack hounds or their predecessors wrote about the Islamist fighters who went to Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Bosnia back in the day.

  4. Jo Rider

    9th Dec 2015 - 7:54 am

    So sorry to hear about the misuse of your words. I admired your original piece enormously and posted a link to all my family and shared it on Facebook.
    I did read the paragraph in question twice just to check what you meant! But I thought that was just me being a bit slow and never doubted your intentions. Warm regards, Jo

  5. Rachel Taylor-Beales

    9th Dec 2015 - 8:31 am

    So sorry that your words have been twisted and misrepresented in such a vile way… Sickening… Keep doing what you do! Well done for fighting back!

  6. facebook_Matty Matt.10154392813204447

    9th Dec 2015 - 8:37 am

    This is obviously meant to have a stifling effect on your efforts, at a time when critical voices are not wanted in the public sphere by those who cynically and unthinkingly promote illegal armed conflict. You should remember though, that this PR assault is coming from the same sort of people who brought us Jermemy Corbyn’s “Chairman Mao-style bicycle”.

  7. Stephen Watson

    9th Dec 2015 - 9:06 am

    Sending my support to you Matt.

    Back in around ’89 I gave a talk about a skills exchange, designed to help people get services they wanted/needed without money. A journalist from the Independent (I think) was there which we did not know, and he used my words in the article but selectively so it ended up portraying me as a cynical money grabber. I was gobsmacked. This is how the press operates even for something as trivial as a skills exchange, let alone dodgy warmongering politicians taking us to war again.

    All strength to you and keep your head up.

  8. Paul Seligman

    9th Dec 2015 - 4:25 pm

    Hang on in there, Matt. Putting your head above the parapet to shout the truth is never going to make you universally popular.

  9. Guano

    9th Dec 2015 - 5:47 pm

    I’m not a member of StWC and rarely follow what they do. Over the last few months, though, there have been a number of occasions when I have become aware, on some other media, of a controversy about StWC; when I managed to track down the origin of the controversy it was difficult to see what the fuss was about. There are clearly people who follow the organisation’s media and deliberately take offence at something in it.

    Then the media do exactly as Nick Davies described in Flat Earth News: they repeat it without taking time to understand it, because it must be news because somebody else has printed it.

    It’s funny that they get so upset about this comparison. Until mid-2014, ISIS was part of the Syrian opposition, that many of these people were supporting.

    • Richard Carter

      10th Dec 2015 - 5:21 am

      And here we go again: Emma Reynolds, apparently a front-bencher of some kind, has spouted that “Jeremy Corbyn should distant himself from the abhorrent views of Stop the War’s leadership and pull out of the fundraiser. They have compared jihadis to the international brigades which fought fascism in 1930s Spain, stated that Paris reaped the whirlwind of western intervention and they have excused Russia for invading Ukraine and Georgia. They are anti-West rather than anti-war.”

      So now we see it: what is at best a series of misinterpretations, at worst a set of outright lies, has now become received wisdom. I despair!

      • Matt

        10th Dec 2015 - 9:46 am

        Me too, Richard, me too. The whole process has been quite extraordinary and revelatory.

  10. Adam Smith

    10th Dec 2015 - 6:12 pm

    The first I heard of this was some rabid idiot babbling on Facebook, about STWC likening Daesh to the International Brigades and claiming that this was an official position of theirs. The minute I read it I knew it was bullshit and totally ignored it. Later on, the same thing came up on the Chanel 4 and I thought it was odd that such an outlandish claim should be taken seriously, even by the corporate press, a group that has always displayed a strange combination of gullibility and mendacity.

    So hearing it that second time, with the context being given that this was a blogger whose article had been published on their site, I was able to work out that, this was probably a case of the blogger being taken severely out of context, without even knowing who the blogger was, or having read the article.So I looked it up, found the usual suspects flinging mud, with fuck all in the way or evidence to back up their silly claims and then my suspicions were confirmed, regarding the need for a large part of the press to come to certain apriori conclusions about any dissident voices. As well as a need for these people to paint any opposition to the machinations of the Corporatist State as villainous, insane, or traitorous, in the most laughably propagandist way possible. I’ve read old editions of Pravda.
    These guys make them seem subtle.

    So eventually, I read your offending article and I’m still trying to see how anyone could pull these interpretations from it and still claim to be a someone who is able to interpret a text, or failing that, even understand relatively straightforward propositions made in plain English. I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but there is something about the out and out shamelessness, as well as vicious opportunism that fucking astounds me.

    I’m not a journalist,and I was able to work this was nonsense before I even looked at the article. So obviously, there is something else going on here. Namely, the continuing effort to discredit Jeremy Corbyn, . associate any dissension against Western Intervention, especially the Liberal interventionist kind with traitorous intent, and in general,extend TINA way way way beyond the point of a sick joke.

    How any of these journalist sleep at night, let alone look themselves in the mirror, actually amazes me. A lifetime of being invidous, divisive cunts, while staking out the moral high ground, must have a high psychic cost, no matter the reward materially or in terms of status.
    It’s little wonder most of journos I’ve ever met are alcoholics. Fucking degenerates, drowning their conscience with grog.

    Apologies for the intemperate language, but I’m sick of these people.

  11. Ed

    10th Dec 2015 - 6:14 pm

    Matthew, f**k them all and f**k the mangy, decrepit horses they rode in on. The people behind this are filth, the absolute dregs of British politics and intellectual life, and their camp-followers are sheep (at best).

    I’ve never met you in real life, but I came across your blog first a year or so ago and thought you had some excellent stuff on here. I thought the post that has caused all this fuss had one poorly worded sentence, but in the context of the full post your hostility to Daesh was perfectly clear; you’re entitled to assume that people will read your blogs in good faith without scouring them for quotes that can be taken out of context. The real mistake was for the STWC to post it themselves because they can’t make the same assumption; they’re a campaigning group with a lot of enemies, and this is an especially tense moment, so they should have been extra-careful not to give scumbags like Bloodworth an opportunity for a smear. But that’s water under the bridge now. Anyone who doesn’t stand up to this shower of hyenas attacking you deserves only contempt.

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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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