Ken Livingstone's comments were contemptible. So how come so many people—and news channels—wanted him to keep repeating them?by Julia Blunck / May 23, 2018 / Leave a comment
After two years of acrimonious fights about his membership of the Labour party, Livingstone has quit, claiming it was a “distracting” row. It’s a pathetic and well-deserved end for someone who could have been a beloved politician. Livingstone repeatedly made claims that Hitler was a Zionist, an untrue and racist accusation.
His name was never too distant from the word “Hitler”—so much so that, with every TV appearance, it became something of a game to count the minutes until he said it on air. It was usually not a lot of time, although it’s not clear if he was easily baited, or just eager to get the bigotry out of the way.
As commenters discuss what Livingstone’s fall says about the Labour Party, it is worth also thinking about how we respond to it. Every time he appears on screen, there is still the anticipation, the jokes, is he gonna say it?
There is an argument to be made that a man who says horrible things deserves all the ridicule in the world. But this misses the bigger question: why does he keep being given a platform to say those things?
The media knows what the former mayor of London will do if he is put on air: he will offend Jewish people. To keep giving him airtime doesn’t make life easier for the Jewish community, or expose a part of his character that the public deserves to know about.
If that were true, once or twice would have been enough. Livingstone keeps being given a voice in the media because deep down, the audience wants people to show, and keep showing, the extent of their horribleness.
The truth is, the Hitler betting pool delighted many of the people who oppose the current Labour leader, because Livingstone’s continued presence in the party seemed like proof of what they believe about Jeremy Corbyn’s attitude to Jewish members. But the glee was purely self-satisfactory: it didn’t improve the party’s problems, and it didn’t consider the feelings of those hurt by what Livingstone was doing.
This delight is different from justified anger or frustration at party procedure. One comes from a place of legitimate opposition to Livingstone’s behaviour. The other revels in it.
“It is almost…