In a rhetorical move that has become so common as to be a cliché, writes Douglas Murray, political commentators create a parallel between two opposing positions and then claim themselves to be the reasonable and independent-minded people in the middle. Yet such thinking often relies on a false equivalency and, worse still, “attempts to repackage an act of astounding political cowardice as some kind of admirable moral stance.” Murray sees this tendency on frightful display in discussions of Britain’s national election, which takes place tomorrow—as pundits equate the anti-Semitism systemic to the Labor party with instances of “Islamophobia” among Tories:
[W]hat would the Conservative party have to be guilty of in order to be the subject of this one the one hand/on the other–ism? [The Tory prime minister] Boris Johnson would have had to have laid flowers at the grave of Baruch Goldstein (who massacred 29 Palestinian Muslims in 1994), plausibly the equivalent of Jeremy Corbyn laying a wreath at the grave of the Munich Olympics murderers. Yet, to date, no photograph has been found showing the Conservative leader making a pilgrimage to the outskirts of Hebron in order to perform this act of homage.
In 2017, Darren Osborne drove a truck into a crowd of worshippers leaving prayers at a mosque in Finsbury Park. And yet, to date, Boris Johnson has not campaigned that Osborne should not have been charged, found guilty, or sentenced for this appalling crime. So far as I am aware, no elected member of the Conservative party has pretended that Osborne is some poor, misguided innocent.
And yet this is the sort of act that would have to be found in the ranks of the Conservative party in order to find an equivalence to Jeremy Corbyn’s support for Samar Alami and Jawad Botmeh—two men who were convicted for a car-bomb attack on a London Jewish charity’s headquarters in 1994. While Corbyn acted as a long-time defender and indeed character referee for the anti-Jewish bombers, no senior Conservative appears to have made Darren Osborne into some kind of sick campaigning cause.
So why this strange emphasis from members of the commentariat who like to pretend that they are independent-minded, that they cannot vote for either main party because they are in some way equally bad? [The most] likely explanation is that many of these “independent-minded” columnists are simply far more tribal than they would like the rest of us to think. . . . And so they come up with ways to reorient the political landscape to present themselves as the only people remaining stable while everyone else is disoriented.