The Left

Fisking Ken

Ken Livingstone is a shameless liar. He is a man without principles or integrity. Whatever good he has done during his tenure as mayor is completely undermined by his ruthless – often petty – vendettas and character assassinations – based on outrageous, false allegations.

In a press statement by the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone on 28 February 2007, he accuses gay human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell of waging an “Islamophobic” campaign against the ban on Moscow Gay Pride (by Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov imposed).

Then on 1 March, Ken issued a defence of his hatchet job , which I reproduce below, illustrating how he manipulates and twists the facts.

Livingstone says: Mr Tatchell’s new piece in the Guardian’s Comment is Free rightly concentrates on the reactionary position on gay rights of the Russian Orthodox Church, which is by far the most powerful religious institution in Russia, as well as right wing secular currents and the Mayor welcomes this. However this appeared at 8 15pm on 28 February – several hours after the Mayor had made his comments.

Well, that would make sense if CiF bloggers actually posted their own stories. But the fact is, they submit it to CiF staffers who sub-edit the articles, write headlines and then post them up, usually, many hours later. In this case, because Tatchell was due to give a lecture in Chester that day, he had in fact submitted his article to CiF the night before. It was therefore written the day before Livingstone’s press release – not after, as the Mayor alleges. Livingstone’s researchers could have discovered this by phoning the Guardian and finding out when Tatchell’s article was submitted. When it was published is irrelevant.

Livingstone says: This new statement by Mr Tatchell’s is in sharp contrast to those on the similar ban last year when he stated: “These attempts by Russian state and religious leaders to suppress Moscow Gay Pride are a throwback to the bad old days of czarist and communist totalitarianism. No amount of threats and intimidation by the Mayor of Moscow, the Chief Mufti or the Chief Rabbi will stop the gay freedom struggle in Russia added Mr Tatchell.

Livingstone cites this press release from which the above is based.

Big fuck-up by Ken’s dirt-diggers here: Ken had also made the same criticisms of the Chief Mufti and the Chief Rabbi himself!

In other words, Ken is condemning Tatchell for what he himself said. What a hypocrite!

Here’s the evidence. Last year, Ken gave a statement – reported in PinkNews – saying: “The support given by the Russian Orthodox Church, the Grand Mufti, and the Chief Rabbi to a ban on a peaceful gay pride march is reactionary and the Mayor of Moscow should uphold the right of gays and lesbians to demonstrate peacefully.”

Livingstone says: Last year Mr Tatchell presented Russian Muslims as being the leading force attacking gay rights with the Mayor and Orthodox church responding to this: ‘Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has announced that the city government will not allow a gay parade “in any form” and any attempt to hold a gay event.

Well, Tatchell didn’t say Russian Muslims were the leading force attacking gay rights. Even a cursory read-through of the OutRage! news release cited by Livingstone show that Peter Tatchell presents Mayor Luzhkov as the main villain and he condemns ALL THREE religious leaders (Christian, Muslim and Jewish).

And, as I show above, Livingstone made the same criticism of the Grand Mufti and other religious leaders.

Indeed, Human Rights Watch’s Scott Long (who Ken will bring up later) wrote to the Mayor of Moscow criticising his ban which Luzhkov said was based on the claim “that the proposed event has ‘evoked outrage in society, in particular among religious leaders’”.

Livingstone says: A post by Brett Lock of OutRage! from 17 February 2006 stressed the central role of the Mufti, and his only reference to the Orthodox Church was to report that the Mufti had appealed to them to oppose the Moscow Gay Pride.

Well, my blog entry – which is, how do I put this – MY blog entry – is not an organ of OutRage! or Peter Tatchell’s, so it is actually irrelevant. But nonetheless, that particular entry was a response to a report in the Russian media quoting the Grand Mufti as saying: “The parade should not be allowed, and if they still come out into the streets, then they should be bashed… All normal people are going to join it — Muslims and Orthodox alike.”

Is Ken suggesting that it is inappropriate for a blogger to comment on the vile homophobic statements by the Mufti? In that post my reference was to the Mufti – because it was a response to the Mufti’s comments. Who else should I have mentioned? It is a blog post, not a press release!

Ken then slams me for only mentioning the Orthodox Church in the context of the Mufti urging it to join his denunciations. This was a fact. Let’s be logical here. If the Orthodox leadership had already joined in a denunciation of Moscow Pride at this point, why would the Mufti be urging them to do so? It is obvious that the Grand Mufti took a lead in religious denunciations of gay pride.

Blog posts are by nature single-issue. They are not feature articles. Ken did not mention that my blog coverage of Moscow Pride went over several posts – none of which mentioned the Mufti. And indeed, my most graphic report, which I compiled by speaking to friends who were in Moscow – I can’t stress this enough – didn’t mention the Mufti.

Livingstone says: In contrast to this emphasis on the leading role allegedly played by Russian Muslims here is the account by Scott Long of Human Rights Watch on the violent assault on the Moscow Pride march in 2006: ‘As they neared the entrance, draggled in the downpour, the skinheads came out of nowhere. I say ‘skinheads’ as a useful generalization. In fact very few of them fit the stereotype. There were three waves. First there were the Boys, the most numerous, mostly young (though some ranged into their late thirties), black-clad, short-haired though usually not shaven, thuggish and enraged. They were the shock troops. They were followed by the Priests. These, fatter, older, carried crosses or icons. They had beards, often, leather jackets trimmed to look like orthodox cassocks, sometimes black T-shirts with crosses bent fascist-style as if ready to administer a black mass. They chanted. Chanted. Finally, in the rear, there were the grandmothers. Old babushkas, kerchiefed, also carrying icons. They turned their backs on the mayhem the leaders were causing, faced the curious or outraged crowd, vented their tearful misery at the spectacle of their grandsons being arrested behind them, sang hymns, presented a pathetic face of suffering.’ As may be seen there is no reference to Muslims – who may have been present but clearly did not play the main role.

Here Livingstone is referring to Scott Long’s reports for the Washington Blade from Moscow.

What is so dishonest here is that he is contrasting one press release by Tatchellbefore Moscow Pride criticising the Mufti (and other faith leaders) with Scott Long’s report during and after Moscow Pride.

But, if you look at Peter Tatchell’s reports from the same period – on his website here, and in The Guardian, you will see that, like Long, he focuses on right-wing Christians and neo-Nazis and DOES NOT EVEN MENTION THE MUFTI. Tatchell also filed an exclusive report for UK Gay News from Moscow, and, surprise, surprise, DOES NOT EVEN MENTION THE MUFTI.

Basically, what Livingstone has done is taken one press release in which Peter Tatchell rightly criticised the Mufti (and other religious leaders) – a criticism Ken made himself – and now pretends that that was the sum total of Tatchell’s campaign on the issue, completely ignoring all other articles on the subject which disprove his case. He uses Scott Long as a contrast, but fails to note that, as he did, Scott Long’s human rights watch also criticised religious leaders and furthermore, Peter’s reporting closely mirrored Long’s when placed in the same time-frame.

Livingstone says: This campaign therefore portraying Russian Muslims, and the Grand Mufti in particular, as playing the leading role in the disgraceful and criminal assault on the Gay Pride march in Moscow last year is entirely false. It is evident that the Russian Orthodox church has much greater weight than all other religious organisations in Russia put together and it is only it, not Russian Muslims, who can practically create major religious pressure for such a ban – the statements by Russian Islamic leaders were as right wing as those of other religious leaders on this issue but they had no practical ability to be the decisive influence in this campaign.

This is a complete fabrication. As I have shown above, none of Peter Tatchell’s reporting ever mentioned the Mufti (or Muslims in general – which Peter never once referred to) as having anything to do with the “disgraceful and criminal assault on the Gay Pride march in Moscow”.

Peter’s criticism of the Mufti predated Moscow Pride and there is not one single point at which Peter mentioned to Mufti with regard to the assaults on gay marchers. Quite the opposite. Peter blamed right-wing Christians and neo-Nazis and – I’m sorry I have to repeat this – DID NOT EVEN MENTION THE MUFTI!

The campaign simply did NOT portray “Russian Muslims, and the Grand Mufti in particular, as playing the leading role in the disgraceful and criminal assault on the Gay Pride march in Moscow”.

Livingstone is a shameless liar.

Livingstone says: That Peter Tatchell in his new piece rightly emphasises the dominant role on the events in Moscow played by right wing Orthodox and right wing nationalist groups is extremely welcome and the Mayor looks forward to campaigning with him to defend gay and lesbian rights in Eastern Europe on this basis. But his does not alter the criticisms of Peter Tatchell’s previous statements on this issue.

A final lie from Livingstone: As I have shown above, Peter has written many articles during and after Moscow Pride and none mentioned the Mufti. In the pre-publicity calling for a protest against Luzhkov in London last Wednesday, nothing was said about the Mufti. At the protest, none of the placards or press statements mentioned the Mufti.

Ken has taken one press release which perfectly reasonably condemns the Mufti, together with his counterparts, the Chief Rabbi and leaders in the Orthodox (Christian) Church – ignoring the fact that the other faith leaders were also criticised, and pretended that the tenor of the Tatchell/OutRage! campaign was to blame the Mufti for the violent attacks on Moscow Pride marchers. This, despite multiple articles and press statements which show this is not true.

I’ll say it again. Ken is a shameless liar. He is a man without principles or integrity.