Seumas Milne has never unleashed war on other countries, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children. He has never unleashed Cruise Missiles, ordered the bombing of towns and cities, subverted international law, or in any way created the conditions of crisis, chaos, and societal collapse out of which the bestial violence of al-Qaeda and ISIS/ISIL has emerged.
Instead, Seumas Milne has spent his career railing against those responsible for the aforementioned, helping the vast international readership and following he has amassed in the get to grips and understand a world of injustice, underpinned by the organised hypocrisy and double standards that increasingly passes for democracy in the West. In other words, rather than a member of the media echo chamber, whose ignoble purpose is to defend the indefensible, Milne has been a fierce critic of the government’s role in lurching from one foreign policy disaster to another over the past decade and more, taking a stand on the side of those who have suffered as a consequence.
In other words he is one of the last journalists in Britain entitled to call himself one, ranking with the great American journalists and writers whose work exposing the injustice that was the dark underbelly of that country’s Gilded Age earned them the nomenclature ‘muckraker’.
Upon graduating from Oxford, he began his career in journalism as a staff writer at The Economist, before joining the Guardian, where he has reported from the Middle East, Latin America, Asia, and Eastern Europe, before becoming associate editor.
He has also written for London Review of Books and spent ten years on the executive committee of the National Union of Journalists.
Notwithstanding the aforementioned, his towering journalistic achievement to date is his account of the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike, The Enemy Within, originally published in 1990 and which has never been out of print since. It is a classic work, and the only account of this seminal labour struggle that takes a firm stand on the side of the men and women who fought not only to save their industry and communities, but who put up an epic resistance to the Thatcher juggernaut as it rolled over the lives and livelihoods of millions.
On a personal note, as recently as two years ago, while accompanying Seumas to a sold out event at the Edinburgh Book Festival to promote an updated edition of The Enemy Within, I witnessed ex-miners approach him with tears in their eyes to let him know how much the book meant and still means to them and their comrades, thanking him for telling their story.
How many journalists of the current generation could come close to producing work of such meaning? To ask the question is to answer it.
Now the reason it is important to establish these salient ‘facts’ about Seumas Milne and his career is that his recent appointment by Jeremy Corbyn as his press and strategy chief has unleashed such a chorus of condemnation and calumniation – by a constituency of right wing hacks, former Trotskyists turned right wing bloggers, and embittered failed Labour candidates, among others – you could be forgiven for thinking we are talking about Charles Manson rather than one of the most esteemed journalists this country has every produced.
Indeed, overnight, someone who has spent his entire career working at the very apex of his trade in the mainstream is “insane”, “an apologist for terrorism”, “terrorists”, and “murderous dictators”, a “Stalinist”.
The only thing Milne has not been accused of is 9/11, though surprise, surprise, he has been accused of apologising for it.
What we have seen take place is nothing less than a feral and unhinged scream from the swamp of reaction that resides in our culture, where every crank with a computer resides, consumed with bitterness and untreated angst, much of it in the form of self loathing over their own inadequacies and lack of talent – not to mention in some cases a jump from the extreme left to extreme right of the political spectrum, with all the psychological dysfunction such a metamorphosis describes.
So feral, so extreme has been this motley crew of first rate second rate men (and women) in their biblical denunciations of Seumas Milne, they make the McCarthy witchhunts seem like child’s play by comparison.
The words of Nietzsche come to mind: “Distrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful.” Oscar Wilde, however, comes even closer to the truth: “Ridicule is the tribute paid to the genius by the mediocrities.”