There's a story going round at the moment, a nice little tale about how Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, ever a man of the people, spent part of his Remembrance Sunday hanging out with veterans, chatting and taking photos with them, rather than attending a VIP lunch with David Cameron et al. It is a positive story, which grew organically on Twitter, and which was covered by the Huffington Post and The Independent, flying in the face of all that nasty tabloid vituperation poor old Jeremy so constantly faces.
It's not completely true, of course. Number 10 has confirmed there wasn't a VIP lunch − David hosted some veterans at his office without a gourmet vol-au-vent in sight, while Jeremy had a bit of time to kill and used it to speak to some potential voters managing not to invoke Karl Marx's vengeful ghost or trample the cross.
People queued up to debunk it all. But first consider the other story going about; this one splatted wholesale across the right-wing media. Finding themselves unable to attack him for not wearing the correct poppy, or not tying his shoelaces properly, or for not muttering a solemn prayer to Comrade Stalin, they've all had a lusty go at the manner and angle at which he bowed as he laid a wreath at the Cenotaph.
Apparently he gave no more than the most cursory of nods to the memorial, an act that fairly spits at the legacy of the millions of brave men who died so The Sun could fling low-key fascist accusations in their name. Even if he had just nodded, it would have been fine, but he didn't. He bowed in entirely the correct manner, apparently having learned a lesson from the recent national anthem brouhaha.
The Telegraph's Charles Moore gracelessly accepted that Corbyn bowed but he let himself down a bit by insisting it was all an act of cold reptile cunning rather than genuine respect.
Aside from the amusing notion of The Sun applying to an etiquette expert for its own angle of attack, the idea of Debrett's having an official ruling on appropriate bowing angles is plain dumb.
Worse though was the same paper's synthetic outrage at the message he left with his wreath, extending sympathy for dead troops who weren't British, which was taken not as the thoughtful mark of respect it was, but as a deliberate slap in the face to our brave boys.
This is an openly unpleasant and tacitly racist sentiment and once again highlights the excremental depths to which the Tories' outsourced propaganda division will sink, and rich indeed coming from a news organisation that hacked dead soldiers' grieving families' phones.
So to hear more enthusiasm coming from folks technically on Corbyn's side for debunking a minor positive story, than to call out The Sun's open sewer is more disappointing.
A similar rainbow of grossly unsubstantiated bile was projected at Ed Miliband by the Murdoch heavy mob, but the Left managed to unite sufficiently to rebut the relentless attacks on his father, his eating skills and his weird facial expressions. There wasn't much back-sniping from Miliband's side, but now we have a stronger, if more polarising, leader, some of these gloves are off. People who aren't happy their faction has lost its footing on the left-wing pecking order cannot now suspend their disappointment enough to pull properly for their own team.
There's no clever rhetorical argument to be made here; simply put, it is unhelpful to spend more time on petty internecine squabbles than it is to take the fight to the other side. There's no solution I can offer, either, that's cleverer than saying: "Please stop doing it; you're not helping anyone but David Cameron."
What Corbyn's detractors on either side need to ask themselves is: which the more egregious untruth is, and whether this is the level at which they want to play against a man who time and again says he wants his policies to speak for him. Obviously no election is ever a morally pure battle of ideologies playing fair, so if the Right is going to fight dirty, the elements of the Left who can't seem to help but carry their enemies' water need to decide once and for all whose side they're really on.