In recent months, even as a majority of the politicians in Britain’s two major parties have seemed to be doing everything they can to cancel or water down the EU exit for which the British people voted, the same establishment has been striving to stifle, and if possible destroy, the man who, more than anyone else in the country, articulates the rage and fear and hope of the British working class – and of no small number of middle-class Brits as well.
For years, British authorities have harassed, threatened, and imprisoned him, their objective plainly being to scare him into silence. Last summer they engineered an unjustified arrest, rushed him through a mockery of a trial, and shipped him off to prison, obviously hoping he wouldn’t come out alive.
Meanwhile, Britain’s mainstream media have demonized him, all of them singing from the same hymnal. Almost invariably, they prefix his name with the words “far-right.” Of course he is far from the only prominent figure in the Western world to be libeled in this way. You can be a liberal in pretty much every way, but if you are so consistent in your liberalism as to be a critic of the appalling illiberalism of Islam, then you are, in the lexicon of the mainstream media, “far-right.”
He’s also routinely identified as the founder of the English Defense League (EDL). Often this is combined with the term “far-right,” as in “founder of the far-right English Defense League” or “far-right founder of the English Defense League.” Very rarely is it mentioned in the mainstream media that he left the EDL years ago precisely because it was turning into a far-right organization and he didn’t want to have anything more to do with it.
Then there’s his name. Every time they mention Lady Gaga in the media, they don’t add “whose real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta.” They don’t remind us that Seal was born Henry Olusegun Adeola Samuel or that Snoop Doggy Dogg’s birth name is Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr. Nobody feels obliged to point out repeatedly that George Eliot was a pen name for Mary Ann Evans and Mark Twain a pen name for Samuel Clemens. How many people know that Bill Clinton was born William Jefferson Blythe III? But every time the British mainstream media are compelled to acknowledge Tommy Robinson’s existence, they feel obliged to remind us that his real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, and they do it in such a way as to imply that he’s trying to pull a fast one on us.
Almost invariably, there are the mentions of his convictions for minor financial crimes. Never does anyone explain that these were cases of the authorities looking for something, anything, to pin on him, and having to settle for trivial offenses of the sort that almost any of us could be nailed for. As Beria said, “Show me the man and I will show you the crime.”
Millions admire Tommy, rightly, as a hero of British freedom. But as a result of all the systematic disinformation, millions more readily echo the media characterization of him as a lowlife, a thug, a troublemaker.
Last year, he was banned from Twitter. He was also dropped by PayPal. On Tuesday of last week, the very day after he posted on Facebook his new documentary Panodrama, which he himself correctly described as “the most professional exposé on the BBC this country has ever seen,” Facebook and Instagram removed him. His Facebook page had reportedly been the most actively viewed in Britain.
Facebook accused him of having incited violence against Muslims. Anyone who is familiar with his work knows that this is the opposite of the truth: he has raised his voice for years about violence by Muslims. For years, while British media, politicians, cops, teachers, and social workers kept mum about a burgeoning nationwide horror of Islamic sexual violence – bringing to mind the chilling way in which Venetian authorities, hotel clerks, gondoliers, and other locals in Death in Venice hid from tourists the fact that that city was being ravaged by a cholera epidemic – Tommy decried the rapes, and the silence, from the rooftops.
Clearly, the immediate cause of his removal from Facebook was that he had pulled back the curtain on the chicanery of the mainstream media. In Panodrama, as I described at length the other day, he caught BBC host John Sweeney on hidden camera telling a former colleague of Tommy’s what he wanted her to say in an interview with him for a TV program with the working title “Tommy Takedown.” In the old days, that would have been considered a massive breach of journalistic ethics. This wasn’t the only revelation made in Panodrama. The whole thing amounted to a veritable catalogue of reportorial no-nos. One fact emerged with absolute clarity: Sweeney wasn’t after the facts. He was out to produce yet another piece of dishonest anti-Tommy propaganda.
Yet Sweeney has kept his job. The BBC issued a statement defending him. The “Talk” section of Wikipedia’s John Sweeney page reveals that some users have tried – with, at this writing, no success – to get Wikipedia to include even a mention of Panodrama.
Meanwhile, Tommy has continued to be punished for exposing the BBC. The day after the Facebook ban, Amazon – from which, as Tommy points out, you can buy Mein Kampf – stopped selling Tommy’s book Muhammed’s Koran. This is the first time I’ve ever heard of Amazon banning anybody’s book. Is this just the beginning? If so, who’s next? Keep in mind that for many writers nowadays who pen books critical of Islam, self-publishing via Amazon is the only way to get your work out there.
Just for the record, Tommy still has his YouTube page (where you can, at this writing, still view Panodrama). But how long will that last? On Saturday, Tom Watson, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, announced that he had implored Google CEO Sundar Pinchai to kick Tommy off YouTube because of his “messages of hate.” This from a man whose immediate superior, Jeremy Corbyn, a fervent anti-Semite, is a real messenger of hate.
You might think at least some mainstream British journalists would feel shamed into honestly covering Tommy’s bravura takedown of Sweeney. You might think that some of them would actually care about the truth. Instead, throughout Britain, they doubled down on the lies. Typical of the reaction to his deplatforming was a program aired on LBC and hosted by Nick Ferrari on February 27. One of Ferrari’s guests was activist Mohammed Shafiq, who said that, prior to Tommy’s removal from Facebook, he, Shafiq, had discussed Tommy several times with representatives of the social-media platform and had been instrumental in their decision to cut Tommy loose.
Who is Shafiq? He’s a household name in the UK, and in a 2014 article for the Guardian, Nick Cohen wrote about how that happened. It started with two audience members at the taping of a BBC discussion program who “wore T-shirts showing Jesus saying: ‘Hey’ and Muhammed saying: ‘How ya doing?’” The BBC honchos on the set, worried how Muslim viewers might react, ordered the show’s producers not to show the shirts on camera. One of the program’s guests, Maajid Nawaz, director of the Quilliam Foundation, was so offended by this cowardly move that after departing the studio he tweeted the image displayed on the T-shirts. In response, Shafiq “took it upon himself to organize a national and international campaign against Nawaz,” describing him on Twitter, in Urdu, as a “defamer of the prophet,” an accusation that, as Cohen pointed out, communicated to many Muslims the idea that Nawaz deserved to be killed.
That campaign turned Shafiq into a media celebrity – an unelected spokesperson for Islam.
Anyway, that’s who Shafiq is. Also on Ferrari’s LBC show the other day was YouTube personality Carl Benjamin (aka Sargon of Akkad), a liberal voice for free speech. It was clear from the outset whose side Ferrari was on. Tommy, Ferrari charged, “dehumanizes people because of their faith.” Benjamin demurred, calling Tommy’s Facebook ban an “activist hit job” that was based on claims about Tommy that rang totally false.
To his credit, Ferrari asked Shafiq if he could “provide any concrete evidence” of Tommy inciting anti-Muslim violence. After some awkward hemming and hawing, Shafiq claimed that Tommy had made a video in which he walked through a predominantly Muslim part of East London and “called every Muslim an enemy combatant.” Benjamin countered that he was familiar with the video in question, and that Tommy had said nothing of the kind; rather, Tommy had merely pointed out that members of jihadist cells were known to be living in that area.
Benjamin’s account of what Tommy had said was crystal clear and thoroughly honest. But Ferrari instantly twisted his words in such a way as to support Shafiq’s charge that Tommy had, indeed, depicted all Muslims as enemies. No matter how many times Benjamin protested this misinterpretation and reiterated his point, Ferrari stuck by his guns and agreed with Shafiq that Tommy’s exclusion from the public square was justified.
You would think the entire population of Britain would know by now that it has been sold a pack of lies about Tommy Robinson. But no. My own Facebook feed reminds me frequently that there are still those in the UK who wouldn’t think of questioning what they’re told about him by their mainstream media; the notion that all of their media, as well as their political, cultural, and academic establishment, might be actively misleading them is simply too much for them to take in.
It’s scary to even try to set them straight. Tell them that Tommy Robinson was instrumental in uncovering the grooming-gang scandal and they’ll retort that, on the contrary, he almost caused a mistrial in that Leeds case last summer by reporting on it from outside the courthouse. Besides, they’ll add, why doesn’t he pay as much attention to rapes by non-Muslim Brits as he does to rapes by Muslims? Obviously he’s a bigot!
There are few things as unsettling as the spectacle of people unquestioningly parroting everything the media have told them, even though the facts are at their fingertips – and, not infrequently, right before their eyes.
Of course there are people all over Western Europe who persist in denying the grim Islamic reality all around them. But it’s worse in Britain than in most other places. For me, a lifelong Anglophile, intensely aware of the importance of British principles of freedom and justice in the formation of the modern world, this fact continues to be a puzzlement. I’ve struggle to figure out what’s going on.
Part of it, as I’ve noted before, is obviously the class system. It was middle- and upper-class Brits who decided to import armies of Muslims into Britain; but it’s mostly working-class Brits who have had to live daily with the results of that decision. Britain’s middle and upper classes aren’t accustomed to caring what their social inferiors think, and the members of Britain’s working class aren’t in the habit of noisily protesting their own circumstances.
It’s instructive to compare Tommy’s circumstances to those of the brave and estimable Douglas Murray, the closest thing Tommy has to a middle-class counterpart. Would Amazon stop selling Douglas Murray’s Islam book, The Strange Death of Europe, which is a worldwide bestseller? Would he be picked up unceremoniously on the street, thrown in a paddy wagon, driven to a courtroom, put through a highly irregular trial without benefit of his own counsel, and then thrown in jail?
No. Not yet, anyway. There’s virtually no light between Tommy’s and Douglas’s views of Islam. But that’s not what matters. What matters is that they come from opposite sides of the tracks. Douglas went to Eton and Oxford; he writes for respectable journals and has a great many friends in high places; and even though he and Tommy are pretty much on the same page when it comes to Islam, the Oxford grad and the Luton lad use very different language to say the same thing. In Britain, this sort of superficial difference matters a lot more than it does in the US. So it is that if Douglas were subjected to what Tommy’s been subjected to, scores of MPs, journalists, Oxbridge dons, and major cultural figures like Stephen Fry and Rowan Atkinson would be sputtering in outrage. By contrast, the reaction from these quarters to Tommy’s mistreatment has been silence.
Another point. For middle-class Brits, there’s nothing more infra dig than exploding in anger. The French may take to the streets at the drop of a chapeau, but your proper Brit doesn’t rally, let alone riot. These are people who are famous for patiently queuing for buses (although that stereotype may be outdated), for keeping a stiff upper lip, for not getting “wound up,” for their wartime poster “Keep Calm and Carry On.” The greatest British rom com of all time, Brief Encounter, makes The Straight Story look like porn. These are people for whom working-class soccer hooligans are more of a national embarrassment than Islamic grooming gangs, because the latter at least engage in their unsavory activities behind closed doors.
Indeed, it occurs to me that if many middle-class Brits seem more eager to punish Tommy than to punish Islamic rapists, it’s because what matters to them is that they underscore the distinction between themselves and Tommy. No middle-class Brit worries that he or she might be mistaken for a Muslim, rapist or not; but there exists a pressing and perennial need to insist upon the width of the gulf between their own respectable selves and the vulgar likes of Tommy Robinson (cf. the TV sitcom Keeping Up Appearances). We’re talking about a country where, in the year 2019, when you’re booking a rail journey online, you can choose among the following honorifics: Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms, Rev, Dr, Sir, Lord, and Lady.
For generations of working-class Brits, the way to be heard has been to vote Labour. Period. But that day has passed. For a long time, the Labour Party agenda was closely aligned with the interests of the working classes. No more. Just as the Democratic Party in the US has pretty much abandoned its traditional base, the Labour Party in Britain has ceased representing the ethnic Brits who live in council flats and work at blue-collar jobs. Increasingly, Labour is after the Muslim vote.
Which means that working-class Brits need to shake off old habits. When they see a prominent fellow countryman – any fellow countryman – being silenced, platform by platform, they need to recognize it as a threat not just to him but to all of them.
Because of course this isn’t about Tommy per se. It’s about everyone who uses Facebook or Twitter or Amazon to spread opinions about Islam of which the British government and mainstream media disapprove.
It’s about whether anyone who dissents from the official British consensus on Islam is going to be allowed to speak at all – or whether such dissent, as is increasingly the case, is going to be punished by police harassment, or arrest and imprisonment, or worse.
It’s about whether the government of Britain is going to listen to the people of Britain or not. Has the British state already quietly decided that its best course of action at this point is to oversee a gradual, “peaceful” surrender to Islam, and to crush those who get in the way for fear that they might disturb that “peace”? It certainly looks that way.
Tommy is the voice of all of those who are standing up against, or who are struggling to work up the nerve to stand up against, this surrender – all those who don’t want their children and grandchildren to live as dhimmis, in a caliphate, under sharia law. It seems to me that for a great many of those who can’t bring themselves to stand shoulder to shoulder with Tommy, the problem is not cowardice, exactly, but something having to do with manners and image, with deeply inculcated ideas about propriety and good form and knowing one’s place. One can only wish that those who have not yet decided to capitulate to the Religion of Peace should stop worrying so much about keeping a stiff upper lip and instead grow a spine, find their voices, and have this guy’s back. Now. For soon it’ll be too late.