While ignored by all but a handful of major media, the decision to ban Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller from Britain received considerable coverage at the relatively small number of websites (this one, it seems, more than any) where it was recognized as an outrage. One detail that has perhaps been given insufficient attention, however, is the fact that this disgraceful betrayal of the traditions of British democracy came in response to a complaint by an organization called Hope Not Hate. (Or, as the group writes its name, “HOPE not hate.”)
What is Hope Not Hate? Founded in 2004 as a “positive antidote” to the British National Party, it “has the support of the Daily Mirror, trade unions, celebrities and community groups across the country.” I wrote about it here last year, after it issued a particularly odious piece of propaganda and character assassination entitled Counter-Jihad Report. The “report's” release was timed to coincide with the trial of Anders Behring Breivik, for its whole point was to link the Norwegian mass murderer with the several dozen people around the world (myself included) who were included in the report's list of critics of Islam – the idea being that those critics were purveyors of hate, pure and simple, and that Breivik's killing spree was a natural consequence of their vile rhetoric. About jihad itself – about 9/11, 7/7, and every other jihadist atrocity of recent decades – the “report” had absolutely nothing to say; on the contrary, the picture it painted was of a bunch of out-and-out hatemongers all of whom, in recent years, had resolved, for perverse reasons of their own (or, perhaps, without any reason at all), to despise and denounce a quarter of the earth's population. An uninformed reader of the report might easily have concluded that these hatemongers' common preoccupation – this thing they called jihad – was nothing more than a product of their twisted, feverish minds.
Was this counter-jihad movement an immense international conspiracy, whose participants had secretly connived to produce dozens of books, all within a brief period, about harmless people whom they had all decided to falsely and maliciously depict as a threat to everything they held dear? Or had these haters, in what could only be viewed as a staggering coincidence, all decided independently to target the exact same group of innocents with their bile? Whatever the case, the “report's” bottom line was that it isn't jihadist ideology that's the problem (not that the report even acknowledged this ideology's existence) – it's the criticism of jihadist ideology that leads to violence, and thus represents a deadly danger to civilization. To underscore this point, Hope Not Hate actually juxtaposed, on the first page of the report, a picture of Breivik aiming a gun with photos of David Horowitz and Geert Wilders. As I observed at the time, Hope Not Hate's document “turn[ed] reality on its head,” responding to messengers of truth – people who'd spent years alerting the public to a clear and present danger – by representing them as the real danger, and, at the same time, all but removing from the picture the people who really are the danger. The whole thing was absurd. Yet Hope Not Hate's “report” was taken seriously on both sides of the Atlantic by journalists who – apparently uncomfortable dealing with the reality of jihad – welcomed the opportunity to depict jihad's critics as the real menace to social harmony.
You've got to hand it to Hope Not Hate. It's done an amazing job of getting the world to accept that it is exactly what it says it is. (The Wikipedia entries for many individuals and institutions that deal with controversial issues generally mix cheers with jeers; but Hope Not Hate's Wikipedia page reads like a press release: “Hope Not Hate is an anti-hate, anti-racist and anti-extremist civil rights campaign based in the United Kingdom....”) Still, one can be forgiven for being surprised at the readiness of British authorities to do this preposterous posse's bidding. Granted, we're talking about a country where you can get in trouble for flying the nation's flag (and where a gypsy family can move into your house and trash your stuff while you're away for the weekend and not get into trouble); where preachers (only Christian ones, of course) risk arrest for criticizing homosexuality; and where police and social workers hesitated for years to save young girls from gangs of brutal Muslim rapists for fear of offending the latter's co-religionists. Even so, some of us weren't entirely prepared for the spectacle of the United Kingdom taking its marching orders from the likes of Hope Not Hate, and thereby utterly spurning age-old British principles of liberty in favor of Hope Not Hate's monstrous ideology.
And what exactly is that ideology? A spokesman for the group, Matthew Collins, spelled it out in a statement congratulating the Home Office for its ruling: “There is a line in the sand between freedom of speech and the right to use hate speech. Freedom of speech does not guarantee you that right....People will now quote Voltaire but he never had the benefit of going to the gates of Auschwitz and seeing where unfettered free speech ends up.” In other words, forget “I disagree with what you say but would defend to the death your right to say it”; now it's “I will do everything I can to silence you, because the kinds of things I have to say are good for society while the kinds of things you want to say resulted in the Holocaust.” In the eyes of Hope Not Hate, then, freedom of speech engenders tyranny, and the tyranny of speech suppression strengthens freedom.
Could it be more Orwellian?
Not only did the Home Office kowtow to Hope Not Hate; most of the media that deigned to cover the Spencer/Geller story dutifully followed Hope Not Hate's script. The Huffington Post, for instance, described the controversy as pitting two “far-right activists” against “anti-fascist campaigners.” Liberal Conspiracy, a classical liberal website in the U.K., accepted without question Hope Not Hate's self-designation as “anti-fascist” while echoing the group's dismissal of Spencer and Geller as “American bloggers.” (Virtually all the articles I saw about the case refer to them as “bloggers”; none mentioned that Spencer is the author of more than one New York Times bestseller.) Patrick Hayes of Spiked Online, a British libertarian site, did criticize Hope Not Hate for its “Doublespeak,” yet he, too, bought into the absurd notion that this gaggle of left-wing fascists are in fact “anti-fascist” and went along with the group's portrayal of Geller and Spencer, saying he'd never heard of them but that “[a]pparently, they are right-wing bloggers from America.” (Did it never occur to him to Google them?)
One article after another credulously transmitted Hope Not Hate's claim that Geller and Spencer had run ads “calling Muslims 'savages.'” Not one journalist seemed to have bothered fact-checking this calumny – and certainly it didn't to any of them that it's Hope Not Hate, not Geller and Spencer, whose specialité de la maison is name-calling. Similarly, the letter that started it all, in which Hope Not Hate accused Geller and Spencer of “incit[ing] hatred,” was quoted by a number of reporters – none of whom gave any indication of grasping the irony of the fact that the very people behind this charge had produced, in the Counter-Jihad Report, a consummate example of the incitement of hatred. Simply put, no media figure outside the “counter-jihad movement,” as far as I could tell, was clear-eyed enough to recognize that Geller and Spencer, like many of the others slandered in the “report,” are in the business of telling objective truths about Islamic theology – period – while Hope Not Hate, unable to refute those truths and therefore unwilling to debate the truth-tellers openly, has chosen systematically to respond to those truths with smears and lies and slander, misrepresenting the truth-tellers' message and striving to destroy their reputations and careers. And it is this despicable crew, with their mendacious and malevolent modus operandi, who now have the ear of officials at the very pinnacle of British power.
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