Friday, November 15, 2013

Weighing into the Tommy Robinson debate

"Tommy Robinson"
Image source: Huffington Post
Although I’ve been thinking about it for five or six weeks , this post is still only half-digested (at best). It’s a response to the October announcement (facilitated by the anti-Islamist thinktank Quiliam) from the founders of the English Defence League (EDL), Stephen Yaxley-Lennon and Kevin Carroll, that they were leaving it. It is also an attempt to respond to some of the responses to the announcement, including on Harry’s Place and from the blogger Jacobinism (and Paul Stott’s footnote to Jacobin).

It doesn’t have a central argument, but is instead a series of provisional assertions.

1. Anti-Muslim racism is a serious danger for Britain and for Europe. As I wrote in my post which set the scene for this one, anti-Muslim racism is a stark reality of Britain today, spiking in the months since the brutal slaughter by Islamists of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich. The existence of the EDL was never responsible for pandemic anti-Muslim racism. But their provocative marches increased the fear for British Muslims. The EDL’s articulate leader Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (known by one of his pseudonyms, Tommy Robinson) gave voice to and disseminated a particularly vicious strain of anti-Muslim racism. The tag #EDL, like the daubed slogans PJ (Perish Judah) in Mosley’s day, KBW (Keep Britain White) in Powell’s day, or NF in my youth, served as watchwords for racists, giving them confidence while spreading fear among Muslims. Any discussion of the EDL and its founder that ignores this reality is worthless.

2. Any blow to the EDL is a good thing. Given the poisonous role of the EDL in Britain’s body politic, anything which does it harm should be celebrated. Its rejection as spoiled goods by its own founder will hopefully be the first nail in its coffin, and we should be grateful to Yaxley-Lennon if he ends up helping to kill the beast he birthed.

3. The EDL were never fascist, but that’s not saying much. Since it emerged, I argued that the EDL should not be seen as fascists. At most, I said, they should be seen as proto-fascists. But Yaxley-Lennon had passed through the BNP on his way to founding the EDL, and lots of openly Nazi activists were at large in the movement, including in local leadership positions, helping to intensify its poisonousness. Many anti-fascists, forever replaying the Battle of Cable Street, dearly wanted the EDL to be fascist. Any picture of an EDL member raising his arm looked like a Nazi salute to them – when only some of them were. But the fact the EDL wasn’t fascist doesn’t make it alright. Whether it was fascist or not, it was poisonous.

4. Tommy Robinson was never stupid. As Jacobin points out, many liberals who now claim Yaxley-Lennon is cleverly re-branding himself were not so long ago happy to claim he was an ignorant redneck. Anyone who thought he was “an ignorant, racist ex-con and brainless neo-fascist ideologue” is an idiot (although he was an ex-con, but then so are lots of good people). Yaxley-Lennon might not have known much about Islamic theology or Muslim cultures, but he was a slick orator and a brilliant political operator.

5. The EDL is a toxic brand. Ex-BNP member Yaxley-Lennon shaped the EDL in his image. Because of all the stuff I’ve outlined above – the Nazi salutes, the street violence, the coke-headed thugs posting racist stuff on Facebook EDL pages – the EDL he created is seen as toxic by many people who might share its views. Matthew Goodwin’s YouGov polling data confirms this: there is a sizeable constituency of people who like its beliefs but not its violent methods. It could never grow beyond its hooligan support base, and even lots of its supporters were embarrassed at some of their comrades’ antics.

6. Tommy Robinson is a better brand. Most of the prestige of the EDL brand among its supporters was bound up in the charisma and rhetoric of its leader. The Tommy Robinson brand became more powerful than the EDL brand. Most of its supporters would follow its leader whether in the EDL or not. So it made a lot of sense for Yaxley-Lennon to dump the toxicity and polish off his own brand. Quilliam’s endorsement worked brilliantly to that effect.

We know fascists try to re-brand. Marine Le Pen is working hard to give the FN a better image. For a while, the BNP tried to present itself as a respectable besuited UKIP-style party – although constant incidents of financial dodgyness, criminality and thuggery, and the sheer incompetence of its would-be politicians stymied that plan. And for a while the BNP tried to fish in the EDL’s counter-Jihadi waters by publicly presenting itself as philosemitic and pro-Israel, although in private it called the EDL a Zionist plot. (The only people fooled were a few gullible anti-Zionists, so deranged by their Israel-hatred that they were prepared to believe anything that reflected badly on it.)

But, people do change. As Paul Stott notes, liberal anti-fascist organisations like Searchlight/HnH make considerable capital out of their turned assets such as Ray Hill and Matthew Collins. And some of the most impressive genuine, militant anti-fascists I have known had been fascists when younger. Today, many people I trust are willing to give Yaxley-Lennon the benefit of the doubt about his conversion. He’s made some positive gestures. Quilliam have a good track record helping people exit the jihadi death cult, so perhaps they can help Yaxley-Lennon make a genuine recovery.

Personally, though, I don’t see much evidence of any actual change in Yaxley-Lennon’s views yet. He was (incompetently) stalking and threatening anti-fascists weeks before his U-turn; he continues to fraternise with and compliment out-and-out fascists on his social media pages; he carries on linking to YouTube videos of his most racist speeches. At the very least, we should be very sceptical of him.

7. The real question is, what is Tommy going to do with his re-branding. If Yaxley-Lennon has read Matthew Goodwin’s polling analysis (and I’m sure he has), he’ll know there is a sizeable constituency in the UK for an organisation which shares the views of the EDL but not its violence. Yaxley-Lennon has a big ego, big ambition, charisma and political nous. If the mainstream media rehabilitates him, what can he do with his fame?

With Farage and UKIP given disproportionate access to the public by the BBC and the print media, Yaxley-Lennon knows he will get a hearing. (The media class has been taken in by private school bankster Farage’s self-presentation as Ordinary Bloke; how much better former football hooligan tanning machine businessman “Tommy Robinson” can play that role.)  So, when we say good luck to Yaxley-Lennon, well, yes, good luck in his private life and journey of self-discovery – but, no, not good luck in his political ambitions. 

***

Those are the main points I wanted to get out. The following are more specific, in response to particular claims made in the Tommy Robinson debate.

8. There is no such thing as the white working class, and neither the EDL nor Tommy Robinson is its legitimate voice. Yaxley-Lennon’s apologists, including the more thoughtful Jacobin and Graeme Archer, as well as the likes of Spiked, Damian Thompson and Charles Moore, all seem to accept that he somehow speaks for something they call “the white working class”. The most obvious question is how these people know that. Jacobin presumably excepted, these are mostly people that went to private schools and elite universities, own homes in leafy neighbourhoods, and probably only encounter real white working class people when they call an electrician.

The stereotype of the (homogeneous, chauvinistic, ignorant) white working class promoted by the Spectator and Telegraph bloggers mirrors exactly the contemptuous stereotype of its propagated by the Hampstead liberals. That the Spectatoriat imagines “Tommy Robinson” speaks for this mythical constituency tells us mostly about their own ignorance. The fake respect they accord him exactly mirrors the deference multiculturalists pay to the plastic imams presumed to similarly represent the similarly homogenous “Muslim community”. 

9. The anti-fascist industry is only one small part of the anti-fascist movement. Dan Hannan and others have used the term “anti-fascist industry” to deride those, such as Matthew Goodwin, who are sceptical of Yaxley-Lennon’s conversion. Jacobin makes a big deal of Goodwin and Dr Chris Allen being academics. Of course, there probably is such a thing as the “anti-fascist industry”, but it’s quite small. A handful of academic and a handful of employees of thinktanks and campaigning organisations do get paid to keep tabs on the far right. Yes, this might make them inclined to emphasise threats and to bolster their own “expert” credentials by seeing more clearly than the rest of us.

But most other “industries” pay a lot better than this one, and it’s surely not that reprehensible to want to get paid to do something both interesting and socially useful – and probably marginally less reprehensible than paying Dan Hannan or Brendan O’Neill to do their day jobs. There’s a pharmaceutical industry, a garden supply a newspaper industry too, but that doesn’t mean pharmaceuticals, garden supplies and newspapers are bad things. Should we leave all these activities to unpaid amateurs? But of course, though, behind the two dozen paid ones, there are thousands of unpaid amateur anti-fascists, and their cynicism about the EDL and its aftermath can’t be dismissed by the Hannan logic.  

10. The concept of extremism is bullshit. The word “extremism” is heavily used in the Tommy Robinson debate, by academics like Goodwin and for that matter by Yaxley-Lennon and Quilliam. There’s something compelling in the mirroring of the Islamist “extremism” from which Maajid Nawaz escaped with the far right “extremism” from which Yaxley-Lennon is said to be escaping. Mainstream politicians seek out “moderate” imams to dialogue with, while the entrepreneurs of fear in the Counter-Jihad seem to think all Muslims are extremists. And some liberal anti-fascists seek to extend their remit by claiming UKIP is “extremist” too. 

I think the whole logic of that term is fraudulent. All it does is reinforce the conformist mainstream and cast any divergence of views as somehow deviant. And it contributes to the glamour of movements which claim to be somehow dissident.

I don’t see fascism or Islamism as bad because they’re “extremist”. We shouldn’t be judging Yaxley-Lennon on whether he is extremist or not, but whether he’s right or wrong about the things he says, whether he has anything useful to say, whether there’s any positive reason to give him space in the public sphere. Whether his reformation is genuine or not, personally I don’t see him making any useful contribution to our debate. I don’t see abetting his rehabilitation and feeding his publicity machine as having any positive pay-off.

11. The concept of multiculturalism is too confused to be useful. A large part of the Jacobin’s post is taken up by a sharp critique of (a version of) multiculturalism. I broadly share this critique, which has been made by leftists in the last two decades (from the Independent Working Class Association to Southall Black Sisters to Kenan Malik). Jacobin is right that this version of multiculturalism helped give birth to the EDL, which asserts a politics of difference and recognition for its imaginary indigenous “white working class”.

While some self-described anti-fascists (Lee Jasper, Ken Livingstone, Unite Against Fascism) keep on pushing that zombie version of state multiculturalism, most anti-fascists don’t. Militant anti-fascists were never multiculturalists (in fact, it was the anarchist-led Antifa that led the first demonstration against Islamists in Britain); the secular Bengalis who protested both the EDL and IFE in Tower Hamlets were never multiculturalists; nor was Peter Tatchell. And even many of the liberal anti-fascists who’ve been most cynical about Robinson’s conversion – people like The Hope not Hate leadership, Sunny Hundal, Fiyaz Mughal and Matthew Goodwin – are active critics of that sort of state multiculturalism. So, the idea that scorn for his conversion is simply “the wrath of the multiculturalists” doesn’t stand up at all.

12. We need to be careful in choosing our friends. Even before the re-brand, some liberal anti-Islamists who should know better were already cosying up to the most illiberal Counter-Jihadis. I’m thinking of Anne-Marie Waters, who Jacobin mentions, who indulged in social media love-ins with EDL activists and who chose a far right Scandinavian website to publish her Labour Party resignation letter. (Her resignation, bizarrely, blamed has-been Ken Livingstone, who had been at his peak when she joined the party.) But, as any fool should know, not all of our enemies’ enemies are our friends


Whether Yaxley-Lennon remains an enemy or not, I see no reason to think he’s our friend. I hope I’m wrong, and that Quilliam (who I’ve always respected) don’t end up regretting their actions. But I’m not optimistic. It discredits the struggle against Islamism to promote racists.

36 comments:

Richard Armbach said...

This Tommy Robinson thing is hilarious. Tommy IS stupid. The Quilliam guys are not. They recognised how much money ( public money ) was to be obtained by a flamboyant conversion to " moderation " and setting up an organisation to seemingly promote it. They showed Tommy how it could be for him. Tommy bought it.

Tommy gets into the lucrative " conversion to moderation and inter faith" business, Quilliam get a blaze of publicity and it all helps keep the gravy train rolling.

Anonymous said...

The fact remains that as yet we don't know who is sponsoring / mentoring Lennon. He clearly has access to high level actors who in turn have access to media ,politicians and government.

He has been given a free ride in media interviews , barely challenging his deceitful, ignorant assertions about Muslims,Islam and societal values.

There is little attempt to expose his strident racism and islamophobia nor his long association with extremism and fascism.

The real issue is why has this bit player given an excessive coverage with almost no scrutiny. Why is the BBC seemingly promoting,sanitising and providing an unquestioning platform .

It can only beg the question asked earlier, who is Lennon's influential, monied sponsors.



Anonymous said...

Are you really claiming that we should not speak of extremism but the content of the message ?

Would you apply that to al Qaeda/bin laden whose message has been largely ignored for the extremism defined by neoconservatives and repackaged as islamism.

Why would you or anyone else want to put to one side the extremism of Stephen Lennon , extremism that has barely been challenged , even less so by fellow travelling islamophobes.

bob said...

Al-Qaeda is not bad because it is "extremist". It is bad because it leads to mass murder. We need to understand and take seriously al-Qaeda's message in order to combat it. And understand the continuities between this message and the content of more "moderate" positions.

Anonymous said...

Tommy Robinson / Stephen Yaxley-Lennon has finally admitted the real reasons for his involvement with Quilliam:

http://www.loonwatch.com/2013/11/edl-ex-leader-finally-admits-real-reasons-for-involvement-with-quilliam/

Sarah AB said...

That's very helpful and interesting. Picking up on a point I think you made in your previous post, rather than this one, yes, there may have been a little over-egging of some of the rhetoric around that 'spike' after Woolwich, but this to me seems less concerning than the way the whole problem was downplayed by Gilligan and Moore.

Your analysis of Robinson and the EDL seems precise - i.e. he's neither stupid nor a fascist, yet they were/are poisonous and Robinson has said some unequivocally racist things as well as anti-Muslim stuff of course - and although he has sometimes said he doesn't oppose all Muslim, he has certainly not been consistent about this.

I see some positives and negatives in the new Tommy Robinson. He seems to try to promote Muslims he likes (which Robert Spencer wouldn't do) but also comes out with rather cruder stuff. Yet sometimes - say on TV interviews - I am on his side, eg against Baksh(?) the cleric from Luton who supported the death penalty for homosexuality in an ideal state. I think it would be wrong, personally, not to be on his side in that specific context just because he's wrong on other issues.

I think it's entirely reasonable to continue to be sceptical about him, but I think it doesn't help when people make their case against him overblown and unfair. Jai Singh on Loonwatch has been a more objective sceptical voice than many commenters.

Waterloo Sunset said...

Useful contribution, Bob. Some thoughts.

Anonymous, are both posts from the same person? This isn't some kind of "gotcha". It's just easiest to know if the arguments are being made by one person or two.

On the possibility of EDL/Yaxley- Lennon state links, that one's been doing the round for a bit. There are some questions about how quickly they came to prominence. But the jury is still out. We aren't in a position where we can categorically state that's the case. We simply don't have the evidence to do so. Because it is the case, as Bob points out, that Yaxley-Lennon is a savvy political operator and he does know how to appeal to journos looking for cheap sensation.

The far right as stupid meme has been going round the liberal anti-fascists for years. It wasn't the case with Griffin (let alone people like Southgate and Harrington) and it isn't the case with Yaxley-Lennon. Not only does it say more about it's proponents then their targets, it leads to failed tactics.

It is the case that another reason for Yaxley-Lennon jumping ship is that several street defeats led to a loss of morale among the EDL rank and file. I'd see 2011 Tower Hamlets as a moderate victory. The MFE march in Brighton was more significant, as was the rout of the SDL in Edinburgh and the WDL in Cardiff. (The last is particularly significant as the fact the Soul Crew turned out against the WDL really battered their morale).

Linked to that, it's worth noting that, while the base might be hooligans, that doesn't mean most firms were supportive of the EDL. "Plastics and yokels" was a term I heard thrown around a fair bit. The Celtic lads were heavily opposed, which is to be expected. But there were also some less well publicised clashes. I have it on good authority that some experienced members of the Blades Business Crew were out looking for the EDL in Sheffield. All of that led to a war of attrition.

Considering that the bulk of the original EDL was wannabees, with a smattering of experienced hoolies, they simply didn't have the commitment to deal with that.

Waterloo Sunset said...

Where I'd mildly disagree with Paul is that I don't think that Hill, Hepple etc. got an easy ride despite their links to the security services, I think it was because of those links. Especially when you take into account that the liberal left (which includes most Trots) have always been both ignorant and naive when it comes to Searchlight's trustworthyness. Frankly, anyone vouched for by Gable would have got the same easy ride, regardless of the reality.

I'd also point out in passing that, while the people listed did have a record of serious violence, that was against soft targets. Hill is arguably the exception to that. But if you take Hepple, it's my understanding he came face to face with Red Action once and quickly scurried away.

We can argue about whether the "white working class" exist; certainly there are some people who identify as such. However, you're entirely right to point out the fallacy of them having a spokesman. Especially not Yaxley-Lennon, who isn't working class. He's a small business owner and landlord of several properties. So it's interesting to see him being touted as such. We saw a similar process with Gillian Duffy.

I'd suggest this is either because a) he falls into the speaker's own prejudices of how working class people are nasty, brutish and racist or b) the speaker is living vicariously through the EDL's anti Muslim racism. Some liberal anti-facists undoubtably fall into the first camp- the wankers at EDLNews being a particularly obnoxious example. A lot of the Harryites fall into the second- middle class people with a hard-on at the thought of those rough EDL types committing violence on their behalf.

Anti academic posturing is stupid. Am I really going to ignore Dorril's work on the history of the blackshirts because he's an academic? That said, a lot of the industry are no friends of militant anti-fascism anyway. Goodwin, in particular, really doesn't like us and makes no bones about the fact.

In terms of "anti-extremism", I do think one motivation for HnH being quite so hostile is that they see this as their field. I think there's a bit of a cold turf war between them and Quillam so they aren't going to like Quillam managing this kind of publicity coup. If Yaxley-Lennon had gone to them, they'd be touting him as having "seen the light" without question.

You're being way too charitable on the Anne-Marie Waters stuff. Her recent actions have showed her to be a fellow traveller of the far right. I'm no fan of Andy Newman but, on this one, all he's done is managed to score a goal that was wide open. Namazie has come out of this looking extremely naive. HP have come out of it worse as they were really pushing her. (Apparently they've learnt nothing from Fitzgate). Howard Fuller has come out of it the worst as he's continued to act as her mouthpiece after this all came out. It seems he doesn't mind some extremism. And before I get bleating on this, I've personally managed to never have worked with either the traditional or the Islamist far right. It's really not that difficult.

Waterloo Sunset said...

@ Sarah

I think it would be wrong, personally, not to be on his side in that specific context just because he's wrong on other issues.

Because you don't have to back someone simply because you're on the right side of the issue to them.

Are you in favour of organic farming and renewable energy sources? So are the BNP. I assume you wouldn't be on their side because of that.

Richard Armbach said...

I can see that your head

has been twisted and fed

with worthless foam from the mouth

It is just amazing that anyone can think Tommy Robinson is worth any kind of a debate. He is too stupid to be a fascist or anything else.

He is just a drunken asshole and quilliam are a bunch of smart guys on the make.You guys are not dumb, just full of self importance. Do something useful with your talents and energies like work for the end of the occupation.

Oh don't bother maybe " debating" Tommy Robinson is where you are comfortable. Pardon me.

Waterloo Sunset said...

Thank you for the intelligent and well-informed analysis Richard.

Easy enough to concentrate on events overseas as opposed to on the streets, no? Less likely to get nicked or hurt. Very sensible.

Anonymous said...

Wake up people! Enter Alan Lake...exit Alan Lake...enter Quilliam....exit Quilliam....enter ????...geddit? We could pluck a homeless man from the streets, clean him up, and make him into the next Tommy Robinson. Except for the drinking mates. In your defense, even Jonathan Hoffman fell for Roberta Moore's charms so I guess Tommy isn't all that stupid. Or is he?

Waterloo Sunset said...

Bob, why does everyone in your comments have access to LSD apart from me? :(

Richard Armbach said...

Maybe because everyone but you has read Timothy Leary's Politics of ecstacy

And you are on very shaky ground lecturing me on the streets and the possibility of getting nicked.

So lets get real for a single solitary moment.

Tommy ( along with several others ) was extremely lucky not to end up with 30 years in the slammer over the Breivik thing. The only reason Quilliam are involved with him is the money.

But anyway...

year six to year seven entrance exam....

Bob has spent the last six weeks thinking about Tommy Robinson

the rest of Bob's life divided by six weeks equals....

Sarah AB said...

@waterloo sunset - I don't find your BNP analogy fully accurate as organic farming isn't central to the BNP agenda - at least it's certainly not the reason it's notorious. However Islam *is* central to Tommy Robinson's agenda, which makes it more significant and more unsettling to agree with him.

My main areas of disagreement with him relate to the intimidatory methods of the EDL and the treatment of Islam/Muslims as a monolith. He seems to have abandoned the methods; this is a good start. His improvement on the second issue is much more uncertain, because his views do not seem clear or consistent. If he could consistently conform to the comparatively nuanced and measured position he *sometimes* manages to project, that would represent a real advance.

Anonymous said...

Just because T Robinson does not speak for you does not mean he does not speak for other people.

Anonymous said...

I am White and consider myself working class, so i dont exist eh.

Rebekah Y. said...

I have yet to see any evidence for the proposition that "anti-Muslim racism is a serious danger for Britain and for Europe". Has anyone ever actually made a quantitative case for this constant, histrionic claim that underlies this entire debate?

Take all of the violence by Muslim perpetrators against non-Muslims based on either expression of Islamic solidarity or prejudices (e.g. homophobia, misogyny) rooted in Islamic doctrine and compare them on a per capita basis to the attacks on Muslims by non-Muslims. This analysis must also reasonably account for any violence prevented by law enforcement intervention.

I charge that for all the constant bluster about 'Islamophobia', non-Muslims are in fact far more at risk from violence by Muslims per capita than vice versa. Similarly I challenge the Islamophobia Industry (e.g. Loonwatch, Aslan's crew) to show whom Muslims are more at risk from: fellow Muslims or non-Muslim 'Islamophobes'.

I charge this histrionic, irrational fear that the clock is about to strike 1933 for Muslims is absurd as my fellow Jews that go into a meltdown because someone mentions banning circumcision.

Just as the interest in seeing children protected from medically unnecessary surgery to which they do not consent is swept away by the spectre of the Holocaust, an entirely hypothetical pogrom against Muslims is constantly used to justify a mealy-mouthed response on Islam vis-a-vis the secular liberal tradition.

This is a case of an extraordinary claim requiring extraordinary evidence.

Sarah AB said...

Rebekah - I think 'serious danger' is not unreasonable. Something can be a serious danger which doesn't manifest itself only (or mostly) in violence. Also I think one can acknowledge that it's a serious danger while also fully acknowledging not just violent extremism, but non violent extreme views (in some Muslims groups and individuals).

Richard Armbach said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard Armbach said...

It should not be forgotten of course that the EDL are big fans of Harrys Place, and indeed positively recommend it. If you search David toube you tube you will see a performance by Lucy Lips that illustrates why.

If I were a gambler I would put a few quid on Tommy ending up a HP contributor.tetisti 862

bob said...

Thank you Sarah and especially Waterloo for your sane and sensible comments. Good to have you back WS. Not sure why this outbreak of barminess. I might start deleting the tedious trollery.

Anonymous/anonmyi, please give yourself a name to make it easier to track conversations.

I'll try and find time to reply to a couple of the points made here. For the moment just two.

First, I think this is key: "Because you don't have to back someone simply because you're on the right side of the issue to them." In attacking Islamism I might find myself agreeing at times with not just TR but also Pat Condell, Robert Spencer, Marine Le Pen and all kinds of cranks, but that doesn't make me endorse them or give them space. For what purpose should we give TR the benefit of the doubt?

Second, I accept that there are white working class people. All of my bolded assertions are probably overstatements. My issue is with the idea that they all share TR-style bigotry, or that they should have one voice at all.

Richard Armbach said...

The reality here Bob is that you are essentially in sympathy with Tommy and if you can just clean him up a little bit you feel he can be useful.

A pretty good ally of the " sensible left " in its co-ordinated campaign against " Islamism " , a polite euphemism for Muslims. But don't you think talking about him as if he were some thoughtful, tortured misunderstood soul is stretching it a bit far ?

Another reality is that Tommy and several others were instrumental in winding Breivik up. Not to the particular action but to " action".

They were investigated by both the British and Norwegian cops who found insufficient evidence of collusion in the particular action.

Feel free to delete/ban me, I won't be offended. The rest of the "sensible" left do, you are the last hold out. Right Sarah ?

Waterloo Sunset said...

@ Richard

It should not be forgotten of course that the EDL are big fans of Harrys Place, and indeed positively recommend it. If you search David toube you tube you will see a performance by Lucy Lips that illustrates why.

Naturally, Harry's Place is a cesspit. There was a time, a long time ago, where "Harry" considered being called "LittleHarryBalls" to be an insult. These days, most HP commentators consider LGF to be dangerous pinkos.

The reality here Bob is that you are essentially in sympathy with Tommy and if you can just clean him up a little bit you feel he can be useful.

Wha... Where precisely are you getting this from? The suggestion that any blow to the EDL is a good thing? The argument that anti Muslim racism is a real danger? The citing of sources like Paul 'antifa' Scott? Or is this just a thesis you previously formed and you aren't going to dirty it with anything as base as facts?

" Islamism " , a polite euphemism for Muslims.

There are some that use it as such, certainly. But are you really suggesting that there is no distinctive Islamist movement? Apart from anything else, what your argument suggests is that there is no objective difference between Choudry and mainstream Muslims. Which you'd get a lot of support for on Harry's Place.

Another reality is that Tommy and several others were instrumental in winding Breivik up. Not to the particular action but to " action".

They were investigated by both the British and Norwegian cops who found insufficient evidence of collusion in the particular action.


Correct. The EDL (and more broadly the "anti-jihad" movement were heavy influences on Brevik. Reason the cops didn't find any evidence of collusion is because that influence was ideological, as opposed to operational. Nuance isn't a dirty word.

Feel free to delete/ban me, I won't be offended. The rest of the "sensible" left do, you are the last hold out. Right Sarah ?

As opposed to flouncing around trying to get martyred, you could just contribute properly to the debate at hand. (Which your last post is at least starting to do). If you insist on doing the tiresome "STOP TALKING ABOUT THINGS I'M NOT INTERESTED IN" bollocks, that would end up getting you banned pretty much anywhere. And not for political reasons. Seriously, go try it on SomethingAwful if you don't believe me.

Richard Armbach said...

Well that told me didn't it ? Look the simple point I am trying to make is that Tommy doesn't exist ( I say this while being fully aware of the logical problems vis a vis negative existence statements but I am with Saul Kripke on that one )

To the extent that he does exist he is an uncomplicated inarticulate yob. That he should be the object of debate and analysis and six weeks of angst is laughable.

The first era Tommy was a creation of " Alan Lake ".

The new era Tommy is a creation of Quilliam with their eyes firmly fixed on plentiful public money.

He is just an idiot puppet but now with different strings.

The earlier puppet masters were more easily stomached because they at least were in it for ideological reasons. These Quilliam guys just want you to throw up. OK maybe not you but me.

Anonymous said...

Interesting debate.
I want to wiegh in one one point, about whether the far right in the UK is thick. personally, I think they're really f*ckin stupid, unusually so, and we're lucky that's the case.

Even the Italian hard-right has successfully ditched Musslolini, the French NF are riding high, the Scandinavians have got over brevik in a remarkably short time, the Dutch right are cruising, this is going on all over Europe.
Over here, this too ought to be the hard right's moment, with economic distress, Islamist fanaticism, a huge migrant population and a loss of legitiamacy for politicians and the MSM.

"Sensible", cool and rational fascist parties have been able to take advantage, but in the UK fascism lacks the intellectual roots and capacity you find in Europe.

They can't even put away the jack-boots and give up the Hitler salutes, let alone develop a sophisticated long term plan for gaining a share of power and shifting the debate their way.

My first reaction to the EDL was a certain sympathy with their anti-Islamism, but my second was fear.
I was scared that here at last was a fascist movement that wasn't being run by thick as pigsh*t, barely concealed nazis, and this could be a real, genuine problem.

It never happened, and I'm delighted. I'm also content to give TR the benefit of the doubt, because I still know that growing radicalisation is a major challenge.

Paul

Waterloo Sunset said...

Thanks for your contribution Paul. I agree with parts and disagree with others.

Over here, this too ought to be the hard right's moment, with economic distress, Islamist fanaticism, a huge migrant population and a loss of legitiamacy for politicians and the MSM.

Yep, in fact it's worse than that. The traditional far left (which would have been the main barrier to this happening at one point) has no traction in the working class and seemingly no idea how to fill that vacuum. In times of economic austerity, when class arguments aren't winning, racial arguments invariably rise.

"Sensible", cool and rational fascist parties have been able to take advantage, but in the UK fascism lacks the intellectual roots and capacity you find in Europe.

Unfortunately, I think that's overly complacent. It's certainly true in some cases. During their existence, Combat 18 were a joke, despite media hype. The modern NF are just a drinking club for sad old Nazi fucks. The height of Blood & Honour's political ambition is to hold secret gigs in the middle of nowhere.

But they aren't the only far right thinkers around. In fact, some of them are influenced by the FN style tactics you rightly point to as a danger. Tony Lecomber did for years, before bizarrely getting involved in an assassination plot. (Lecomber's political trajectory only makes sense if you accept he's a state asset). You also have the seasoned operator Patrick Harrington still around. Then there's Troy Southgate's attempts to repackage fascism in pagan/countercultural terms. For that matter, Nick Griffin's not thick. He's actually got a real tactical cunning. What did for the BNP is his other personal failings, in particular the fact he's an egomaniac.

So, sadly, I don't think you can write off the far right as thick. So why haven't they had the success they've had elsewhere? Two reasons. Firstly, the "march and grow" tactics used by Golden Dawn weren't open to them after they were smashed off the streets in the 80's and 90's. Secondly, (non-fascist) hard right groups have always been good at stealing their clothes over here. Thatcher and the NF, Farage and the BNP.

I'm also content to give TR the benefit of the doubt, because I still know that growing radicalisation is a major challenge.

That's a very good reason to be very cautious about TR's 'conversion'. If, as you say, far right radicalisation is still a real issue, he could end up as a focus for that.

Especially when you consider that the danger from the far right isn't (with the arguable exception of Greece) a fascist coup. It's the effect it has on the mainstream body politic. The danger is the drift, not the putsch.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps I am being over-complacent, but I can't help feeling that if the far-right hasn't seen a leap in support since the great recession, then they never will.

I still think it's largely down to the fact that there are only a small handful of people involved who aren't dumb fucks, but agree a lot of that is down to defeat on the streets back in the day, and other groups stealing their clothes.
I particularly agree with the stateement "the danger is the drift, not the putsch".

Paul

Tom said...

Bob,

Have you read this new article?

http://www.loonwatch.com/2013/11/edl-ex-leader-finally-admits-real-reasons-for-involvement-with-quilliam/

"Tommy" has finally admitted his real motives for the alliance with Quilliam. The article also addresses a lot of the other issues being discussed by people here.

Tom said...

PS. I should add I'm not "Tommy" himself, as in Mr Tommy Robinson/Stephen Lennon/whatever he's decided to call himself this week.

Check out Loonwatch's article, anyway. There's been no "conversion to moderation". Far from it.

bob said...

Sorry to be a bad commenter on my own post. Here's some responses to some of the points above.

First, Rebekah:

I have yet to see any evidence for the proposition that "anti-Muslim racism is a serious danger for Britain and for Europe". Has anyone ever actually made a quantitative case for this constant, histrionic claim that underlies this entire debate?

This was actually the topic of the post before this one - not sure if you saw that - which went into more details about the numbers. The Chris Allen article linked to has more substance on the numbers too.

Take all of the violence by Muslim perpetrators against non-Muslims based on either expression of Islamic solidarity or prejudices (e.g. homophobia, misogyny) rooted in Islamic doctrine and compare them on a per capita basis to the attacks on Muslims by non-Muslims.

To say X is a danger is not of course to say that Y is not also a danger. To talk about violence against Muslims is not necessarily to belittle violence committed by Muslims. However, the claim that Muslims are a danger to non-Muslims in this way seems very far-fetched to me. There are incidents of Muslim antisemitism (as documented by CST) and Muslim homophobic aggression (e.g. in Tower Hamlets). Those are important issues and I've blogged about them both, I think. But I don't think they in any way dwarf the violence and aggro Muslims in Britain experience for no other reason than that they are Muslim.

the Islamophobia Industry (e.g. Loonwatch, Aslan's crew) As with "anti-fascist industry" (see original post), I think this is a completely hyperbolic phrase. How industry revenue does Loonwatch generate? How many industrial functionaries do they employ? Compare that "industry" to the size of the actual Islamophobia industry, the well-funded Counter-Jihad network and the scaremongering of our Muslim-obsessed mainstream media.

I charge this histrionic, irrational fear that the clock is about to strike 1933 for Muslims is absurd as my fellow Jews that go into a meltdown because someone mentions banning circumcision. I'm not going into the circumcision issue again here, but anyone claiming this is a 1933 moment is clearly bonkers. But you don't need to say it's like 1933 to see that it's bad.

bob said...

Re Paul etc on if the far right are smart or not.

It's true that as a whole the EDL don't have a lot of smart people in their camp. My main point was that Yaxley-L himself is smart. If he was surrounded by people of half the calibre of himself, he'd have done a lot more with the EDL. Not a bad reason to opt to hang out with Quilliam once you start to age out of street brawling.

But I do think it is dangerous to underestimate the capacity of the far right. So far, they've not been very successful, and we should be glad about that.

Without suggesting that they are "as bad as" the fash, there is a sizeable mainstream voice for xenophobic and Muslim-baiting politics - on the right of the Tory party, in UKIP, in the massive-selling middle market dailies, and in the more upmarket blogs of the Spectator and Telegraph.

That leaves less space for the likes of Marine Le Pen, Pia Kjaersgaard and Geert Wilders. Thatcher worked that out long ago: when the NF started to get votes she switched on the authoritarian anti-immigrant populism. Today, with UKIP getting votes, Labour and Tory politicians are falling over each other to mimic their line - which crowds out the far right. And the BBC, fawning over Farage and even putting Bloom on Have I Got News for You, fuel that. Yaxley-L is no doubt aware of all this, and probably realises he could move into that territory if he dumps the EDL baggage.

bob said...

Final comment for today probably. Thanks Tom for the Loonwatch links which I had skimmed but not read properly. As WS says above, there's no smoking gun there but they are very much worth reading.

I guess these are the two keys bits, from Yaxley-Lennon interviews in the last couple of weeks:

“What I’m saying now is the same as I’ve been saying for four and a half years.”

“Actually, my stance [towards Islam] hasn’t dampened or softened at all – if people listen to what I say.”

There are also some fairly recent tweets from the summer (i.e. the period he claims he was in dialogue with Quilliam) which I hadn't seen before, e.g.

“I know I just wanted to prove how easy it is to bypass airport security! Imagine how many Muslims do it #hooknoses #beards ….. I’m just pointing out a lot of Muslim makes have hooknoses #fact due to inbreeding?”

Anonymous said...

"nd the BBC, fawning over Farage and even putting Bloom on Have I Got News for You, fuel that. Yaxley-L is no doubt aware of all this, and probably realises he could move into that territory if he dumps the EDL baggage."

Yeah, this is true.
Everyone needs to make money, after all. He's smart and savvy enough to see the career potential for a semi-reformed, semi-fascist talking head.

Waterloo Sunset said...

Although, while he has the political intelligence to understand he needs to drop the street thugs and go legit, I'm not convinced he'll manage to do so.

In many ways, what's got him the media profile so far specifically stems from the street element.

Tom said...

For people who haven't seen it, here's the key quote from that Loonwatch article:

[Stephen Yaxley-Lennon/”Tommy Robinson]: “The fact is that I thought it would be a good idea to appear together with Quilliam in order to gain credibility. It is good to sit together with them and say: “We don’t hate Muslims but we have to solve our problems.”

- When I met the people from Quilliam, I realized that they could help me with a lot of things. I’m just a working class bloke from Luton. I don’t know how to set up and run a think tank and get donations. I asked if they would teach me and they said yes. They said: “You may have whatever opinions you like but you will get more out of expressing them in a more political way.

[Dispatch International]: “Could one say that you are using them and they are using you?”

Tommy doesn’t answer but nods and grins