Right off the bat Quilliam researcher Julia Ebner’s article in the Guardian opens with a combative headline:
The far right thrives on global networks. They must be fought online and off.
The photograph caption reads:
The far right has gained influence on all levels: from far-right populism to white supremacist terrorism, from alt-right movements to neo-Nazi groups
That is a huge problem because in around 1000 words, the only names that appear are:
- Tommy Robinson (three times)
- Alex Jones (not as an individual)
- Robert Spencer
- Pamela Geller
- Marine Le Pen
- Donald Trump
- Jo Cox
- Tommy Mair (convicted of murdering MP Jo Cox)
While the author may claim the intention was not to paint Tommy Robinson as “far-right” or a “white supremacist” the article is absolutely clear the author considers him to be a celebrated leader of what she calls the “British far-right landscape” and beyond into the entire worldwide “far-right” movement even on to “white supremacist terrorism”. He is the only character in her narrative referred to multiple times in different settings.
The first example of “far right” and “white supremacy” given, however, comes from an obscure twitter account that looks like it was picked at random following a search of twitter for terms “cockroaches” AND “Muslims”. It has an anonymous handle and no profile picture, 1 like and 2 re-tweets (at time of writing):
Whoever HSW4551 is, he/she/it has garnered 82 followers since joining twitter in May 2015. A real power house of anti-Muslim bigotry which I’m sure has forced 1.5 billion Muslims into hiding out of fear of being called nasty names on Twitter.
The next tweet mentioned has 12 likes and 11 re-tweets since August 2015. It is also another small account with under 4,000 followers in over 3 years and it is obviously (and self avowedly) neo-Nazi.
While the organisation may well have been banned in the UK, the only action taken against its Twitter presence was to restrict viewing it in the UK. It’s still accessible elsewhere in the world or by tech savvy people in the UK though it hasn’t been updated for months.
The home affairs committee’s new report released today, called Hate Crime: Abuse, Hate and Extremism Online harshly condemns social media companies for their failure to identify and remove illegal content. They are “shamefully far from taking sufficient action” to safeguard online users from harassment, abuse and promotion of violence, it warns. The report comes at a crucial time. Our research at Quilliam into far-right extremism and hate crimes, which contributed to the report’s findings, shows that the far right has gained influence on all levels: from far-right populism to white supremacist terrorism, from alt-right movements to neo-Nazi groups.
The photo for the piece carries a caption which mentions “far-right populism to white supremacist terrorism”. The paragraph above also ends with this key conflation.
The next paragraphs sings the praises of Quilliam’s work against the “far-right” culminating in the repetition of the following claim:
The Metropolitan police even warned that the threat from far-right groups is as severe as the jihadist threat.
This refers back to widely reported remarks by Scotland Yard Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu and came in the wake of the horrific murder of Jo Cox:
Mr Basu added: “Currently just under 10 per cent of all Prevent referrals relate to the extreme right-wing and we have put programmes in place to support those at risk of being radicalised.
Which seems to contradict the assertion “extreme right-wing” threats are as “severe as the jihadist threat” when they make up only 10% of “Prevent referrals”. Obviously it is not mentioned where the other 90% come from. And it’s not mentioned how many murders, arrests, charges and convictions there have been for active Islamic terror plots vs “far-right” unsavoury speech. I’ll leave that up to your imagination.
So far the entire opening of the article is hammering away at far-right and white supremacist. It continues with another paragraph which opens:
The British far-right landscape is increasingly splintered and leaderless. But low membership numbers of street protest movements such as the EDL and Pegida UK are hardly comforting.
This is the first mention of the EDL which Tommy Robinson founded but has left and has no control or involvement with today. Pegida UK is not a significant focus of activity. The next part seems also to be building toward a main point:
Some of their former cohort have joined smaller, more militant groups while others have focused their efforts on spreading hate online. Increasingly, far-right movements show signs of collective learning and create powerful multiplier effects for their messages. As early adopters of new technology, they have been exceptionally good at using social media to widen their echo chambers and foster ties with like-minded groups abroad.
The “early adopters of new technology” might well be an allusion to Tommy Robinson’s recent involvement with Rebel Media from Canada. An alliance which has dramatically increased the professionalism of his activism and the reach of his message. No evidence, links, tweets or examples are given for this, however, so we can only surmise.
The next paragraph introduces a new term: “counter-jihadis” which, interestingly, is one that could well apply to Tommy Robinson, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. However it is immediately linked to “German and Polish neo-Nazis” against whom Tommy, Pamela and Robert have always spoken. Remember: Tommy has even been arrested (without charge) for punching Nazis who tried to infiltrate old EDL demos. He is universally hated by neo-Nazis. One of the earliest videos he made was the symbolic burning of a swastika flag to tell neo-Nazis and other race haters they weren’t welcome.
All of this leads up to the unveiling of Tommy Robinson as the centre piece of this thesis:
It is within this context that EDL founder turned Pegida UK leader Tommy Robinson features prominently on Alex Jones’s conspiracy theory show, Infowars, and receives support from American alt-right leaders Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller. Platforms such as Gates of Vienna, the FrontPage Mag and Jihad Watch provide outlets for all of them.
Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller and the other news outlets mentioned may be collateral damage here, but the real mother of all literary bombs is reserved for Tommy Robinson. When Tommy briefly worked with Quilliam (as described in his book) separating him from Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller seemed to be high on their list of priorities.
It is impossible to have read this far in the piece without garnering the view that Tommy Robinson is associated with all manner of unsavoury groups right up to the convicted murderer of an MP. Two further paragraphs hammer this home even harder:
Once their ideas are carried into social media echo chambers, hateful rhetoric quickly turns into crime and calls for violence. Some far-right pages have become melting pots for misogynistic, racist, anti-Muslim and antisemitic hate speech, where #Manosphere activists meet conspiracy theorists and alt-right trolls. These online nexus points have enabled British far-right activists to mobilise young people, hijack online subcultures and obfuscate the 24-hour media circle by spreading hyper-partisan and alternative news.
It would be wrong to claim that we have not made any progress in challenging far-right hate crimes and extremism. In the past year, Twitter has started removing neo-Nazi accounts, the media has begun calling far-right-inspired attacks “terrorism” and Prevent efforts increasingly focus on rightwing radicalisation. But with an American president who conflates Islam and Islamist extremism while blurring the lines between fact and fiction, efforts have been somewhat impeded. The election successes of populist politicians across Europe and the US have further normalised extremists’ rhetoric and given credence to the perception of an inevitable conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims.
The article speaks of “far-right-inspired attacks” but doesn’t manage to link to any examples yet (they’ve got only one later).
But here we arrive, once again at the prominence of Tommy Robinson.
That the far right has moved from the fringe into the mainstream demonstrates the massive support that white supremacist movements have attracted from digital natives. Their online followership often exceeds that of mainstream political parties: with over 200,000 followers, Tommy Robinson’s Twitter account has almost the same number of followers as Theresa May’s.
This sentence “That the far right has moved from the fringe into the mainstream demonstrates the massive support that white supremacist movements have attracted from digital natives.” is followed by “Their online followership often exceeds that of mainstream political parties:” and the only example given is Tommy Robinson’s 200,000 follower twitter account (no link provided).
There can be no doubt this structure directly links Tommy Robinson with white supremacism, a concept which is revolting to him and which he has fought tooth and nail against. Is it also implying that a significant number of Tommy’s massive and growing following online are also white supremacists?
If that wasn’t bad enough the next sentence will come as quite a shock to anyone who has recently been murdered by an ISIS inspired terrorist in the UK:
Neo-Nazis outperform Isis in nearly every metric, a 2016 report by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue found. In my evidence to the home affairs committee, I warned of the link between online hate speech and offline violence.
One must, of course, presume she’s talking only in terms of social media presence because the body counts are startlingly different between these two. But yet again, Tommy Robinson is not now and never has been a neo-Nazi. He has always fought vigorously against neo-Nazis, white supremacism or any form of racism.
The murder of Jo Cox by far-right terrorist Tommy Mair in the run-up to the Brexit referendum was a sad reminder that dehumanising words can inspire and translate into violent action and self-starter terrorism.
It is absolutely critical this reprehensible and widely condemned murder of Jo Cox is brought up: it’s such a stand out example because it is so unusual.
My conversations with members and ex-members of the EDL, Pegida and Combat18, as well as Hizb ut-Tahrir, Al-Muhajiroun and Isis, confirmed that jihadis and far-right extremists use each others’ rhetoric to reinforce their common narrative that a final battle between the west and Islam is inevitable.
Within this sentence the author makes another tendentious and nasty conflation: neither the EDL or Pegida at any time while Tommy was involved with them, espoused any kind of race based or skin colour hatred or “white supremacism”. Combat 18 is absolutely an avowed “blood and honour” and self proclaimed white supremacist group of the kind Tommy has fought since his earliest days in the public eye. The Muslim groups mentioned have all been proscribed as either Islamic terrorist groups or recruiting tools of Islamic terrorist groups.
This is why the far right celebrates every terrorist attack as a victory for their narrative of “all Muslims are terrorists”, while jihadis rejoice at the election of far-right politicians. Robinson reacted to the Westminster attack by going on an anti-Muslim rant, while Marine Le Pen instantly exploited the Champs-Élysées attack by giving her anti-immigration line a final pre-election push. Likewise, Isis-supporting Telegram channels cheered at the news of Donald Trump’s victory and expressed their hope that Le Pen will become France’s next president.
Here we have some mention of just two of the most recent Islamic terror attacks in Europe, but the context is not to condemn Islamic terror, it is to condemn how “Robinson reacted to the Westminster attack” and how “Le Pen instantly exploited the Champs-Élysées attack”. Anyone speaking up about the direct links between the ideology and core religious texts of Islam and the actions of self identifying Muslim terrorists is targeted for scorn by Quilliam.
To prevent radicalisation, hate crimes and violent extremism, we will need to tackle the source of reciprocal radicalisation: the vicious circle of hate driven by “us against them” narratives. Disbanding groups and removing extremist online content is the first step. But, more importantly, we will need to strengthen civil society-led efforts to dissect binary world views and replace them with credible, more nuanced alternatives.
Somehow we arrive at the end of this confused journey to find the greatest problem the author sees are “binary world views”. Are we to believe that the problem with Jihadi Muslims murdering people all over the world is less severe than people opening the Koran and arriving at the un-nuanced view that much of it is a direct call to violence? It seems that any number of violent Islamic terrorist groups also feel the Koran and other Islamic texts are a direct call to violence against the Infidel.
Just for pointing this out, without any reference to racial discrimination or atrocious concepts of “blood purity”, this author, Quilliam and the Guardian feel they can write whatever they like about Tommy Robinson with impunity and without any real way for him to fight back. Dear The Guardian, would you like to publish this rebuttal?
There is a reason Tommy Robinson’s message and reach are growing: he’s talking about very important subjects in very clear language. It’s not a matter of nuance or lack of it. It is about not allowing over complications, which groups like Quilliam try to create, to hide quite simple realities. No matter what Quilliam proposes to do about Islamic reform, the same core Islamic texts which Tommy reads and talks about contain direct calls to violent, Islamic supremacist conquest which Muslim Jihadis have followed for 1400 years.
Spreading lies about Tommy has to come to an end. If you spread lies about Tommy Robinson his first course of action will be to come and discuss this with you. Tommy is not violent, he will not cause any damage but he will confront anyone who lies about him. He’ll bring along his film crew from Rebel Media. Together they now have a far larger reach and influence than most outlets in the British media.
Tommy Robinson (despite having a best selling book) doesn’t immediately sit down and bash out a letter to the editor: he wants to come and talk to you. If you’ve got the evidence to back up your claims, feel free to present it and the millions of viewers on Rebel Media will let you know if you’ve made your case.
Message to journalists , if you LIE in the media about us , there will be NO safe space for you .You will be called out to justify your lies
— Tommy Robinson (@TRobinsonNewEra) May 3, 2017
You can see what happened when Tommy went to confront the writer at her Quilliam office.