Wednesday, June 27, 2018

What do you think laws are for?

In which I respond to Tommy’s left wing critics.
Part V of a series: Who is Tommy Robinson?
by Michael Isenberg.

Dear Left-of-Center Friends: Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your discussions with me about this series on anti-Islam crusader Tommy Robinson, who was jailed last month for livestreaming outside a grooming trial, in violation of British reporting laws. Despite my disagreements with you, some of our exchanges were quite civilized, which was a wonderful change of pace in this not-so-civil political climate in which we find ourselves. I always work hard to make sure I’m not reporting fake news, but your constant insistence on knowing my sources pushed me to dig even deeper than usual for corroborating evidence on the claims Robinson made in his autobiography and Oxford Union speech. And the many links you sent me that captured his less-than-stellar moments definitely had an impact on Part 3 of the series, where I took on the question of whether he’s racist. I love you all. But nevertheless, I feel compelled to call you out on your—how shall I put this nicely?—your inconsistencies.

As I wrote at the conclusion of my previous installment, “Most Shameful Hour,” “I recognize that many on the Left do not share my admiration for Tommy Robinson’s courage in speaking out against crime in his community inspired by the ideology of Islam. They think he’s a vile individual, both in character and ideas. Fine. Reasonable people can disagree. I had hoped, however, that regardless of what they think about Mr. Robinson himself, they would share my alarm at the prospect of a state that can beat down anyone who thinks they can mess with it. Sadly, my left-of-center friends do not see it that way.”

The following tweet from Owen Jones is typical of how they do see it. In his Twitter profile, Mr. Jones describes himself as a socialist and a writer for The Guardian, but I won’t hold those things against him on account of there’s a cat in his cover photo.

When did Leftists such as Mr. Jones suddenly become the champions of law and order? (And please don’t answer, “About the same time the Right stopped.” Tu quoque, besides being a fallacy, is so boring). When did the Left join the “The law’s the law” crowd? Certainly not when rioters were setting fire to the town of Ferguson, MO.

Or when punching Nazis was all the rage. I infer from this tweet that Mr. Jones was more or less in approval of the assault on the vile Richard Spencer:

Even after his “’Tommy Robinson’” is not a martyr” tweet, Mr. Jones attacked President Trump for enforcing immigration law in the United States:

Hey, I’m with you, Owen, on some of these at least. When the law is unjust, it’s right to speak out. Sometimes it’s even right to defy it. “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God,” said Benjamin Franklin, a man who knew a thing or two about rebellion. What’s not right is to turn your back on that sort of principled opposition and suddenly transform into Judge Jeffreys when the victim of an unjust law is wearing the jersey of the opposing team.

The Left’s inconsistency is particularly jarring since this is a freedom of the press case. If some other reporter were jailed for what Mr. Robinson did, but he was a standard bearer for the Left, we would hear howls of outrage from that side of the aisle—inevitably invoking the word “chilling”—and read learned treatises on how unjust reporting laws are.

And I agree. They are unjust.

There’s a key distinction here. Many of my left-of-center friends have lectured me in great detail about exactly what the law says, and how Tommy Robinson ran afoul of it. I get all that. I concede that this is the law of the land. My point is that it shouldn’t be.

Such laws violate freedom of speech and freedom of the press. These aren't just high-sounding words. They're essential ingredients to maintaining a free society. They're embraced by the British Constitution. And yes, I understand that the British Constitution is a patchwork of laws and court decisions, not a single written document like in the United States. That’s not relevant in this context. What is relevant is that it’s nevertheless a thing and that it protects certain freedoms.

Press freedom is especially crucial in the context of trials. Justice needs to take place in full view of the public to prevent the bench from becoming an instrument of tyranny. It is no coincidence that the vilest dictatorships on earth—Iran, for example—regularly conduct trials in secret. Great Britain, where our freedoms originated, does not belong in their company.

Nor do I buy the argument that without strict reporting laws, “trials of alleged rapists would collapse and alleged rapists would walk free.” Other countries routinely hold trials in full view of the public and manage to get convictions. For example, we just convicted a prominent rapist in the United States—Bill Cosby—despite daily play-by-play coverage on CNN.

There’s something else at play here, and there’s an exchange from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged that illustrates it beautifully. In this scene, Dr. Floyd Ferris of the State Science Institute confronts steel executive Hank Rearden for selling a greater quantity of his “Rearden Metal” to a customer than the law allows. Rearden observes,

“You seem to be pleased about it.”

“Don’t I have good reason to be?”

“But, after all, I did break one of your laws.”

“Well, what do you think they're for?”

Dr. Ferris did not notice the sudden look on Rearden's face, the look of a man hit by the first vision of that which he had sought to see. Dr. Ferris was past the stage of seeing; he was intent upon delivering the last blows to an animal caught in a trap.

“Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against—then you'll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We're after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you'd better get wise to it. There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted—and you create a nation of law-breakers—and then you cash in on guilt. Now, that's the system, Mr. Rearden, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with.”

This is exactly what happened to Tommy Robinson, not just in his present incarceration, but throughout his long persecution at the hands of Her Majesty’s Government. The grooming crisis, the evil practice of creating an emotional connection with young girls—often by addicting them to drugs—in order to turn them into sex slaves, was out of control. Tommy Robinson—who had a victim in his own family—had the temerity to shine the disinfectant of sunlight on it. Because he claimed the perpetrators were disproportionately Muslim, he was called racist and fascist and every other name under the sun. But this was not some feverish anti-Muslim propaganda. Events vindicated Mr. Robinson completely as reports came out that thousands of girls were victimized; public officials conceded that they had been slow to prosecute, in part because the girls were poor and white, in part because they were afraid of being accused of racism; eventually prosecutions were conducted and convictions obtained. Tommy Robinson had done the state some service and they knew’t. And that couldn’t stand. He had embarrassed them; he had to be destroyed. But what do you think laws are for? It's a tribute to Mr. Robinson's honesty, that in an age of proliferating laws, the prosecutors had to work as hard as they did to come up with the mortgage fraud charge against him.

I implore my left-of-center friends, who pride themselves on standing up to authority, and speaking truth to power, to look beyond Mr. Robinson’s team jersey and take heed. A State powerful enough to destroy your opponents today is powerful enough to destroy you tomorrow.

Michael Isenberg drinks bourbon and writes novels. His latest book, The Thread of Reason, is a murder mystery that takes place in Baghdad in the year 1092, and tells the story of the conflict between science and shari’ah in medieval Islam. It is available on Amazon.com

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Most Shameful Hour

Britain’s Vendetta against Tommy Robinson.
Part IV of a series: Who is Tommy Robinson?
by Michael Isenberg.

Tommy is still on 23.5-hour solitary confinement. The prison is refusing to post his letters to his wife and children quoting that they may be shared on line. I would have thought it is the choice of the recipient to decide if they would like to share a letter they have received. He is also only allowed out of his cell for a shower and phone call at 1-1.30pm each day which means he cannot speak to his children as they are at school. Being treated worse than a terrorist.

That update appeared on Tommy Robinson’s Facebook page yesterday and is just the latest chapter in Her Majesty’s Government’s despicable persecution of the English Defense League founder and anti-Islamization activist.

In Part I of this series, I provided a short bio of Mr. Robinson: his upbringing in Luton, his young adult years as a soccer hooligan, and how he was drawn into activism by the growing racial tensions and rising crime in a town where everyone knew everyone else. In Parts 2 and 3 I took on the most common accusations that Mr. Robinson’s opponents level against him, that he’s a fascist (ludicrous) and a racist (it’s complicated).

In this installment, I’ll cover the British government’s response to Mr. Robinson, which can only be described as a vendetta. His current imprisonment, for exercising freedom of the press (or as the police called it, “disturbing the peace”), was merely one in a long chain of abuses and usurpations directed at Mr. Robinson. “The moment we started the EDL,” he writes in his autobiography Enemy of the State,

with me as the nominal head, the British state declared war on Tommy Robinson. Whether it was the police using arrest and detention as a way to either piss me off or disrupt EDL activities, whether it was taking apart my working life going back to the Year Dot, or whether it was prison governors and screws physically throwing me to the lions by putting me on an open wing amongst violent Muslim extremists, I’ve had the lot thrown at me.

The goal? To grind me down. To shut me up. That’s all I can fathom. To make the point that the state can beat down anyone who thinks they can mess with it.

Many of his arrests were little more than harassment. On one occasion he was taken in for burglary—even though eyewitnesses described the suspects as a black man and a 6’1” blonde. Clearly neither were the 5’6” Robinson. But even after being cleared, such harassment does its harm: “The headline would do all the damage required, and I’d seen this so many times, with different charges, different incidents. Accused of this, suspected of that, arrested on this and that … and then the charges are dropped, but the damage is already done.”

Another arrest, this one from 2013, was caught on video. It’s clear that in this case, Mr. Robinson wasn’t doing anything at all other than taking a walk with his EDL co-founder Kevin Carroll, who was the victim of an assault:

Mr. Robinson writes,

I was charged with obstructing a police officer in course of his duty and in what I consider—from some experience—to be one of the British judiciary’s finest moments, the judge threw a wobbler. She was raging, completely pissed off with the police and what they were playing at.

‘I’m not limiting this man’s freedoms,’ she said. And I was free to go.

Alas, not all of Mr. Robinson’s arrests ended as happily, and not all the judges were as concerned with protecting the freedom of British citizens. In 2012 he began a ten month sentence for entering the United States with someone else’s passport (although how that’s a violation of British law mystifies me). Upon his release in March 2013, he faced another charge, this time for giving his brother-in-law a £20,000 loan for a down payment on a house. According to the Crown, that constituted “mortgage fraud,” to which Mr. Robinson entered a guilty plea. The BBC duly reported his sentencing, including the judge’s statement that, “I am satisfied you took part in a thoroughly dishonest course of conduct." But despite the BBC's stated values, which according to its website include being “independent, impartial and honest,” the article neglected to impartially report the details of the loan. Nor did it report Mr. Robinson’s reason for pleading guilty to this charge, which came out of the government's minute examination of of every financial transaction Mr. Robinson had ever made in an attempt to bring him down the same way the US brought down Al Capone—tax evasion:

The police must have spent hundreds of thousands trying to build the tax case against me, then seen their 30 or so charges all whittled away one by one, until finally they played their trump card. They were going to nail my wife over the taxes, a woman who knew nothing about our finances — unless I took the blame on everyone’s behalf.

They were going to get Tommy Robinson once and for all, through a blameless woman. Put her face and name in the public domain, destroy any hope my family had of living a normal life. They’d poured all those resources into trying to nail me, and they had to have something to show for it. My wife and kids? Collateral damage, nothing more.

Mr. Robinson was imprisoned in HMP Woodhill, which the British government designates a Category A facility, “for prisoners whose escape would be considered highly dangerous to the public or a threat to national security.” Typically it holds the most dangerous criminals—murderers, rapists, drug dealers, terrorists, and so on. Why Mr. Robinson, who was convicted of a white collar crime, would be locked up in such a place is unclear, but the consequences of doing so are plain enough. Woodhill has a large Muslim population, which obviously posed a danger to an anti-Islam activist such as Mr. Robinson. Not long after he arrived, he says,

I was taken to a holding room with large windows and I could see there were a few prisoners in there, but three of them were bearded Muslims including [this] big white guy. The screw put me inside — they knew what they were doing — locked the door and calmly walked away. The room had bench seating all round but I never sat down because I knew what was coming next. I kept my chin down but my eyes up, and my back to the corner.

The big white bearded bloke charged and laid into me immediately the screw had disappeared. I got hold of him with one hand because I couldn’t afford to go down on the floor, and I was lashing away with the other, as the other two Muslims came wading in…

By the time the screws came and broke it up my teeth were gone, my skull was gashed open and my eye swollen shut. I was lucky I guess in that it wasn’t fatal. There was a camera up in the corner warning prisoners that they were being watched. The prison told my lawyers that unfortunately it wasn’t working that day.

The camera wasn’t working?

Even after his parole, his problems weren’t over. In late 2014, he received a tweet from someone called “1488Hitler,” who said he “was going to rape my mum, find out where I lived and kill me.” Robinson replied that he’d be outside his probation office the following morning, come get him. In the eyes of the authorities, that was a “threat” that constituted a probation violation. Back to jail with you, Tommy. Twenty-eight days in Bedford nick. He says he was placed in the wing “where the most radical and violent Muslims were.”

On the very first day, Mr. Robinson got into a brawl in the canteen:

This white geezer, McDonald, said ‘I’m a fucking Muslim bruv.’ And the way he said it, well that was it. We ended up fighting across the servery and I battered him…The fight had the desired effect from my point of view. They came and took me to see the governor who said that he was putting me down the block—in solitary—for my own safety.

Because of the stay in Bedford, Mr. Robinson had to cancel a high-profile talk he was scheduled to give to the Oxford Union.

It was subsequently rescheduled for March 2015 and is worth watching in its entirety.

Enemy of the State contains numerous other examples of the oppression that Mr. Robinson suffered at the hands of the Crown—far more than there’s space to catalog in a blog entry. As we’re seeing with his latest incarceration, it’s still going on. Mr. Robinson believes that his legal woes have been orchestrated at the highest levels of Her Majesty’s Government:

[A]fter the Breivik slaughter in Norway [July 2011], [Muslim activist] Mo Ansar wrote to the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Crime and Security, James Brokenshire MP, calling for him to outlaw the EDL. Brokenshire replied, ‘We can’t proscribe them but we are working with a wide range of agencies to address the driver of the EDL.’

(A request to Mr. Ansar for verification and comment had not been replied to by press time.) Regardless of whether there was an organized conspiracy, or merely a series of police, prosecutors, and prison governors acting independently, the persecution of Tommy Robinson for doing little more than exercising his freedom of speech has no place in a free society. If the Battle of Britain was, in Churchill’s words, Britain’s finest hour, then this is its most shameful.

I recognize that many on the Left do not share my admiration for Tommy Robinson’s courage in speaking out against crime in his community inspired by the ideology of Islam. They think he’s a vile individual, both in character and ideas. Fine. Reasonable people can disagree. I had hoped, however, that regardless of what they think about Mr. Robinson himself, they would share my alarm at the prospect of a state that can beat down anyone who thinks they can mess with it. Sadly, my left-of-center friends do not see it that way—as they’ve been telling me in no uncertain terms on Twitter ever since I started on this topic. What they’re saying about Mr. Robinson’s rap sheet, and my response to them, will be the subject of the next (and I’m sure you all hope final) chapter in this series: Part V—What do you think laws are for?

Michael Isenberg drinks bourbon and writes novels. His latest book, The Thread of Reason, is a murder mystery that takes place in Baghdad in the year 1092, and tells the story of the conflict between science and shari’ah in medieval Islam. It is available on Amazon.com

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

But he IS racist, right?

Well, it’s complicated.
Part III of a series: Who is Tommy Robinson?
by Michael Isenberg.

Any mention of jailed anti-jihadi activist Tommy Robinson inevitably elicits two words from our left-of-center friends: fascist and racist (Come to think of it, mention of peanut butter and jelly elicits at least one of those words from our left-of-center friends). In my previous installment in this series, I addressed the first one. I concluded, “The idea that Tommy Robinson is a fascist is ludicrous….The snowflakes who shoot off their mouths about punching Nazis can only dream about the sort of genuine anti-fascist cred that Tommy Robinson has built over the course of his career.”

Frankly I did fascist first because it’s the easier of the two. As for whether he’s a racist—well, it’s complicated. There are things in his life which would seem to exonerate him completely from any charges of harboring racial animosities. But there are other things which are frankly disturbing. I’ve been round and round about this, but I don’t have some magic equation that I can plug all the variables into and have the answer pop out “racist” or “not racist.” So what I’m going to do is lay out all the facts and leave the drawing of conclusions as an exercise for the reader. After all, facts are my thing. It’s what I do. Well, facts and bourbon.

To complicate matters even more, it’s fair to ask whether it's even possible to be racist against Muslims. Islam, after all, is not a race — it’s an ideology. On the other hand, the practitioners of Islam are disproportionately non-white, especially in Tommy Robinson’s neck of the woods, where they’re predominantly Pakistani. So it’s hard to separate the two.

Certainly there is no evidence that Tommy Robinson is racist toward anyone other than Muslims. He has many friends who are black. I realize I’m on treacherous ground here. During the Civil Rights era, and maybe still today, it was said that a dead giveaway that someone is a racist is that he’ll say, “Some of my best friends are black.” But like I said, I’m just going to lay out all the facts and let you be the judges.

In Part II I recounted one episode from Mr. Robinson’s autobiography in which he brought his black friends to a white supremacist meeting. There are many similar episodes. Not that Mr. Robinson got any recognition for that from the press. Regarding the reporter who conducted his first interview with the national media, a piece in The Guardian, Mr. Robinson writes, “And he basically, again, called me, called us, racists. He completely did not mention the fact that I’d turned up with three black men who were clearly my close friends.”

We don’t just have to take Mr. Robinson's word for this; other people have met his friends and witnessed his relationships with them. For instance, Israellycool’s Brian John Thomas, who hosted Mr. Robinson during his 2016 visit to Israel, told me, “He brought two friends including a guy he's known since school (black guy).”

And speaking of his trip to Israel, Tommy Robinson has been a consistent friend to the Jews and the Jewish state. He has taken up the cause of Jews who have been victims of Muslim violence in the United Kingdom. This is encouraging. Throughout history, tolerance toward Jews has been a sound litmus test of an ideology. Concerning European Jews, during his wrap-up with Mr. Thomas, at the end of his Israel trip, he said,

I’ve seen myself how they’re treated, how they’re targeted. I’ve seen myself the security levels they have to take in every European country. I’ve seen myself the attacks on schools, on children, on rabbis, and all these different things…I met a Jewish lad in London, Israel Shalom…I found that he’d been targeted hundreds of times growing up in a Muslim community. He’d gone to the police, he’d gone to his MP, he’d gone to everybody, and just as grooming sexual exploitation of young, white English girls was a taboo subject that no one wanted to talk about, the other taboo subject they don’t want to talk about is the fact that the Jewish people are facing intense hostilities by Muslims.

Mr. Robinson understands the connection between persecution of Jews in Europe and the need for a Jewish state:

So then I thought if these people are going to be attacked and targeted, more and more now as we move forward as well, I think it becomes more relevant to have a homeland, because they’re going to come under intense hostility in Europe.”

And when it comes to the deep emotional connection the Jewish people have to their homeland, he just gets it:

We hear all the time that the Jews have invaded this land, and then as we’re walking around, as we’re going to all the tourist destinations, as we’re going to the historical sites, we find that there’s staunch history and connections, going back two thousand years, non-stop, from historic finds, to just everything, that always puts Jewish people as their land. And always says in their scripture that this is the Promised Land and they’ve been exiled from this land so many times, and they will come back from the land. It’s their homeland…I’ve always said I’m pro-Israel…I didn’t know really the true histories of the land. I’ve said that because the Jewish people deserve a homeland. I didn’t realize the historical points to it.

And lest you think he was merely pandering to his Jewish host, here’s what he said to the crowds of working class English soccer fans who attended his English Defense League (EDL) rallies. From the September 29, 2012 demo in Walsall:

I believe Israel has a right to defend itself. I believe it’s a sign and beacon of democracy surrounded by scumbags who want to wipe [it] off the face of the planet.

Nor does Mr. Robinson seem to harbor any prejudice against the Sikhs. Here he is at a May 2013 demonstration at Downing Street. A Sikh group happened to be holding a demo of their own nearby, and Mr. Robinson heaped praise on them and the sacrifices made by their co-religionists during World War I—and the EDL rank and file cheered them on.

And here he is engaging the Sikhs and shaking their hands after the same protest.

Indeed Mr. Robinson brought the same tolerant attitude that he’s had toward minorities in his personal life to the EDL—and demanded the same from the rank and file. From his autobiography:

We kept being called racists despite our black, Indian, and other ethnic members. I thought if we had a black bloke speaking, the media couldn’t ignore it, but they did anyway…At Dudley we had a dreadlocked black lad called James willing to get up and speak along with a Sikh girl Sareeta, who supported us. They were getting a bunch of shit from one of the football hooligan crews. One of them said, ‘What the fuck is this?’ when Dave and Sareeta came up. I told him if he didn’t like it, he was at the wrong demo.

He addressed the subject again at another rally. This one was in Newcastle after soldier Lee Rigby was brutally murdered by jihadis in cold blood on a London street (2013). Mr. Robinson said, "Everyone’s welcome in the English Defense League. All colors and races."

Mr. Robinson insists that his quarrel with Islam is ideological, not racial. At the same Newcastle rally he said,

This is not about color. This is not about race. This is about an ideology. Now, to the defeat this ideology it won’t be with punches, hits, bombs, or bullets—we need to win the hearts and minds of the people.

He repeats the point in his autobiography: “I do not apologise for having a problem with an alien ideology.” I wholeheartedly agree.

And yet, despite his insistence that his disagreements with Muslims are purely ideological, he sent out this racist series of tweets making fun of a physical characteristic shared by many Middle Eastern people, which he attributes to incest:

As you can see, the tweets were sent out over a period of eight months, so he can't even claim in his defense that he had a bad day (which we all do from time to time). Perhaps he can claim that he was just joking, and the tweets don't reflect his true feelings.

But he wasn't joking when he made a number of reprehensible statements in which he blamed all Muslims for the acts of grooming gangs and terrorists. From his autobiography again:

I began noticing events like [the] Beslan [school siege], becoming aware of Sayful Islam, of the drugs and prostitution gangs, all of it coming together to highlight a massive problem with one specific root cause — the Muslim community. And all the while there was a plentiful supply of people parroting the same old mantra — ‘This is a minority, the vast majority of Muslims are peace loving, the vast majority don’t agree with this and that….’

Really? I don’t see that. I didn’t then and I don’t now. Ordinary, peace-loving Muslims who just want to get on in life? I’m sure. But they don’t care enough about so-called community cohesion to lift a finger. If the vast majority are so offended at what the criminals and the extremists are doing from behind the protective veil of their culture and ideology, then why don’t they do something about it?

Why aren’t entire Muslim communities, as opposed to a few individuals (who happen to be making a good living out of their token gestures) taking on the extremists and the criminals? Until they do I don’t think you can use that ‘silent majority’ argument. Bullshit then and bullshit now.

In this video from a September 2011 EDL rally outside the heavily Muslim Tower Hamlets borough of London, Mr. Robinson not only seems to blame all Muslims for the July 7, 2005 jihadi bombings of three Underground trains and a bus, but he also threatens reprisals against “the Islamic community” for any future attacks:

We are here today to tell you quite loud, quite clearly, every single Muslim watching this video on YouTube: On 7/7, you got away with killing and maiming British citizens. You got away with it! Next time you think about it, you better understand, that we have built a network from one end of this country to the other end…And the Islamic community will feel the full force of the English Defense League if we see any of our citizens killed, maimed, or hurt on British soil ever again.

(An aside—the police tried to prevent Mr. Robinson from attending this particular demo; doing so violated his bail conditions from a previous arrest. To get past them, he donned a characteristically outrageous disguise:

After the demo, he evaded the police again by hopping on a public bus. They eventually caught up with him at his home and arrested him.)

More recently, in the wake of last year’s suicide bombing at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, Mr. Robinson delivered an epic rant in front of a mosque in that city. It was a mixed bag. The gist of it was that British politicians are selling out the British people. He touches on ideology: “The reality is if we want to stop what happened last night, and we want to really get to grips with it, we got to start identifying what is happening. And it’s happening because the Quran, in over a hundred verses, incites murder and war against us! That’s the reality. That’s the truth. These are facts. Facts are not hate speech.” But toward the middle he points to the brick apartment blocks around him and says, “When you see these communities and you see these houses, you think this is a British community where you might have British Muslims. They are enemy combatants in these houses! In these houses are enemy combatants who want to kill you, maim you and destroy you! They want to destroy our way of life.”

The best thing I can say in Mr. Robinson’s defense is that he’s inconsistent. He does, on some occasions anyway, recognize that not all Muslims are responsible for terrorism. He even has good personal relationships with some Muslims. “I invited Muslim friends to my wedding,” he wrote. “What’s more, they came.” Comedian Omar Hamdi sat down to a civilized dinner with him and wrote in The Independent that they “broke the ice quickly.” And in the Brian John Thomas wrap-up interview, Mr. Robinson said that he wanted to seek out Muslim views, and he showed a willingness to admit when his preconceptions weren’t met:

The general theme which surprised me with the Arabs as well was there’s no attitude. I didn’t sense any attitude. Or hostility. Which should feel more hostility and attitude from Muslims in the UK…

One of the most surprising things for me was when we went to a—we were driving past and there was a Arab camel oasis, we pulled in…There was well over a thousand young Muslim men and we walked straight into the middle of it. We walked straight in and to be honest nobody batted an eyelid. We walked in there was what? Five of us? And then in the middle of all of this I seen a young Jewish family sitting, having a picnic, with their children, with their family…If you had a Jewish family in the UK, very visible that they’re Jewish, sitting in a field, with a thousand young Muslim men, there’s going to be trouble—for that Jewish family…That’s not what I’d have expected to see.

The Arabs I’ve met and spoke to were all pro-Israel, which again would be completely the opposite to what I’d expect to find...As we’ve gone places, and I’ve gone out, and I met different people, I’ve just pulled them aside and tried to ask them for their own view because more than anything…I didn’t want to just come here and spend time with Israeli Jews showing me completely everything from an Israeli Jewish perspective, which is why I took the risk—I was very nervous when we were in the back of the taxi going into a Palestinian refugee camp. I was very nervous. My head was going, ‘What the hell? The pros outweigh the cons of this.’ The cons are that if someone recognizes me, I’m gonna be killed. But at the same time, without getting into that refugee camp, without meeting those Palestinians who live there, without talking to them about who they're angry with, about who’s oppressing them, about what the problems are, I’d only have one perspective which is the whole reason why we took that risk to do that, and by going in there I met I’d say one of the most best men I’ve met or I relate with, how he was, how he spoke, and I related with him.”

In the Newcastle rally which I mentioned earlier, he even demanded that the crowd not attack innocent Muslims for the acts of criminals and terrorists.

It is honorable to oppose terrorism. It is honorable to oppose shari’ah law. It is honorable to oppose Muslim grooming gangs. One thing we do have to point out, it is not honorable to shower an individual Muslim women or attack individual Muslims because at the same time there are Muslims serving in the British armed forces. We have to identify and separate Muslims from Islam. Muslims are the first victims of Islam.

In all fairness, Tommy Robinson is not an intellectual. He didn’t go to college. He doesn’t worry a whole lot about philosophical consistency. He has little patience for nuanced distinctions such as the difference between Islam and Islamism. “It’s an invention to make us feel better about things,” he writes. “We’re pretending that someone who is an ‘Islamist’ is a separate variety of Muslim that we can neatly blame for all the wider woes the ideology brings. We’re deluding ourselves.” He has even less patience for people who make such distinctions (You know, people like me!) Regarding one such individual, he wrote “I can understand how that theory was well received at his university and in his debating society, but he’d never stood in Luton town centre on a Saturday, listening to them spewing their hatred. This kid, so wet behind the ears, was full of this ridiculous idea that you can negotiate with people who delight in seeing innocent people getting their heads sawn off with a knife.”

Mr. Robinson is willing and able to engage intellectuals. He's even willing and able to learn from them. But as a former(?) football brawler, he is far more comfortable taking to the streets, shooting from the hip, and maybe getting into a "ruck" to confront the criminals and terrorists who overran his hometown and his country. “Ban them, shut them up, get tough on them,” he writes, “and try to make it impossible for radical Muslims to exist in British society.”

So what do you think? Tommy Robinson: racist or not? Please leave a comment, either here or on my Facebook page.

Next up: Part IV—Most Shameful Hour

Michael Isenberg drinks bourbon and writes novels. His latest book, The Thread of Reason, is a murder mystery that takes place in Baghdad in the year 1092, and tells the story of the conflict between science and shari’ah in medieval Islam. It is available on Amazon.com

Monday, June 11, 2018

Is Tommy Robinson a fascist?

No.
Part II of a series: Who is Tommy Robinson?
by Michael Isenberg.

England’s best known political prisoner was in the news again this weekend as thousands turned out in London for a Free Tommy Robinson protest on Saturday. If you watched the coverage in the mainstream media, you would have seen images of violence as groups of protesters hurled bottles, broke through police barricades, and chased Britain’s finest down the street. There’s even one video making the rounds of a member of the crowd giving a Nazi salute (in all fairness, it looks like he was trolling either counter-protesters or the police).

If you searched a little harder and looked at some of the grassroots videos, well, you’d have seen more images of violence, but you also would have seen much larger groups peacefully waving flags, chanting “Tommy, Tommy, Tommy,” listening to speeches, and clowning for the cameras. Sometimes both sides' narratives are true.

In much of the coverage of Mr. Robinson and his supporters, especially in the far-left media, there seems to be a recurring theme: “Robinson and his supporters have a history of racism and Islamophobia, and have many links to fascist organisations (Searchlight Magazine).” “Fascist and racist criminal Tommy Robinson has been jailed, but we can’t be complacent (standuptoracism.org).” “Protest for Tommy Robinson in London is a warning about the threat of fascism (The Socialist Worker).” In a learned dissertation, rife with nuanced definitions, Hope not Hate assures us that “Tommy Robinson is a far-right, Islamophobic extremist,” but “We don’t consider [him] a ‘nazi’, a ‘fascist’ or a ‘white supremacist.’” It’s a cheap trick — backhandedly associating your opponent with something heinous by insisting it isn’t true. In any case, even when purportedly denying that Mr. Robinson is a fascist, our left-of-center friends can’t stay away from the f-word, usually with the r-word (racist) trotting along in its footsteps.

Following the links to these articles, you’ll find a lot of name-calling, a smattering of quotations from Mr. Robinson himself, often without context, and a copy of his rap sheet, leaving out key details that change the complexion of some of the charges. What you won’t find is any actual evidence that Tommy Robinson is a fascist.

In Part I of this series, I provided the basic biographical stuff about Mr. Robinson: his upbringing in Luton, his soccer hooligan years, and how he got involved in anti-jihadist activism. I’ll address the accusations of racism in the next installment. In this part, I’ll take on the question of whether he is a fascist.

Let me cut to the chase: No.

The idea that Tommy Robinson is a fascist is ludicrous.

In the first place, he doesn’t embrace fascist ideology. I find no record of him calling for a dictatorship, a totalitarian state, or government control of the economy (which is more than I can say for his left-of-center critics). He just doesn’t seem interested in questions of how the government or the economy should be organized. The only part of the fascist program that he might possibly accept—and this is a stretch—is nationalism. But then, what’s the difference between nationalism and garden variety patriotism?

“But what about that time he joined the British National Party (BNP)?” his critics demand.

Yes, it’s true. For one year in the mid-2000s, Tommy Robinson was a member of the BNP, whose F├╝hrer at the time, Nick Griffin, has been quoted as saying (during his trial for inciting racial hatred), “I am well aware that the orthodox opinion is that six million Jews were gassed and cremated and turned into lampshades. Orthodox opinion also once held that the world is flat.” Nevertheless, when you hear the whole story of Mr. Robinson’s involvement with the BNP, you’ll see that it brings him far more credit than shame. From his autobiography Enemy of the State:

I went along to the first meeting with my uncle and listened, mostly. They had a guest speaker, gave out loads of literature and they were talking what I thought was plain common sense about the whole range of Muslim/Islamic issues. I suppose I was reasonably impressed with it, so I signed up for a membership and decided to bring the football lads to the next meeting.

These guys had become my best friends, they had become my community. I never gave a minute’s thought to their colour or background. We met up and went along to the pub, the King Harry again, which has two bars. As we walked through the door, this organiser said, ‘They’ll have to wait here,’ and he was on about the black lads — Isaac, Little Craigy and Webster.

I could not believe it. I simply could not believe it…They discovered in no uncertain terms that we were about as pissed off as pissed off gets — and that was that with the BNP as far as I was concerned. After that, any time we heard about the BNP, we just told them to get fucked…

You probably think that I was na├»ve for not realising the BNP was a racist group. I’m sure I was.

If anyone who wasn’t an anti-jihadist activist brought a group of black men to a meeting of white supremacists, our left-of-center friends would hail him as a hero. But instead, the incident is twisted — without the details of course — to lay bogus accusations of fascism at Tommy Robinson’s doorstep. (BTW, the incident was supposedly corroborated at the time by an article in Searchlight Magazine of all places. Unfortunately, as of press time, Searchlight has not responded to my request for information.)

From the beginning, neo-Nazis and other assorted fascists attempted to infiltrate and co-opt the English Defense League (EDL), the organization that Mr. Robinson co-founded. In a recent video, Brian John Thomas, of Israellycool fame, following Douglas Murray, places the blame for this squarely on the shoulders of the Left. “If you keep calling something far right,” he said, “then the far right want to join it. If you keep saying that they’re neo-Nazis, then the neo-Nazis want to join it.”

Also from the beginning, Robinson fought to keep these “wankers” out. Mr. Thomas followed the story as it was unfolding:

They had a forum [online] and I used to read that forum from Israel, and that’s actually how I got to understand what the EDL was and what it wasn’t—and it wasn’t a neo-Nazi far right organization, because I could see what happened when people came into their forums trying to come with what today the alt-right calls the JQ—the Jewish Question. They were not treated well and it didn’t have a safe home at the EDL.

But the message that fascists were not welcome was not limited to the online forum. In Part I of this series, I mentioned Mr. Robinson’s confrontation with Paul Ray and “Nazi Nick,” but there were many other examples as well. At an early EDL March in Birmingham, Mr. Robinson writes,

[T]he police brought in double decker buses to ship us out and apparently some geezer in a green bomber jacket who was getting on one of the buses gave a Hitler salute towards a group of journalists. To this day I reckon it was a plant. The Unite Against Fascism lot used that image against us for years. I didn’t see it, others did—Sappy was going berserk, because his daughter is mixed race. They got a slapping and kicked off the bus. We weren’t having that.

At a September 2012 rally in Walsall, he had an unambiguous message for the BNP: the EDL didn’t want them—and the crowd had his back:

Throughout his career, Mr. Robinson has had a flair for the sensational—it’s part of the secret of his success. He once donned a burqa to sneak into a talk by a hostile journalist. After the speaker spent his entire presentation trashing him, Robinson stood up during the question period and threw off the burqa for a dramatic reveal. In another such stunt, members of the EDL—both black and white—burned a fricking Nazi flag. The Telegraph reported the story at the time, albeit with the somewhat illogical headline, “Will the flames of hatred spread?”

Unfortunately, Mr. Robinson lost control of the EDL while he served a ten month prison sentence for entering the United States with someone else’s passport (although how that’s a violation of British law mystifies me). And yet, even after this gave the fascists an opportunity to infiltrate his organization, Mr. Robinson kept trying to keep them out:

It was March 2013 when I got out and I was asking myself why I continued putting up with all the aggravation…Regional organisations should have been keeping the extremists out, but while I was inside they’d opened the doors again to any idiot who wanted to create strife. In Manchester and Liverpool the regional leadership had basically welcomed the North West Infidels with open arms…One of the first things I did was get rid of the North West regional leadership. It was zero tolerance where right-wing idiots were concerned, if I was going to be back involved.

Sadly, with another prison term on the horizon, this time for a completely inane mortgage fraud charge, Mr. Robinson had to throw in the towel. He couldn’t keep the fascists out. And so he quit—left the organization (I’ll cover the mortgage fraud business, as well as some additional reasons he left the EDL in a future installment).

Of course, his critics have a pat answer for all this: It’s a trick! Writing in The Guardian, Alex Andreou warned, “Don’t be fooled by Tommy Robinson’s political sleight-of-hand. The former EDL leader may have left his party, but this is just an old far-right trick to attract the media and shift the debate.” Mr. Andreou provides a catalog of right-wing (and a few left-wing) figures who have done just that, but the only evidence he offers that this is actually the case with Mr. Robinson’s departure from the EDL was that there were “inconsistencies in his account.” I’ll have grounds more relative than this.

I’m not in the business of supporting fascists (albeit I am in the business of supporting their freedom of speech). So before I took up Tommy Robinson’s cause, I researched him carefully. And what did I find? No ideological smoking gun, the incident with the BNP, the flag burning stunt, the epic struggle to keep fascists out of the EDL, and when that was ultimately unsuccessful, his departure from that organization. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the snowflakes who shoot off their mouths about punching Nazis can only dream about the sort of genuine anti-fascist cred that Tommy Robinson has built over the course of his career.

Next up: Part III—But he IS racist, right?

Michael Isenberg drinks bourbon and writes novels. His latest book, The Thread of Reason, is a murder mystery that takes place in Baghdad in the year 1092, and tells the story of the conflict between science and shari’ah in medieval Islam. It is available on Amazon.com

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Who is Tommy Robinson?

“A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on.” – Mark Twain (attributed)

Ten days ago, some guy named Tommy Robinson got arrested outside a courthouse in England. “He deserved it!” our left-of-center friends exclaimed, having suddenly become champions of law and order. “Islamaphobe! Racist! Fascist!” From the way they carried on, I imagined this Robinson chap was something like a cross between Paddy Tanninger from Family Guy

…and P.G. Wodehouse’s buffoonish wannabe dictator Roderick Spode.

Robinson certainly looks the part of a British Neo-Nazi. With his flattened nose, lily-white skin, and military haircut (despite never having served in any military), he seems straight out of central casting.

But one can't judge by looks, and so I did my own research. While the lies zipped around the world, I listened to Mr. Robinson’s Oxford Union Speech, read his autobiography Enemy of the State, and searched the web for any corroborating materials I could find, all in an effort to come to grips with who is Tommy Robinson. And now that he has been nearly forgotten in his jail cell, and the public has turned its attention to Roseanne Barr’s Twitter feed and the Philadelphia Eagles White House disinvitation, I finally have my boots on, and am ready to share what I found:

Tommy Robinson was born Stephen Yaxley in Luton, Bedfordshire (1982). Other names he’s been known by over the years are Stephen Lennon and Paul Harris. His opponents have made much ado about these multiple aliases, implying there’s something sinister in it, but they mainly stem from his attempts to keep his identity a secret in order to protect his wife and children during his early years as an activist. His real identity was eventually revealed by Paul Ray, who Robinson calls “a 100 per cent, bona fide, right wing fruitcake.” Ray, together with a character called “Nazi Nick” demanded that Robinson turn over to them control of the organization he founded, the English Defense League (EDL). When Robinson refused, Ray posted a video online revealing his real identity, as well as accusing Robinson of kidnapping Ray’s mother.

Robinson’s hometown of Luton is a mixed race community, with large black and south Asian populations. Robinson wrote in Enemy of the State that as a young child he “wasn’t really aware of race or religion being any kind of issue. Sure, their colour identified people, but it never registered as being a barrier to anything. Not at first, at least…Things changed quickly though, and the problems started once we got into high school.” The turning point was a schoolyard fight between his friend Dean and a Pakistani student names Majid. “Boys had playground scraps and all that,” he wrote. “Except this was different. All the Muslim lads rushed Dean, younger ones, older ones—Dean was in year nine with me and even boys from year 11 attacked him, which never happened. They jumped him down on the school service road and they put him in the hospital. There were about 20 of them.”

On another occasion, while walking with five or six friends to a swimming pool, “we came across a group of around 15 to 20 Pakistanis just hanging out…They mugged us, spitting in our faces, calling us white boys, white pigs, knocking us about and then searching us, taking our money.”

After graduation, Robinson won an internship at Britannia Airways to learn aircraft engineering—one of six positions for which there were 600 applicants. However, his future in engineering ended abruptly when he was sentenced to twelve months in prison for beating up an off-duty policeman who had attempted to intervene in an argument Robinson was having with his then-girlfriend, now wife. “I was no angel,” he freely acknowledges. After his release he made his living taking odd jobs in construction and opening a tanning salon. His free time was for soccer. “My social life pretty much revolved round being out with the lads on Friday nights, then the big day out on Saturday and all that involved—from boozing and chanting all the way to a good old ruck with the opposition as often as not. A football hooligan? I suppose so.” At 5'6", he admits his penchant for getting into fights "may or may not be a bit of the 'little man' syndrome."

In the meantime, he was watching his hometown go to hell.

The victims of Muslim violence—the innocent people murdered by jihadists, the young girls turned into sex slaves by the grooming gangs—are, for most of us, merely statistics that we read about on the Internet. For Tommy Robinson, living in Luton where everyone seems to know everyone else, they are living, breathing human beings. One of his cousins “was stabbed in a confrontation with some Muslim blokes in the town centre” and almost lost a hand. Mark Sharp, who, in an infamous case was brutally murdered by a gang of Muslims, was the friend of someone Tommy knew. Sharp had gotten into some sort of traffic incident and “flipped a vee-sign at them…It was a something and nothing moment in a car. It happens in every town, every day. But these characters still had to call more of their mates and murder a bloke in cold blood.” To add insult to injury, “the judge felt he had to find a way to let them off easy, by inviting a jury to find an excuse for their behaviour.” Robinson’s cousin Jeanette, meanwhile, was groomed—the despicable practice of prepping girls as young as eleven years old for service as sex slaves, often by getting them addicted to drugs so they become dependent on their captors: “She started going out with a Pakistani bloke and the next thing we knew she was strung out on heroin, addicted. She woke up one occasion in a house being gang-raped by half a dozen Muslim men…the police just remarked that she was a drug addict and basically shrugged their shoulders. Everyone did all they could to help her, but it was useless. They’d lock her in the house and she’d climb out of a window to go back to the Muslims and get her fix.”

And yet, it was not these crimes which drew Mr. Robinson into activism. Rather it was the spectacle of a Muslim mob disrespecting British soldiers. On March 10, 2009, the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment marched through Luton, an honor to celebrate their homecoming from Afghanistan. A standoff developed between patriotic Lutonians who had come out to cheer on the troops and a Muslim group. The Muslims “had placards calling our troops ‘Butchers of Basra’ and saying ‘Anglian soldiers go to hell’. And the police had simply guided them to a vantage position where they could hurl insults, while guarding them from people who were understandably pissed off by it all.”

An outraged Robinson decided to do something about it. He had been organizing the soccer outings for years, so it seemed natural to turn his organizational skills toward forming the United Peoples of Luton (UPL; later, when it went national, it was rechristened the EDL). UPL planned a march to Luton’s war memorial for two minutes of silence in early May. About 300 people showed up, but the police stopped them from reaching the memorial. “They kettled everyone in the square and wouldn’t allow anyone to move, in or out. They kept people there for three hours. Women—including my auntie—pleaded to be allowed to go to the toilet but the police wouldn’t let them. Men had to stand guard and screen their wives while they crouched and pissed in the street. It was a total disgrace.”

But Mr. Robinson is nothing if not persistent. “There was always going to have to be another march because things simply couldn’t end like that. We planned the second one for the next Bank Holiday at the end of May. I rang the police myself…I told the police in no uncertain terms that unless they let us get to the memorial, the whole town was going to go up. People were raging.

“Do you know what their answer was?...They went round swooping on the houses of the lads they’d identified from the first UPL demo, arresting them…They came after me, went to my mum’s, but luckily I wasn’t in at the time. I ended up effectively going into hiding, to make sure they couldn’t hit me with one of their restraining orders.”

But the people of Luton gathered anyway. “On the day of the second UPL demo, something happened I couldn’t have imagined. Rival factions and gangs, lads who hate each other, all came together under this one banner. Blokes I’ve had major dramas with put their rivalries, put everything aside…today we were all Luton, we were all England.” Once again the police tried to box in the demonstrators. But, “it was a completely different atmosphere from the first march, because this was just men and there was a sense that the police weren’t stopping us today.

“There were probably 500 lads and we assembled at the far end of Park Street. From there however, things went differently, because instead of meeting the police head on, everyone charged the other way—went round the town centre and came in from the far side of Luton. It turned basically into a sprint to get to the war memorial. Once we got there, we stood and held our two minute silence for our soldiers. We’d won our little personal battle.”

Alas, much as in the seventeenth century, when the likes of Edward Coke, John Selden, and Oliver Cromwell faced off against the Stuart kings to protest the Stuarts’ trampling of British liberty, the Crown did not take defiance lying down. The government’s attempt to arrest Tommy Robinson before the second march was merely the first chapter in its shameful vendetta against a man who just wanted to honor the troops. How the Empire struck back will be the subject of a later installment of this series. But first, Part II: Is Tommy Robinson a fascist?

Michael Isenberg drinks bourbon and writes novels. His latest book, The Thread of Reason, is a murder mystery that takes place in Baghdad in the year 1092, and tells the story of the conflict between science and shari’ah in medieval Islam. It is available on Amazon.com