This is about a piece from Juila Ebner in the Guardian:
The far right thrives on global networks. They must be fought online and off – Julia Ebner – Nationalists across the world are sharing knowledge and reinforcing messages of hate. The fightback begins with social media companies, and all of us.
It sounds like (look at the url) it’s about getting the social media companies to tackle hate speech. But that begins to look like a thin disguise for a hit job … or perhaps the person being made example of is an unlucky target. That will depend on your perspective.
It’s also related to the spat between Maajid Nawaz and Tommy Robinson deepening, and Robinson’s attempst to interview Julia about the article, when he ‘stormed’ the Quilliam offices.
This post focuses on the article, it’s treatment of Robinson, and also will (eventually) link to another post about how it feeds into false narratives about various groups, making generalisations that Julia and Quilliam have been opposing when they are used against Muslims.
Let’s get down to it …
… 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.
Though that seems to spread the load … it’s only across far-right populism to white supremacist terrorism – no mention of merely ‘the right’, ‘conservatives’, ‘liberals’ that criticise Islam. So, the whole article is only about the bad guys, right?
And, see how the terrorism is associated with white supremacists? I think white supremacism is a dumb idea. I think Islam is a dumb idea. I no more think all white supremacists are terrorists than all Muslims are terrorists. Remember, white supremacism doesn’t actually have a clear manual like the Quran to give its supremacist any supernatural authority (though some might try to derive it, clearly mistakenly, from the Jew, Jesus – that’s how dumb white supremacism can get).
Bear in mind which of white supremacism and Islamic terrorism is most likely to be able to justified in the minds any terrorists. Read any texts you can find, the Quran and Hadith (what’s the white supremaicists holy book? Mein Kampf?). Then consider how we are told Islam is so precious to Muslims that to insult it is deeply hurtful.
Then look at this list of Islamic terrorism (actually under-reports – find Nice, for example), and just look at 2015 or 2016 – and then find such a list for current white supremacists. … List of Islamist terrorist attacks
An aside on the point of narrative: when we come to terrorism, have you noticed in the US how ‘since 9/11’ is used to count Islamic terrorist attacks, but Hitler and the Crusades are still pertinent. Funny, isn’t it. Just a passing thought … because you’ll find many Europeans echoing the same ‘since 9/11’ and citing only US Islamic terror attacks. Even Europeans should look globally, if you want to get a flle for Islamic terrorism.
Let’s get on with more of Julia’s narrative, on the new boogey men that don’t come remotely close to achieving what Islamic terrorists have done in the last few years. And note as you go, that these guys are just as dangerous as the Islamic terrorists … that’s the message. You are supposed to think like this: there was Hitler, now there’s Islamic terrorism, but don’t forget Hitler, and now there’s some pushback against Islamic terrorism from people … who are not from the left … so they must be far right … Hitler is back … and is more dangerous than Islamic terrorists?
So, Julia …
The British far-right landscape is increasingly splintered and leaderless [which leader left EDL?]. But low membership numbers of street protest movements such as the EDL and Pegida UK are hardly comforting. Some of their former cohort have joined smaller, more militant groups while others have focused their efforts on spreading hate online [Any examples of such people?]. Increasingly, far-right movements show signs of collective learning and create powerful multiplier effects for their messages [who has recently had a massive boost in followers?]. 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.
Notice there are no actual names yet? Just this setting up of EDL and Pegida as far right. Which they are not – see post script.
British “counter-jihadis” have stepped up their cooperation with American alt-righters, French and Austrian “identitarians” and even German and Polish neo-Nazis. This is the paradox of modern-day nationalists: they capitalise on the opportunities of globalisation to spread their anti-globalist views globally.”
More build-up, there are links, but, nobody actually named yet. However, take note of ‘identitarians’.
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.
The first named person, and subject of this paragraph, is Tommy Robinson. What a surprise.
It also mentions Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller, but they are not subjects here but rather tools to damn Robinson by association. I emphasise the ‘Robert’ for a reason I’ll get to – take note again.
But, in the meantime, we come to the most damning paragraph:
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.
Breaking it Down
Tommy Robinson isn’t as well educated as Julia Ebner, so it should be plain to see how this looks to Tommy Robinson. If you’re not sure, I’ll spell it out for you. Rememeber, Julia is a journalist and this is a well crafted piece that says exactly what it was meant to say. Or are Julia and the Guardian editors are being sloppy, or intentionally obtuse?
Let’s break this paragraph down. English is complex, and it’s easy to read things a number of ways, so the detail is worth paying attention to.
The subject of the first sentence is ‘far right‘, right?. The ‘far right’ is presented as subject indirectly because the leading ‘that’ actually gives us another subject …
‘that the far right has moved‘ is the technical the subject clause, emphasised by the leading ‘that’ – it’s the movement of the far right (into the mainstream) that’s the grammatical subject, and it’s this movement that then ‘demostrates‘ something – so ‘demonstrates’ is the transitive verb of the sentence that tells you what the subject is doing. But this is detailed grammar. What any typical reader will take from this is that ‘far right’ is the subject that’s really being discussed. We’ll see how this interpretation is confirmed in the following sentence shortly.
What’s this movement of the far right ‘demonstrating’? “The massive support that white supremacists movements have attracted.”
Perhaps it is a case of Julia just sloppily rattling off tropes about the far right and not being so careful with her words, not producing a finely crafted piece of journalism we have come to expect from the Guardian(!?).
If it is just sloppy, then this needs to be owned just as much as Robinson’s crass intrusion of Quilliam privacy when he ‘stormed’, ‘attacked’ them as an ‘extremist’ … all words seen by significant people in this spat.
But this doesn’t end there. The next sentence begins ‘Their‘. Who is this sentence subject? It can’t be the technical subject of the previous sentence ‘that the far right has moved‘ (into the mainstream). It has to be the ‘far right’ themselves, or worse, the nearest potential subject towards the end of the sentence, ‘white supremacist movements’! And what does this sentence say about this subject? …
“online followership often exceeds that of mainstream political parties: with over 200,000 followers, Tommy Robinson’s Twitter account has almost the same number…”
How is this not calling Tommy Robinson at least ‘far right’ and even more clearly to many readers, a white supremacist?
Fuel to the Fire
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.
The ex-members? Who could they be? Of the EDL only Tommy Robinson is mentioned, and left hanging, if not explicitly stated then heavily implied, as far-right, or even white supremacist. And note how EDL and Pegida are now associated with Combat18 in the reader’s mind?
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…
How is this not confirming the labelling of Tommy Robinson as ‘far right’? Consecutive sentences: a leading sentence to the paragraph that sets the scene, and Robinson is the first word, the subject, of the sentence that starts the explanation of the paragraph’s first sentence.
If this isn’t a hit-job on Robinson then it amounts to Julia spewing out ideas without any real comprehension of what she’s writing. It doesn’t look good.
Tommy Robinson is the ONLY significant person as subject of several sentences, and it’s about the far right, and white supremacism, and white supremacist terrorism, even.
And, now, Maajid is busy on twitter calling Robinson’s attempted uninvited interview intrusion to Quilliam ‘exremism’ … and, let this sink in … that coming from a former member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, creater of an anti-extremism think tank, Quilliam? You’d think Maajid would know who to label an ‘extremist’.
I wonder if in fact it is very clear in his mind that he is, along with Julia and maybe others at Quilliam, labelling Robinson a far right extremist, and in the minds of complicit readers, a white supremacist terrorist. Maajid is very eloquent and very good with language. I would find it uncharacteristic for all this to be mere sloppy language from people that have a real handle on the rhetoric of the Regressive Left (Maajid’s term, remember). Robinson and Nawaz have been butting heads on Twitter for some time. Is this a means of dealing with Robinson?
Given Robinson’s history with the British police, in his shoes, I’d see this as a full on character assassination.
Or, since I’m not in Robinson’s shoes, could Julia’s article be part of another angle?
We know that Quilliam has had a hard time convincing Muslims of their sincerity in not demonising Islam. But full credit to Maajid. He has not shied away from spelling out clearly his willingness to accept head-on criticism of Islam, and opposition to the ‘offence card’ with his brave wearing of the jesus & Mo t-shirt (and it was brave for a Muslim to do that – but then that’s how bad Islam is). But I’ve also seen Maajid play cagey language games before – he has to, since, as far as atheists are concerned there’s no philosophical justification for his Islam any more than that of ISIS. Islam is a tricky business.
Is this piece really a part of a Quilliam narrative that’s swimming with the tide of opposition to Trump, Brexit, anti-Immigration and anything that can be passed of as a right wing target worthy of demonisation? Is this Quilliam’s own Regressive tactic?
All a bit too conspiratorial for you? Fine.
Then it’s no more than incompetent generalisation of various groups that don’t like Islam – no better than the over generalisations of “all Muslims are terrorists”. And it’s no more than Majid getting pissie with Robinson and giving him a dig.
Any way you look at it, it doesn’t look good. And many people that have been giving Maajid the benefit of the doubt have been calling him on all this.
There’s one thing I’ve seen that I won’t do myself. Too many people have been saying they are done with Maajid and Quilliam, that they have had enough of the lies and smearing of people that are not far right. I won’t give up on dialogue. I won’t give up on Maajid or Tommy.
Moving Forward for Robinson and Nawaz
I would say that both Maajid Nawaz (and Quilliam) and Tommy Robinson need to clean up their acts here. They are both in the wrong on a number of scores.
Robinson could do more to call out some of the genuine racist bigots that turn up on his Twitter feed – which is what Maajid has asked him to do. He doesn’t need to plough through them all. Just pick the odd vile one ever day or so, and point out that racist bigotry is not on and that legitimate opposition to the ideology Islam is the only interest.
Robinson should also give up this new method of ‘interviewing’ and challenging people.
And here’s the specific example of Robinson entering Quilliam: Troll Watch 3: Tommy Robinson vs. Quilliam
I also saw the one where he challenged the clueless journalist at the Welsh paper. Clearly convinced by their own smearing rhetoric they look not a little scared. Robinson threatened no violence.
Let’s be clear, for those that object to this ‘invasion’ or ‘attack’: this wasn’t any worse than you see on BBC consumer rights programme where they get into offices of dastardly business owners.
I was surprised to see that at Quilliam they were a little more willing to man-handle Robinson’s cameraman and equipment.
Whatever, this isn’t a stunt Robinson can pull off too often without it turning violent – and I have to say I expect the violence will not be started by Robinson. But I have no problem with Robinson challenging personally the people that smear him. It’s a lot more effective than starting a libel case. These journalists need to be challenged.
I noticed the offer to arrange a separate interview was made by someone at Quilliam – was it Adam? Would it have happened? Have Quilliam now got a reason not to co-operate? It’s a tough holding journalists to account. Some methods may work in the short term but can backfire. It would be a good time to change tactics, or at least ambush journalists on the street, as they are often so willing to do with members of the public. Robinson is a journalist now, it seems, and he would do well to grow into the role with a bit more care.
And Maajid, through Quilliam, and colleagues like Julia, could start applying some of that nuance demanded of critics of Islam. Stop lumping critics of Islam with actual white supremacist racist groups.
Any Other Business
There is more that could be said about this article by Julia.
Like the fact that the linked “Muslims … eradicated. Immediately. Permanently” tweet was from some account with no name or profile. Or the National Action calls for a “White Jihad” account has been ‘witheld’ and doesn’t look like a British account. Hardly credible examples of far right movements.
Remeber the “French and Austrian “identitarians”” link is about identitarians? Well, that is how RICHARD (alt-right but not really) Spencer identifies himslef – not ROBERT Spencer, who Julai said was alt-right. The misrepresentations of Robert Spencer have been just as bad as those of Robinson – he just handles it in a different way.
There are no links to anything Robinson has said. Surprised? I’ll get onto EDL, Pegida and Robinson in a related post soon if I can.
Julia Ebner’s Lack of Nuance
This video which includes input from Julia talks about the far right, and about the use of nuance to distinguish between Islam and Islamism, but still fails to distinguish between some nominal far right and the left-center-right that opposes Islamism in particular, but also Islam.
After Julia speaks the clip ends with Simon Schofield speaking and talking as if there is any significant violence towards Muslims by the groups that have been demonstrating against Islamism and the Islamisation of Britain. Apart from occasional pulling of hijabs, throwing bacon at a mosque, verbally insulting Muslims (who happen to do much more, as we’ve seen many times), the opposition to Islam in the UK is the model of tolerance compared to how many Muslims express their views and behave towards non-Muslims.
If there’s any nuance lackig it’s Julia’s failure to apply it to the opponents of Islam; and includes a duplicitous failure to call out what is basically Islamist behavour of many so called ‘moderate’ Muslims.