There has been much talk of Tommy Robinson (AKA Stephen Lennon) leaving the EDL. Some believe it is just a put on, whilst others believe his “conversion” is genuine. My own view is that it is merely a rebranding of British neofascism, which has constantly tried to gain ground in the wider world by dumping its unsavoury elements.
This approach has been a constant since the 1950s and Tyndall running around in Nazi gear.
It is conceivable there maybe the odd occasion when an active hardcore racist or neofascist gives up their prior beliefs, and that is to be welcomed. However, when that happens there is normally a severe break with the past. A severing of old ties and clear breakage with former repulsive opinions.
I notice that has not occurred with Lennon. But rather than express my own skepticism I think many others do it better.
Alex Andreou’s Don’t be fooled by Tommy Robinson’s political sleight-of-hand is superb:
“There is a pattern of behaviour here. Robinson is doing what leaders of far-right movements have always done and continue to do. Like shyster businessmen, they set up one firm that serves their goals, then declare it insolvent and set up another one with a different name – each time creaming the profit of press coverage and a small shift of the political landscape.
This is exactly the modus operandi of such factions. From the British Union of Fascists to the British People’s party, the Action party, the National Front, the Flag Group, the New National Front, the BNP and the EDL, the far-right throbs and expands, blooms, then folds into itself and subdivides like an amorphous but sentient blob from a 1950s B movie. It reinvents itself constantly until it finds the marketable packaging, charismatic personnel, economic conditions and public mood within which it can thrive. In the process it creates new and unusual vacant spaces in our political consciousness that existing or newly formed parties scramble to fill. The entire manoeuvre is designed to inexorably drag the Overton window to the right, making the intolerable, accepted and the intolerant, acceptable.”
“The reaction of figures from Quilliam to those who raised questions about the Robinson link-up was also a sharp one. The foundation’s head of outreach, Ghaffar Hussain, criticised “the usual coterie of trendy wine bar types” who had voiced sceptism about Robinson’s departure from the EDL.
Hussain also took on the Nottingham University far-right expert Dr Matthew Goodwin, after he described Robinson’s EDL resignation as “disingenuous nonsense” and suggested that the episode owed more to the quest for publicity than a genuine conversion, adding that “both the EDL and Quilliam have had their own difficulties in recent months”. “
Sunny Hundal says Tommy Robinson may have quit the EDL – but he’s no Gandhi:
“But there is one group that will almost certainly be breathing a sigh of relief today. Many neo-conservatives in the UK and the US found the EDL to be a bit of an embarrassment, since it said what they wanted to but gave those views an aura of far-right thuggishness. And there lies the biggest danger. Robinson has always been a publicity seeker and trouble-maker. He hasn’t renounced his own views or activities, and he will be welcomed by the respectable wing of the “anti-jihadis” who will want to use him to join their xenophobic crusade against Muslims. There is a growing Islamophobia industry in the United States, and it’s likely Robinson will join it. What was intended as a move to destroy extremism could end up making it stronger. ” [My emphasis.]
Sunny reminds us that even about a week ago, Robinson (AKA Stephen Lennon) was trying to intimidate his antifascist opponents.
Another expert in the field, associate Professor of Politics, Matthew Goodwin is skeptical too:
“Instead, what did happen was a remarkable display of disingenuous nonsense, backed up by the counter-extremism thinktank the Quilliam foundation, itself founded by ex-extremists who have seen the light and – to be blunt – should know better. In just 24 hours we were told we were witnessing a huge success for community relations, but then learned that, actually, Lennon plans to establish a new anti-Islamist movement, which we assume will adhere to his slapdash generalisations of sharia law and misinterpretations of the Qur’an. We were told how this was about keeping extremists at bay, but then assured by Lennon that EDL activists are “decent people” and that this was the next phase in his group’s evolution. We were told this was about fighting extremism in Britain, then given a list of reasons by Lennon that were entirely self-interested: reflections on his life in prison; concern about his family’s safety; and an acknowledgment he had become powerless to control his own creation, which is now infested by rightwing extremists (the most interesting statement of the day, given the Metropolitan police’s refusal to view the EDL as an extreme rightwing group). “
“All we got was the blame being put on alleged Nazis within the group and an admission that street protests were futile. Pressed by the media, Kevin Carroll, Lennon’s cousin and number two, said: “We are still singing off the same him sheet.” Later that evening, Lennon refused to answer Paxman’s question as to whether his views had changed. On Channel Four News, he initially denied having ever made anti-Muslim remarks.
Two people who do not think Lennon has changed are Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, arguably the most important anti-Muslim activists in the world. Shortly before the sham news conference Geller blogged her support for Lennon’s decision to leave the EDL and looked forward to working with him in the future. Pressed to renounce the pair at the news conference, Lennon not only refused but spoke positively of them.
Lennon and his supporters had indicated that they plan to establish a new anti-Islamist movement but devoid of the Nazis who ruined the EDL. It sounds a bit like business as usual for the former EDL leader.”
“We have listed a word cloud which represents words that have a higher frequency in on-line cases, as being larger in size and the word cloud really is self-explanatory. This is the legacy of Tommy’s agitation in the last 4 years and one of our colleagues went through all of the on-line cases of anti-Muslim prejudice recorded in TELL MAMA and mapped the terms according to their frequency. So Tommy, here is your legacy over the last 4 years:
As can be seen, many cases include references to the EDL or English Defence League. Much of the language includes negative responses such as ‘kill’, ‘war’, ‘muzzrat’ and ‘hate’, as well as racist terminology that is also mixed in with the anti-Muslim statements. ‘Paki’ for example comes up on numerous occasions which also brings us back to the fact that police forces need to be able to distinguish cases that have both a racial and religiously aggravated basis.
Finally, if this is the legacy that Tommy Robinson wants to leave behind, then there is one word to say – rehabilitation. He needs to payback to communities before he is rehabilitated. We have listed the first step here and continue to wait to see whether this is a real shift in mentality and a rejection of Far Right ideology or a cynical manipulation of the public so that he can continue to lead some form of a life.” [My emphasis.]
“Geller compared Robinson and Carroll to “American POW’s taken by enemy combatants and forced to say things they did not believe before cameras.”
“Robinson was defiant at a press conference last week about his departure from the EDL, insisting: “Why should I end my my relationship with them?” “