Searchlight Magazine Attacks Hope Not Hate Over Link to Charlie Flowers

Sonia Gable at Searchight magazine:

Our front cover photo taken at an English Defence League rally in March 2010 shows Charlie Flowers holding the loud-hailer for Alan Ayling, who at least until August 2011 was one of the Islamophobic EDL’s financial backers, and perhaps still is. It was in Ayling’s £500,000 Barbican flat that Ayling, who used the name Alan Lake, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, the EDL’s street leader, Paul Ray, one of the EDL’s founders, and others met in 2009 to bring together “the ideological and political side with the boots on the ground”, according to Ray. 

I noted Flowers’ friendship with Lake back in December 2010. The article also discusses Flowers’ “Cheerleaders” group and the “Anti-Extremism Alliance” (1):

It is these two groups that have announced a public meeting in Conway Hall, London, on 26 April 2012 under the title “Muslims in the West –What is the Way Forward?”, featuring as one of four “keynote speakers” Tehmina Kazi. 

Kazi is a trustee of the Searchlight Educational Trust (SET), which – along with the Hope Not Hate campaign – recently split acrimoniously from Searchlight magazine:

Flowers claims now to have broken with the EDL. However his insidious activities continue. On 10 February Flowers posted on the Cheerleaders Facebook page “Charlie is stoked and chuffed to find out that he’s going to be in next month’s Searchlight as a feature, written by the fascist/communist Sonia Gable!”

This information can only have come from Kazi, whom I had approached for a comment….

In an attempt to stir up more trouble, Flowers added: “A little backstory – recently Hope Not Hate and Searchlight had a parting of the ways, when HnH found out what Sonia and co had done with all the money they’d raised (embezzled it, basically)”.

Whether this lie and the personal insult came from Kazi or HNH is not known. When Searchlight and SET/HNH split last September, SET made a complaint to the police that I had stolen £18,777. In fact this was money legitimately owed by SET to Searchlight for advertising and magazine sales, and the police quickly closed their file without interviewing me.

As far as I am aware, although reports of the split have appeared elsewhere (in particular at Notes from the Borderland), this is the first instance of either side giving their own version of events.

Flowers claims that the “Cheerleaders” group is run by Muslims rather than himself, but although he certainly has Muslim friends it’s unclear to what extent this is true: he seems to be the main coordinator, and members are added to the Facebook group quite casually. Last September I received a comment and messages from Gina Khan, formerly of One Law for All, who told me that he she didn’t know anything about the group, despite having previously been listed as an administrator. Some other supposed “Cheerleaders” are pseudonymous, and so it’s impossible to judge whether they are really Muslims or even real people; for example, the photo of “Shooter Kirpachi” featured in the Searchlight piece actually shows a former member of Flowers’ music band; “Shooter” used her image, but the band member herself told me she didn’t know anything about it.

My blog is also quoted in the Searchlight article; Flowers first forced himself on my consciousness in December 2008 (Christmas Day, in fact), when he left a comment claiming that he worked for the VIGIL Network. This was an independent “terror tracking” organisation which purported to expose Islamic extremism; its director, a man named Dominic Wightman (var. Whiteman), enjoyed the endorsement and personal confidence of Patrick Mercer MP, and Wightman had appeared on Newsnight in November 2006, having supposedly helped to reveal a plot to firebomb a synagogue. VIGIL was also associated with the Centre for Social Cohesion. (2)

Also involved with VIGIL was Glen Jenvey, who was in turn friendly with Paul Ray (this pre-dates the formation of the EDL). In early 2009, the blogger Tim Ireland discovered that a tabloid splash about a plot to kill Alan Sugar had been based on materials posted to a Muslim website by Jenvey, posing as an Islamic extremist named “Abu Islam”.  Tim and I were soon afterwards contacted by Wightman, who claimed that VIGIL had collapsed due to Jenvey’s lies and that of another person, a university lecturer. At the same time, further messages from Flowers were received – it was clear that Flowers shared Wightman’s hostility towards the lecturer, and that the two were working together.

In September 2009, the truth was revealed: VIGIL had in fact collapsed because Wightman had failed to secure funding and had been successfully sued by a former employee for unpaid wages, and because of some concerns about his behaviour. Further, Wightman had “found” on-line an abusive pdf aimed at Tim, which he claimed had been written by the lecturer; police traced it back to Wightman’s address.

At this point, Flowers changed from being weird to being nasty: anonymous attack websites, abusive messages, and direct threats of violence followed, and have sporadically flared up ever since. It seems that Flowers realised that he’d been manipulated by Wightman, and he clutched at post hoc justifications for his behaviour: hence, he cited Nadine Dorries‘ dispute against Tim, and accused me of being part of a far-left conspiracy. Such is Flowers’ amorality that he even gleefully endorsed a crudely abusive site created by a Nigerian church, which objected to my opposition to the idea of child-witches; he linked to the site from his “Cheerleaders” Facebook page, and joined in under a sockpuppet Twitter feed.

Like Gable, I have also experienced abuse from Flowers thanks to information provided by Kazi: last summer I communicated privately with a journalist about Flowers, prompting Flowers to boast that I write messages to journalists that I mistakenly think he doesn’t know about (and also, inevitably, to opine that I am a “cunt”). I asked the journalist for an explanation; I was told that he had spoken with Kazi, who had clearly passed the information on. I don’t doubt Kazi’s good faith as an activist against Islamic extremism, but it’s a shame she seems unable to grasp the fact that Flowers is a vigilante, not an activist, with all the ego-driven self-righteous and self-defeating viciousness which that implies.

The Searchlight piece makes a further suggestion:

Worming his way into a spread of organisations, cyber bullying, repeating lies and stirring up trouble is highly suggestive of a state agent provocateur who far from trying to make peace between the EDL, the Muslim community and antifascists is doing precisely the opposite and trying to create confusion.

I’m cautious about such speculations; however, it is odd that Flowers has been arrested at least twice, but with no follow-up. By his own account, on one occasion he was held for several days by Anti-Terrorist police; he claims that Islamists in the police were responsible, but he doesn’t appear to have made any sort of official complaint.

Note

(1) Another group which which Flowers was involved, NiceOnesUK, has since disappeared. However, Flowers was kicked out of the group just beforehand, after allegedly making threats.

(2) A report published by Spinwatch last year stated that:

A particularly intriguing aspect of the CSC’s output was the credit given to Dominic Whiteman, the central figure in an amateur counter-terrorist group called Vigil. The acknowledgements of the Centre’s first report, Hate on the State, thanked Vigil for its assistance and cooperation.

One Telegraph report on the study went so far as to describe it as a joint publication of the  CSC and Vigil, and carried a commentary from Patrick Mercer, a Conservative MP who had worked with the latter group. However, a (presumably later) online version of the same report made no mention of Vigil’s role.

Hate on the State was written by Douglas Murray and James Brandon. However, Spinwatch‘s claim that the credit was removed seems to be inaccurate – it can be seen here.

Flowers, by the way, has his own links to a think-tank; in November 2011, Demos published Inside the EDL: Populist Politics in a Digital Age, by Jamie Bartlett and Mark Littler. Three footnotes reference “Interview with Charlie Flowers, Cheerleaders Against Everything, 30 May 2011”, for the following details:

Other early supporters of the EDL have left to join more  aggressively anti-Islam groups, feeling that the EDL has lost focus  on fighting Islamism. (6)

…Threats of mobilising large numbers of people for various causes have, on the whole, failed to  materialise, leading some analysts to speculate that there are no  more than 5,000 members, 750 of whom form a ‘hard core’ who are  active in arranging and organising events. (21)

…Our background research indicated that no more than 10 per cent of the EDL’s Facebook group supporters could be trolls, lending further credibility to this view. (42)

None of this is very impressive: the first quote doesn’t make sense, and I suspect there’s a botched reference here  to “less aggressively anti-Islam groups”; second, Flowers is not an “analyst”, and he’s not even trustworthy as a source of data; and as for the third quote, although Flowers knows a thing or two about using Facebook under false identities to cause trouble,  how would he know what per cent of the EDL Facebook group is not what it seems? And how does interviewing him count as “background research”?

5 Responses

  1. […] in the West – What is the Way Forward?” (as an aside, the event is being organised with the help of Charlie Flowers; Flowers has threatened to assault me if ever he meets […]

  2. […] Unfortunately, it was not an event where I would have been welcome: the billed organiser, a man named Charlie Flowers, is a vigilante who engages in on-line harassment, and he has threatened me with violence for daring to criticise his behaviour. I still sporadically receive abusive messages from him, usually late on Saturday nights; the full story is outlined here and here. […]

  3. […] what Flowers is like, but she considers his behaviour to be none of her concern. Indeed, she even passes on information to […]

  4. […] public domain came via an accusation of embezzlement from Flowers. Searchlight went on to write a critical piece about Flowers in the magazine; true to form, Flowers responded by posting a home address on-line […]

  5. […] from “reproducing” what he had written. Flowers featured in a Searchlight cover-story earlier this year, which noted that he appeared to have inside information about the split between Searchlight and […]

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