Tommy Robinson Wins Back Support From Geller and Spencer

… and loses it again

Others have noticed this; Robert Spencer reports on communication with former head of the English Defence League Tommy Robinson:

Tommy Robinson has written to us emphasizing that he has not changed his positions, and the unfolding events have borne that out… His association with the Quilliam Foundation was and is problematic… But we understand that Tommy has been under enormous pressure. It is impossible to hold him accountable for Quilliam’s disingenuousness when he has not repeated it himself. 

Geller and Spencer repudiated Robinson a couple of weeks ago, with Geller describing him as “the poster boy for the stealth jihad”. She continued:

It seems they have taught Tommy well. His deception to friends and colleagues mirrors the Islamic teachings of kitman (lie by omission) and taqiyya. So Tommy Robinson and Kevin Carroll are no longer on the SION board. 

Robinson and Carroll appear to have remained on the SION (“Stop Islamization of Nations“, a vehicle for Geller’s international links) website all this time. It seems that Spencer and Geller decided to retract their excommunication after seeing a recent documentary about Robinson and Mo Ansar, which I discussed here.

It should be remembered that Robinson attempted to retain his association with Geller and Spencer even after his departure from the EDL and his new association with the Quilliam Foundation; at the Bloomsbury press conference where he announced the move, he added that he was “indebted” to Geller for financial support for his family while he was in prison awaiting trial for passport fraud (although at the time, Geller said she was fundraising for Robinson’s “legal defence”). Geller, however, dismissed this as a “cop out” explanation – certainly, it looked to me like a way to distance himself from Quilliam’s anti-Geller views without making a substantive point.

Throughout this whole saga, there has been a disconnect between Quilliam’s narrative of Robinson’s change of heart and Robinson’s own story. Quilliam has sought to portray Robinson as an ex-far right extremist, just as Maajid Nawaz is an ex-Islamist. A former Quilliam Director of Research, James Brandon, wrote a post in which he opined that:

Robinson’s next steps are even more crucial; his supporters at Quilliam and elsewhere need to sure that public renunciation of the EDL as an organisation is followed by moves to renounce their ideology in full… Quilliam should introduce Robinson to Google’s network of ‘Formers – extremists who have renounced violence and radicalism. Members of that group, like ex-neo-Nazi TJ Leyden, can play a key role in talking to him, opening his eyes to new ideas and helping him to transition from rabble-rousing ex-EDL leader to a genuine democrat. As well as helping shape his ideas, these formers, who include ex-gang members from similar street backgrounds as Robinson, can also provide him with a new network of friends and allies; this will be vital in helping to break away from his EDL ex-associates and making his disengagement from the EDL permanent.

But Robinson was always very clear that he does not regard himself to be an “ex-extremist”. Instead, he complained that far-right elements had made headway in the EDL while he was in prison, and that he sees street protests as no longer effective. It was obvious that he and Quilliam were talking at cross-purposes – and it should be remembered that Quilliam has been dishonest in the past when it comes to showcasing ex-EDL members.

According to Spencer:

Tommy is planning to start a new organization that is as free from Quilliam as it is from the EDL, and in that… we wholeheartedly and unhesitatingly support him.

Perhaps Robinson is under the impression that people joined the EDL because he was its head, rather than that he had followers because he was the head of the EDL; but launching new organisations and “global forces” and such is actually a common way by which the self-styled “counter-jihad” movement maintains publicity and links.

UPDATE: An exchange on Twitter between Sunny Hundal and Nawaz (link added):

Sunny Hundal: Hmm. T Robinson now welcomed back by Geller/Spencer, and he refuses to renounce previous views. Our criticism were right no?

Maajid Nawaz: Really? You not glad he left EDL & said “sorry” to Shiv in the Guardian? Seriously Sunny, give us time & stop being a downer

UPDATE 2 (5 December): Geller’s support for Robinson at last now seems to be off. In article about documents relating to her exclusion from the UK, Geller writes:

The documents say that I “worked with” the English Defence League. No, I supported their campaign to stop Sharia in London and to oppose Islamic supremacism, while always being wary of some of the elements within the group. Two of their leaders spoke at one of our conferences — but “work together” is overstating matters. Anyway, EDL leader Tommy Robinson has now jumped ship and rushed to condemn his former friends and allies. I didn’t hurry to condemn him, but gave him ample opportunity to clarify his new position; unfortunately, it is clear now that he is a traitor and a liar. I understand that he faces jail time for tax-related crimes, but to throw the EDL in its entirety and every other brave counter-jihadist under the bus makes him the worst kind of turncoat.

No explanation is given as to why she’s suddenly changed her line on Robinson once again, but the reference to his “crimes” (he’s just pleaded guilty to mortgage fraud) perhaps indicates that she no longer thinks he’s of any use. The SION website and the “President’s Council” appear to have slipped her memory.

BBC Statistics Programme Disputes “100,000 Christian Martyrs Each Year” Claim

BBC radio’s statistics programme More or Less has broadcast an interesting piece on whether it is accurate to say that 100,000 Christians are killed each year because of their faith – the figure and was cited by Vatican spokesman Silvano Maria Tomasi in a radio address to the United Nations Human Rights Council in June, and has prompted internet rumours that the culprits are Muslims.

The programme’s presenters (Ruth Alexander and Wesley Stephenson) explain that the figure is derived from Todd Johnson at the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, who estimated that there were 1 million Christian martyrs during 2000-2010, and divided this number by 10 to get a yearly average .

However, the unexpected context here is that most of this purported 1 million actually died in the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Apparently, Johnson referred to the 1982 edition of David Barrett’s World Christian Encyclopediawhich suggested that 20 percent of the populations in African countries were “usually” practising Christians, and from this concluded that this proportion of the victims of the conflict were therefore Christians and therefore martyrs. However, he told the BBC that this statistic has “been abandoned” in other work.

John Allen, author of The Global War on Christians, explained that martyrdom referred to “a situation of witness”. A martyr is not just someone who is killed for holding Christian beliefs; it can be someone who is killed because their beliefs prompt them to acts of moral courage that put them in danger. Allen gives the example of a woman killed in Congo for persuading young people not to join to militias, which is fair enough – put it’s difficult to see how this can be extrapolated to all Christian victims of the war.

And how can the figure of 100,000 remain appropriate for today, given that the civil war is largely over? According to Johnson:

…we took this approach because even in the DRC, things are not as intense as they were ten years ago, that every year now it probably should go down. But then I’ve got to keep my eyes open for other situations around the world. So it’s probably decreasing year by year right now, but the method is not exact enough to be doing that. So I’ve just kept it at 100,000 the last couple of years. But I’m likely going to have to lower it unless something comes to our attention.

The BBC adds another remarkable detail: that “the Center publishes enormous numbers for the martyrs it says will be made around the year 2050. Why’s that? Well, for the sake of their martyr estimates, that’s the year they’ve taken to be the end of the world.”

Thomas Schirrmacher of the International Society for Human Rights suggests that a more accurate annual figure would probably be 10,000 martyrs, although he concedes that experts are “very hesitant to give a figure” and and there’s no scientific number. The ISHR is starting a new project with universities, with a starting guess of 7 to 8,000 martyrs.

The American Family Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the “Pedophile Orientation” Fiasco: Update

Back to Charisma News:

Accuracy of AFA’s Report on Pedophilia Classification Questioned

The American Family Association (AFA) sounded an alarm on Wednesday, pointing to a shocking announcement from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in its latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). But was the report accurate?

Charisma News started digging a little deeper on Thursday morning into the AFA’s claims that the APA now classifies pedophilia as a sexual orientation or preference instead of a disorder.

The AFA’s Cindy Roberts told Charisma News that its public relations firm, Hamilton Strategies, conducted the initial research on its claim. The PR firm has not responded to our requests for more information…

A caption under a stock photo adds:

The American Family Association appears to have offered misinformation about the APA’s classification of pedophilia.

As I noted yesterday, the origins of the controversy go back to a paragraph in the new (fifth) edition of the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), concerning the paraphilia of sexual attraction to children:

 if [individuals] report an absence of feelings of guilt, shame, or anxiety about these impulses and are not functionally limited by their paraphilic impulses (according to self-report, objective assessment, or both), and their self-reported and legally recorded histories indicate that they have never acted on their impulses, then these individuals have a pedophilic orientation but not pedophilic disorder.

A document on the APA website gives further context:

…Most people with atypical sexual interests do not have a mental disorder. To be diagnosed with a paraphilic disorder, DSM-5 requires that people with these interests:

• feel personal distress about their interest, not merely distress resulting from society’s disapproval;


• have a sexual desire or behavior that involves another person’s psychological distress, injury, or death, or a desire for sexual behaviors involving unwilling persons or persons unable to give legal consent.

…In the case of pedophilic disorder, the notable detail is what wasn’t revised in the new manual. Although proposals were discussed throughout the DSM-5 development process, diagnostic criteria ultimately remained the same as in DSM-IV TR. Only the disorder name will be changed from pedophilia to pedophilic disorder to maintain consistency with the chapter’s other listings.

I assume the word “orientation” was used in DSM-5 because this particular paraphilia concerns attraction to a kind of person (i.e. children) rather than to a kind of act (e.g. voyeurism). However, the word does not appear to have been theorized or explained any further in the text, and it seems to me that it was infelicitous; there are legal protections against discrimination on grounds of “sexual orientation”, and even though these obviously don’t refer to paedophiles, the notion of a medically recognised “pedophilic orientation” would muddy the water. Might a self-described but non-practising paedophile apply for an unsuitable job and demand equal consideration? And for anti-gay elements, the phrase could be cited as a reason why anti-discrimination measures should be repealed, and as spurious evidence that this what anti-discrimination activists really want, and that gay people are actually paedophiles.

As I also noted yesterday, reports about the DSM-5 became progressively distorted. Misleading headlines suggested that the notion of paedophilia as a disorder was being scrapped altogether, and the end result was the lurid suggestion from the  American Family Association that the change was being made at the behest of “pedophile activists”. According to the AFA’s Sandy Rios, in the original report carried by Charisma:

Just as the APA declared homosexuality an ‘orientation’ under tremendous pressure from homosexual activists in the mid-’70s, now, under pressure from pedophile activists, they have declared the desire for sex with children an ‘orientation,’ too.

An extra element of confusion here was that the AFA and Charisma initially referred to the American Psychological Association rather than the American Psychiatric Association; the American Psychological Association has since issued a statement:

A news release sent Oct. 30 on behalf of the American Family Association mischaracterized the position of the American Psychological Association with respect to pedophilia. The American Psychological Association does not classify mental disorders or publish the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, as the release incorrectly stated.

The American Psychological Association maintains that pedophilia is a mental disorder; that sex between adults and children is always wrong; and that acting on pedophilic impulses is and should be a criminal act. The American Psychological Association has worked for many years to prevent child sexual abuse and will continue to do so.

Charisma News corrected its original report on the subject, but we’re still left wondering about which organisation Sandy Rios had in mind when she referred to “the APA”. If her specific contextualized allegations were meant to refer to the American Psychological Association, how can it be valid simply to substitute the article with the words “American Psychiatric Association”? It’s not a small point – the American Psychological Association has been vocal for many years on anti-discrimination and the need to distinguish between mental illness and sexual orientation, and it’s obvious that Rios and the AFA hoped to discredit the American Psychological Association’s position by refering to the DSM-5.

Meanwhile, the American Psychiatric Association has also now issued a statement, as reported in the Washington Times:

The APA said in its statement that “‘sexual orientation’ is not a term used in the diagnostic criteria for pedophilic disorder and its use in the DSM-5 text discussion is an error and should read ‘sexual interest.'”

“In fact, APA considers pedophilic disorder a ‘paraphilia,’ not a ‘sexual orientation.’ This error will be corrected in the electronic version of DSM-5 and the next printing of the manual,” the organization said. The error appeared on page 698, said a spokeswoman.

It added: “APA stands firmly behind efforts to criminally prosecute those who sexually abuse and exploit children and adolescents. We also support continued efforts to develop treatments for those with pedophilic disorder with the goal of preventing future acts of abuse.”

The new reading, then, will be: “…these individuals have a pedophilic interest but not pedophilic disorder.” That will probably continue to upset a lot of people: how can an “interest” here not also be a “disorder” in any circumstances, even if it doesn’t manifest in illegal behaviour? For instance, someone who collects non-pornographic images of children for sexual reasons may not be breaking any laws or causing any harm to others, but it’s reasonable to be concerned that this abnormal behaviour may be a sign that such a person is a potential danger to children. However, it should be remembered that the DSM-5 is a technical document dealing with medical classifications; “disorder” in this context has a particularly circumscribed meaning.

UPDATE (2 November): Seizing on the American Psychiatric Association’s statement, Charisma now adds:

The APA has clarified its text mistake. Pedophilia has not been classified as a sexual orientation, but the AFA report was not fabricated or fear-mongering. Click here for the resolution to this issue.

Well, not fear-mongering apart from the small matter of invoking shadowy “pedophile activists” and linking the story to the American Psychological Society’s position on homosexuality.

(Thanks to commentators on yesterday’s post for some points to consider and for some links)