Guess Who’s Not Coming to Dinner? The English Defence League

Little Green Footballs picked up on my recent blog entry about the Christian Action Network’s recent visit to the UK with Robert Spencer, during which the CAN met up with the English Defence League:

And look who’s hanging out with the English Defense League now, on a tour of Britain with wacko fundamentalist nutbag Martin Mawyer and his “Christian Action Network” — none other than Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch.

Robert Spencer responds:

Charles Johnson is lying — again. During my recent trip to the U.K., I did not “hang out” with members of the English Defense League. I did not meet with them, then or at any other time. What’s more, the link Johnson provides [that’s me! -RB] to establish this “hanging out” doesn’t even say I did meet with them.

What happened was that during August CAN director Martin Mawyer conducted an interview with some balaclava-wearing EDL leaders somewhere outside London, who were then were invited by CAN’s Jason Campbell to a meal at a restaurant in London the next night, at which Spencer would be dining with Douglas Murray, Adrian Morgan, and some other British conservative “anti-Jihadi” types. The original plan was for dinner at a restaurant called the George, but Spencer writes in another blog entry that due to the nature of the discussion they were asked to leave by the management (his entry includes the venue’s phone number, so that his minions can cause some vengeful annoyance).

Spencer’s rebuttal to Johnson highlights a comment by Morgan suggesting that the EDL showed up as the main party was leaving, and that the EDL did not come on to wherever the group adjourned:

Robert is right. He did not meet with the EDL members – their arrival at the George coincided with the exodus of those who had been there earlier.

The EDL members did not attend the meal and left the vicinity of Crossharbour early and, like myself, they did not attend the dinner.

…The EDL had been invited to the George pub (unbeknownst to Robert Spencer and other invitees) because Martin Mawyer had – the day before Robert Spencer arrived in Britain – been interviewing these individuals for a documentary.

Morgan also wrote earlier that “Tensions between some of the anti-jihadist factions who had all been kindly invited by Jason to a meal caused splitting of the groups and confusion”, which together with the above is strongly suggestive that there was a deliberable wish by some who were there to avoid association with the EDL.

Morgan also makes some general observations:

This “guilt by association” tactic, made by people who were not at the event, is insidious. I – on the other hand – did talk briefly with the EDL members, to try to find out what sort of people they were (rather than believing the hype put about on internet weblogs).

My conversation took place on a walkway beside one of the docks, with neither Robert Spencer nor Douglas Murray present. Does my talking to them make me a member of their group, in league with “forces of Evil”?

…I do not collude with or condone the EDL’s tactics of physical confrontation. I see such tactics as damaging – violence begets violence and benefits no-one, no matter how personally frustrated these EDL members may feel.

…The British blog that Johnson quotes attacks the “association” of Martin Mawyer and the EDL…If interviewing people is a crime, (it is a crime for those on the left, it seems) then journalism itself might as well be outlawed.

Of course, I never suggested it is a “crime” to “interview people”, but the cosy manner of the interview combined with Mawyer’s well-known views on Islam and the invitation to dinner suggest a commonality of interest that is worth taking note of; I admit I couldn’t resist adding a critical coda of my own, but other people are welcome to make their own judgements. Further, “forces of Evil” is not the kind of rhetoric I use.

UPDATE: Douglas Murray’s Centre for Social Cohesion has sent me a message asking me to publicise the following:

CAN asked Douglas to do an interview with them – upon seeing the presence of the EDL at the CAN discussion he refused to deal with them and left the venue. He did however give an interview to CAN at another location on the water front. He didn’t actually know who the CAN were, and always says yes to interviews, hence his appearances on other dubious channels such as the Islam Channel.

He also did have dinner only with Spencer in a personal capacity later that evening.