Tommy Robinson and an “Angry, Hate-Filled” Canadian Media Organization

From Yahoo News:

Controversial right-wing activist Tommy Robinson has defended his actions after he confronted members of Muslim counter-extremist group Quilliam at their London headquarters.

Footage posted on YouTube earlier this week shows the former EDL leader attempting to confront Quilliam senior researcher Julia Ebner after alleging that she referred to him as a white supremacist in a newspaper article.

…He told the BBC [Daily Politics] show: ‘The doors were open, I was very polite. I walked in with one cameraman and asked a simple question…

‘In the last two weeks I’ve had to go to four different companies’ premises who have all run headlines that are complete lies.

‘This is about working class people at home who have been pigeonholed as extremist, as racist and as far right when they’re not. They’re genuine concerns and fears.’

Robinson’s account can be seen in full here, and Ebner’s article is available here. Qulliam famously led Robinson out of the English Defence League in 2013, although their relationship has since soured.

The confrontation at the Quilliam office (described as a “raid” by Quilliam’s Maajid Nawaz) has been posted online as part of a series of videos called “Troll Watch”, in which Robinson travels around challenging people who he claims have misrepresented him. Those receiving visitations have included my friend Tim Fenton, who had Robinson banging on his door and demanding explanations at 10 pm. Robinson subsequently accepted an invitation to talk to Peter Jukes (curator at Byline Media, which publishes some of Tim’s writings), although he did not respond to a specific scheduling proposal and no more has been heard from him on the subject.

It is true that terms such as “far-right” and “extremist” are often thrown around quite loosely and vaguely, when Robinson can come across on screen as reasonable and even personable.  However, although Robinson appears to have outgrown the controversial baggage of his EDL origins and brushes with the law (unexpectedly), his media profile and influence remain dependent on a corrosive political milieu that, in broad terms, can be described as “alt right”.

Specifically, Robinson is now a reporter for Ezra Levant’s Rebel Media, a Canadian media venture described in a recent profile by Jason Markusoff in Maclean’s as “the angry, hate-filled, unapologetic and surprisingly successful ‘Breitbart North'”. This first came to my attention when he appeared on the scene following the Westminster attack; presumably, Rebel Media are financing his “Troll Watch” travel and production costs.

Markusoff’s profile describes how Levant has built up the site over the past two years, and he relates a controversy involving one particularly notorious contributor, Gavin McInnes:

Behind The Rebel paywall last November, McInnes’s show featured a chummy interview with Richard Spencer, the white nationalist leader who coined “alt-right” and had days earlier ended a group conference with a “Hail Trump!” shout that some attendees met with Nazi salutes. In the segment, Spencer said they were having fun, being “a little provocative.” McInnes then asked: “I work for a Jew named Ezra Levant. How much does that make your blood boil?” Spencer replied: “It doesn’t make my blood boil at all. The fact that a Jew—he’s a neo-conservative, as I understand… the fact he has you on, you’re kind of pushing things in our direction in your own way. The fact I’m on here and we can talk respectfully, that’s great.”

Levant took a relaxed view of this, and a few weeks after the above was published he similarly laughed off as “some off-color comments” an anti-Semitic tirade by McInnes (on McInnes’s own website) that was praised by David Duke. Levant’s pose is that he trusts his contributors to make their own judgments, but, as Markusoff notes, he took a different approach when Michael Coren wrote a newspaper column that he didn’t like: Coren’s involvement with Rebel Media was promptly terminated. Coren – who interviewed Robinson sympathetically more than once for the now-defunct Sun-TV – has subsequently denounced Levant’s indulgence of McInnes, and Levant has responded by describing Coren as a “leftist”.

It is not a great surprise to see that Levant is currently on Twitter promoting a “fake news” doctored image which appears to show Emmanuel Macron sitting at the feet of Angela Merkel, or to see Levant using the alt-right insult “cuck” to describe its significance.

The point here is not to say that Robinson is “guilty by association” – the issue is not “guilt”, or how he sees himself, but his position within a political movement that regularly deploys smears and conspiracy theories to fearmonger and to whip up hate. Robinson uses Levant’s operation for exposure, and Levant’s operation gets new audiences because of Robinson’s pre-existing support base. The same goes for Robinson’s association with Paul Joseph Watson, Alex Jones’s British collaborator.

Robinson’s new position also allows him shift away from questions about his alliances as an activist by referring to his role as a journalist. Thus during his Daily Politics Show appearance, Robinson dealt with a question from Andrew Neil about Paul Golding and Britain First by stating that

I’ve reported on a Britain First demonstration, as I’ve reported on Muslim demonstrations. I’m now doing reporting for Rebel Media, so of course I’m going to go to these organisations.

However, this photo and commentary suggest that his association with BF is rather closer than that.

One Response

  1. Mohammedanism is a religion and not a race.

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