A Note on John Sweeney, Tommy Robinson and the “Adolf Hitler Appreciation Society”

From the Independent, a few days ago:

Veteran investigative journalist John Sweeney called Tommy Robinson a “c***” as he announced his departure from the BBC.

“I’m sorry our BBC Panorama on Tommy Robinson wasn’t broadcast,” Mr Sweeney wrote on Twitter, referring to a planned edition of the programme that was not broadcast about the English Defence League.

It was cancelled after Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, covertly filmed Mr Sweeney and made a rival “documentary”.

I wrote about the fiasco at the time, here and here. Sweeney was filmed in a restaurant by an associate of Robinson who was pretending to be an informant – the journalist was shown working his way through the drinks menu, making numerous indiscreet remarks, and then ostentatiously putting £220 on expenses. He also discussed how a clip might be used to put Robinson in the worst light possible, in a way that could reasonably be seen as misleading. The BBC at the time said that it stood by the documentary, but its failure to appear speaks for itself. Sweeney, overconfident and complacent, had underestimated his quarry and undermined the credibility of the project.

Sweeney has now followed up on his “cunt” jibe with a short Twitter video that includes a clip of Robinson speaking to an enthusiastic crowd in Bavaria last year. The event had been reported at the time by Andrew Gilligan at the Sunday Times, who noted:

Robinson [received] the “European patriot of the year” award at a conference in Bavaria organised by the hard-right magazine Compact. In his acceptance speech, he said: “German people for too long have lived in the guilt of Adolf Hitler. Do not live in the guilt of Angela Merkel.”

The conference, on September 29, brought together key figures on the European far right, including Lutz Bachmann, the founder of Pegida, Martin Sellner, from the Generation Identity movement, leaders of the Alternative for Germany party and a representative of the Italian leader, Matteo Salvini. Compact has been funded by the Kremlin-created Institute for Democracy and Co-operation.

The first sentence of this quote also appears in the Sweeney video (twice), and Sweeney describes the crowd as a meeting of the “Adolf Hitler Appreciation Society”. Reiterating his fondness for crude gynaecological abuse, Sweeney ends by calling Robinson a “Nazi cunt” and pointedly quaffing some red wine.

On Twitter, the video has been lauded as a defiant gesture against Robinson, but I can’t say I’m impressed by the lazy buffoonery, which comes across as compensatory for Sweeney’s self-evident failure. The video gives the impression that Sweeney has unearthed the clip, when he’s done nothing of the kind, and many Twitter users have taken his “Adolf Hitler Appreciation Society” designation at face value – meaning that Sweeney, whatever his intentions, has effectively dumped misinformation onto social media that Robinson and his supporters will in all likelihood capitalise on.

In short, Sweeney’s latest antics are actually a hindrance to subjecting Robinson and his associates to proper critical scrutiny.