The Alt-Right and Traditional Far Right

If you wander through the comment sections of rightwing blogs, as I do, you probably will have noticed repeated references to free-speech in England or even the end of England itself. Lots of histrionics, lots of ranting about injustice. John C Wright has pronounced that “England has fallen”, and elsewhere our old pal Phantom is getting agitated by events too.

So what the flip is going on? The answer is that these various people are super, super upset that some people accussed of quite appalling crimes haven’t been set free due to a mistrial. Cue paroxysms of rage at that statement from that same quarter. True, that isn’t what they THINK they are getting upset about but yes, that is ACTUALLY what they are getting upset about. It is yet another case of people on the right 1. forming opinions based on limited and biased sources and 2. not thinking things through. Reality the conspires to make them look like fools.

So first to the specifics. Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon aka Paul Harris aka Stephen Lennon but better known as Tommy Robinson is a convicted fraudster with a long history of violence including football hooliganism, as well as other crimes such as entering the USA using a false passport. He has also had a long association with a British far-right group called the English Defence League or EDL. The EDL is interesting as an example of changing patterns in extremist politics – it is something of a transitional group between the far-right neo-nazi thugs of groups like the British National Party and the more recent (and more international) Alt-Right. The set of racist, authoritarian and violent views are similar in all cases but the emphasis shifts. The EDL was specifically more overtly anti-Islamic to the extent of being nominally pro-Israel, whereas the BNP had tended to attack Muslim communities in the UK based on ethnicity (often targeting Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities).

Robinson’s current attempt to find celebrity and relevance is to highlight ‘Muslim rape gangs’ – i.e. cases of sexual abuse committed by ethnic minorities (while ignoring cases by non-ethnic minorities). A relevant case is being tried in England currently. England has strong limitations on reporting cases as they are being heard. Why? Because the civil right to a fair trial is an important one AND public claims about defendants PRIOR to a verdict can lead to a mistrial. n addition to this, cases involving child witnesses have even tougher reporting restrictions to protect the victims of crimes. Apparently people like Wright or our old pal The Phantom regard this as objectionable*.

Robinson has previously attempted to broadcast from the courtroom of a different case and was held in contempt of court (but not at that point detained). His sentence was suspended for 18 months. That means he didn’t go to prison but intead there was an 18 month period in which he could be sent to prison if broke the law at all in that time. Suspended sentences may look like an easy escape but they are tougher than they look.

Now let’s be quite clear what his actions were at that point: he was sabotaging a court case and that sabotage could only make it more likely that the defendants would be found not guilty. Whatever his intentions were, and whatever sympathies his supporters might have, that is the actual, factual core of the issue here. The best spin anybody could put on this who has thought about it for more than a minute is that Robinson was only thinking of his own self-publicity rather than the consequences of his actions.

Having been charged by the court of contempt, Robinson apparently had not learned his lesson and returned to outside of a court holding a trial with reporting restrictions, caused a disturbance, was arrested by the police and BECAUSE he was still within that 18 month period of the suspended sentence ended up in gaol. Something he knew would happen,

There is a lengthy breakdown of the events here: https://thesecretbarrister.com/2018/05/25/what-has-happened-to-poor-tommy-robinson/amp/?__twitter_impression=true

Rightwing extremists then used these events to portray Robinson as a martyr, eben though 1. he’s a convicted fraudster and 2. his actions could well have led to guilty people avoiding a conviction.

Now all of that is not is what is interesting.

What is interesting is the collision of worlds here. Robinson and the EDL (more history here https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Tommy_Robinson ) are a slightly updated version of how the far-right has been in the UK: a mix of semi-plausible spokes people at the tob (sometimes trying to get electoral respectability) above a movement of street thugs and football hooligans. Moseley’s Blackshirts in the 1930s, the National Front in the 1970s, the BNP in 1980s and 90s – the template is similar but the names change.

However, the EDL did three things. Firstly, they repackaged their targetting of immigrant communities in the UK as an attack on Islam, secondly they toned down their anti-Semitism (it’s still there but less public) and thirdly they started making links with US rightwing groups. That last step isn’t new in itself but whereas in the past British far-righ groups tried to court similar white supremacist groups in the US, the EDL targetted the Tea-Party and vocal anti-Islamic activsist in the US.

The long term impact of the courtship is a channel of propaganda from the ‘traditional’ far-right in the UK to the pseudo-libertarian right in the US. There’s no conspiracy there, it’s just where different groups tap into for memes, propaganda and news. And hence why somebody like John C Wright is busy pushing a garbled account of events in the UK around a football hooligan fraudster finding himself in gaol for attempting to sabotage a court case.

*[Again, they’ll say they don’t but this is the actual reality they are objecting to rather than their private fantasy.]

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27 comments

  1. Jessica

    It’s funny. People like Wright and Phantom are quickest to jump on the “he should have obeyed police orders if he didn’t want to get shot” bandwagon every time the cops shoot someone (usually POC) doing something dangerous like existing in front of an armed cop. Why do they think that this guy should walk free of the consequences of not obeying a Court Order? Hypocrisy much?

    Or is it simpler than that? Could it be a case of magical thinking? perhaps they genuinely believe that if they push their lies often enough they’ll come true? Or are they performing for their peers, stuck in their little echo chamber and not realising that the walls are transparent and the gales of laughter are at them, not with them?

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Mark Hepworth

    Crikey, we have enough idiots on this side of the Atlantic that we don’t need to import extra stupidity from overseas.

    (That Secret Barrister link does indeed explain everything that those plonkers don’t understand)

    My view on the EDL sprouting from those predecessor orgs is that every now and again these orgs need to launder their origins a bit, generally combined with a bit of internal factionalism about mainstream v radical, and they’re all really the same set of people.

    Liked by 2 people

    • camestrosfelapton

      Yes, it’s not unlike the difference between the two great Australian soap operas: Neighbours versus Home & Away. The are huge differences in setting and fans are keenly aware of the different characters but if you accidentally turn on the TV and one of them is on, you’ve no way of telling which is which and you’ve no way of remembering which Australian actor/singer started in which of the two (except Kylie obviously). They are essentially interchangeable.

      If the EDL was fictional, the BNP would have grounds to complain that they were being plagiarised.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Lurkertype

    So he’s a criminal. Of several sorts, including entering the US illegally, which I thought the righties were quite down on. He’s attempting to pervert the cause of justice, and his actions would help the scary Muslims get away with their crimes. And as a football hooligan, he has by definition no manners and is uncouth.

    Naturally JCW and pals love him?

    And if there’s anything about which some details should be kept most secure, it’s raped children.

    JCW and Phantom are not thinking of the children! They’re helping the child molesters get off scot-free! Enabling evil Muslims! Sticking up for someone entering the US under false pretenses! What are they, Commies?

    Liked by 4 people

    • Cora

      Ah, but illegally entering the US is only a really bad crime if you’re Muslim or Mexican. If it’s a white rightwing dude from the UK, it’s perfectly all right for him to enter the country illegally.

      Liked by 2 people

      • megpie71

        Indeed, if it’s a white dude from the UK, then one can reasonably say there’s a tradition of them arriving illegally in all kinds of countries and remaining there (the USA just has the minor privilege of being one of the first). So it’s traditional and part of their heritage, you see?

        Liked by 3 people

  4. po8crg

    Then there’s the hard-core pro-freedom-of-speech wing (Marc Randazza) who think that the US solution to the problem of bad reporting of a court case prejudicing the jury (sequester the jury) is better than the UK solution (restrict reporting until the verdict) and are prepared to go and say stupid things on Alex Jones’ InfoWars (https://www.youtube.com/watch?tv=SKb9Q6ie1uw) about the case.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mark Hepworth

      Randazza et al seem to have this almost performative element to their free speech advocacy, where they are compelled to show their willingness to defend any speech anywhere by actively seeking out the worst people possible to associate with. It’s very puzzling.

      Liked by 4 people

    • Cora

      Yeah, lock up jurors rather than place some reasonable restrictions on reporting about court cases. And then they wonder why people don’t want to serve on juries.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. sfrazer2015

    “as well as other crimes such as entering the USA using a false passport.”

    Preeeeeeeety sure that means it was okay to shoot him on sight, remove any offspring from his possession and indefinitely detain him at Guantanamo.

    But I’m not a trump supporter so what do _I_ know?

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Msb

    There’s a similar cross-over (from the US to Europe) of the soi-disant “pro-lifers”, who pumped money into the No side in the Irish referendum and pumped money and “lawyers” into recent cases of buying children in the UK. Despeciable.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. KMP

    Actually the whole court procedure and repeating the same crime angle IS interesting. It makes the go-straight-to-jail-do-not-pass-go maneuver make sense. (Not necessarily something I fully agree with – there’s a public interest in open public discussion of criminal cases – but given the premises of British law as laid out here, it’s completely reasonable.) And it definitely is not being explained in any of the coverage I’ve seen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • camestrosfelapton

      Yup but also nothing new here. I like some of the smug comments about what happened from these rightwingers where they imagine themselves addressing the left and they “What will you do when the state uses these kinds of pwers against you!” Oh my gosh! Fer flips sacke! Who do they think the state USUALLY uses sweeping powers against politically? Oh my gosh, what if, and I’m just speculating, the state uses its powers to supress leftwing dissent like its been doing for at a minimum 300 years. Gosh, I think we might find a way of coping over here on the lefthand side of things.

      Liked by 1 person

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