After the Football Lads Alliance gathered and marched in London last Saturday, there was much coverage and debate of their movement, including analysis of who was behind the group, its target audience, and where it might go in future. But for one clueless pundit, none of this mattered, because he knew more than all of them put together, plus he had an anti-Islam agenda to promote: step forward Brendan O’Neill.
Normally, when O’Neill shoots his mouth off in his customary and tedious fashion, this occurs at Spiked, so named because it should have been. But for his diatribe on the FLA, he has been awarded a platform by the Spectator magazine, and by association, at least, its editor Fraser Nelson. Here, O’Neill goes wrong from the word go.
“The Football Lads Alliance is a working-class movement - and the political class wants to ignore it” he whines, somehow missing all the weekend’s coverage, before getting into his stride with “the Football Lads Alliance (FLA), a fascinating grassroots movement founded earlier this year to protest against terrorism and the ideologies that fuel it. These Football Lads had their first demo on 24 June”. He doesn’t get it, does he?
Still, do go on. “Thousands descended on London Bridge, site of an Islamist massacre just three weeks”. “Islamist massacre”? The London Bridge attack was deadly, but a “massacre”? And an “Islamist” one? Plus I have news for O’Neill: these mere “lads” he praises are no such thing, as Dream Deferred has explained.
“[Football Lads] is the term the hooligan firms use to describe themselves. This is not the same as groups of ‘football fans’ or ‘football supporters’, who have often got together to campaign around real football issues”. O’Neill confuses these groups, talking of “Rival fans … working-class people”. He also takes their propaganda at face value.
So we are told about “people in football shirts gathering in their thousands to confront the ideology of terror … working blokes who spend their Saturdays on the terraces and whose political beef is with the rise of a murderous ideology that has claimed 34 lives in Britain this year”. What “murderous ideology” is that, then? Oh yes, it’s “Islamism”. Which needs little encouragement before it becomes straightforward Muslim hatred.
But they’re not racist: “There’s a presumption among some observers that the people who support FLA, being white and working-class and passionate about football, must be racist scum”. There was no presumption: on Saturday, while walking past a small counter demonstration who stood silently, holding a banner proclaiming “No to Islamophobia”, marchers swore, hurled beer cans and coins, and shouted “who the f****** hell are you?”, “Mug. I’ll f****** open you up”, “They shouldn’t be here … F****** paedophiles”.
The FLA’s founder has a criminal record including two lengthy bans from football grounds. But Brendan O’Neill dismisses this as “poisonous middle-class prejudices” and claiming “It is defying the post-terror diktat from on high that says we should respond to Islamist attacks sheepishly, by laying a flower, singing ‘Imagine’ and going home again; the FLA suggests we talk about terror, debate it, confront it”.
We aren’t responding sheepishly. Ask our law enforcement agencies. Or does O’Neill propose we do away with such niceties and resort to vigilantism? What a clown.