As a result of the Finsbury Park van attack, one misguided fool will probably spend the rest of his life in jail, one innocent man is dead, several others will never recover from their injuries, and no purpose whatever has been served. So it was not unexpected that the media would ask how Darren Osborne did what he did, and who might have led him to the dark place where he wanted to kill “as many Muslims as possible”.
Stephen Yaxley Lennon aka Tommy Robinson ...
And those being asked the questions include Stephen Yaxley Lennon, who styles himself Tommy Robinson. He has not responded at all well to the attention he has been receiving. Particular attention has been paid to a message in his name, which mentioned the Manchester Arena bomber, Salman Abedi.
This is what it said: “What Salman Abedi did is not the beginning and it won't be the end … There is a nation within a nation forming just beneath the surface of the UK … It is a nation built on hatred, on violence and on Islam”. For anyone who had just developed a hatred of Muslims, the effect of this message can only be imagined.
... who had nothing at all to do with this
It is a message which clearly demonises “The Other” - and “The Other” in this case is Muslims. Not Muslims who may plot, organise and carry out terrorist acts, but all Muslims. Whether Lennon thought this through is doubtful, but that is the clear implication - “They” are all at it, “They” are all guilty, “They” all hate us, “They” are coming to get us.
And for Darren Osborne, “They” were therefore a legitimate target. So what was Lennon’s response when confronted with this? Nah, it wasn’t him, it was the BBC. It was the Sun newspaper. It was all being taken out of context. Everyone else was lying, and he alone was bringing millions of people what he grandly called The Truth.
That was the totality of his interview for BBC Newsnight with Kirsty Wark, who was subjected to the usual Lennon treatment - talked over, shouted down, called a “liar” - join the club, Ms Wark - while The Great Man played the victim. He was embarrassed for the BBC. No contrition, no remorse, they’re all coming to get him.
Lennon might have thought he got away with this one. But those watching had a different view. Sunder Katwala observed “Tommy Robinson is in @bbcnewsnight studio now *because* an admirer of his committed *murder* based on hatred. The ideology & influences of murderers must be scrutinised - for far right & Islamist violence. But is a prestige studio interview the right way to do it in such a case?”
He had previously written “This was not the morning for the Today programme to give Anjem Choudary a platform” after Lee Rigby’s killers were convicted. Jonathon Shafi was also unimpressed: “On the day Dennis [sic] Osborne is found guilty, Newsnight invite Tommy Robinson on. When we look back at this period the BBC will be seen to have played a central role in popularising the key spokespeople of the far-right”.
And Dawn Foster simply added “That Newsnight interview with Tommy Robinson was appalling, did nothing but let him act the martyr by giving him the mic”. Sadly, Lennon will not listen, not take the hint. He cannot accept that his actions could lead to what happened in Finsbury Park. It’s always someone else’s fault. And that’s not good enough.