Last night, the BBC once again gave more of that oxygen of publicity to Stephen Yaxley Lennon, who styles himself Tommy Robinson. But now, the public is becoming wise to his schtick, as many commentators’ feedback shows. This was compounded later by comments from The Great Man which he might later regret making.
While the BBC did make a stab at showing what Lennon and his fans are about, the constant awarding of publicity to someone who claims he is being silenced was soon rumbled. Robert Popper was one of those passing adverse comment: “Next week we look back at Adolf Hitler. Was he a man raising concerns that others ignore blah blah blah…”.
This was not an isolated view, as Dan Rebellato’s comment showed. “TONIGHT: is this racist a racist? We investigate this tremendously complicated puzzle”. Will Stephen Lennon be turning up on his doorstep in the dead of night for a “polite conversation”? Andrew Stroehlein was on the same page. “Next on #Newsnight, we debate the pros and cons of racist violence... And just why are so many people opposed to fascism, when the benefits are so clear?”. And James Felton put the BBC’s problem directly.
“Tonight on Newsnight: More mainstream airtime for racist dickheads. We'll be asking is he being silenced, whilst simultaneously broadcasting his views directly to half a million fucking people”. London AM Tom Copley followed up in more detail: “His name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon. He's a convicted fraudster, a thug, & a peddler of hate who has nothing of value to contribute to any debate. The photo you use implies he's being silenced when in fact he's constantly being given a platform by the media”.
But let’s give Lennon his due, and let him tell the world exactly where he’s at right now. So then we can see if those criticisms are justified. Perhaps we’re doing him a disservice.
Here’s what he had to say yesterday evening. “They say the Army cannot be politicised while they fly rainbow flags off the top of Army barracks … I’ve spoke to so many soldiers today who say the only way you get promoted is if you’re a mixed race lesbian”. But he’s not racist, don’t forget. Do go on. “And these diversity programmes that are being forced on them … you have more chance of being kicked out of the Army if you had a problem with diversity than if you fiddled with a child”. No citation, as they say.
There was more. “If you talk out about Islam, that’s what this is about. It’s about the forced Common Purpose that’s been spread from every institution of Britain. But now [they’ve] tried it with the armed forces, and I hope now you’re going to have a [revolt?] in the armed forces [but] that’s not what I want”. What followed suggested otherwise.
“I’m meeting our armed servicemen, and the ones I met today [weren’t] bothered about having their faces shown. They didn’t care. They said ‘they can’t discharge us all’ … I’m covering faces … until there’s enough footage, until I’ve got hundreds and hundreds of serving soldiers”. Sounds rather like an incitement to mutiny.
Then we get on to Muslim bashing laced with dishonesty. “The Muslim Council of Britain who signed a declaration to say that our Royal Navy are fair targets for Jihad? [they haven’t] That’s who you’re bowing to? [they’re not] That’s who the superiors within the Army are bowing to, is it? I’ve got a recording here of a Major in the Army telling them ‘you need to unfollow Tommy Robinson. You need to unfollow him, or if not you need to get out the door’. What? I thought our soldiers were signing up to give people freedom”.
Interfering in the Army’s disciplinary processes? Just wait for the next part. “Our last military adverts … I think they got 10% of what they needed, because it was all about praying on the floor during a battle, and respecting Islam, whilst men, quoting the Qur’an, are blowing you up … And then there’s videos saying it’s OK to cry in the Army. It’s OK to be gay in the Army, but it’s not OK to be a straight young English, or British, Welsh, Scottish or Northern Irish straight male”. Straight. Got that?
He wasn’t finished. “It’s shocking what this Government [is] doing and inbreeding within our military. They’ve already done all our other institutions, the NHS is done, the Fire Brigade, it’s all been weakened, everyone will tell you that who’s been in those jobs. And now they want to do it to the Army, the Navy. That’s what they want. And it’s about time people stood up. So if you are serving our country …” He wants those people to join him.
Were those criticisms of Newsnight so wide of the mark? Homophobia. Talking of “inbreeding”. Serial dishonesty (while calling “liar” on others and claiming to be the only one who is bringing FACTS and THE TRUTH). And what looks very adjacent to being incitement to mutiny. Maybe that criticism was not so far off after all.
Perhaps the BBC might stop and think about what they’re doing. As Sunny Hundal put it, “Yesterday's Newsnight featured this ex-EDL man who confessed he was radicalised by Anjem Choudhary constantly being invited on TV.... including by Newsnight! Where is the introspection among our media that perhaps *they* radicalise people?”
Does the Beeb want to find itself becoming a recruiting sergeant for Stephen Lennon? To get mixed up in his little Wild West Show? Have a think about it, Beeb bosses.
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