Earlier on today I tweeted something along the lines of; “To anyone expressing their support for Tommy Robinson – I’d like to take this unique opportunity to invite you all to take a long walk off a short pier, preferably whilst wearing ankle weights and a titanium straight-jacket”.
Somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but nonetheless, I’ve taken a moment to reflect on whether that comment was unfair.
That moment is over – it wasn’t.
Frankly, Tommy Robinson is a bigoted, xenophobic, racial-hatred inciting neo-Nazi, and it’s a shame it’s taken this long for him to end up behind bars.
Tempting, but I ought to elaborate.
To be clear, Robinson is not being jailed for inciting racial hatred (sadly), but for live-streaming from a long-running criminal court case. He stood accused of contempt of court for prejudicing the principle – and practice – of a fair trial. He pled guilty.
Now, I must confess; I only got a 2:2 in my ‘Introduction to Law’ module at Uni, but I’m pretty sure when you plead guilty to a crime, sentencing generally tends to follow.
Hearing this contemptible figure be labelled a ‘citizen journalist’ today has been depressing, as has the groundswell of support for his release, the conspiracy theories surrounding his plea, and the artistic imagery of Sadiq Khan placing a noose around Robinson’s neck, and free speech itself.
This is always the danger when prosecuting a bigoted charlatan with a misguided following – you risk making a martyr of him. Regardless, he’s pled guilty to a crime, and is the last person to deserve special treatment from the judicial system.
What we’re seeing now is people disguising the racism that motivates their defence of Robinson and their wince-inducing ‘#JusticeForTommy’ tweets with a valiant and noble defence of free speech. Why, free speech is a fundamental pillar of a free and fair democracy, no?
Yes. So is the right to a fair trial by one’s peers.
Either you support every pillar of democracy or not. If not, fine, but don’t brandish yourself a crusading defender of democracy whilst being selective in which of its principles – that you reckon justify your own racist views – you choose to back. It makes you look like a philandering Christian who vocally opposes equality for homosexuals to justify their own views on the basis of a passage from The Bible, whilst conveniently overlooking passages condemning adultery, judging others and advocating love for all.
Furthermore, if you care so deeply about the principle of free speech, one would think you might understand how it works. Freedom of speech is not an absolute freedom, it has limits. Rightfully so. Limits that exist to protect ethnic minorities, the LGBT+ community and other persecuted groups from the incitement of hate crimes. If you overstep those limits, you deserve to face the consequences (Hello former leaders of Britain First). Robinson’s rabid supporters don’t seem to mind that principle being enforced against radical Islamist clerics, but are conveniently forgetful or disdainful of it when it applies to white, British men.
Robinson deserves to be prosecuted for the incitement of racial hatred. He’s not been, he’s been prosecuted for committing a different crime. For a man supposedly so committed to defending British law from Sharia Law, you’d be forgiven for assuming he might know a thing or two about the legal system he has been oh so selflessly defending. It would appear not.
To anyone who wants to defend Tommy Robinson, that’s your right. You’re wrong, and I’d rather walk slowly and purposefully into oncoming traffic than have a pint with you, but it’s your right to be wrong.
What I take particular issue with is lying about the reasons you’re defending this dangerous cretin.
Stop pretending you care about democracy or freedom of speech. Stop pretending you believe that a conspiratorial judicial system cheated the man into handcuffs. Stop pretending this is ‘political correctness gone mad’.
Just admit it, you defend Tommy Robinson because you share his ignorant, repugnant and downright racist diatribes dressed up as opinions.
You’d still be a racist, but at least you’d be an honest racist, and it would give an even clearer signal to the rest of society that we ought to give you a several mile-wide berth if we ever have the displeasure of spotting you on the street.