Hundreds of supporters of Tommy Robinson filled the streets of London on Saturday in protest against his arrest in Leeds on Friday, but it was not until shortly after midnight on Monday that the Daily Mail posted a report about the protest on its website. The story, which was unsigned, was updated on early Monday afternoon. How to explain the delay? Did the Daily Mail's lawyers have to check with the British government, which had placed a gag order on reporting about the arrest, to make sure that it was permissible to report on the protest, if not directly on the arrest itself?
The Mail made sure to describe the hundreds of protesters as "far-right." How did the Mail ascertain their politics? Does it not occur to the Mail that even if Robinson were far-right, which he is not, a British subject would not have to be far right to want to take in a protest against his shockingly rapid-fire arrest, trial, conviction, and imprisonment for the sole offense of reporting from outside a courthouse?
The Evening Standard also reported on the protest – and also labeled the participants "far-right." "The incident," wrote the Standard 's Tom Powell, "has triggered a furious reaction from his fans." In fact, it seems fair to say that the incident has shocked, outraged, and scared people around the world who, until now, had thought of the United Kingdom as a free country.
Hundreds of supporters of Tommy Robinson protest his imprisonment, at a May 25 demonstration on Downing Street in London, England. (Image source: Ruptly video screenshot)
In America, for example, Robert Spencer warned that "the darkness of Sharia-compliant totalitarianism descends upon the UK." Thomas Lifson asked:
"Is Britain lost to the ranks of free nations? The land that bequeathed the world the Magna Carta and the 'mother of parliaments' is indulging in totalitarianism with its handling of Tommy Robinson, a famous political activist agitating about the threat of radical Islam, and attempting to report on the trial of a Muslim 'grooming gang' that allegedly preyed on young English girls, forcing them into prostitution."
In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders declared solidarity with Robinson: "Britain used to be a bastion of free speech. Today its leaders are behaving like North Korea and Saudi Arabia."
At least the Mail and Standard ran stories about the protests. Other major British dailies did not. The Metro website, for its part, posted a story that made the Mail look objective: "The controversial nationalist and far-right commentator, real name Stephen Lennon, was posing as a 'reporter' when police officers approached him," wrote Olivia Waring in a piece headlined "Why Was Tommy Robinson Arrested?" In fact, Robinson was not "posing" as anything – he is a citizen journalist who at the time of his arrest was being watched live on Facebook by supporters around the world. Waring went on say that Robinson's supporters "abide by slogans like 'White Lives Matter.'" She also mentioned that Robin was a founder of the English Defence League, but omitted to acknowledge that he left the organization after it adopted a racist line of which he could not approve. In any event, Waring's piece did not even pretend to answer the question posed in the title, leaving the reader to wonder exactly who is, in fact, posing as a reporter.
Whereas Robinson was arrested for "breaching the peace" – "apparently British police code for 'offending Islam,'" noted Spencer wryly – and was immediately thereafter found guilty of "contempt of court" and hustled off to the hoosegow, the savages whose case he was covering have apparently been on trial for several weeks now. They face multiple charges, including rape, racially aggravated assault, and inciting a child into prostitution. One of the defendants is accused of fifty-one separate counts, including twenty-one counts of rape. During the weeks of their trial they have, of course, had legal representation and have apparently been allowed to go home at night. Meanwhile Robinson's attorneys were apparently unable to contact him in the first hours and days after his arrest.
Finally, on Tuesday, in response to complaints by the British media, the gag order on reporting news about the Robinson case was lifted. Presumably this counts as a modest recovery for freedom of the press in Britain. Meanwhile, Robinson remains in jail for daring to exercise his free speech, and what the mainstream media have won back is the right to resume repeating their lockstep lies about who he is and what he stand for.
Bruce Bawer is the author of the new novel The Alhambra (Swamp Fox Editions). His book While Europe Slept (2006) was a New York Times bestseller and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. His other books include A Place at the Table (1993), Stealing Jesus (1997), Surrender (2009), and The Victims' Revolution (2012). A native New Yorker, he has lived in Europe since 1998.