In a recent interview with Brittany Pettibone, English activist Tommy Robinson explained how, after a stint in prison, operatives from the British intelligence services approached him with a job proposition. They asked him to help them to ‘unite the right’, going on to explain that this would help them ‘control the response to terror attacks’ and grooming gangs – typically piss-poor behaviour by Muslims, in other words.
Whilst nobody likes a crackpot conspiracy theorist, it would be abject naivety to think the state hadn’t approached countless individuals and organisations with a similar proposition. Some, like Tommy, will have declined. Others, however, would have accepted. Additionally, there will be many individuals who by way of ideological coincidence, are already peddling the state’s preferred narrative, and thus are already in position to be manipulated to further that narrative. A great example of this in action is Nigel Farage’s rapid rise to prominence from 2009; after Nick Griffin appeared on BBC Question Time in that year, a massive poll found that 25% of Britons would consider voting for the British National Party. Coincidentally, the BBC and the print media began devoting disproportionate amounts of time and space to Nigel Farage. Why? Because the latter offers the acceptable face of British nationalism – a civic, Thatcherite face, in contrast with the BNP’s ethnic homeland brand.
After listening to Tommy recount the various approaches by the British state, it’s worth questioning everything. It’s now worth repeating our evaluations of certain individuals who are suspected of having an ulterior motive. Again, some may denounce this as conspiratorial, but not asking the question is naivety of the highest order. So when stories like Telford or Rotherham reach the mass media, take a step back and look around at the prominent respondents. Who is carrying the flag, so to speak? And I don’t mean those making noises on Twitter or YouTube, but those invited on radio shows, or primetime television talk shows. Who’s leading the response and, therefore, controlling the volume and ferocity of the response?
A brilliant case study which is almost archetypal it’s so blatant, is that of Maajid Nawaz. Nawaz is head of a British-based counter-extremism thinktank named Quilliam, which works against Islamic (and other) extremism on a domestic level. Now, after the Telford story broke recently, for a few days there was essentially radio silence. Aside from Telford MP Lucy Allen’s calls for an enquiry, nobody said anything. The story wasn’t discussed on the evening news or, when it was, the presenters were in purely fact delivery mode. They didn’t invite any representatives of civil society on to discuss this! Then, yesterday, Maajid Nawaz appeared. After a show on LBC, a clip of Nawaz decrying political correctness’ role in preventing a conversation about Muslim rape gangs went viral. He is leading the response of civil society. And of course, everything he said can be more or less agreed with by those of us concerned with the issue of grooming gangs in our societies. Yet Nawaz is a perfect example of a prominent leader of civil society being manipulated by the state to control the response.
Having Nawaz, a reformed Islamist and obviously a non-native, lead the response against grooming gangs enables the state to pacify those who quite rightly see this as a racial issue that requires a radical response. After all, you couldn’t denounce the presence of Pakistanis in your society after seeing this brave, good-looking, articulate, reformed character all over your Twitter feed, could you? Exactly. He’s your friendly cornershop immigrant who waves the card charge causing you to take the ‘they’re not all bad’ approach. In terms of the grooming gangs, people like Maajid Nawaz are there to ensure an ethnic issue is met with a civic response. Nawaz has been an excellent candidate for this role for a number of years now. Whenever there’s a terrorist attack or another scandal involving non-white immigrants, he’s invariably the face of public more indignation. He’s had columns in the New York Times, Daily Mail, The Guardian, Financial Times and The Wall St Journal, and has appeared on BBC Hardtalk, Larry King Live, 60 Minutes, Newsnight, as well as having his own show on LBC radio. He even lectures at universities and gives talks at the UK Defence Academy! For somebody who was a terrorist until the last decade, that’s pretty remarkable, right?
When I accuse him of ‘controlling the response’ I’m not even particularly convinced that he’s on some government payroll. He might be, but the more likely explanation is that he actually deeply believes in what he’s saying and what he stands for. This is an example of the state’s ideological foundation matching neatly and coincidentally with a suitable candidate from civil society. Unbeknown to Nawaz, the state is acting behind the scenes to ensure that his voice is most prominent in the aftermath of these scandals, so that it’s Nawaz leading the response and not, say, Tommy Robinson, or the National Front. I’m not saying that the latter figures should be leading the response instead, but it would be nice if the state allowed us to choose these figureheads and not have thrust upon us a foreign Muslim who, frankly, doesn’t have the same stake in the past or future of this nation as others might.
More broadly, we must begin to realise that civil society is no longer an organic formation of communities and opinions. Once upon a time, it was, That’s how the people managed to pressure government into passing no less than five laws restricting immigration between 1914-1939, yet just one in the post-war (73 years!) period. We didn’t change, but the state got wise to how public discourse really works. Governments no longer need to impose overt regulations on democracy, when they can simply manipulate civil discourse under the democratic illusion. So every time a scandal like Telford emerges, or a terrorist attack occurs, watch the response. Watch the response on day one, watch it on day three and then again after a week. Who’s the most prominent, most vocal advocate of the seemingly “radical” position? Who’s on the big radio and TV platforms? What are their motives? What does the state gain from their narrative? Most importantly, are they really representative of the Silent Majority?