Britain moves from Orwell to Kafka, imprisoning Tommy Robinson and gagging media reports
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. I wrote about the fragmentary reports of his arrest in Leeds two days ago for the alleged crimes of "breach of the peace and incitement."
British writer George Orwell warned of the dangers of totalitarian thought control via the corruption of language and pervasive electronic spying in his novel 1984. Calling the act of reporting on a trial "breach of the peace and incitement" is as Orwellian as "War Is Peace," "Freedom Is Slavery," and "Ignorance Is Strength," Orwell's most famous examples of totalitarian brainwashing.
The British authorities (I'm looking at you, P.M. Theresa May) have now managed to import a policy from Czech writer Franz Kafka, famous for exposing the corruption totalitarians impose on those under their thumbs. In his book The Trial, the defendant is not allowed to know the charges against him. The Brits now have imposed a gag order on any reporting of the fate of Robinson, including his trial and prison sentence. Bruce Bawer of the Gatestone Institute captures the essence of Kafka-logic implicit in the gag order in his title, "UK: You're Not Allowed to Talk about It. About What? Don't Ask." I recommend that you read his entire post to understand the fear of offending Muslims that has the government of the U.K. descending into a nightmare of totalitarianism, but here is a sample.
Following Robinson's arrest:
In the space of the next few hours, a judge tried, convicted, and sentenced him to 13 months in jail – and also issued a gag order, demanding a total news blackout on the case in the British news media. Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was immediately taken to Hull Prison.
Most media outlets were remarkably compliant. News stories that had already been posted online after Robinson's arrest at the Scottish Daily Record, Birmingham Live, The Mirror, RT, and Breitbart News were promptly pulled down, although, curiously, a report remained up at the Independent, a left-wing broadsheet that can be counted on to view Robinson as a hooligan. Indeed, the Independent's article described Robinson as "far-right" and, in explaining what he was doing outside the courthouse, used scare quotes around the word "reporting"; it then summed up the least appealing episodes in his career and blamed him for an attack on the Finsbury Park Mosque last January. Somehow, the Independent also got away with publishing a report on London's Saturday rally in support of Robinson.
Yesterday, according to the U.K.'s Evening Standard, hundreds of protesters gathered outside Downing Street, the residence of the prime minister, chanting Robinson's name. Twitter also allowed reports on the demonstration to remain up:
Whitehall at a standstill. I imagine won't be on the news #FreeTommy pic.twitter.com/S9IVLmn7J6— algernond (@algernond) May 26, 2018
Unreal support for Tommy Robinson at such late notice! #FreeTommy pic.twitter.com/JhhbA0cvcY— Nick Scanlon (@NickScan92) May 26, 2018
Robinson's supporters expect him to be killed if he is held among the general population at Hull Prison, owing to the large number of Muslim gang members held there.
Owing to the media blackout, gathering a large group of supporters is a challenge, to say the least. It will require overseas criticism to bring pressure and maybe, just maybe a lawsuit in U.K. courts. A British member of the European Parliament raises that possibility:
Tommy Robinson latest: UKIP Peer Malcolm Lord Pearson has written to Home Secretary Sajid Javid today saying : if Tommy is murdered or injured in prison he and others will mount a private prosecution against Mr Javid as an accessory, or for misconduct in public office. pic.twitter.com/UMkXqBVLoR— Gerard Batten MEP (@GerardBattenMEP) May 27, 2018
The next few days in Britain will be decisive. If Robinson is murdered in prison, he will became a martyr, and even far-reaching repression of reporting may not be enough to contain the outrage in an era of text messages, social media, and a world stage.