So, as I write this, professional far right agitator, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, is firing up his global network of supporters to bung him even more money following Facebook’s (welcome) decision to remove him from their platform.
Lennon has been preparing his supporters for several weeks now, ramping up the asks for yet MORE money to help fund his empire and lifestyle, and making all sorts of ludicrous ‘censorship’ claims after he was booted off Twitter and PayPal last year. (It’s funny how all these claims always come with a £ sign attached, isn’t it?)
In removing him, Facebook said in a statement: “Our rules also make clear that individuals and organisations that are engaged in “organized hate” are not allowed on the platform, and that praise or support for these figures and groups is also banned.
“Tommy Robinson’s Facebook Page has repeatedly broken these standards, posting material that uses dehumanising language and calls for violence targeted at Muslims. He has also behaved in ways that violate our policies around organized hate.”
To put Facebook’s ‘Tommy Robinson’ ban in context, Facebook was his most important social media channel. His Facebook page had 1,080,000 followers and 996,300 likes. His posts regularly hit more than 10,000 shares.
Let us be clear, though. We are talking about a man who has likely made millions from the misery of others – misery he himself has promoted – through this social media channels such as Facebook. The chutzpah of the man is amazing. Who remembers, for example, that Lennon was falsely using Facebook’s charity donate function to collect as much as £100,000 via his page to... fund what, exactly?
What “citizen journalist” do you know who threatens and attacks others? Who visits the homes and offices of real journalists, while his supporters attack and intimidate photographers and media at demonstrations? While violence against journalists surges in many parts of the world, “Tommy Robinson” actually goes out of his way to encourage an atmosphere of criminality, mistrust and conspiracy – again, all to seemingly fund one person, and that is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon.
While his Facebook page was desperately soliciting donations during his jailing for contempt of court last year, multi-millionaire anti-Muslim organisations in the US were busy pumping in funds to his legal defence, while seven Republican members of Congress invited Lennon to speak in the US in November last year. Never has hatred been so fashionable, so public, or – in Stephen Lennon’s case – so profitable.
So Facebook was right to remove this violent criminal and racist. Not for his sordid past – the convictions for violence, mortgage fraud, drug possession, travelling on a false passport, or leading a violent mob for four years across the UK (costing us, the taxpayer, £10million in policing costs) – but for some of his recent actions, like taking to Facebook to falsely accuse the underage victim (a Syrian refugee) of a bullying attack, of a supposed attack in turn against three English girls and a boy. Lennon later admitted to his accusations were “fake news central” (albeit claiming to have been duped by “some leftie”).According to lawyers for the boy’s family, they plan to pursue legal action against Lennon for his words.
But that wasn’t enough. What about the rape charity which was bombarded with racist abuse from his supporters, after Lennon posted a photo of its flyer (offering support to victims from ethnic minorities) onto his Facebook page? Or the fitness trainer who was likewise targeted with torrents of racist abuse by his supporters, after Lennon posted a flyer of a fitness class she advertised for Muslim women?
For all his faux outrage about exposing some supposed ‘dark side’ of Islam, or being a working class hero exposing the establishment, at a time of spiralling hate crimes it is invariably Muslim women who end up as the targets of abuse, or attacks, from the kind of angry white men who claim to lionise ‘Tommy’. Perhaps they should listen to the words of one of our most respected former anti-terror police officers, Mark Rowley, who warned after the trial of Finsbury mosque attacker Darren Osborne that ‘Tommy Robinson’ played a role similar to that of Anjem Choudary, saying: “Each side feeds into each other’s extremist rhetoric with the common goal of increasing tensions and divisions in communities.”
Most of what Stephen Lennon actually exposes is his own violent, racist behaviour, his vile views, his near-misses at derailing criminal trials and a constant series of ‘asks’ to help further line his own pockets.
There is something deeply disturbing to see a man who so often lies, spreads hatred and seeks to fund his lifestyle off the back of the misery of others, especially during a time when the terror threat from the far right is rising. Brand Tommy – for he is nothing if not a brand – seeks out anger and monetises it for his own benefit, accruing enormous wealth in the process, but caring nothing for the cost of the misery he sows. And that’s why Facebook was right, at last, to remove him today.
Nick Lowles is director of HOPE not hate