12 August 2018

Amidst the Turmoil of Events, Do Not Lose Your Presence of Mind

On Saturday 4th August a book shop in central London was stormed by a small number of pro-Trump and pro-Tommy Robinson protesters, led by Luke Nash Jones of the Make Britain Great Again (MBGA) movement and the Red Pill Factory Youtube channel. The reason given for the protest was that Bookmarks, based in Camden, was a ‘marxist bookshop’.

The stunt is seemingly organised by Nash Jones, who gives direct orders to the team to assemble outside and wait for 3 minutes before following him in and filming from a distance. The banners and picket signs held by protesters were branded by his organisation and have been seen on several marches this year. The cameraman known as ‘Buska’, who has worked with Luke before, is heard at the beginning of the saying:

“We’re doing an ambush, yea?”

A clip of the event was posted on an MGBA social media page, but was deleted. It was, however, re-uploaded by antifascist pages and quickly picked up by the press, including but not limited to Sky News, BBC News and The Guardian. It was also condemned by MPs Rupa Huq and David Lammy, along with several high profile figures.

The video itself makes for uncomfortable viewing as the protestors invade the store and march around in a childish and brazen fashion shouting ‘Trump, Trump, we love Trump’ and ‘oh Tommy Tommy’ before making a fuss over random books on the shelf which are held up as proof of the unseemly motives of the shop floor employee, who is then surrounded and heckled. The cameraman repeatedly calls him a ‘fucking paedophile lover’, a ‘fucking Corbynite’ and ‘scum’. When asked to leave the store, the cameraman responds with ‘why don’t you leave the planet’. 

A picket sign on display in the shop which reads ‘Oppose Tommy Robinson’, created by Stand up to Racism, is then picked up by a man wearing a Trump mask who rips it up into several pieces and throws it onto the floor with the aid of the cameraman, who brazenly states ‘that’s what we think of that’. 

After leaving the premises the cameraman declares, ‘there was no criminal damage that took place in this shop. This is bullshit’.

The fallout from this clumsy and ill organised event has been substantial, and Nash Jones has since put out a response video, in which he claims that it all came about after the man wearing a Trump mask, a ‘third party’, was refused a drink at a local pub. Afterwards there was ‘a suggestion that maybe we should go to this Communist bookstore’ and ‘people suggested it would be some kind of prank for him to go there, a little bit of a joke’. 

Nash Jones goes on to condemn the actions of the ‘third party’ attendees, and states:

“We absolutely condemn any kind of violence. We condemn any kind of threats or unpeaceful manner of behaving, and we call as always for there to be free speech and open dialogue.”

Unfortunately this stunt has done a lot more damage than was perhaps originally intended by the MGBA movement and the attendees, and while they do appear gleeful and mischievious as they wait at the beginning of the clip, they do not appear to be planning anything violent. Having met many people in these movements over the past couple of years, I can say with all honesty that many of them are not violent. Misguided at times, over excitable perhaps, but not violent.

Either way, what they did was wrong. They refused to leave a commercial premises when asked and damaged private property, as well as intimidating the members of staff. I am not surprised that this has been presented to the public as an ‘attack’, given the nature of the events as we watch them unfold in the video.

The narrative, of course, is that the far right is now becoming more emboldened with the help of Tommy Robinson and Donald Trump, and that fascist extremists are now becoming an ever more dangerous threat to migrants, ethnic minorities, the LGBT community and everyone in between. Fantastic.

As I mentioned somewhat clumsily on LBC this week, there is a growing trend for viral internet videos in which right-wing groups attempt to stir up trouble with political opposition in order to gain a high number of views online, and in some cases to portray themselves as the victim of a situation in which they knew full well that their presence would create some drama. There were several videos in 2016 which did in fact show a worrying picture of the true events which were unfolding across the states - we saw extremely violent protests by left wing groups, and the videos quite rightly went viral and helped us to see what was really happening on the streets.

Similarly in the United Kingdom we watched as antifascist groups shut down a talk by Sargon of Akkad at Kings College London, heckled Jacob Rees Mogg and called a person of colour a Nazi. Now, I am not saying that when bad things like this happen we shouldn’t film them and they shouldn’t go viral, that’s not the point. The difference is motive. These were organic events. They were not staged, they were not filmed with the intent of stirring up trouble. They were bad things which happened, caught on film and quite rightly seen by hundreds of thousands of people, which in turn helped to show that antifascist groups are often violent and illogical.

The behaviour of Antifa often turns away regular members of the public and potential new members, who may agree with their politics but not their tactics. Even Ben Zand of the BBC was shocked by how he was treated by antifascist groups as he attempted to interview them at the anti-Trump protest, and this was reported accurately in his piece on BBC Three.

Many of the new antifascist activists in this country now come from the school system. They are young, new to politics and heavily influenced by what is being presented to them - whether it be celebrities, recording artists, fashion magazines or simply from the advice of their peers, who hold regular conferences and meetups in which they point to events such as these as ‘proof’ of the ever-growing threat of the ‘far right’, and they feel that it is up to them, as warriors of justice, to put a stop to it by any means necessary. This is their narrative. And we are too often feeding it by our own greedy attempts to gain online popularity and infamy.

Those of us within the so-called right wing or populist movements will know full well that Luke Nash Jones is a pariah. He has left behind him a long trail of embittered former collaborators, and has a tendancy to vindictively attack those within the movement who he has fallen into disagreement with. To put it bluntly, he is not someone who is taken particularly seriously.

But now, thanks to the Bookmarks incident, he is seen by members of the public a prominent leader of pro-Tommy and pro-Trump groups across the UK. 

While I may have fallen into disripute with many over my recent comments to the mainstream press over pointing this out, I maintain that if we do not keep a clean house and make it perfectly clear what our motives, principles and goals are then people like Luke Nash Jones will be seen as our representatives. I know that hundreds upon thousands of people across this country are taking a stand for what is right, and I stand with them. I admire courage in the face of adversity and I want to hold to account those who are responsible for the state of things as they are today.

That being said, we must act with dignity. We must hold the leaders of our own movements to task, and ensure the people following them with good intentions do not fall prey to their bad behaviour or poor leadership. The people who send money to us and who write us messages of support and hope are the people who we owe that responsibility to.

They are the true backbone of this country, and we owe it to them to do things right.