X October 2018

Why I spoke to VICE

By now some of you will have seen the documentary I was featured in for Vice. Many of the people on ‘my side’ will have been quite horrified to see me appear on this platform due to Vice being considered as a ‘lefty’ outlet. Below is an explanation of why I chose to let them into my life during this period in time.

Some on the ‘right’ have been saying for years that we ‘don’t need to speak to the media because we are the media’. While I agree that we should be skeptical about misrepresentation, I do think that the mainstream is where we need to appear if we want to engage with a wider audience. Most people get their news from these outlets, and if we only allow them to talk about us from afar, then we run the risk of being seen as fringe or extremist. I know through experience that the people who attend marches and support the right are largely good, decent people who deserve to be represented responsibly by those who have put their heads above the parapet.

Earlier this year, I was approached by Sirin Kale - the presenter of the film and a journalist in her own right - whose work has also been published in many other mainstream publications. Sirin had read a blog post I had written earlier this year detailing the day I was attacked by a female antifascist activist. I explained that I was frustrated and hurt that not one single feminist had been in touch or come to my defence for this assault.

My initial reaction when Sirin first got in touch and told me she worked for Vice was not to engage. Vice has often published pieces on my friends, colleagues and ‘the movement’ which I have found to be incredibly biased - in the case of one friend, a Vice article caused him great loss in his own personal and professional life. For this reason I considered Vice the ‘enemy’. After some thought, however, I had to remind myself that my whole purpose for getting involved in political activism was to connect with others who I may disagree with. I had written an article stating that no feminists were bothered when a right wing female pundit was attacked - and here was a feminist reaching out to me. I would be a hypocrite if I shooed her away.

We had a couple of phone calls and eventually met up in person as the team and I were in the planning stages of the Day for Freedom. The original idea for the piece was to cover women in the ‘free speech’ movement, and at the time I was given permission by Tommy and the team to be involved. 

The first day of filming was at the Day for Freedom event itself. Sirin and the team were in the press area - but I did not appear on camera, still slightly wary of how I would be presented. It was after the event, and the subsequent fallout between me and Tommy, that Sirin called me up to ask me what the hell was going on.

At that point I had to make a decision. Do I tell her the truth, or do I stay silent and protect ‘the movement’? I chose to tell Sirin the truth.

This was an important moment in the British ‘populist’ right, and something that I felt would be worth documenting for historical reasons. I was, and still am, proud to be a part of it - but there was an internal split happening in real time which would dictate how we were to move forward. What happened showed me from afar who of the right wing pundits were happy to go along with a ‘noble lie’ to protect the ‘cause’, and who acted out of principle. Several people took the risk of defending me publically - which led to an enourmous amount of backlash, while others quietly reached out to me to discuss their own concerns about the direction things were heading. I would like to extend a quick thank you to those who did so.

Rumours and accusations flooded my social media accounts for months, with a rising pressure to tell ‘my side of the story’. I knew that, no matter what, it was my word against Tommy’s - and Tommy is a hero to many thousands of people across the world. Tommy was my hero too - but he made a mistake. And instead of rectifying that mistake, he doubled down - leaving my livelihood and reputation as collatoral damage. For this reason, I felt I had no other option but to defend myself.

I wanted to present my defence in a way which I felt was right. I felt that the documentary could be a chance for people who had once supported me to see the human face to which all of their anger was directed towards - to take a step back and rethink some of their own assumptions. I knew that, with it being produced by Vice, there was a significant risk of my words being taken out of context and further damage being done to my reputation and career - but it was a risk I was willing to take. Ultimately I am a nobody, and if I had to endure more scrutiny and backlash in order to get people talking, then so be it. I am not media trained, I speak quite candidly and often say things which may sound offensive or unreasonable - but we need to be able to speak this way in order to understand one another better.

“Free Speech is the mechanism by which we keep our society functioning. It’s in the consequence of Free Speech and the ability to speak that people can put the finger on problems, articulate what those problems are, solve them, and come to a consensus. And we risk losing that. I don’t speak perfectly and my arguments aren’t perfectly formulated. Neither are anyone else’s. We have to be able to say what we have to say badly, or we won’t be able to think at all.” - Jordan Peterson

Many of the issues which people like Tommy talk about are now impossible to ignore. People like me coming out of the woodwork are a direct result of what happens when the media miscontrue ideas and dehumanise vast members of the population who have valid concerns about the direction their country is heading. What happened to me is unfortunate, but it doesn’t mean that I will ever go back and support what I consider a malevolent and insidious force acting against the will of the people. Tommy touches on truth, often, and when he does so his character is smeared so as to ensure that the general public daren’t look at what he is actually saying.

There are thousands upon thousands of men and women from every race, background and class up and down this country who are wise to this agenda - and whether Tommy is at the helm or not is irrelevant. If the mainstream does not catch up to this then it will fall into obscurity. Thanks to the digital age we find ourselves in, it’s now easier than ever for people to find alternative sources of information - as well as offering support to one another through debate and humour. What Sirin and the team at Vice did was commendable. She is a fantastic journalist and I am happy I made the choice I did. She took a step into the unknown and challenged her own beliefs - and if we had more people like her working in mainstream journalism, we might actually get somewhere.

My thanks again to those who supported me during this time, and to the content creators whose work inspired me to question the constructs surrounding my day to day life.

And finally, thank you to President Donald J Trump for showing me how to stand up to bullies.