Tommy Robinson is a British political activist and “citizen journalist” who came to prominence in Britain almost a decade ago when he founded the English Defence League. The EDL was a street-protest movement in Britain whose aims could probably best be summarized as “anti-Islamization.” It emerged in the town of Luton after a group of local Islamists barracked the homecoming parade of a local regiment returning from service in Afghanistan.
From their earliest protests the EDL’s members sought to highlight issues including sharia law, Islam’s attitudes toward minorities, and the phenomenon that would become euphemistically known as “grooming gangs.” In reality these protests often descended into hooliganism and low-level violence (naturally helped along by self-described “anti-fascists”). The authorities did everything they could to stop the EDL, and the media did everything possible to demonize them. In a foretaste of things to come, very few people made any effort to understand them. And nobody paid any price for (indeed many people benefited from) claiming that the EDL was simply a fascist organization and that anybody who even tried to understand them must be a fascist too. The usual prohibition against sweeping generalizations doesn’t seem to apply if the generalization tilts in that direction.