Jihad Watch Exploits the London Riots

by Omar Shtewi

"I'll say anything to get on TV"

Regular followers of the Jihad Watch blog and readers of the work of its “director”, Robert Spencer, will know the following about him: that there is no television appearance that he won’t do; and there is no subject that he will not pose as an expert on.

Indeed, if Robert Spencer were invited onto the Discovery Channel to provide his learned assessment of amphibian external fertilisation, he would do it.  He is, in terms of formal qualifications, no more qualified to discuss any of the issues with which he is so generous with his views, than he is to discuss the finer points of amphibian reproduction.

It was, of course, only a matter of time before Robert Spencer attempted to exploit the riots in England in order to defame Muslims.

To do this, he made an appearance on a show hosted by Ezra Levant (The Source, which is broadcast on Sun TV, the Canadian equivalent, both in terms of intellectual value, and journalistic integrity, of Fox News) in which he graces the people of Canada with his assessment of internal British politics and demographics.

The exchange that takes place between Spencer and Levant is as bizarre as it is embarrassing, but it is worth discussing because I think that it provides a perfect example of the total lack of intellectual value in Spencer’s opinions and in his written work at Jihad Watch and other blogs (FrontPage Magazine, Human Events etc).

Beginning with a brief overview of the terrorist atrocities that have occurred in London in the past, Levant then segues into an issue which has been totally invented at Jihad Watch.  He poses the non-questions:

“Are terrorists taking advantaged of the police being distracted and focussed on these street riots to make mischief?” and, addressing Spencer directly, “Has there been chatter amongst jihadi sites encouraging their cells in London to move while the police are focused on street crime?”

There are clear issues with these highly dishonest questions.

The first, which Spencer would have mentioned if he had any basic integrity, is that in Britain, we have dedicated anti-terrorist police.  The kind of police officers who were policing the riots were not the sort who would have been pulled off anti-terrorist duties.

Levant, in his tasteless way, attempts to suggest that British defences were left down while those who would ordinarily be dealing with terrorism were policing the streets.  Levant and Spencer both seem to be unaware of the existence of MI5 (the UK’s domestic secret service) and MI6 (the foreign intelligence service).

The second issue is his enquiry as to whether there has been “chatter” among terrorists issuing instructions to their London-based “cells”.  Of course, neither Levant nor Spencer have any idea what “cells” are operating in London if, indeed, there are any at all these days.

Levant poses the question of jihadi cells as if it is a logical and widely-asked one.  More likely is that he, or his researchers, found this entry on Spencer’s blog and decided, on that basis, to have him on the show.

Before we go through the looking glass and take a look at the exchange between these two heavyweight shysters, let us look at the basis of this conversation.

Jihad Watch – Lies, Damned Lies, and Marisol Seibold

On August 11, Marisol Seibold (under the ultimate oversight, of course, of Jihad Watch’s “director” or, as Levant calls Spencer, its “leader”) posted an entry on the blog entitled “In online forums, Muslims urge U.K. rioters to topple government”.

Note, first of all, the broad generalisation:  Ms Seibold wants us to imagine that Muslims (all of them, everywhere) are agitating for the overthrow of the British government.   She does this by changing the title of the original article.  She replaces “Islamic militants” in the original headline, with “Muslims” (a trick so cheap it smacks of Pamela Geller).

Despite her representation being demonstrably false, it is also a transparent attempt to blame the British Muslim community for something they had nothing to do with (except in as far as they were victims).

In the commentary that she provides for the Associated Press story (via the Washington Post) she states that:

“Jihadists [Muslims] employ a variety of means of warfare to create a vacuum of stability and security for which they will claim Sharia is the only solution, because it is the only one they will allow. In this case, anarchy is already present, and they are encouraging its growth because they see in it an opportunity to peddle their wares.”

Is she seriously suggesting that the two million-strong Muslim community will want to force Shariah on the remaining non-Muslim sixty million inhabitants of the United Kingdom on the back of these riots?  It certainly looks that way.

But Seibold is not the only member of the Jihad Watch cell, if you will, that is trying to promote this bizarre theory.  Mr Spencer also joins in.

Using an article by Steven Edwards of Postmedia News in the right-wing Canadian National Post, Spencer states that “Islamic supremacists” [Muslims] in Britain are “loving the violence and hoping to provoke some of their own”.

The article he posts as proof of this bizarre assertion which mentions unnamed extremist websites with quotes to the effect that Muslims should attempt to bring Britain into total chaos so that they will withdraw forces from Afghanistan to patrol the streets.

Leaving aside for one moment that this notion is highly naive and, in fact, very silly, Spencer does not ask the key question:  Does it matter?  Do the ramblings of persons on the internet – ramblings which have no identifiable basis in the reality which we inhabit – really constitute earth-shattering news?  If Spencer were half the thinker and scholar he claims to be, he would have rejected this “news” as utterly baseless.  But one does not create a wildly popular blog containing in excess of 25,000 Muslim-hating posts by exercising quality control.

If a Muslim, or a “Muslim”, sitting in his room chatting on an online forum, took responsibility for the Asian Tsunami or the Icelandic ash cloud, Spencer would have included it on his blog.  No doubt he would have been so confident that Muslims have weaponised the earth’s weather systems that he would have appeared on Fox News to inform the Republican masses of the United States.

It is on the back of this bizarre and meaningless nonsense that Ezra Levant invited Robert Spencer, the non-expert on all things, to give is non-expert view on the English riots and to crowbar, come hell or high water, some reference to Muslims into his interview.  The result would shame any properly self-aware human being.

Through the looking glass with Robert and Ezra

In the interview, in response to the silly and baseless questions – see above – asked  by the hapless host Ezra, Spencer simply regurgitates what he learned from the un-sourced and baseless articles that he and Marisol Seibold posted on the Jihad Watch blog.  He states:

“Yeah, as a matter of fact [a matter of fact – really?], one of them [the non-verified anonymous extremist Muslims known only to Steven Edwards of Postmedia] was actually encouraging people to write statements that would be encouraging to violence, so as to try to take advantage of this situation of chaos to sew even further chaos, ultimately to bring down the British state”.  A first-class analysis and a scenario worthy of any Hollywood blockbuster.

Levant then counters with a Mordechai Kedar-style apocalyptic suggestion:  “So ah, it wasn’t that they would plan their own spectacular terrorist incidents?”  The answer to this is, of course, a categorical no.  But Spencer cannot resist:

“Yeah, well that’s part of it, but also this is an opportunity while the law enforcement is preoccupied to plan terrorist plots, to plan terrorist acts, and ah, to make the situation worse that way.”  This is a proof-free analysis which should, by rights, earn Spencer an appearance on Fox News.

Spencer then backtracks entirely from this explanation, by stating that, despite his suggestion that the evil hand of the global Islamic conspiracy is behind the riots,

“It’s just rioting by people who are taking advantage of a situation that gives them the opportunity to loot and to steal and so on.  And ah, that’s essentially the main thing that’s going on, I don’t see any kind of ah, terrorist involvement, jihadi involvement in this at all.”

This is a common EDL tactic.  Even when discussing issues that manifestly have nothing whatsoever to do with Muslims or Islam, it is important, in the subculture of the Transatlantic Right, to mention Muslims and Islam anyway so as to establish the association in the mind of the viewer/reader.  See my previous article here for an example.

Spencer then goes on to continue the association by artfully suggesting that,

“Of course with this chatter that we are picking up from the jihadi websites that’s something that could change quickly.”

The jihadi websites?  Which ones?  Chatter that we’re picking up?  This is nothing but a rather sad attempt to suggest that there are anti-Muslim intelligence officers in the “offices” of Jihad Watch and other blogs, monitoring enemy communications in the style of the CIA.

The discussion between these two intellectual giants quickly reaches rock-bottom, however when Levant, keen to know whether the riots – which are related neither to Islam nor Muslims by Spencer’s own (eventual) admission –  might still provide a pretext on which to harass the Muslim community.  This is, as Levant admits, a possible “silver lining” to all this unpleasantness.  He says:

“You know what, I wanna be an optimist, I wanna say maybe there’s a silver lining that may come out of this.  I think that this has changed, ah this has been a turning point in public opinion in the UK because I think it all of a sudden felt like the Britain of old, the safe Britain, where police bobbies didn’t even carry guns, that those days are gone and that a tolerance to low level, continuous low level violence, and even little outbursts, I think that tolerance has ended.  Do you think it is too optimistic to predict that out of the ashes of this looting that, that people in the UK will have a harsher approach to trouble-makers, not just street crime, but even, let’s say, people scheming terrorist plots?”

Despite the fact that Spencer has conceded already that there is no terrorist involvement in these riots, Levant, in his desperation to tar all Muslims everywhere with responsibility for the violence, is hoping that Muslims can be punished for riots after the fact.

Spencer clearly hopes so too, because he answers:

I certainly would like to think that ah, that will happen.  But I can’t share your optimism entirely in light of the aftermath of the July 7th 2005 bombings in London, which were horrific, and jihad-perpetrated, and yet all they resulted in was not additional scrutiny on jihad activity in Britain, but ah, attempts by British authorities to accommodate even jihad groups – Muslim groups – that pretended to be moderate but were rather transparently not moderate and had ties to violent jihad groups and the British government was trying to make agreements with them, to depend upon them even, in some cases, for policing in Muslim communities and it was just really unconscionable, and ultimately suicidal if that kind of policy were to continue for an extended period and so ah, I would like to think that ultimately, the British people will wake up and maybe this will be it, ah but the track record is not really all that good in recent years.”

Spencer, it seems can always stoop lower.  As well as hoping that Muslims will bear the brunt of the Her Majesty’s Government’s response to the riots, he also attempts to suggest that the British government did, in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in London of 2005, become complicit in terrorist activities.

You will be aware that this is essentially the mindset of Anders Breivik and that this thinking was at the root of his attack on the youth of Norway’s governing Labour Party – they are in cahoots with the Muslims and are actively aiding their conquest of the West.  No wonder Breivik was such a fan of Spencer.  Note Spencer’s reference to “jihad groups”, which he quickly amends to “Muslim groups”.

While Levant attempts to make the case for banning the dreaded burka on the back of the English riots, Spencer quickly attempts to make the case for racial profiling – specifying that Pakistani males should be given more scrutiny than other people at airport security.  While this is an entirely separate argument, it beggars belief that Spencer would raise it on the back of an interview that was supposed to be about the riots in England – about which Spencer has amply demonstrated he knows absolutely nothing.

If there were any doubt that having Robert Spencer on a news programme to discuss the English riots (or anything else) is about as appropriate as having Kim Kardashian discuss the ins and outs of the architecture of Classical Greece, the “leader” and “director” of Jihad Watch makes it plain when he states that:

What we have in these riots in Britain, is ah, a tremendous presence of ah, people from Jamaica and ah, other areas, that have been British colonies, and they came to Britain and ah, they are now demanding essentially special accommodation in much, a similar way, as Islamic supremacist [Muslim] groups are doing in Britain as well as in Canada and the United States.”

Where to begin?  Spencer has evidently noticed from the news coverage of the riots (when he was looking, no doubt, for overtly Muslim-looking youths) that young Black people appear, from the footage, to be well-represented among the rioters (there are of course, many, many white people and they are well-represented among those who have already been taken to court over their violence and looting).

Quite where he got the idea they are from “Jamaica” is not obvious to me, or anyone else in the United Kingdom.  Perhaps he heard in passing once that many Black people in the United Kingdom have heritage in the islands of the Caribbean.  There is certainly no evidence that they agitate for special rights.

This superficial knowledge, in Spencer’s thinking, has rendered him qualified to make bold – and false – statements about the national origins of the rioters.  They are English.  While their grandparents may have arrived in this country from the Caribbean in the 1960s, these young people are English.

Robert Spencer would be a harmless and amusing fool were he not so influential. Unfortunately for the people of the United States and Canada – and the parents of the massacred children of Norway – he is highly influential around the world.

While he is in no way qualified to analyse intelligently any of the issues he comments on, he makes frequent appearances in both the print and broadcast media to spread his lies.

He represents one element of the collapse of Western intellectual life and his charlatanry should be taken very seriously indeed.