EDL,  Islam,  Islamism,  Islamophobia

Hype, Hyperrreality, Hyperbole

It seems we now live in a society where Tommy Robinson is regarded as the Messiah., according to Dr Chris Allen:-

Hyperreality is a term that has been used to characterise our inability to distinguish reality from fantasy. Those such as Jean Baudrillard have defined hyperreality as being a means of viewing ‘reality by proxy’, one where the viewer of ‘reality tv’ for instance – or ‘When Tommy Met Mo’ – begins to believe and live in a constructed, non-existent world despite that same constructed world failing to offer any accurate or realistic depiction of life or living. In hyperreality, reality is non-existent; replaced by something that purports to be real and is duly accepted as such.

And none more hyperreal is the resurrection and subsequent veneration of Tommy the Messiah. Adored and worshipped by his newfound troop of advocates and followers, many of whom are desperate to tell us about how their bad-boy-turned-good is now a changed man; one who has rejected his sinful past for the sake of the common and everyday man and woman who can now partake in his glory via the medium of populist entertainment and mass audience delectation.

To say that Tommy Robinson is “adored and venerated by his newfound troop of advocates and followers” is not a facet of hyperreality, it’s totally, hysterically false. His turning away from the EDL has been greeted in all sorts of ways. His old comrades at the EDL feel betrayed, the UAF think it’s a front, the interviewers give him a hard time and soft counter-jihadists are cautiously optimistic.

What really annoys Dr Chris Allen, author of Islamophobia and independent adviser to the government on anti-Muslim hate, is that Robinson appeared on mainstream television, had his questions answered and his concerns treated seriously instead of being denounced as a bigot out of hand.

Instead of refuting any of his grossly misrepresentative claims, instead of showing remorse for the misery he inflicted on communities across Britain, instead of distancing himself from the ideology that underpinned the EDL’s as also his own Islamophobia, the film gave Robinson a new platform from which to uncritically voice all of the things he and the EDL have been bashing ordinary British Muslims about for years: his myths about mosques, shariah law, halal meat, Muslim women, grooming…the list went on.

“Uncritically” it wasn’t. People were given a chance to refute his “grossly misrepresentative claims”, for instance about attitudes towards non-Muslim women as expressed in the Koran and whether that manifests itself in grooming gangs. That’s as reasonable a question as whether attitudes towards women in Catholicism, say, lead to the stringent anti-abortion laws in Ireland or the Magdalene laundries. However these questions have often been treated as cultural imperialism, a sign of bigotry.

So Tommy Robinson asked questions about integration – which are perfectly reasonable and were mostly reasonably handled. If he asked questions about scripture he would get answers of bristling defensiveness, which was rather telling in itself.

In a society where the cult of celebrity is widespread, this is all maybe somewhat unsurprising. We venerate the most-shallow of idols, adoring them for their apparent excesses and greed in turn desperate to find out what corner their unfolding hyperreal ‘real’ lives will turn next. And as a consequence of this, we show cultural antipathy and disdain towards intellectualism[,] a process that promotes and reinforces a collective nihilistic and myopic rejection of social and personal morality.

And Tommy the Messiah is a product of all of this: the most-shallow of idols who in spite of what the BBC, various counter-extremist folk and a handful of unlikely Muslim allies are currently falling over themselves to tell us has at no time distanced himself from those same insidious and hate-fuelled ideologies that he has promoted and been driven by for the past half-decade.

That howl of indignation comes from a member of a club called “Intellectualism” where PhDs and academics sit in their armchairs using the language of their own set and oiks like Robinson are kept outside. Tommy Robinson doesn’t use words like “hyperreal” and has probably never heard of Baudrillard. But he does ask questions which should be answered calmly and factually about all the things that Dr Chris Allen thinks are evidently taboo or are a cultural impertinence to take on – shariah, halal, Muslim women – aspects of a minority culture which the main culture find antipathetic and which go against their idea of what is fair and equitable. The main culture may be mistaken in their apprehensions. But they are right to ask – and to be answered sanely and sensibly – not shrieked at or evaded.

Also, to treat Tommy Robinson as a symptom of the cult of celebrity , as if he was someone who has won Big Brother is absurd. He’s come up through a hard political route – nasty, but hard. He’s not Russell Brand, making silly, romantic comments about the wrongness of society with an eye to the pose. He’s taken the trouble to read up on the subject and is willing to learn. Inquiring about the Other’s cultures ways and whether they can be compatible in a liberal democracy is a question that needs facts and analysis, not  squashed with the modern intellectual jargon of “hyperreality” and the “cult of celebrity” and a trace of “asking questions about other religious cultures is impertinent bigotry”.

If anyone is being anti-intellectualism here it’s Dr Chris Allen. And if we are going to conclude that someone’s standing is a symptom of something bad in our society, it’s scary that an academic who uses hyperbolic hysteria and post-modern jargon for argument is an adviser to the government.

Update:- SarahAB gets up earlier on a Sunday morning than I do – or stays up later Saturday night. Anyway, compare and contrast.