Content Block

Society 24/08/2017

Ann Marie Waters versus the media

Anti-Islam campaigner Anne Marie Waters is now ranked second favourite to succeed Paul Nuttall as leader of the UKIP.  Waters is the latest climber in the ephemeral and increasingly angry anti-Islam-save-the-West movement. Don’t bet against her, either. Nigel Farage might have spoken out against her, but the 38-year-old counts on the support of Tommy Robinson, Geert Wilders and a fast growing army of online fans (if the contest was decided purely on internet activity, she would walk it). She also used to write regularly for Breitbart, Steve Bannon’s network, and the site has written warmly about her.

You cannot understand this loose anti-Islam network, nor its popularity, without understanding the role the mainstream media – the “MSM!” – has played in its growth. It’s a given that Waters is convinced that the MSM is out to get her, traduce her, undermine her. The whole anti-Islam network in fact believes that liberal lefty spineless journalistic cucks are lying about her, because the MSM is either a) evil; b) ignorant; c) lazy or; d) stupid. In fact, anti-Islam campaigners dislike the MSM about as much as they dislike Islam, which is a lot.

You know all this already from watching Donald Trump.  But here is the difficult bit. There is some truth to b) and c).  The MSM has, in general, lazily covered people like Waters, preferring to sneer and smear – racists, far-right, bigots, idiots et cetera – to listening to them.  Very few journalists have bothered to speak to members or investigate their arguments properly and carefully. And this is now starting to backfire.

In 2011, Tommy Robinson was interviewed on Newsnight by Jeremy Paxman about the English Defence League. In that interview, Robinson raised the issue of grooming gangs of men of Muslim background targeting white girls in several towns, and claimed it was not being investigated properly by the police. “Are we gonna pretend Muslim gangs are not targeting our youth and pimping them?” he said. “No-one dare say it… it is being ignored. For 20 years our councillors have conspired with the police to not deal with Muslim pimping gangs… for fear of being called racist.”

Paxman wasn’t having any of it, and quite rightly grilled him. But for making these claims – and repeating them over several years – Robinson was widely condemned as being a racist. I too remember thinking it all sounded a bit far-fetched.

Robinson of course says it's the Koran's fault, always says “Muslim” rather than Asian or British men of Pakistani origin, and is intentionally inflammatory about the whole matter. But to all intents and purposes he was saying back in 2011 what the former Director of Public Prosecution, the former head of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, and Sarah Champion MP are all saying now.  It’s time to be honest, they now sagely intone. Political correctness may have played a role in not investigating it, they add.

When the truth isn’t getting out in the short term, it’s stockpiled for the long-term, and it usually mutates in the interval.  The anti-Islam groups are posting and sharing the news of the recent Newcastle grooming case maniacally. Critics will say they are “exploiting it”, and they probably are. But above all they feel vindicated. “We’ve been saying this for years” they’re tweeting, “and we were called racist idiots for doing so. “

It’s hard to exaggerate how damaging these grooming cases are. In addition to the obvious suffering of the victims and families, it tears at the local social fabric far more than a terrorist attack – creating simmering resentment between different groups. And for the anti-Islam movement, the grooming gang prosecutions are weaved into a bigger story about how the MSM ignores problems and silences truth-tellers. This is a more powerful, more compelling narrative – the truth is out there and “they” don’t want you to know it – than any specific claim about Islam. This is why the anti-Islam groups now talk about “MSM lies” just as much as Islam, why they are picking up so many new followers in the “alternative media”, and why so many of them believe Paul Joseph Watson or Alex Jones or The Rebel over the BBC. It is why people like Waters or Robinson repeatedly quote Orwell about how telling the truth is a revolutionary act in a time of deceit. It’s why both Robinson’s books have been number one Amazon best-sellers.

Now Waters is confirmed as a UKIP leadership candidate, allow me a short prediction of how it will unfold. She will be referred to as the far-right candidate by her critics. She will reply that she is in fact the anti-fascist candidate, fighting the homophobia and misogyny of Islam, where no-one else has the courage. News stories of extremism, grooming, immigrant crime, Islamist misogyny will be shared online, along with examples they consider journalistic or political pussy-footing around. This will all embolden her supporters, and persuade more of them that ‘they’ are running scared. (We never know exactly who “they” are, incidentally). And next time there is a grooming case – and there are more coming – or a terrorist attack, it will be served up as proof of spineless liberals’ virtue signalling crap. It's already started. Check her Twitter feed, where there’s already excited talk of an anti-Waters plot. “They” are trying to ruin her chances.   

This has now reached the point where even legitimate, carefully researched critique of the anti-Islam movement can be safely ignored by supporters as part of this plot to silence them.  For example, Times journalist Lucy Fisher wrote an incredibly reasonable article about Waters. Fisher probably caught flack from colleagues for being too balanced. Was Waters happy? Far from it. ‘Not one time has a journalist pleasantly surprised me. Not once’ she tweeted. She’s also considering legal action against the Observer’s Nick Cohen – a man who’s written more than anyone about the moral relativism of the left when it comes to Islamism – because of his article critical of her.

I first met Waters in a Luton pub with Tommy Robinson. The two of them were recording a short video about Pegida UK, a movement they hoped would become a respectable version of the English Defence League. I was following her and Robinson around as they tried to get Pegida UK off the ground for my book Radicals, and we ended up travelling to Dresden, Copenhagen and Prague together. I'd written a lot about the EDL, including for the Daily Telegraph, and even published a ten thousand word report on the group in 2011. I think am viewed as being one of the most even-handed writers on the subject, even by Robinson himself.

“Do you think immigration is sometimes confused with Islam?” I asked. This is a stock question for people like Waters.

“The immigration is from Muslim-majority countries!” she charged back. “There was a 2012 worldwide poll of Muslims: 84 per cent of Pakistanis agreed with death by stoning for adultery. We can’t have a society like that. We won’t have it! . . . Why the hell should German women be raped by these men?! If you can’t accept a German woman in a bikini then you can get the fuck out . . . I will fight every ounce if we have a war of civilisations. We should be trying to prevent it.”

Before I could reply, Waters started shaking her head knowingly. “Oh, this is the shit you lefty liberal journalists want to write about! That we’re all violent racists. Well we’re not,” she said.

I'd not even said a word. I've repeatedly written the precise opposite, in fact. It was Waters who brought up the issue of violence, not me.

“How do you know what I think?” I said.

“You lot are all the same,” she replied.


Jamie Bartlett is Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media, which is a collaboration between Demos and the University of Sussex. The Centre combines computer and social sciences for policy research. Jamie’s work focuses on the ways in which social media and modern communications and technology are changing political and social movements, with a special emphasis on terrorism and radical politics. Jamie is author of The Dark Net, (William Heinemann, 2013), and Radicals (Penguin, 2017)

Related Posts

  1. Why did a Labour campaign group give £18,500 to UKIP?

    UKIP is a populist, often racist, nationalist political movement that should be opposed to the dying breath by every decent social democrat. 

    On the day Jo Cox was murdered then UKIP leader Nigel Farage launched his "Breaking Point" posters, conflating the movement of Syrian refugees across Europe with lawful EU migration to the UK. As former Chancellor George Osborne pointed out, the poster had echoes of Nazi propaganda. 

    But this does not appear to have troubled Labour Leave, a group supported by MPs including Kate Hoey, John Mann and Frank Field.

    According to the recently published Electoral Commission donations list, Labour Leave Ltd made a £18,500 donation to UKIP just days before the EU referendum on 23 June 2016.  

    On Friday, Labour Leave issued the following statement:

    27 January 2017

    During the EU referendum campaign, Labour Leave co-organised events with other groups in favour of Brexit. These were cross-party events and included representatives from Labour, the Conservatives and UKIP, as well as non-partisan organisations.

    We sought clarity from the Electoral Commission to ensure we were compliant, and they advised us to pay our share of the cost in the form of a donation. This one-off payment to UKIP was solely our share of this cost. The figure covered the cost of venue hire, transport, accommodation and security for the events. 

    We believe that Labour is the only party that can create a brighter, fairer and more prosperous future for Britain.

    There were many in the Labour party who supported Britain leaving the European Union. But donating money to pay to share a platform with UKIP is an entirely different question altogether. Labour party rules say the following on promoting or donating to other political parties:

    A member of the party who joins and/ or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the party, or supports any candidate who stands against an official Labour candidate, or publicly declares their intent to stand against a Labour candidate, shall automatically be ineligible to be or remain a party member, subject to the provisions of Chapter 6.I.2 below of the disciplinary rules.

    The directors of Labour Leave will need to answer how they consider donating to UKIP to fund a joint political event as not "support" for a rival political organisation. Are the directors of Labour Leave satisfied that there was no other way to get their message out to voters during the EU referendum apart from jointly paying for events where UKIP was the financial controller?

    UKIP plans to replace Labour MPs in northern seats with their own. They are a nasty rival to the Labour party in many parts of this country. Labour members should be fighting UKIP, not giving them money.