Tommy Robinson is free – for now. He’ll end up back in prison, I suspect, and that’s nothing to rejoice about. I admire Tommy because I think he is a brave man, and a man who is humble enough to admit that his earlier commentary on multicultural issues was far too simplistic.
I saw many people criticise Tommy Robinson for his vulgarity, his lack of nuance, and his inflammatory rhetoric. All of this is true: he is vulgar, he lacks nuance, and he can be inflammatory (less so now than when he was starting out).
But to my mind this is as much a condemnation of the intellectuals and their institutions as it is the likes of Tommy Robinson. Where are the urbane and nuanced conservatively-inclined intellectuals when it comes to criticising the excesses of multicultural ideology and the folly of creating ethnic communities so dense that many people who grew up in those areas feel alienated and unwelcome?
Such intellectuals have dropped the ball horribly when it comes to multiculturalism and immigration; they have either been duped by the multiculturalist trick of conflating culture with race, or they are just not brave enough to put their gifts to use in criticising mistakes of multicultural and immigration policy.
How can someone even formulate a nuanced objection to multiculturalism and immigration policy when very few intellectuals have taken the time to develop the arguments that may be used for the person on the street to criticise it? Without the intellectuals all you are left with is the non-refined person on the street who feels strongly that something has gone wrong and does his/her best to articulate it.
They nearly always fail to articulate it in a nuanced way that avoids the charge of racism because they have no intellectual guides to help them, as opposed to those of the working class who wish to criticise the excesses of capitalism, who have the whole university structure to help them articulate their views.
Tommy Robinson has done his best with the cultural/intellectual materials available to him, which is next to nothing. Expect more Tommy Robinsons to arise as long as universities and many policy elites continue to anathematise the very reasonableness of critiquing elements of multiculturalism and immigration.
Take away their voices in the universities and the public service and all they’ll have is the streets, and taking their views off the streets can only be done by force, and that seems to be the path down which we’re heading. Let them eat falafel.
Stephen Chavura is a political theorist and intellectual historian. His research interests include the history of political thought, Australian intellectual history, philosophical issues relating to freedom of speech, and church and state.
His book Tudor Protestant Political Thought (Leiden: Brill) was published in 2011, and his work has appeared in journals such as History of European Ideas, Journal of Religious History, and Australian Journal of Political Science.
He is currently an ARC Senior Research Associate at Macquarie University.