Is this a defining moment?
I’ve lived in London for ten years now, and I had never heard of Speakers’ Corner upon my arrival. I knew nothing of its history and relevance, both past and present, until one Sunday I was cycling through and noticed the crowds and the speakers. One older lady on a small stepladder appealed to me, and I listened for a short time while she spoke of her ideas about politics and social issues. There were a couple of prophets of doom, bedraggled and lonely old men carrying placards telling us that the end of the world was nigh. There were a variety of other speakers, all talking about their own passionate subjects. I passed a Muslim who was talking to a crowd of people, and I foolishly got into a debate with him. I forget what we were talking about, but he ended the conversation by saying, “It’s written in the Quran.” That was his irrefutable evidence against me – the Quran says so, so it must be true.
It’s never been a place I’ve frequented, but I have continued to cycle through it once every long while. The last time I felt the need to be drawn into a debate with someone was about 6 months ago. A white ginger convert to Islam was denouncing Christianity and attempting to prove Islam is the one true religion. He was bullying an elderly lady, and I felt the need to intervene. At this point, I should tell you that Speakers’ Corner is now primarily the domain of Muslims. There’s little else going on there except for Muslim speakers and gangs of young Muslim men who surround you the minute you start debating Islam. It must also be stated that everyone is on their phones googling the answers to things. No one seems to know anything by heart, not even their sacred Qurans. The ginger convert was quoting Jesus from one of his parables (without knowing the name of the parable or what a parable is). I then asked him where sperm was made and he told me in the lower backbone. I told him sperm is produced in the testes. At this point he started laughing outrageously and loudly at me, as did his ten friends.
This was very shocking to me. This white British man had gone through probably the same biology classes I had, and yet the minute he converted to Islam, he believed that sperm is produced in the backbone. He eventually phoned a friend (presumably an expert in Islam) and he offered an apology, saying that I was “partly right” but that some sperm is produced in the lower backbone. I attempted to engage him in a few problematic aspects of Islam. He and his friends were questioning me without giving many, if any, answers. He asked me if I knew what Zakat is. I told him in detail exactly what it is. I then asked him if he knew how many elements there are to Zakat. He simply said Zakat is for feeding poor people. This is not true. Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is donating a portion of your wealth on a yearly basis to an Islamic charity who will distribute it on your behalf. One of the things that Zakat funds is terrorism – global jihad, those striving in the path of Allah. This convert had never heard of such a thing, and he and his friends again laughed uproariously at me. At which point they all had to go on to the grass to pray (and avoid any further embarrassment).
Then three months ago, I happened to be walking through Speaker’s Corner one Sunday, and there was a Muslim man done up in traditional Turkish attire, replete with the Aladdin upturned shoes. He was striding up and down, gathering momentum and bracing himself to speak loudly and passionately on behalf of Allah. He took centre stage and said, “Allah is the one true God because the word Hallelujah has ‘Allah’ in the middle of it.” This is nonsense. I had to take him to task. Hallelujah is a Hebrew word and it breaks down into two morphemes (the shortest possible component part of a word – “yes” has one morpheme, for instance). Hallelujah breaks down into “Hallel” and “Yah.” Hallel is “to worship” and “Yah” is the Hebrew word for God (YHWH – Yahweh). Hallelujah means to worship the Hebrew God. The explanation didn’t stop him, however, I simply found myself being bullied out of the way by a pack of his adherents. I promised myself never to go back. Precious brain cells get lost in Speakers’ Corner. It should be renamed “Idiots’ Corner.”
I’ve avoided the Tommy Robinson affair at Speakers’ Corner (“the Battle for Speakers’ Corner,” as it’s being called), but last week I ventured up because Antifa were opposing particular speakers — Generation Identity. I wanted to hear what they had to say. When I got there, I had missed the speech, but Antifa were hanging around and banging their drums in order to cause as much noise pollution as possible. I’ve no idea why they fear language so much.
The whole point to this article, and the reason for my recent visit to Speakers’ Corner, is because I am wondering if this is a pivotal moment in history. To me, it feels very boring and childish. A bunch of adults are foot-stomping over hurty feels. This is no suffragette movement, it’s no Notting Hill riot, it’s no abolition of slavery. It’s simply a bunch of moronic idiots who don’t have a handle on their emotions shouting out at imaginary boogeymen. I also do wonder if I’m too close to all of this. It can take the passing of years to look back and see the relevance of a thing. But this Antifa movement and the shouting down of differing opinions is a step back in time, it’s not a move forward for the human race. I dare say, and I hope, that these “snowflakes” will look back on YouTube video of themselves in years to come, throwing their tantrums, and be utterly ashamed of themselves. Not something you’d want to show the grandchildren.
What do Antifa even stand for, beyond the fact that hate is a big money industry and they are being funded by liberals and lefties? We had the hippy movement, then punk, then New Romantics, Goths, Teddy Boys, Mods, etc. Yes, they were fashion trends, but they also came with a social stance attached to them. Antifa wear the obligatory black jeans, black hoodie, and anything that covers the face. The lack of intelligence is apparent and they are fueled by hatred. The police kettled them in as a bunch of us went to the pub, and then the police escorted us to the Tube station. As we were walking around the streets with the police surrounding us and with the Antifa kettled in a few blocks away, we kept passing “spotters” – Antifa members who were stationed on a majority of street corners, texting their mates and telling them where we were headed, presumably so they could catch up with us later for an ass-whooping. I was at the back of the line and as the police escorted us into the station, two spotters tried to pretend they just wanted to get on the Tube with us. The police stopped them. I could only stand and laugh at them. One was a withered old man, probably about 45 but looked like he was 60 from a hard life of cigarettes and booze. His partner in crime was a young woman, fat and less than 5 feet tall. I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of physical damage they thought they would be able to inflict on anyone.
The chants were what you’d expect: “racist,” “nazi,” “refugees welcome,” etc. The only name they left out was “Trump,” which was surprising. I don’t have any answers to today’s current social and political climate. It’s not one that interests me, outside of the fact that Britain has been importing too many religious bigots who are not integrating. About 15 years ago, I would have said that Britain had become irreligious. Astronomy and science had pushed God further and further from our lives, but now we have become inundated with the worst types of religious bigots. Bigots who bring their tribal warfare and sectarianism with them and who believe sperm is produced in the backbone.
Mr. Robinson is planning a march from Speakers’ Corner to the Twitter HQ on May 6th. This is a condemnation of censorship of speech. “The Battle For Speakers’ Corner” is the phrase that will be etched in history. Let’s see how it plays out. And the real battle being fought is not between Antifa and all other sane people, the real battle is for the little winding walkways in the park where people speak and which is known as Speakers’ Corner. The policy is that public praying is not allowed in the park unless permission has been requested for some special event such as the Pope’s visit, yet every weekend the Muslims, as usual, defiantly block the pathways in prayer. The police, in spite of being aware of the law, allowed them to go about their business, but one little old lady took the coppers to task and informed them of the park’s laws, and video of this was posted online. Now the Muslims are defying the police, flagrantly getting on their knees, appropriating space, knowing it is illegal to do so, and continuing to disrespect all others by blocking pedestrians’ way in a show of supremacy. Videos are starting to emerge of violent and hostile Muslims confronting the police, who are moving them along as they try to get on their knees to pray.
This is the real Battle For Speakers’ Corner. It’s not Antifa who are shutting down speech, it’s Muslims. In ten years, the place has gone from being a “marketplace of ideas” to a recruiting ground for Islam, with the vast majority of speakers and listeners being Muslims. Things won’t get any better anytime soon, and pretty soon they’ll have to rename that section of the park Muslims’ Corner or Religious Bigots’ Corner. Winston Churchill and other noted figures started off their careers at Speakers’ Corner; all of them went on to achieve great things. Men and women with great vision, great imagination and a wide and wonderful variety of ideas. The ensuing years will provide us with the fruits of today’s debates that are coming out of a once-great location. A location that has given rise to an oral tradition and which has been a symbol that has been synonymous with and dedicated to freedom of speech and the exchanging of ideas for decades.