The EDL: fact and fiction
I spoke at an event a couple of weeks ago where it was widely agreed that the far right in Britain represents an equal threat to the UK as al-Qaeda. On the terrorism circuit, many people find it quite cultured to pronounce the English Defence League is somehow comparable to al-Qaeda inspired terrorism. That they are, in effect, two sides of the same coin. To be sure, the English Defence League appears to be an emerging force. It has held a number of relatively high profile rallies, some of which have turned ugly. Numbers appear to be increasing. The group claims to be non-violently confronting Islamo-facsism, but the darker end of its membership looks more like a combination of football hooligans and neo-nazis. Everyone has become obsessed by them.
Yes the rise of far-right movements is worrying (the EDL rejects that label), but it is no al-Qaeda. It does not seek to murder innocent civilians as strategy. It does not seek to undertake terrorist attacks in public places to create maximum publicity and damage. It is not part of an international terrorist group which - according to intelligence - is seeking nuclear and biological weapons. It does not seek to destroy Western democracies.
Hannah Arendt once noted that the Democratic Administration in the US framed the cold war in the same way as it did the second world war (had she been alive, she'd have seen that the early Global War on Terror was treated like a new cold war). Arendt deduced from this an inability “to confront reality on its own terms because they [the US government] had always some parallels in mind that ‘helped’ them to understand those terms.” Let's not make the same mistake here.