Terry Jones isn't coming over, then.* Which might on the face of it seem like a bit of a PR disaster for our not-at-all-extremist friends at the EDL; except they've put quite an interesting sheen on things:
But a spokesman for the EDL confirmed the invitation to Mr Jones had been withdrawn because of his critical views on homosexuality and race.
No, you stop laughing. That's true, apparently. Thank goodness for those considerate chaps at the EDL, proud defenders of diversity and anti-racism. Thank goodness they're here to prevent such a nasty man as Terry Jones from coming over to Britain! If only they had known about his views on race and homosexuality before they booked him... I am sure it was just a silly oversight and they're worried about their mistake.
Amusingly enough, the tactics of the EDL remind me of those favoured by Anjem Choudhary and his rum bunch of coves, whatever they're calling themselves nowadays: set up something controversial and inflammatory, get maximum publicity, then retreat at full speed and make yourself out to be the good guy all along. I'm not sure if the EDL or Choudhary would appreciate the comparison but that's how they both behave: they know how to get themselves in the papers and on the news, then portray themselves as un-extreme by distancing themselves from the storm they themselves have created. It's an excellent tactic and one which the plodding media in this country seem to fall for every time, so you can't really blame them.
Theresa May, meanwhile, has simply carried on from where Labour left off. She might not appreciate that comparison either, but just as Geert Wilders was refused entry to speak to Ukip, now May was prepared to see off Jones, having seen him on 'her radar' some time ago. Yet again, it's the wrong decision. Jones's views, while deeply unpleasant, are not criminal as far as I'm aware; just as Wilders's views were only a cigarette paper away from certain high-profile columnists, Jones isn't a whole world away from fairly mainstream media opinions on Islam. Just as Choudhary and his bunch of idiots should be allowed to march up and down Wootton Bassett High Street if they want, the likes of Jones and Wilders should be allowed to spread their poison, with a minimum of fuss. Yes, it will upset a lot of people, but yes, it's still the right thing to do if we value freedom of expression in this country.
And there's something else as well. The initial excuse for the likes of Wilders and Jones not being admitted is that they're obnoxious so-and-sos who will create tension; but the underlying message is this: those Muslims will probably kill him, and we can't afford that. It's another way of depicting Muslims as being 'the problem'. Sure, there may well be tension, and problems, and all sorts of issues arising from a Wilders or Jones speech, but that is part of being in a free society, to ensure people can say even such appalling things.
The problem comes when we all get so emotional about these fools that we give them the acres of newsprint and hours of news footage they crave. And there's too much fear - fear of one of these idiots getting murdered, or there being uncontrollable tensions which lead to violence. But what if these events were just quietly waved through and allowed to go ahead - what then? You have to wonder whether that would really be what the people behind them want. I suspect they prefer the outrage, the shock, the controversy, the appearances on the news, the ability to position themselves as the voice of reason in the end.
You have protesters who want publicity more than the right to protest - if that means they don't actually protest in the end because of the storm they've created, then they've still achieved their goals. Simply think up something inflammatory, or invite over someone inflammatory, and the media will do the rest. There'll always be a helpful home secretary to do the banning required to make you out to be the victims in all this, and there you are: you've won. How do you fight against that? It's not easy, but I think successive governments have got it wrong.
* It's tempting to squawk "He's not the messiah for pretending-they're-disenfranchised whites who claim to be railing against extremism but who are actually angry at all Muslims and immigrants regardless of whether they're extremists or not; he's a very naughty boy!" but I've decided not to write that, because it would be silly and facetious and well, just plain wrong really.