The BBC just suffered the mother of all humiliations over Tommy Robinson

Tommy Robinson in jail and the BBC logo
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The BBC has suffered the mother of all humiliations over Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson). Many people have called out the public broadcaster for its sympathetic coverage of the former leader of the English Defence League (EDL) since he got out of jail.

But the BBC‘s disgrace doesn’t come mainly from this criticism. No, the broadcaster’s shame lies in the fact that even the Sun managed to rustle up a more decent reaction to the extremist‘s release than the BBC.

As one social media user commented, we really have now entered a parallel universe.

The Sun shines for a change

Yaxley-Lennon landed himself in jail for contempt of court earlier this year. He was live-broadcasting outside a sexual abuse trial at the time. But he had already been in trouble with the law. So as Snopes reports:

He was jailed for violating a court order, breaching the terms of an existing suspended sentence, and potentially risking the collapse of an ongoing trial.

His supporters have tried to paint the Islamophobe as a wronged martyr during the case. But as its political editor points out, the Sun doesn’t agree:

Read on...

The Sun says it has “no sympathy” for Yaxley-Lennon because he “blatantly flouted” reporting restrictions and “almost wrecked” the trial. For obvious reasons, the Sun didn’t condemn Yaxley-Lennon for his xenophobia. And it’s a bit rich that the tabloid, whose now-closed sister paper hacked the phone of a murdered schoolgirl, is lauding the justice system. But it’s a valid, and surprising, criticism nonetheless.

Normalising the far right

The BBC‘s coverage of Yaxley-Lennon’s release, however, hasn’t won it any fans. People have criticised it for providing a platform for his supporters without challenging their depiction of the ex-EDL leader as a freedom-fighting free-speech advocate.

But as Guardian journalist Owen Jones pointed out, it’s certainly not the first time the BBC has normalised a dangerous far-right figure:

The new normal?

The skewed reporting on Yaxley-Lennon is particularly striking right now. Because it’s happening at the same time that the media is doing its best to portray Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as a rampant antisemite.

So in this strange new world, a long-time anti-racism campaigner is allegedly the enemy of tolerance. And a man only famous for his intolerance of Muslims and refugees is a freedom fighter.

No wonder that, in this alternate reality, the public broadcaster scores below one of the country’s worst tabloids on decency and truth. Because it’s apparently a topsy-turvy world we live in now.

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