Top conservative figures in the United States have become fixated on one specific question: whether, or when, British anti-Muslim activist Tommy Robinson will get shanked by a Muslim in prison.
Robinson’s saga has consumed right-wing media in the U.S. and even earned him a letter of support from a congressman. And, like many of the other right-wing cause célèbres in 2018, a good amount of it is made up.
Robinson, who’s real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, who entered the international right-wing scene as a cofounder of the extremist English Defence League, has remade himself in recent years as a pugnacious internet video personality. After repeatedly violating court orders against reporting on a child sex abuse trial involving Muslim defendants—what’s been dubbed a “grooming gang” by the right—by attempting to film the defendants, Robinson was arrested in May and sentenced to 13 months in prison for contempt of court.
With his arrest, Robinson became the face of strict British press laws designed to ensure fair trials and the latest example, to his supporters, of political correctness gone mad.
Typifying the response, Ben Garrison, the leading pro-Trump political cartoonist, depicted Robinson being dragged to jail in a cartoon. On one side of Robinson: a police officer, labeled the “Globalist PC Police.” On the other: a bearded man representing “Muslim Pedophiles, Rapists and Murderers” and carrying a bloody knife. Pro-Trump activist Mike Cernovich even called for the United States to break diplomatic ties with the U.K. over Robinson’s arrest.
Robinson’s case drew more attention last Wednesday, when the British Ministry of Justice transferred him to another prison, HMP Prison Leicester. The move, according to Robinson’s supporters on the right, amounted to a death sentence. InfoWars declared Robinson faced “certain death.” InfoWars’ Paul Joseph Watson claimed that Robinson’s fellow inmates were banging on the walls of their cells, demanding his death.
The claim that Robinson’s transfer amounted to a death sentence soon brought attention to British Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who has described himself as a nonpracticing Muslim. Former Breitbart writer Raheem Kassam, who has made his reputation decrying Muslim immigration to the U.K., claimed that Robinson’s prison transfer had been ordered by Javid’s office.
“People need to be asking questions of @Sajidjavid,” Kassam tweeted.
Robinson’s manager, Caolan Robertson, claimed the new prison has too many Muslim inmates and they’re out to kill Robinson.
“It’s around 71 percent Muslim,” Robertson said in an InfoWars interview. “Really, really disastrous. The last one was around 2 percent.”
The percentage of Muslims in the prison soon became a fixation for right-wing media stories about Robinson, with the Gateway Pundit saying his transfer to the prison “may certainly be a death sentence for Tommy.” InfoWars claimed that a video of Robertson taken before his imprisonment amounted to his “final statement before execution.”
As it turns out, though, Robinson’s prison isn’t the “Muslim prison” his supporters have billed it as. While the British Ministry of Justice declined to comment on Robinson and his imprisonment, citing rules against commenting on prisoners, the Mirror reported that Robinson’s prison is, in fact, less than 20 percent Muslim.
“No, Tommy Robinson hasn’t been moved to a 71% Muslim prison,” the newspaper wrote.
The key claim about Robinson’s imprisonment turning out to be a lie hasn’t stopped Robinson’s plight from gaining more attention, though. Robinson’s case was even mentioned in the House of Representatives, with Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) urging President Trump to intervene and save Robinson.
“England has a proud history and America is its progeny, but it needs to take back its liberty and freedom,” Gosar said in a statement.
Gosar closed with a quote from Braveheart: “It’s all for nothing if you don’t have freedom.”
But Robinson’s supporters have already started to backtrack on the idea that he’s in a majority Muslim prison. Kassam, the former Breitbart writer, tweeted that the percentage of Muslim inmates was “still high.”
“There’s no need for us to disseminate incorrect figures when the real truth is bad enough,” he wrote.