The EDL – English Defence League – was formed in Luton in 2009, and Tommy Robinson was identified as the de facto leader. It’s a far-right organisation that was initially formed in response to a protest by Islamist groups against a homecoming parade for troops returning from Afghanistan.
In their own words, they “peacefully protest against Islamic extremism.” However, it should be noted that a network of football hooligan firms was fundamental in the construction of the organisation.
Further still, there’s an underlying belief amongst groups like this. They believe that they’re upholding ‘British’ values. A damaging outlook of many members is that Muslim isn’t British.
Because of the effective use of social media, the organisation grew rapidly. It quickly became a nation-wide organisation. The EDL relies mainly upon street demonstrations and protests, and these need large police-presence.
The reason could be because of the roots in football hooliganism, or the fact that these protests often descend into chaos. The English Defence League has always been a controversial group, and criticised heavily by anti-fascist groups.
Councils and police forces also criticise and actively discourage EDL marches and protests. This is because of the high costs to keep them safe, and because of the disruptive repercussions that they can have.
To see how these events can unfold and disturb the status quo of a community, watch the below video:
HOW SOCIAL MEDIA HAS LEGITIMISED AND GROWN THE EDL
Through a constant flow of posts on Facebook and YouTube, the EDL managed to achieve a snowballing popularity. Despite the organisation losing a lot of credibility after plans to bomb mosques were linked to the EDL, it’s still notable how social media caused an initial adulation.
The concept of an echo chamber goes a long way in explaining this. This refers to an environment that holds only one belief system. People in that environment only consume beliefs and opinions that coincide with their own. As a result, there are no challenges to these values, and so they are consolidated and escalated.
TOXICITY AND INFLUENCE OF EDL ON ISLAMOPHOBIA
This echo chamber can lead to radicalised ideas, like the plans to bomb mosques. When there are no challenges to opinions that are ill-informed, these opinions can escalate to an out of control level.
One of the main issues with the EDL is the blurred motives. Some members may believe they are genuinely in it to oppose extremism, but this number seems small.
Instead of combating actual potential issues with terrorism, they mostly just attack all Muslims. For example: EDL protesters held a pig’s head in anti-Muslim slur clash with police at counter-terror march in Manchester.
Click here for my next post. You’ve read how the EDL thrived in the digital age of social media, but how have terrorist organisations used similar methods?