Far-right commentator gets 'schooled' by historian over George Orwell and Antifa

'Orwell signed up to fight with the militia of a Spanish Marxist party via the ILP. That's how much he despised fascists,' says historian

Maya Oppenheim
Friday 01 September 2017 15:06 BST
Mr Watson is a conspiracy theorist and YouTuber
Mr Watson is a conspiracy theorist and YouTuber

Far-right commentator Paul Joseph Watson has been schooled by a historian for claiming George Orwell would have been opposed to Antifa.

Mr Watson, who is editor of far-right conspiracy site Info Wars, claimed he had read all of Orwell’s books and insisted the left-wing novelist would have been against the modern day anti-fascist movement.

Antifa, shorthand for anti-fascist organisations, refers to a loose decentralised coalition of groups who are in favour of opposing fascism via popular grassroots action rather than relying on the police or the state. While the movement dates back to the rise of fascism in Europe in the 1920s, it has gained increasing attention for clashing with white supremacist groups in Charlottesville last month.

White supremacist cries on camera after realising he might be arrested

Mike Stuchbery, an English historical researcher who has spent the last 15 years teaching the Spanish Civil War in schools, challenged Mr Watson’s assertion about Orwell and urged him to read a book.

“Paul, again, Orwell signed up to fight with the militia of a Spanish Marxist party, via the British Independent Labour Party. That's how much he despised fascists,” Mr Stuchbery said during a Twitter spat.

“You'd think Paul Joseph Watson might think twice about trying to change the meaning of words after invoking Orwell,” he added.

He argued people were “coddled” if they saw the anti-fascist movement as an existential threat to their own way of life.

Orwell, who recorded his personal experiences of the Spanish War in Homage to Catalonia, served in the militia of the POUM - a Spanish Marxist party. He was in hospital in Barcelona for many weeks and was badly injured fighting fascists.

Mr Stuchbery told The Independent it was imperative for people to understand how Orwell’s experiences in the Spanish Civil War influenced his position on fascism.

He said: “It's vital that we understand that his experiences in the Spanish Civil War informed his attitudes not only towards fascism but Marxism and Stalinism too. We see traces of Franco's regime, as well as Stalin and Hitler's in Orwell's later novels.”

“While I chose to highlight Orwell's attitudes towards fascism in my thread, we must also understand that he came to resent all totalitarian governments. One can come to despise the extremes of both ends of the political spectrum simultaneously - it's not an either or situation."

He added: “I encourage Paul to widen his reading beyond the message boards and Facebook communities of the 'alt-Right' and develop a little nuance in his attitudes.”

But Mr Watson, a conspiracy theorist and YouTuber, remained adamant Orwell would have been vehemently opposed to Antifa.

He tweeted: “Mentions are literally full of verified libtards claiming ‘George Orwell was Antifa’. Please keep sending them. Incredible material".

He added: “Does any other libtard want to claim that 'George Orwell would have been Antifa'? You'll be guaranteed a place in my next video”.

Responding to the criticism, Mr Watson has now said: "Of course I know that Orwell fought fascists in Spain."

This is not the first time Mr Watson has engaged in a debate with Mr Stuchbery. At the end of July, Mr Watson complained about the BBC portraying Roman Britain as ethnically diverse.

“Thank God the BBC is portraying Roman Britain as ethnically diverse. I mean, who cares about historical accuracy, right?” he wrote on Twitter.

Mr Stuchbery came forward to give him another history lesson on ethnic diversity in Roman Britain.

“Roman Britain was ethnically diverse, almost by design. To begin, occupying legions were drawn from other parts of the Empire,” he said.

“Every year we dig up new remains that suggest that Roman Britain, anywhere larger than a military outpost, was an ethnically diverse place.”

Mr Watson, who grew up in Sheffield, has over one million subscribers on his YouTube channel and recently published videos with titles including “20 Questions for Burka Wearers”, “Finsbury Mosque Terror: What They’re NOT Telling You,” “Staged Video Shows ‘Refugee’ Fake Drowning,” “The Truth about Refugees” and “Why Leftists Submit to Terror.”

The New York Times recently branded his videos “straightforward nativist polemics, with a particular focus on Europe" and also drew attention to his opposition to modernist architecture and modern art.

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