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The BNP and our sick democracy


1:15 am - September 8th 2009

by Chris Dillow    


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The question of whether the BNP should appear on Question Time raises a worrying question for the health of our democracy.
Matthew Syed thinks the BNP should appear,  on the Millian grounds that:

The more oxygen they are given to publicise their views, the more the British people will choke on their bigotry and hatred.

But this runs into Paul Sagar’s objection – that QT is not a platform for debate but merely a zoo in which soundbites are vomited into an audience who clap like hyperactive seals.

There’s a danger that Nick Griffin could actually emerge well from such a show.

His imbecile beliefs lend themselves better to cheap slogans than do arguments in favour of immigration – especially as viewers have been primed by the trash media to give credence to such beliefs, and as his opponents are likely to be discredited ministers who lack the courage to make the case for immigration.

Indeed, as Bart Cammaerts notes, Belgian experience suggests the far right does gain votes as it gets media coverage.
Which raies the question: where are the arenas which do permit a sufficient exercise of public reason as to expose the BNP for what they are? Of course, there are websites that do this, and occasional reports, even from the BBC, that do so.

What we lack, though – especially outside the internet – is an infrastructure or culture that can underpin deliberative democracy, and can improve public discourse. The BBC seems to think its job is to merely reflect a public opinion which has been debased by its private sector rivals.

Without such a public sphere, the BNP – far from withering from the oxygen of publicity – might actually thrive with it.

In this sense, the question of whether we should give a platform to the BNP is a knotty one precisely because the institutions needed to sustain a truly healthy democracy are weak or even absent.

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About the author
Chris Dillow is a regular contributor and former City economist, now an economics writer. He is also the author of The End of Politics: New Labour and the Folly of Managerialism. Also at: Stumbling and Mumbling
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Media ,Our democracy ,Race relations

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Reader comments


Perhaps Labour’s longstanding method of simply freezing them out is actually the right way to deal with the BNP.

But I’m certain, if the Tories pick up the mantle, that Labour will unfairly lose in the public image battle.

but Paul isn’t correct is he, the panel is scrutinised, Eric Pickles for example. For better or for worse (I say better) everything Griffin will say will be booed. There is plenty of uncomfortable questions for Griff, for example how do you the bnp’s opinions weigh up officially on the holocaust, Isreal, or the RAF* now that it isn’t explicitly neo-nazi anymore. Why does the bnp breed nutters, admiral duncan bomber, Finsbury park tube, Matthew Single (not on same par I admit). He’ll reply with blh blah liberal elite, blah blah pc gone mad, but no one really identifies with these things. I know its not the popular thing, especially for my party, but I’m with Syed on this one (insofar as I understand that the sum of his opinion is…) let thick Griffin on the show, he has’t a modicum of respectability outside his own clan, he thinks climate change is a myth, he is recorded on film saying, next to David Duke, that bnp fakes family-party image for electoral gains only, he disputes the numbers of the holocaust, he’s little more than an raised eyebrow in Europe, fuck them, let them on, they’re shit, let them hang themselves.

*RAF – Griff in that magazine he once edited in the explicitly neo nazi days poured scorn on the RAF for their part in WWII [http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1187368/Family-Winston-Churchill-slams-BNP-far-right-partys-attempt-hijack-wartime-leaders-legacy.html]

BNP and Question Time

There are serious issues at stake here and it is not enough simply to be in favour of banning the BNP because they are racist or letting them speak on the grounds of free speech. It seems to me that the BBC is in a difficult position. If a legitimate political party is elected to public office within legitimate branches of local, national or international government, then publically funded media have to consider giving them a voice; otherwise no smaller parties would be properly represented by public media. In that sense, the BNP might benefit from the political correctness of minority representation as much as the Green Party or other smaller groups. And while, in my view, the BNP is not a legitimate political party, successive governments have not seen fit to ban or curtail the BNP (or their predecessors the NF) over several decades.

What we have here is an example of how racism has become so endemic that no major political party, no senior judges and no official watchdogs (such as the EHRC) have dared take them on. Racism is, after all, a problem in all our political parties and institutions and to move strongly against the BNP would be to make a symbolic move against racists in other parties; in other words, it is drawing a line in the sand that might disadvantage the major parties electorally. The BNP is seen by other parties as useful caricature against which their own racist tendencies seem mild by comparison.

The EHRC itself has few teeth and judges are prone to take a mild line against racist institutions on the basis of generations of similar precedent judgements and the fear of seeming too politically radical. What needs to happen is that the letter of the law needs to be enforced concerning racism. And for that to happen, racism itself needs to be better understood by the power-elite. It is not enough to see racism in terms of its violent or aggressive symptoms (such as physical attacks or verbal abuse on vulnerable targets); racism must be seen for what it is: the prejudicial advantaging or disadvantaging of particular identifiable groups on the basis of skin colour, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexuality, disability or age. In that sense, anti-racist organisations need to learn from feminism. And if one might reasonably conclude that feminism has taken several steps back over the past two decades in the wake of the continuing successes of white-male-patriarchy in the form of high-consumerism, then it is no surprise that anti-racist measures by government and its agencies continue to back-pedal for the same reasons.

The recession has only made things worse. All manner of disadvantaged groups get the blame in recessionary times and the media are all too quick to sell advertising on the strength of popular fears of otherness. In combination with the fear of terrorist threats, resource scarcity and environmental disaster, the fear of otherness is both consequential and symbiotic. Those of us who are anti-racist must thus keep making the point that it is unacceptable for any group or party to base any policy or action on the grounds that some groups of persons are acceptable and others are not on the basis of their physiology or self-identification. But if we are loath to tackle such problems within out own groups, employers and political parties, how can we expect to see Government, the law or the EHRC do better?

I oppose the BNP appearing on Question Time; not only because the BNP may gain political advantage but because the BNP should have, and should be, banned under existing legislation. The trajedy is that, with racism as entrenched throughout society as it is, the BNP will continue to grow from strength to strength unless existing elected politicians empower the EHRC and the courts to stop them. I fear for the future, it’s going to be much, much worse than you think.

Best wishes

Nick

#2

#For better or for worse (I say better) everything Griffin will say will be booed.#

“Welcome to Question Time..this week we’ve travelled to Burnley…on our panel…”

Better hold it in Brighton, eh? Or invite a specially vetted audience. It’s a question of …er…”balance”….

Good point though, the audience will be all important.

6. the a&e charge nurse

You can’t FORCE people not to be racist Nick [4] – whether the BNP do, or do not appear on QT it will not make one iota of difference to the reasons why Griffin’s goons attracted nearly a million voters in the first place – I wish it were that simple.

Chris Dillow says, “QT is not a platform for debate but merely a zoo in which soundbites are vomited into an audience” – so why will the show have its 30th birthday on 25th September, surely it must have demonstrated some merit over the last three decades?

QT is not a platform for debate but merely a zoo in which soundbites are vomited into an audience

That is very funny, and accurate.

QT is on past my normal bedtime, but when I have seen it the enjoyment comes from the audience vomiting back all over the politicians.

On the BNP, given that it is a legal party (whether it should be or not @4 is another issue – though how banning them will do anything to combat the racism you claim is “endemic” I don’t know) with elected representatives, the state-funded broadcaster has no choice but to allow them on such shows.

@5 – the audience is “vetted” on QT and has been “managed” in the past, eg notoriously after 7/7 they arranged for 15% of the audience to be Muslim…though not sure what the best mix would be to ensure Griffin is roasted.

8. Mike Killingworth

There is one point which worries me even more than allowing Griffin to appear on QT. It has been the Beeb’s practice to give tickets for the show to local constituency parties (to ensure a full house – they discovered that simply advertising them in the local press wouldn’t do the business. Hence the bear-pit nature of the programme). So Griffin can now point out, on the Beeb, that he is being discriminated against, because you can be sure that the local BNP branch won’t be offered tickets…

My advice to the Beeb is to decide that the format is life-expired. Perhaps we could discuss what form a replacement programme might take. I think we should accept that it isn’t possible to find an audience which is both politically balanced and open-minded and so we should go for the latter. A more intimate group, say 8 to a dozen, and an after-dinner conversation, maybe, rather than a formal Q&A?

“but Paul isn’t correct is he, the panel is scrutinised, Eric Pickles for example.”

Er, you can booing somebody (in that case, completely rightly) scrutiny?

I call it booing somebody.

As for the idea that QT offered up anything like *debate* on that episode (or any other) well pull the other one. Notice that in my piece about QT, I was quite explicit that QT fails as a debate show, not that it fails as a “let’s boo at the politicians” show. It manifestly doesn’t fail at that…but then, you have to ask what the value of that really amounts to. Cos it certainly aint reasoned discourse.

“that QT is not a platform for debate but merely a zoo in which soundbites are vomited into an audience who clap like hyperactive seals.”

Haha. Yes. Exactly. Hyperactive seals indeed.

10. the a&e charge nurse

[9] so the BNP puts the knife in the heart of a 30 year old institution – will any other programming be affected by their two seats?

“the question of whether we should give a platform to the BNP is a knotty one ”

No it’s not. It’s really very simple. The BNP have been democratically elected in this country and therefore deserve a slot of Question Time. I don’t care what you think about their politics and their views, nor do I care whether they gain votes or lose votes as a result of appearing on the show. On the grounds of BBC impartiality the BNP must be on Question Time. End of story.

Let Griffin go on QT. Sit him between Alesha Dixon and Ashley Cole. Grill him for the full hour on whether Dixon and Cole are ‘British’, ‘indigenous’, etc. Talk about nothing else. Use the editor’s privilege liberally, but not dishonestly. Make sure it is held somewhere like Edinburgh, Brighton or Oxford. Pick the audience very carefully, even reduce the audience numbers drastically if necessary.

The aim should be a 30 second clip of Griffin trying to explain why Ashley Cole shouldn’t be here, why he shouldn’t be playing for England and where he’s supposed to go.

Admittedly this would be a change of format, which is a bit to formulaic on QT.

One more thing. The BNP are a minor party. One way to deal with this is to have a ‘minor party special’ on some pretext. Not only will you be able to deal with the BNP as I stated above, but anyone watching can see the representatives for UKIP, Green, CA etc. Those who vote BNP as a protest, may switch to one of the others.

If it is NOT illegal – then on what basis can we ban anything from appearing on TV? Therefore, first vote for a party that will make the BNP and other alike illegal entities. Otherwise, as a democracy we have to give them appropriate access as with all other political parties.

Remember – discrimination in ALL its forms is unacceptable.

The debate therefore is futile, let’s have them on QT, hopefully the Beeb will have others on the panel who are good at responding and showing Nick for what he really is !

One wonders why a similar fuss was not kicked up when members of the far-left RESPECT Party have appeared on QT. I believe they were supported by such charming organisations as the CPGB and the SWP. Not to mention a bunch of religious extremists.

In fact I’ve always wondered why the Left gets wound up by the Far Right but the Right doesn’t seem to get wound up by the Far Left.

“the Right doesn’t seem to get wound up by the Far Left”

Are you quite sure about that?

So what are our schools then, if not a public sphere in which the BNP arguments can be challenged? Heard of “citizenship” classes? It’s wall-to-wall soggy leftism in there – so many human rights and so much diversity you can’t hear yourself think. Of course, the right to free speech is ignored – but then the Left doesn’t like that one.

Seems to me what you’re saying is that the BNP should only be permitted to put their arguments to a brainwashed audience. Which, given the way the BBC stuffs QT with labour supporters, it probably will be.

BTW, what *are* the arguments for continued immigration to this country?

Haha lol @ FrankFisher and the BBC conspiracy theory.

(Whisper it quietly, but it’s true! The BBC does check people at the QT door to check they brought their Labour membership cards…)

Also, Frank, presumably our kids should go to school and learn that human beings don’t have rights and the homogeneity is a great thing and that different coloured people who pray to different gods are bad?

Would you prefer that?

Bear in mind that saying “it shouldn’t be taught in schools, it should be taught in’t home” may well amount to the same thing, albeit via omission rather than comission….

The BBC does manage the QT audience composition.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/newswatch/ukfs/hi/newsid_4730000/newsid_4735500/4735515.stm

And if you apply to attend (I did once, apply that is, though I couldn’t go in the end) you are asked about your political affiliation.

Though these days if it wanted to pack it with Labour supporters I’m not sure where it would find them!

Tend to agree with @astateofdenmark. It’s true that QT is mostly rubbish, and I can’t see how Griffin’s appearance on it can change anyone’s mind about the BNP. He’ll be careful not to be too overtly racist and play instead on what he perceives are populist BNP themes. Existing BNP supporters will lap it up (as they will any vitriol directed at him); BNP opponents will say “told you so.” Are there really hordes of Tories who need a final bit of convincing about repatriation to switch their vote? Wouldn’t they be a teensy bit put off by nationalisation and trade tariffs? Is Gordon Brown so useless that lots of Labour voters are ready to plunge into fascism? I don’t wish to be complacent, but sunlight really is the best disinfectant.

The one danger is that the mainstream pols will fumble the ball – probably by being overly aggressive. The way to expose this horrid little creep is subtlety and gently crushing logic, not bile. It’s all about torque, not raw power. Make him look silly – if you attack and it becomes a shouting match, he wins.

Be interesting to see which journo/lobbyist/celeb they get for the panel. I know she’s on all the time, but I reckon Shami Chakrabarti is the woman for the job. Worst outcome? Trevor Phillips. He lacks the finesse required to really gut the bastard…

“(Whisper it quietly, but it’s true! The BBC does check people at the QT door to check they brought their Labour membership cards…)”

Umm – the BBC does check political affiliation for QT audiences.

“Also, Frank, presumably our kids should go to school and learn that human beings don’t have rights and the homogeneity is a great thing and that different coloured people who pray to different gods are bad?”

Who said that? But they should not be taught that you cannot think that – for instance – one religion is not superior to others, or that you shouldn’t disparage religion, or that everyone not only has equal rights, but is exactly equal and interchangeable, or that you shouldn’t say what you believe if someone else is going to come along and claim to be offended by your belief.

Nor should they come away with the idea that our established culture of free and open discussion is something that should be set aside if the discussion takes a turn that the Left aren’t happy with.

This article does rather seem to imply that the British public are inbred morons, ready to march straight to the ballot box and vote for whichever candidate has the nicest sounding name. I have a bit more faith in them than that (most of them, anyway). I don’t think that the public need to be protected from the words and thoughts of the BNP. I find the idea that the three big parties won’t be able to beat the BNP in debate to be completely ludicrous. So there you go.

i’m not happy about the lack of consideration for free speech.

I thought this was supposed to be a LIBERAL forum. Being a liberal means tolerating those you don’t agree with, even when they are nasty racist nutters. the point is that everyone seems to be calculating what to do on the basis of what will do most damage to the BNP, rather than considering what is best for democracy. I know the BNP in power is bad for democracy as we all know what they’d do, but i’m getting pretty sick of so called ‘liberals’ trying to deny basic liberal rights to people they disagree (very strongly) with.

I say let the BNP on Question Time. The BBC have a duty to allow them on and reflect public opinion. The people who vote BNP are licence payers too.

If Old Nick is shouted down the by the ‘Liberal elite’ that will play into the hands of the BNP. Remember, the BNP are not looking to win votes from nice, Liberal people who think immigration ‘has gone too far’. The BNP are trying to win votes from those people who dislike non-white people and feel that those that do are traitors.

Left wing people booing will prove to the BNPs potential electorate that Griffin is saying the ‘right’ thing, in much the same way that, say being booed by the blue rinse Tories would mean that Tony Benn (for example) has saying the right thing.

The other reason I want the BNP on the programme is for those who have little exposure of the BNP and their supporters will see how widespread sympathy, if not actual support the likes of Griffin actually has. People in the nicest suburbs have little idea of the feelings that many in this Country have regarding race and immigration has. Perhaps a ‘scientifically selected audience’ (as AFAIAA, the QT audience is) clapping will be a wake up call to the enormity of the task we have of overturning the BNPs support.

monkeyfish 5#

Well I heard that a problem with booking Griffin is that a lot of BNP members will want to get their claws on tickets, but I think this will work in the contrary too, lots of anti-racists, or as its known, everyone else, will want to put him on the spot. Things have not gone to plan for them since the EuroElections. They thought this year was theirs, he he he!!

Paul 10#

Another example was Margaret Beckett, she couldn’t get a word in edgeways with the audience’s remarks, and she was on the backfoot, it certainly didn’t work to her advantage. But Griffin will get on plenty of peoples nerves, I imagine it will be chaos, and you’re right there isn’t sufficient debate, although the lack of usual platform for debate won’t stop anyone this time, people are going to be signing up to appear on that panel just to rip chunks out of Griffo.

The other problem is that this is not the BBC’s fault, the people who have given this party lifeblood is the shits who voted for them, they’ve made this possible.

Dear the a&e charge nurse (#7),

One can not force people not to commit murder either but we choose to have laws and penalties to discourage murder and keep murderers off the streets. Children are not born racists; societal forces have helped to create them; racism is a forced/learned state of mind and we ignore that at our peril. I’m suggesting we push hard against racism (and all the other irrational prejudices) and use existing legislation – but we need anti-racist judges and law firms willing to push hard. The BNP is the tip of the iceberg and the EHRC is under-equipped to do much more than chip flakes off the top.

best wishes

Nick

“This article does rather seem to imply that the British public are inbred morons, ready to march straight to the ballot box and vote for whichever candidate has the nicest sounding name. I have a bit more faith in them than that (most of them, anyway).”

I don’t. (prove me wrong, britain, prove me wrong)

Benevelont dictatorship is the way forward I say. I only post here because nobody has created ‘authoritarian conspiracy’ yet.

More seriously, the problem isn’t so much the BNP’s appearence, but the fact nobody else in the mainstream parties is going to be capable of making pro-immigration arguments. We’ve had over a decade of hysteria about immigration that leads to moronic comments about britain having an open door policy (it doesn’t – anyone who thinks this is asked to explain why it would be necessary to have a campaign to allow Iraqi interpreters into the UK if we actually did have an open doors policy) and frequent inaccurate assertions about the benefits immigrants are entitled to. So much so that I doubt even the more literate and nuanced members of the anti-immigration brigade would be capable of writing a few paragraphs that put the pro-immigration case if a gun was stuck to their head – which isn’t the case with other political issues where most people at least know some of the arguments against their own position. I’d rather see Griffin face a couple of academics from Compas or the centre for migration policy research than a couple of loyal party hacks reciting the party line.

For that matter I’d rather see an entire panel of experienced academics discuss the issues of the day than a bunch of party loyalists more interested in making soundbites. Imagine a panel comprising proffessors of economics, criminolgy, international relations, history, social policy and physics. Now that would be worth watching.

Dear Bearded Socialist #25,

And I’d like to have the freedom to walk down the street, join community groups, take part in society and have good employment opportunities without being harassed and rejected. Freedom of speech is fine and dandy as long as such freedoms are available to all; sadly they are not.

Best wishes

Nick

“Freedom of speech is fine and dandy as long as such freedoms are available to all; sadly they are not.”

How so? Sorry chum, you don’t get to start snipping away rights simply because you *claim* some people can’t make use of them. Most of us outside the Left quite like freedom of speech, some inside the left are bright enough to realise in the long run it benefits them too – so I think we’ll keep it, ta.

Nick – I’m nervous about your position. If I irrationally dislike something (irrational in your view, that is, and something you like), does that mean I simply need to be brainwashed out of that preference? Cultural change is a glacier, not an avalanche – “chipping away”, even if that means generation by generation, is a much better way of permanently eradicating what you an I might consider Bad Thoughts than banning discussion of them. There will be turning points – and I hope you’re the kind of person who can make them count. But overall, changing attitudes is all about patience and reason.

I guess I feel the same about Afghanistan: all people should be equal under the eyes of the law and in society. In 100 years, I have no doubt whatsoever that Afghan women will be equal. My heart breaks at the subjugation they’re put through by the Taliban now. But bombing them because they’re wrong doesn’t actually hasten the desired outcome, it just entrenches the bigotry. We have to work smarter. (All human systems decay towards atheism in the end. If we’re not all atheist humanitarians, it’s not the end…)

Planeshift has it right: there is no *logic* to the BNP’s position on… well, on pretty much anything. Expose that. It’s so much more effective at winning hearts and minds than an empassioned plea to Do The Right Thing. Take out the emotion and drive the stake of facts and common sense through their black little hearts.

Can seals clap? I thought that was sea-lions.

(But perhaps it’s just the hyperactive seals that can clap.)

Nick Nakorn

Agreed. I oppose what the BNP stand for on the basis that they would certainly curtail rights for some, however i defend their rights to say what they like until they are in a position of power to stop other people excercising their rights. Then i’ll go on and on about how important rights are and the whole thing comes round again

Planeshift at Number 29.

I’m certainly with you on the panel of specialists rather than party hacks, sounds amazing. But there would only be you and me watching it because it’s ‘boring’. Even if we got thousands to sign up to support it, it wouldn’t never get off the ground because it’s not ‘young’ or ‘sexy’ enough.

On addressing the issues, you’re quite right.
The media are full of stories every day about migrants coming over here, stealing our jobs, lazing around on benefits, committing crimes, overtaking our culture, putting down the ingenous people.
I don’t think it’s true, but the fact that it’s there all day every day makes it become near enough true.
That, to me, is a big part of the problem. I wonder how much of the BNP’s support comes from personal experience, how much from the media

Dear Frank Fisher #31,

I agree that in an ideal world, free speech should be a valued and defended. But, because many people are violent, unreasonable, greedy and otherwise unpleasant we have many laws already that (sometimes) sensibly restrict such freedoms. If I, for example, verbally encouraged a crime by verbally making a contract with another to kill a third party I would be guilty regardless of the fact that all I did was talk to someone. In other words, there are many reasons for regarding the content of communications as being subject to legal challenge.

It is my experience that life is easier and more tolerable when prejudicial statements are considered unhelpful. The extent to which freedom of speech is curtailed is thus a valuable debate but to assume that no limits should be applied would be to undermine the very basis of our legal system: imagine a court room where shouting loudly is the order of the day, where lies are perfectly acceptable. We restrict and direct content all the time, that is what civilisation is – without it we are simply directionless anarchists hurling insults and worse.

My claim that not all are able to exercise free speech is true; there are many groups of people and individuals in this country, and around the world, who do not share the privilages of the power elite and are easily silenced by those in power. To assume otherwise seems to me to be naive. In the 1950s and 60s I witnessed a great deal of verbal intimidation to which meaningful responses were impossible because the vast majority of the population supported prejudice. In the 1970s and 1980s things improved while now it is my experience that the situation is slipping back.

Dear Richard #32,

I agree that reform is better than revolution and that change takes time. I’m just chipping away too. But part of the act of chipping away and moving the glacier (I see it as ship rather than a glacier) is to try and persuade people that the glacier should go in one direction rather than another. I am not wholly convinced, though, that logic always wins through in the end – I wish it was so. Power is usually much more persuasive and it is always the ilogical and unreasonable people who have the guns and agression. I’m not a pacifist but would love see the world put down arms. Meanwhile, it is better that people of good heart ensure that their messages are heard as loudly as those who subjugate us. If our children are not persuaded (brainwashed) by us, they will undoubtedly be brainwashed by others and I would prefer my non-racist values to prevail. Rational analysis is a skill while prejudice gives instant gratification to the purpetrators; thus groups greedy for power grow and grow.

Best wishes all,

Nick

Binky-in-Romania

thanks dick head, of course no “indigenous” people ever commit crimes

(in response to below)
“Author: Binky-in-Romania
Comment:
It would be amusing to hear Postman Pat, currently the person playing at being Home Secretary, telling Nick Griffin exactly WHY Britain really truly needs a few million more Somalis, Sudanis, Congolese, Cameroonians, Kurds [and so on] and to hear Griffin’s rejoinder.

As we all know, Postman Pat thinks Britain really deserves the influx of a few million extra Third Worlders.

Maybe he thinks the prisons are still far too empty and that there are too few rapes, muggings and murders.”

Bearded Socialist – I believe the appropriate phrase here is “please do not feed the trolls”. Some alert moderator excised BiR’s comment pretty quickly and it doesn’t add anything to the debate (being both contrary to the rules of constructive posting; factually wrong; and just idiotic – although that is a personal opinion). Might be best to remove your perhaps over-generous quoting of it?

“I agree that in an ideal world, free speech should be a valued and defended. ”

And in this world too Nick. Regardless of the imbalance in media, or self generated media, or on street corners, all should have free speech – you cannot level down!

Yes, we have rules and laws governing speech – far too many, and far too many introduced by Labour. I dont’ have to accept these, and I don’t. Nor are the various limitations justification for further limits. So far as I am concerned there should be no limits on speech – the only partial exception might be where someone is making a direct and unambiguous threat of violence to a specific individual where there is a real and immediate likelihood of that violence being carried out; in that instance the speech is part of an *act* of intimidation.

thought that might have been the case.
Think it’s too late to do anything about my quoting it too.
Not too sure about the bit calling him a dick head

40. the a&e charge nurse

[28] I cannot reconcile your position with true democracy, Nick.

The BNP are not illegal (although many would argue they should be), they have elected representatives and at the last count nearly 1 million supporters.

Now I suspect very few here would not like to see the back of them – but accusing the BNP of being anti-democratic then adopting a similar non-democratic stance (albeit for honorable reasons) is morally indefensible.

The merits of QT as a debating chamber is a red herring, IMO – as far as possible Aunty should remain politically neutral.

Put Griffin on the stand – I don’t think the visually impaired BNP leader will have any more luck than his NuLab counter-part who is slowly losing his grip on the country.

41. Catherine Fieschi

If you look at the far right elsewhere in Europe, it’s very clear that they thrive on media attention and access to respectable platforms. the minute you turn the tap of the media off, they tend to fare less well. While it’s appealing to think that hearing them talk will set decent people running away from them, it doesn’t work in practice. In practice the likes of Nick Griffin are skilled at dodging questions, bullying journalists and scoring cheap points. These parties play by different rules and don’t pull their punches–I’ve never come across a journalist willing to resort to the tactics that would give the far right a real bloody nose. The people who – occasionally – get the better of them are other, tougher politicians. Will we have any of them on the programme?
More to the point, most people know what the BNP stands for–it’s not about dispelling myths and revealing their ‘true colours’–; their true colours are abundantly clear and the only thing that stands between some people and a vote for the BNP is the fact that the BNP are still considered beyond the pale. Allow them into the mainstream and you remove the one thing that keeps some voters’ frustration against mainstream parties from turning into a BNP protest vote.

Dear the a&e charge nurse #42

I would like to think that there was such a thing as true democracy but I don’t. I believe democracy is an unobtainable ideal to which we move incrementally and, like true happiness, it is a relative process and a relative experience. Perfection is wholly unrealistic. Neo-nazi parties such as the BNP are not interested in democracy for all. The process of democracy relies on the enfranchisement of democrats and the disenfranchisement of anti-democratic forces. I completely understand how my position seems paradoxical but my concerns for social justice lead me to the view that fascism is not a valid player in a mixed social democracy. Ethically, I consider the BNP to be a criminal organisation even if the current Government and judicial system seem to think otherwise.

It is not easy to know where to draw these lines and my opinion may or may not prove to be correct. Nevertheless, the idea that an imperfect democratic system should make itself even less perfect by allowing fascist parties to thrive is, I believe, nonsensical. If we have learned anything from European history it is that fascism thrives when unopposed.

Catherine Fieschi (#43), I agree entirely; your assessment is correct in my view; if bullies and thugs think they can get away with their actions then they will act. I understand and have sympathy with those who stick to a purer line of enfranchisement for the thugs and total free speech but such pure thoughts are always at the expense of BME groups, women, gay people and other disadvantaged groups. For us, such purities lead to real violence and intimidation levelled against us and I, for one, would not wish that on future generations.

Best wishes

Nick

Catherine: “most people know what the BNP stands for–it’s not about dispelling myths and revealing their ‘true colours’–; their true colours are abundantly clear and the only thing that stands between some people and a vote for the BNP is the fact that the BNP are still considered beyond the pale.”

I’m not sure that’s true. I suspect – I don’t know – that many people are attracted by the BNP because they are afraid or dissatisfied with their lot. People often take refuge in nationalism when that’s the case, seeking an enemy that is “other” to explain why they’ve been stiffed. They actually don’t look too hard at the policies or – critically – the logic or practicality of the party. They see anti-Europe, Brits first, anti-PC – and they think, “well why not?”

Keeping the lid on them won’t stop that happening. In fact, it might make it worse. If you think that’s all the BNP actually is, you might be tempted to vote for them as a protest vote. I suspect – I hope – that if many of those people actually hear how the BNP’s logic stacks up (i.e. not), most people thus tempted might realise they’re a bunch of dangerous simpletons and *not* vote for them.

(Actually, that’s probably a redundant argument – this is QT we’re talking about, not Top Gear. Different demographic, innit. Nick Griffin in a reasonably priced car, anyone? Perhaps they could drop a caravan on him…)

Nick – see, now, this is why the BNP gain ground. Once you say tyranny is fine so long as it’s our tyranny, people get their backs up. They say “fight fire with fire” and you get otherwise perfectly nice people voting for the hate-mongers.

Was it right to gag Gerry Adams in the 1980s? I didn’t think so at the time. Did you? I think gagging Nick Griffin might be just as counter-productive. This is a debate we *have* to win. If we choose not to have it, we automatically lose. Your QT panel will be BNP-free, but your thugs in the street will grow in number and that’s where BME groups, women, gay people and other disadvantaged groups really lose out.

I just hope we have some mainstream politicians with the intellect, moral certainty, courage and charisma to win handsomely in the public forums and enough decent ordinary people to win on the streets.

Dear Frank Fisher #40,

I find such libertarian individualism immensely appealing and would like to think such a position was politically sound. But as much as I might fancy myself as Clint Eastwood, I don’t actually believe that such freedoms lead to peace and democracy. I sincerely think that atomistic social norms lead to the most aggressive people taking charge and running everything while the more peaceful, fearful and gentle among us are told to shut up and do as we are told; it ups the level of potential violence if protection before the law is not assumed. Now one might believe that sticks and stones break the bones and words are rarely harmful, but, having been subject to both physical and verbal intimidation I can say that the constant drip-drip of verbal abuse is just as damaging to one’s life as physical attacks and much harder, in the current climate, to prevent.

So I don’t disagree that your ideal would be splendid if people were different, I simply don’t think the human race has sufficient capacity for self control and altruism to ensure success.

Best wishes

Nick

Dear Richard #46,

I understand your concerns but do not think that fighting tyranny is itself a tyranical act; it’s defensive. Nationalism in any form does not appeal to me but nationalism can be democratically sound and inclusive – the SNP, for example is democratic, socially oriented and hugely interested in promoting social justice for all the citizens of Scotland and visitors too. The BNP is none of those. The IRA/SF, on the other hand, was rightly made illegal because its methods were both unethical and illegal, even if its anti-imperialistic aims were legitimate. It was perfectly logical to assist and persuade the IRA/SF to demilitarise and to attempt reconciliations between the opposing factions in N. Ireland on the basis that hostilities on both sides should cease. By the same token, one might attempt to persuade the BNP to make changes – if they were more like the SNP, there would be no problem. Meanwhile, one should consider the BNP unwelcome in the public arena until such time as they renounce racism and racist policies and opinions.

None of this is easy and there are no perfect solutions. But I am convinced that while the oxygen of publicity surrounding a ban might, as you suggest, boost the BNP, I am also convinced that legitimising the BNP by allowing them a public platform on a publically funded network would give them an even greater boost. Either of us might be prooved right or wrong on this matter but I, for one, have seen all this before when Powell was fired from the Conservative Party. Though Powell was not considered criminally liable; his subsequent media exposure did race-relations untold harm and we are suffering from the effects to this day. We should push and push for ostracising the BNP at every opportunity.

Best wishes

Nick

Mike Killingworth @9: “My advice to the Beeb is to decide that the format is life-expired. Perhaps we could discuss what form a replacement programme might take. I think we should accept that it isn’t possible to find an audience which is both politically balanced and open-minded and so we should go for the latter. A more intimate group, say 8 to a dozen, and an after-dinner conversation, maybe, rather than a formal Q&A?”

That sounds bizarrely like the dinner party sketches on Bremner, Bird and Fortune where Griffin would fit in wonderfully…

As a serious idea, the dinner party/cosy sofa/cafe bar scenario can only work with ex-politicians or retiring ones who can speak freely. We’ve had a few like it — for example, the BBC programme with Abbott, Brillo and Portillo which is occasionally illuminating. Such programmes work because the guests are encouraged to act as human beings rather than party politicians. Plus some first class flirting.

Nick Nakorn @48: “…I, for one, have seen all this before when Powell was fired from the Conservative Party. Though Powell was not considered criminally liable; his subsequent media exposure did race-relations untold harm and we are suffering from the effects to this day.”

I’m not a Powell supporter in any way, but a few comments.

At the February 1974 election, Powell called on anti-EEC voters to back Labour. He was not a candidate at the election but resigned from the Conservative party. He was never ejected from the Conservative party, but he was sacked from the shadow cabinet following the Rivers of Blood speech in 1968, acting as a Tory MP for nearly six years.

I have problems with the argument that Powell was an instigator of race hatred. He was a mirror of racist sentiment in the Conservative party of that time and certainly made Britain a less pleasant land, but he didn’t create it. Racists were already all over the Conservative party and holding high office. The infamous Smethwick parliamentary election (If you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour) was conducted in 1964. Powell tested the water in the Conservative party and the West Midlands electorate before hitching his wagon.

Vile opportunist: yes; Instigator: no.

cjcjc: The National Front is also a registered political party who have a policy of forced repatriation of all ethnic minorities. You can view the Register here http://registers.electoralcommission.org.uk/regulatory-issues/regpoliticalparties.cfm?ec={ts%20%272009-09-08%2019%3A59%3A41%27}
Being a registered party means sod all – if you don’t believe me read the Electoral Commission guidance which helpfully explains that the only part of the constitution they read is the bit relating to finance. So if you fancy setting up the National Paedophile Party there is nothing the Electoral Commission can do to stop you

Expose them for what they are ?

Well there are many who would like what they have to say, impossible though it is for some of you to grasp this fact.

Dear Charlieman #50,

I find myself agreeing with much of what you say, and thanks for the additional historical information. I think the line between opportunist and instigator is pretty thin and pretty blurred inasmuch as focus, support and media coverage can tip a near-virtual community over the edge of the critical mass required to mainstream a movement (sorry about the clumsy prose).

In that respect, Powell was hugely influential.

Dear Hantsboy #52,

I so agree. There might be a tiny number of voters unaware of the racist intent of the BNP but, with the publicity the BNP have had over the years it is inconceivable that the majority of BNP voters are ignorant of the general values to which they are signing up. Making the BNP ‘respectable’ via established shows such as QT may well, in my view, attract racist voters to their cause who otherwise vote elsewhere.

I think there is a massive gap in perception between those who think that racism is purpetrated by a small minority and those, like me, who see it everywhere. Clearly, my perception and my fears might be exagerated due to my experiences but, even if the truth lies somewhere in between, the potential for racist fascism is much much greater than the media would have us believe.

Best wishes all,

Nick

It is totally obvious that most posters are wholly ignorant of what BNP policy actuall IS!

Pluck up your courage, go to the BNP website and read the BNP’s policies for yourselves.

Anyway, it’s obvious to all that Britain REALLY needs more Somalis and Sudanese!

#51

The National Paedophile Party sounds cool!

It ought to win a substantial support from Muslims; just keep banging on about little Aisha’s fun-filled experience at the age of nine!


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