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Questioning the BNP


12:58 pm - September 28th 2009

by Padraig Reidy    


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Well, it’s happened. The BBC has announced that British National Party leader Nick Griffin MEP will appear on political discussion show Question Time on 22 October. Facing him (among others) will be Justice Secretary Jack Straw, a man believed by frequenters of far-right web forums to be a key part of the International Jewish Conspiracy.

I mention this partly because it will be interesting to see if Nick Griffin manages not to mention it when he faces Straw. Griffin, of course, is the author of the 1995 pamphlet Who Are The Mindbenders, which catalogues in some detail how Jewish (and in many cases “Jew-ish”) people control the media.

While the BNP is now more noted for its anti-Muslim outpourings, it retains a root in classic far-right conspiracy theories on pernicious Judaism.

Anti-fascist website Hope Not Hate just last week claimed to uncover an audio file of Griffin and party comrade Simon Darby alleging that “anti-Islamisation” group the English Defence League is in fact a “Zionist false flag operation”.

But does any of this count in the matter of whether the party should be represented on Question Time? Only in the sense that it would be nice if others on the panel mentioned it. Apart from that, one would have to say no.

I have argued previously that the right to free speech is not the same as the right to a platform: and I stand by this assertion. However, the BBC’s status as a publicly-funded, public service broadcaster complicates this point. The BBC is not in a position now to grant the BNP legitimacy in the political process: it is the people who voted for them who have done this.

As long as we operate as a representative democracy, then voters must be represented in the public sphere, whether in the council chamber, parliament or on the state broadcaster.

And of course, the BNP has already been represented on the BBC many times. It is sufficiently “legitimate” already to be allowed party political broadcasts: Griffin has appeared on Newsnight, albeit on his own after others interviewees refused to speak with him, and BNP member Lee Barnes has appeared on BBC Radio 4 ethics programme the Moral Maze (alongside Index on Censorship editor Jo Glanville).

The argument about whether the BNP should appear on Question Time, then, is moot. The issue now is arguing with the BNP on Question Time.

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Also posted at Index on Censorship Free Speech Blog

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About the author
Padraig Reidy is an occasional contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He is news editor of Index on Censorship and former deputy editor of New Humanist. His work has also featured in the Guardian, the Independent, Tribune, the Irish Examiner and the Irish Post.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Civil liberties ,Media ,Race relations

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Reader comments


I’d love to see Lee Barnes on there, being confronted with posts he’s made here and at Pickled Politics. If any of you get invited to be in the audience ask Griffin does he agree with a few choice quotes.

DO NOT BEHAVE LIKE BAYING MORONS AND TRY TO SHOUT HIM DOWN.

It’s not a student debating society, you aren’t being watched by people who will automatically agree with you.

Don’t make the BNP look like ‘victims’.

This is interesting stuff.

Griffin is mad keen on his conpsiracy theories, he thinks global warming is a hoax, he is a holocaust denier, but Straw would be wrong to try and argue with Griffin on those things him, and the rest of the now suited BNP disavowal. There is enough to slate the BNP on from what they are happy to make public. It’s possible that a game of let-us-embarrass-by-reference-to-the-past may just come back to bite Straw. Barnbrook is not a liar, he is dyslexic, this is prime meat for the panel.

I don’t say this to be intentionally provocative, but it’s has always struck me that most anti-semitism that I have ever come across is generally situated within the liberal left. The Guardian is far more anti-semitic in tone than, say, the Telegraph, mostly (though, on suspects, not solely) because of its pro-Palestinian tendencies – and when I was at University, the pro-Palestine protestors during the last Israeli incursion into Palestine had some very choice things to say about Israel in general and Jews in particular. Allusions to the far-right and anti-semitism (Hitler, Mussonlini, Griffin) are of course important, but they could also be used to prove the inconvenient truth – all of them are/were socialists, and are undoubtedly children of the left.

Again, I know this will he howled down, and that’s fine, but it is at least important to recognise that anti-semitic behaviour is not solely, always and entirely something of the right (though it undoubtedly can exist there too) – this might lead to a sort of false sense-of-comfort, a failure to act, and a mis-diagnosis that would no doubt lead to an ineffective attempt at a cure.

The Guardian is far more anti-semitic in tone than, say, the Telegraph, mostly

You mean pro-Palestinian in tone. But to you that equates to antui-semitism.

5. Padraig Reidy

Excellent. It becomes about Israel/Palestine.

Oy.

Sunny,

To me that certainly does not equate to anti-semitism, and I’m mystified as to how you can think you know my mind so well as to make such bold assertions. It’s more a question of causality – I have found the Guardian to be anti-semitic in tone (and I am certainly not the only one) and, as I said, I think this is influenced/coloured/associated with (or whatever term you want to use) with its pro-Palestinian tendencies. That is, I think they sometimes find it hard to draw the line.

It’s entirely reasonable to be critical of Israel whilst remaining clear of any charge of anti-semitism. In my experience, the line can occasionally get quite fuzzy amongst certain ‘lefties’ (the students at my uni being the prime example).

Michael #4

There’s a reason this will be howled down, it’s that many on the left do not even almost come close to identifying themselves with antisemitism (again for good reason), and that it is often used against the pro-Palestinian voice that it is inherently antisemitic, a charge that is obviously, inherently, flawed to use as a general criticism.

#6 Michael

You slightly moved the goalposts there, I believe. What is this tone?

I have found the Guardian to be anti-semitic in tone (and I am certainly not the only one)

And that’s what I mean – since you actually have no evidence this is just reflects the fact that you find it more pro-Palestinian than other papers.

In fact the Telegraph and Daily Mail are virulently anti-Muslim in tone. And I can offer loads of examples. Unless you can, this is just an attempt to smear a newspaper whose editorial you don’t agree with/

I’m with you, Shatterface. The video posted back along (somewhere) of the BNP being absolutely humiliated with simple, precise and key questions is how to deal with them. The whole “no platform” thing currently resides on a fallacy that people have been trying to tackle the BNP like this and failed. It’s simply not the case.

I applaud Jack Straw for actually being mature about the whole thing, I just hope he is prepared to act intelligently while he’s there and make the kind of comments that will show up the BNP for what they are, rather than trying to belittle or otherwise.

Sunny,

Obviously, it stands to reason that my views on the Guardian are subjective, it couldn’t be any other way (as with you and the Telegraph and the Daily Mail and an anti-Muslim strain – a point I happen to agree with). And whilst I obviously have reasons for thinking the things I think (ie evidence – or else I wouldn’t think them) it would be tedious to reproduce a list of examples here. That doesn’t make it untrue or irrelevant, and I have no intention of smearing the Guardian – if I thought it was wholly anti-semitic I wouldn’t read the thing. My point is, the line quite often becomes fuzzy, sometimes it is not drawn, and in my experience this has recently been a feature of the left more than the right.

The students on that rally, lots of them with their make poverty history wristbands, were occasionally saying some awful things. Like it or lump it, they were (and would no doubt situate themselves) firmly on the left. Disagree, by all means – it doesn’t invalidate my experiences

Also, my intention was not to point to fingers, but rather to provide balance, and to say that if we’re serious about tackling anti-semitism then we need to more open to challenging it wherever it is found, either right or left. This requires both sides to ask difficult questions, and be prepared to listen to the (sometimes uncomfortable) answers. Or else everyone can continue to convince themselves of their own innocence, whilst the persecution plays on in the background.

“we need to more open to challenging it wherever it is found, either right or left. ”

Given your reluctance to identify discrete examples, isn’t that rather difficult?

Michael, if you make a (fairly inflammatory) accusation it’s hardly tedious to back it up with evidence rather than vague assertions about how you can just tell by the ‘tone’ people take or by what some students said at a protest you saw once. Especially when people have repeatedly asked you to back up what you say.

After all, that’s what makes the difference between balanced argument and muddying the waters by insinuating that left-wingers are the real racists, which I’m sure you wouldn’t dream of doing.

As regards inviting the far-right onto Question Time I’m also worried about how this is going to be handled. Griffin is a fascist fuckwit but unfortunately he’s also a well-educated fuckwit and a shrewd political operator. The worst way this could be handled would be through people assuming that all they have to do is shout racist at him and they’ll win because he’s going to dance around the race issue as much as he can and frame his views as something like affirmative action for white people. Confronting him with his direct quotes so he can’t squirm out of the holocaust denial etc needs to happen but at the end of the day the BNP is partly benefiting from an anti-immigration backlash and the case needs to be made against scapegoating immigrants for social problems.

Rather than outbidding him by slating asylum seekers.

@2 Barnbrook is not a liar

Yes he is. He lied about murders in his area/constituency/whatever the fuck the areas called.

“The whole “no platform” thing currently resides on a fallacy that people have been trying to tackle the BNP like this and failed”

That’s not true. No platform has been the approach because it means that racism is not given any legitimacy. Allowing someone like Griffin onto primetime political TV gives a basic impression of acceptance because he is going to debate with a cabinet minister and other members of parliament. Of course you can defeat irrational arguments with logic but the assumption that people will respond to rationality rather than an emotive argument that lines up with their own bias is wrong and that’s why no platform is a good policy.

woah, #16, you’ve misread my comment, I’m saying that this blatant stupidity over Barnbrook’s comments is a prime target for other panelists (inc. Straw) to close in against Griffin. There is this latest lie, there are countless obfuscations of local authority figures, what constitutes Englishness. I’m worried, like shatterface, that a gang of my fellow leftists will shout fascist and expect to be indefinitely held as superior. I’m sure it won’t happen though.

“Allowing someone like Griffin onto primetime political TV gives a basic impression of acceptance because he is going to debate with a cabinet minister and other members of parliament.”

You know what gives an even greater impression of acceptance? People voting him in to the EU. See how well no platform worked in stopping that?

@18 Carl.

My mistake.

Whether or not you believe (and I don’t) that media bans can be morally justified, it must be pretty well settled at this stage that they don’t work.

As a Jew who reads the Guardian I have never detected an anti-Semitic tone because there isn’t one.

As Sunny said, some people have got to pull their head from their ass when it comes to throwing that phrase around and confusing disagreement with Israel’s foreign policy as being racist.

@Richard – it is tedious, because the conversation will degenerate to contradiction and counter-contradiction, and (the nature of subjectivity being what it is) what appears to me as constituting an anti-semitic tone you may well dismiss as being legitmate pro-Palestinian argument. I would beg to differ, and would maintain that all too often Israel is lazily equated wholesale with the jewish people, but still we would get nowhere. This doesn’t invalidate my opinion; and the point remains that associating all racism as right-wing (which is emphatically what this article does do – even whilst its commenters seem aghast at the possibility that someone might also detect racism in the left-liberal narratives) is simply a nonsense. Indeed, blithely asserting it to be so might be deemed overly simplistic at best, or intentionally disingenuous at worst – or, to quote one particularly articulate commenter, it might be what ‘makes the difference between balanced argument and muddying the waters’.

And with that I think I’ll leave it. Thanks for your comments.

“This doesn’t invalidate my opinion;”

Yes it does.

Provide some evidence for christ’s sake! I’m perfectly happy to accept that certain articles might contian anti-semitism, its a pernicous thing and I know as a society we have not over come it.

If you can provide a series of articles and explain the link between them, you might be able to argue for a systemic bias in the Guardian.

However, you have done none of these. So put up or shut up. Convince me.

Just so we’re all on the same page here I’ll point out how Michael’s shifted the goalposts in his argument. He’s gone from this:

1.”…it’s has always struck me that most anti-semitism that I have ever come across is generally situated within the liberal left. The Guardian is far more anti-semitic in tone than, say, the Telegraph, mostly (though, on suspects, not solely) because of its pro-Palestinian tendencies…”

To this:

2. “…the point remains that associating all racism as right-wing (which is emphatically what this article does do – even whilst its commenters seem aghast at the possibility that someone might also detect racism in the left-liberal narratives) is simply a nonsense.”

Yes. Michael, you can’t just casually throw in accusations of anti-semitism without providing evidence. You have already muddied the waters by doing just that. Don’t try to hide behind “one man’s meat is another man’s poison” vagaries. You said something specific and controversial; explain yourself.

“I’m worried, like shatterface, that a gang of my fellow leftists will shout fascist and expect to be indefinitely held as superior.”

Indeed. Historically nothing has generated more support for the far right than the “anti-fascist” movement and the various stupidities of the far left.

Sorry to go a wee bit off topic here but I wanted to say something re The Guardian. The Guardian do have a bit of an obsession with Israel (shown by the amount of articles they have relating to it in comparison with other conflicts, issues). Some people may choose to question why this is. I have not found any anti-semitic articles, but many anti-semitic comments following their articles. Guardian readers have even gone as far as posting anti-semitic comments after a humourous peice about a Jewish community in London, with no political sentiments or mention of Israel that was placed in the religion section. I felt that if the Guardian wants people to visit their website, they will have to moderate more effectively. Some people would argue that their inability to deal with anti-semitism makes them anti-semitic. I do not know if this is the case. Either way I dont really visit the Guardian website anymore.

29. Col. Richard Hindrance (Mrs.)

“…I know this will he howled down, and that’s fine, but it is at least important to recognise that anti-semitic behaviour is not solely, always and entirely something of the right (though it undoubtedly can exist there too) – this might lead to a sort of false sense-of-comfort, a failure to act, and a mis-diagnosis that would no doubt lead to an ineffective attempt at a cure…”

Oh noes! Concern troll is concerned!111!!11!!

And at the first request to actually substantiate his opinions, off he flits, as if he never existed…

As for Martin’s remark: Brilliant. Now that is what I call REAL bullshit.

Martin’s remark ain’t brilliant, the idea that he is proposing is pretty daft, that fascism stems from anti-fascism, that doesn’t hold up to any interrogation at all.

And as for Ana not reading the Guardian nay more, seriously, unlike many papers it actually covers what goes on and gives some creedance to the fact that the Middle East and the search for peace, is a pivotal news story, more than…oh I don’t know, Princess Diana and Asylum Seekers.

#29. The majority of commenters on Cif are right-wing American fuckwits who have just gone into an apoplexy at reading something that goes against their screwed-up view of the world. Your average Guardian reader is quite different. As for your passive aggressive phrasing; *some people* might want you to fess up to your opinions rather than making snide references to the hypothetical opinions of an unspecified third party.

Nick Griffin seemed to be the only politician on question time who was speaking the language of the common man in Britain today. The immigration situation is a disgrace and the BNP seem to be the only political party willing to talk about it. They will probably get many votes and I may end up being one of them for the first time ever…

Disillusioned

Sorry John but that just doesn’t cut it, the common man in Britain (and what about all the common women?) is not a racist who once denied the Holocaust and is so politically naive that they can’t conjure together a half decent policy at all.

You also don’t seem to know much about immigration full bloody stop.


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