Call to boycott Total Politics blog awards


4:03 pm - March 11th 2010

by Paul Cotterill    


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This originally appeared on ‘Though Cowards Flinch’, here and here

It has come to our attention that the magazine ‘Total Politics’ is planning to publish an interview with Nick Griffin, the racist leader of the British National Party.

Yesterday, we made an initial call to bloggers to consider a boycott of this year’s ‘Total Politics Blog Awards’, in the event that this magazine chooses to publish as planned an extended interview with Nick Griffin, the racist leader of the BNP.

The initial call was greeted favourably by some bloggers who saw it, and we are therefore seeking to extend the call.

This will clearly be a personal decision, and we understand that there are a multiplicity of views on the ‘no platform’ question as it relates to the BNP. It behoves us therefore to set out briefly our reasons for proposed withdrawal.

As a group of bloggers, we broadly support a ‘no platform’ stance in respect of the BNP. This is not a call to ban the BNP, or deny their individual members’ civil liberties. A more effective approach is solidarity between anti-fascists, without recourse to the law, to make a clear statement that the BNP are beyond the pale.

Publication of an interview by Total Politics, which will be distributed to every parliamentarian, peer, political journalist and to councillors across the country, does the opposite. It is a further acquiescence to the BNP message being accepted as a normal part of British political discourse. It is not.

We also do not feel that such an interview is in keeping with the mission statement of TP, which is to be “unremittingly positive about the political process”. Lest we forget, this is a party which abuses that process. Its elected officials are amongst the laziest and most incompetent, giving the lie to their promise to help solve local problems.

Not to mention the outright thuggery of some of them.

Thus we seek solidarity amongst Left bloggers, and any bloggers writing from a different perspective but who share our views on this matter, as a way of seeking to force the hand of Total Politics into the withdrawal from publication of the planned interview.

Total Politics should be made aware that to proceed with publication it will risk, via a boycott, losing whatever legitimacy its voting process has as a measure of blog popularity , with consequent negative impact on its business.

If you are convinced by the arguments we set forth in our main post (and see comments also), then please do consider announcing your proposed boycott of the 2010 awards (if the interview is published) on your own blog.

If you’re not, then we’re sorry to have disturbed you.

If you do want to join the boycott in the event that the interview is pulished, simply email Total Politics when the competition is announced and say you do not want your blog to appear in any of the listings.

Finally, if we’ve missed a blog link that you think we should have, please let us know or simply pass this call on to that blog. This list is far from complete and currently omits many local blogs that may wish to join the boycott, though we will be trying to fill those gaps.

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About the author
Paul Cotterill is a regular contributor, and blogs more regularly at Though Cowards Flinch, an established leftwing blog and emergent think-tank. He currently has fingers in more pies than he has fingers, including disability caselaw, childcare social enterprise, and cricket.
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Reader comments


There are plenty of reasons not to take part in the Total Politics awards, but I’m not convinced this is one of them.

I see no problem in interviewing him as long as the interviewer does a good job and asks him difficult questions. Dale probably isn’t the best person to do it, but that’s another matter.

Wasn’t there a lefty boycott last year too? And the year before that as well, when it was hosted by Iain Dale?

Agree with Adam. I’m not a fan of this censor/boycott/shutdown/stop publication trend here on the otherwise great left.

Refusing to interview Griffin does not change the fact that he has followers, or that there were enough of them around to elect him to recognised public office. A boycott simply pretends none of that ever happened. Sticking the old head in the sand and pretending you can’t see someone doesn’t mean they’re not there. I wouldn’t think he was any less a threat if TP didn’t run that piece.

Surely a much better idea would be to insist that TP allows a few writers and commentators from here, or TCF, of wherever, to publish a companion piece highlighting the BNP’s vicious racist, sexist and homophobic platforms and explaining how the left plans to knock these into orbit.

We are exposing ourselves with these continual calls for censorship. It doesn’t solve the essential problem, and makes us look as though we haven’t got any other responses or ideas.

Would you balance every sexist, misogynistic and hateful article or image against women with a note on the side saying how terribly awful it is, Kate?

I presume it would be equally valid to arrange a boycot of anything that supports the Greens, an extremist (i.e. their views are not held by the majority) party with a small number of elected representatives (not ‘officials’), who might be viewed as endangering our way of life?

After all, why bother debating with those who we think are wrong if we can just ignore them instead. Being elite and not engaging with the idiots who do not understand why they are wrong is clearly the correct way to do things…

Bluntly this is stupid. If you are so concerned about the BNP then go and campaign against them on the streets, engaging with their simplistic and weak arguments and standing up to their ridiculous posturing. Isolating them will not destroy them, it will leave them with what they now hold and the potential to jump beyond that.

6. Sunder Katwala

There is a legitimate case to be made for a ‘no platform’ policy – even though (you might say particularly when) the conventional wisdom of the political classes has gone in the other direction. I don’t have any problem with your criticising Total Politics’ editorial or organisational decisions, or choosing not to participate in something else of theirs.

But I don’t support the boycott call. Lots of us wouldn’t platform the BNP.
For newspapers/political magazines whether and how (as Adam says) to interview Griffin feels like something of a judgement call.

The left solidarity call and continuing this protest beyond the publication of the interview if it does not lead to it being pulled seems to me to imply the policing of a ‘no platform’ policy by an attempt to collectively ‘no platform’ anybody who doesn’t share it. That would be new. And I think that way – ‘six degrees of no platform’ – lies madness. (Apply it to the BBC, throw in a “condemanthon” or two from the right in a different cause, and there might soon be nobody debating anybody about anything).

Sorry, in comradely disagreement

S

PS: I know LC doesn’t participate on other grounds – whether not liking awards, or not liking Iain Dale, I’m not sure. But I think the TP poll is useful and only a bit of fun and done pretty fairly as far as I can see. Aside from this issue, I would broadly encourage participation from us lefties, at least until/unless there is something alternative/better. I’ve found new blogs from it. It was also a useful research/advocacy tool in being the basis for showing that the top 10 Tory blogs are all climate sceptics, for which both myself and Mr Cameron are grateful to Mr Dale.

@Adam, would you interview Nick Griffin or Dickie Barnbrook on your blog? The only interview either of them would agree to would be an easy one, so the only interview possible would help them and not expose them.

8. Shatterface

After predictions of a Turner Diary-style race war before Griffin made a quivering arse of himself on Question Time I thought the ‘no-platformers’ would have slunk away in embarassment by now.

Censorship is, at best, unnecessary, and at worst vindicates Griffin’s claim to represent an ‘oppressed’ white ‘majority’.

They should interview Lee John Barnes while they are at it.

9. Shatterface

Sunder: ‘The left solidarity call and continuing this protest beyond the publication of the interview if it does not lead to it being pulled seems to me to imply the policing of a ‘no platform’ policy by an attempt to collectively ‘no platform’ anybody who doesn’t share it. That would be new. And I think that way – ’six degrees of no platform’ – lies madness. (Apply it to the BBC, throw in a “condemanthon” or two from the right in a different cause, and there might soon be nobody debating anybody about anything).’

Awkwardly phrased but spot on.

Good comments, everyone – this is an issue which I’m undecided about, personally (though as Sunder says, LibCon doesn’t take part in these polls anyway).

Just one thing:

“After predictions of a Turner Diary-style race war before Griffin made a quivering arse of himself on Question Time I thought the ‘no-platformers’ would have slunk away in embarassment by now.”

I thought the predictions were that Griffin would be exposed and his arguments demolished if only he were allowed to appear on Question Time. On balance, his appearance on Question Time was a net benefit to the BNP (more members, more donations, no lasting damage done).

Which is not to say that interviewing him is a good or bad idea – if Iain Dale manages to get a killer quote out of the interview, it could do some damage, though personal guess would be that it just normalises the BNP as part of the mainstream political debate without harming them or changing anyone’s minds (and giving them useful interview practice along the way). Hope I’m wrong, though.

11. Shatterface

‘Dale probably isn’t the best person to do it, but that’s another matter.’

Not sure that’s true. The conservatives have a lot to gain from distancing themselves from the far-right, whether they realise it or not. Labour and the Lib Dems might take their distance for granted.

On balance, his appearance on Question Time was a net benefit to the BNP (more members, more donations, no lasting damage done).

I presume were happy with this outcome of allowing Griffin on, Shatterface?

Don,

“personal guess would be that it just normalises the BNP as part of the mainstream political debate without harming them or changing anyone’s minds…”

I hate to mention this to everyone, but the BNP are normalised in politics at the moment. And I doubt Question Time was really a good way of exposing things, since however much of Mr Griffin’s racist tendencies were brought up, this was brought up by sustained attacks by the rest of the panel, the audience and the chair. Treating him normally might just have shown up how stupid and simplistic his ideas were, but this did not happen.

14. the a&e charge nurse

[10] “On balance, his appearance on Question Time was a net benefit to the BNP (more members, more donations, no lasting damage done)”.

Assuming this is true (no source cited) how is it possible to attribute these developments to an isolated appearance of one individual on a late night TV slot?
Surely few things work in such a neat, linear way?

I for one did not realise that Question Time exerted such a dramatic effect on the gullible, and now increasingly Griffin-loving public.

I have concerns about Griffin, largely because of the members of my family murdered by the people he apologises for in the 1940s. I’ve protested and stood by the No Platform policy but I’m not sure how effective it is any more.

I’m really annoyed when cosseted little twats try to get publicity by pulling some stunt with the BNP such as the Oxford Union did but I now think letting them condemn themselves by their own words may be the best way forward. Their hardcore of support won’t be changed but maybe a few county tories won’t be quite so sanguine abou them.

Having said that, I wouldn’t like to be a member of a racial minority living in a sink estate after Griffin has had another round of legitimisation. That is where the front line lies and where the victims will suffer.

16. Shatterface

‘I presume were happy with this outcome of allowing Griffin on, Shatterface?’

Compared with the propoganda victory he’d have won being banned, yes. The assumption you – and your uncredited source – are making is that the BNP could get elected, then banned, and things would remain as they were before.

I am the main author of the two posts seeking a boycott of the Total Policitcs Blog Awards in the event of the publication of an interview with Nick Griffin. Apologies – this debate is on so many blogs this evening, and I’m so short of time, that I’m forced for now into a standard reply copied across blogs. Here it is:

There’s been a lot of debate in the blogosphere today about the call for a boycott
of the Total Politics Blog Awards, further to the TCF post yesterday. I’ve been out all day, and my TCF colleague Dave has done a great job covering a lot of the stuff on this site and others, so I’ll just follow up wit some comments on what I think are the ain ‘attack lines’ that I’ve seen.

1) Why didn’t we wait to see what was in the interview? (Iain Dale)

Because our protest is about what he represents, not what he says to an interviewer. He will lie.

2) Why didn’t we call for a boycott when the BBC had Nick Griffin on Question Time (Tom Harris)

Because we couldn’t have won that battle. We might not win this one, but there’s a better chance.

3) Isn’t calling for a boycott anti-democratic/against freedom of speech?

No.

We’re simply exercising our democratic right in calling for Total Politics not to publish the interview. We’re not trying to ban the interview; we’re saying that we’re against it bin published, and that if it is published we’ll exercise our democratic right to protest about its publication in as effective a manner as possible.

This is not the same as recourse to the power of the state/law which, for example, banned trade union members from standing/speaking in solidarity

Freedom of speech must include the freedom to speak collectively.

4) Will a boycott be effective?

We don’t know. If we win the argument we win and TP will rethink publication even at his late stage; if we lose, TP will publish it. If Total Politics vote retains its legitimacy in the eyes of anyone who takes any notice, we lose again.

18. Golden Gordon

Griffin is a Brown shirt.
The real threat are the Black shirts. They are the reasonable ones.
There will be a right wing coup, aka Chile, in this country and the Brown shirts will be disappeared along with trouble some lefties.

Sunder @6: I hear what you are saying on how ‘no platform’ might be estend to ‘no platfor’ those who are not ‘no platform’. That is not TCF’s intention, which s why we say in our first post on the matter:

“This will clearly be a personal decision, and we understand that there are a multiplicity of views on the ‘no platform’ question as it relates to the BNP.”

and in our second:

“If you are convinced by the arguments we set forth in our main post… then please do consider announcing your proposed boycott of the 2010 awards …on your own blog.

If you’re not, then we’re sorry to have disturbed you.”

We are conscious that the ‘no platform’ question is, as Don P @10 acknolwledges above, contested within the left, and this call for a boycott is what it is – a call for boycott amongst comrades. If we lose the argument at this stage, we lose.

The boycott is pointless and won’t achieve anything…

@ Sunder. Are you on drugs? Where is this “six degrees of no platform” rubbish said or implied?

By asking for a collective expression of our disagreement with publications prepared to give over pages to Nick Griffin, we’re simply asking people to sign on with the boycott. We’re not saying “Do it, or else we will ‘no platform’ you as well.”

What I would say, however, is that boycotts and protest actions are very effective when it comes to commercial publications. There are numerous local papers which have pulled advertisements by the BNP as a result of write-in complaints.

The only reason for them to do this is because they fear people won’t buy their paper. Presumably you don’t count this as “no platforming” the newspapers in question. There’s no difference; we’re the online consumers of Total Politics (actually Paul and some of the other boycotters are offline-consumers as well), and we participate in their poll.

That’s where the matter ends; no unstoppable chain of no platform decrees against anyone who has had anything to with anyone who has had anything to do with anyone who has…you get my point I’m sure.

Why don’t you beat Griffin by making people believe you instead of him? You wouldn’t call for a boycott on Tory or Lib Dem articles; you’d try to convince people to support your team instead.

23. Sunder Katwala

Paul

thanks for yr specific reply. Yes, I do appreciate the tone in which the initial request for support was made, and I was similarly trying not to be immoderate in my response.

I am not sure what I think about the call to pull the interview, but I do think boycotting the poll afterwards. But if you are not successful in getting the interview pulled, I would personally suggest not continuing the boycott beyond that (unless it is also for other reasons).

Dave,

Thanks. No I’m not on drugs, except some of the culturally and legally legitimised ones, but I do appreciate the concern for my welfare.

24. Jimmy Sands

Where is it proposed that the line be drawn? Griffin cannot be interviewed apparently. Can his words be reported? Can he be referred to at all? Sounds rather like the old Sinn Fein ban and we know what a resounding success that was. No-one has anything to fear from Griffin being heard and it plays into his hands to suggest otherwise.

“Would you balance every sexist, misogynistic and hateful article or image against women with a note on the side saying how terribly awful it is, Kate?”

Probably not – I’d have to work 24 hours a day on it to get every misogynist article and image…

The point I was making is that the only way to see the likes of Griffin off the park is to beat him on the field of ideas. He can’t be ignored, but he can be bettered and shown to be a racist, sexist homophobe. If people are concerned about this article in particular, they should let TP know that they want a chance to air their views on Griffin and the BNP. It’s only by convincing others of Griffin’s evil – rather than pretending that he and his voters don’t exist – that he will be defeated. Censorship achieves very little – especially in this day and age, where people have plenty of outlets.

26. Earnest Ernest

#We’re simply exercising our We’re simply exercising our democratic right in calling for Total Politics not to publish the interview. We’re not trying to ban the interview; we’re saying that we’re against it bin published, and that if it is published we’ll exercise our democratic right to protest about its publication in as effective a manner as possible.. #

Your possession of “democratic rights”..although, the matter’s never generally alluded to…actually implies an obligation not to act like a smart-arse 16 year old gobshite when exercising it “our democratic right to protest about its publication in as effective a manner as possible” ffs. Societies with too many ‘democrats’ like you, intent on invoking censorship of things you don’t like, don’t stay democratic for very long. Why not celebrate your democratic inheritance by exercising some of the tolerance needed to sustain it?…even for the views of a rabid shitehawk like Griffin…or are you just another left liberal who doesn’t trust the lower orders to resist the knobhead’s seductive dogma?

Why don’t you trust people? The BNP’s going nowhere…they’re a fuckin anachronism…people are converted because the BNP knocks on working class doors and pay them some attention…meanwhile the Left Liberal blogosphere debates the boycott of an awards show that nobody’s ever fuckin heard of…another tread towards the void.

27. WhatNext?!

Earnest Ernest has walked away with the Nail On Head award for sure.

Could someone send Paul a copy of the “Life of Brian”?

I’ve refused to take part in the Iain Dale/TP blog awards for ages now, not because of Sunny’s reasons last year, or because they’re interviewing someone I dislike, but because, well, they’re crap willy-waving exercises that I can’t be arsed with.

But this call to arms is almost enough to persuade me to take part this year. Dale has interviewed Griffin, and before even seeing it, everyone is up in arms. Meh, I don’t like Dale’s style, nor think much of his politics, and his occasional forays into petty partisanship over who fights the BNP the best or similar is somewhat pathetic. But the idea he’s going to soft soap the arsehole? Daft. The idea that an interview with griffin that’ll mostly be read by existing electd politicos is going to somehow help him get votes? Dinnae be daft.

I’ll stick to fighting the BNP on the ground, in areas they’re challenging for votes, and persuading people there are better options that’ll actually effectively help them. Generally speaking, much more effective than silly posturing that plays into their hands.

29. rob tennant

Would those defending the BNP here have also argued against boycotting Apartheid South Africa?

>Would those defending the BNP here have also argued against boycotting Apartheid South Africa?

Neat equation of opposing a call for non-publication of an interview = defending the BNP, Rob. Ridiculous.

Sunder and Kate have it. If Griffin is defeated, it will be because his political ideas are not the answer to any political need, and are wrong. I think trying to force anybody to introduce No Platform policies is silly, as well as being ineffective.

“people are converted because the BNP knocks on working class doors and pay them some attention…meanwhile the Left Liberal blogosphere debates the boycott of an awards show that nobody’s ever fuckin heard of…another tread towards the void.”

Just to note that the person who wrote the original post knocks on a lot of these “working class doors”, what with being a local councillor in the north west and all.

The idea that an interview with griffin that’ll mostly be read by existing electd politicos is going to somehow help him get votes?

Good point. Total Politics is for people who really like politics. Guys who watch the PMQ’s; think elections are exciting; read Alistair Campbell’s diaries in the bog. None of those people have any sympathy for Griffin, and BNP voters hate, among other things, the business of politics.

Hi all,

Many thanks for raising this — it is unquestionably an important issue and one on which I can see both sides of the argument.

However, I agree with Sunder and want LabourList to remain a candidate in the Total Politics Blog Awards.

There are a couple of reasons for this:

First, I think No Platform has demonstrably failed as a policy. We might not like it, or their divisive politics, but the BNP are a legitimate political party with a million votes, a number of councillors across the country and now two members of the European Parliament. As I said when speaking at a London Young Labour event at the end of last year, at which I was the only anti-no platformer on the panel including Emily Thornberry and Frank Dobson, both of whom I respect, I argued that not acknowledging the BNP is tantamount to not acknowledging the concerns of those people who voted for them in droves for any number of reasons, not all of which are because the voters are racist, which I think is a fundamental mistake some anti-BNP campaigners make. We have to beat the BNP, and bring their voters back into less divisive political mainstream, by listening to the voters and their concerns, not by ignoring them, sticking our fingers in our ears, and pretending like they don’t exist.

Second, I value the Total Politics poll as one of the few metrics by which we can assess the state of this thing we do called blogging. While it is not, of course, a complete picture, it is one of the few ways we track the vast number of blogs out there, and their influence and popularity. I know both Iain Dale and Ben Duckworth, the editor of the magazine, and believe them to be people of integrity and who produce a valuable resource for understanding politics in a light hearted way. And I like them both. The magazine has also done a lot to promote us bloggers, give us credibility and provide us with another platform to reach another audience.

For those reasons, while I respect your position on this and the reasons you’re doing it, I would like LabourList to remain a candidate in the Total Politics blog awards.

Hope that makes sense.

Alex

The more platforms this idiotic racist has to spout his vile nonsense the better. The more people hear him the more they will turn against him and his party of scum. Iain is right to allow him to expose his stupidity. He made a laughing stock of himself on #bbcqt as he has done whenever people give him the opportunity. Hold the BNP up to the light, don’t give them the benefit of being no platformed.

I think as the Nick Griffin appearance on question time showed, people’s positions on Nick Griffin are fairly fixed.
We labour under a misapprehension that people who vote BNP, are doing so, out of apathy. The people who go and vote for Nick Griffin, do not vote out of apathy- people know absolutely what Nick Griffin stands for-and either agree with him, or don’t. I don’t think that his television appearances do much to change that.
I don’t believe that Nick Griffin should have a platform in the media, but while the BNP are a legitimate political party, I do not see how any news organisation has a choice but to allow him to speak.

The fact that a British citizen can find themselves represented by a party, who feel that their skin colour mean they be ‘repatriated’, is the problem.
Legitimacy is given by their status as a political party, not by news organisations doing what it is right to do, which is to give political parties a voice in the election they are campaigning in-even if they disagree with their ‘politics’.

“Would those defending the BNP here have also argued against boycotting Apartheid South Africa?”

Why are you asking us about the opinions held by figments of your imagination?

Jimmy- defending the principle that political coverage should include all political parties, as a basic principle- is not the same as supporting the BNP.

I live near Burnley- really- BNP quite a threat here. Am under no illusions about what they are. Giving NIck Griffin a genuine complaint that he is being censored- not really that productive. As we have seen.

BNP should not be a political party-simple. They are. Also simple. While they are, and if they have enough members- then there is no argument for censorship. It is counterproductive. Sorry.

38. rob tennant

Is it not possible to address the concerns of those “white working class” voters who vote for the BNP (which in itself completely ignores the fact that middle class white people also vote for and join them, and it is the middle market papers like the Mail and the Express which most closely follow the BNP’s agenda) whilst also not giving the BNP the oxygen of publicity?

Look at Labour’s failed approach to the BNP. People vote BNP, then Labour MPs like Margaret Hodge start suggesting we should be “tougher” (i.e. more inhumane) on immigrants. Does the Labour vote go up? No, it just boosts the BNP’s vote. Same thing with Gordon Brown’s “British jobs for British workers”. In trying to “address” those voters’ “concerns”, you just make the BNP stronger. Rather than trying to pander to the racism of BNP voters, you should challenge it. There are better ways of doing it than the UAF or Hope Not Hate – for sure. But to say you’re hoping to put the fire out at the same time as allowing someone to pour even more fuel onto it – that’s fucking silly!

The fact that every pro-BNP’s-freedom-to-use-TV-for-their-propaganda “liberal” on this thread has ignored that the BNP’s support and talking points also come from middle class whites whose “concerns” are basically that they dont like darkies, shows how deluded they are. Fight, don’t get frightened.

Fuck freedom of speech. The BNP are a two-bit hate group, unworthy of recognition. Only the most smug, privileged and complacent of liberals could argue otherwise.

There’s a chain of thought that goes: “The BNP are all a bit vile, so why not give them a platform so everyone can see how vile they are? The opposite would suggest that we don’t trust public intelligence!”

Well, I’m sorry, but I definitely don’t trust public intelligence. Anyone can win seats in Parliament if they have good funding, a charismatic leader and friends in the media. None of these things would be out of the BNP’s reach if they became mainstream. The stable door needs shutting, and TP is a worthy place to start.

Blanco – I would interview Barnbrook yes (as long as his goons weren’t there)

Would you then ‘boycott’ anything I ever wrote/ wrote in?

Hi Alex Smith,

Couldn’t agree more with you. Especially on this point:

“not acknowledging the BNP is tantamount to not acknowledging the concerns of those people who voted for them in droves for any number of reasons, not all of which are because the voters are racist, which I think is a fundamental mistake some anti-BNP campaigners make”

What of Iain Dale’s clearly stated (and quite notorious) policy of not linking to blogs/bloggers that are critical of him? He has stated quite clearly in the past that he refuses to do so because he does not want to legitimise them:
http://www.bloggerheads.com/archives/2010/03/iain-dale_nick-griffin.asp

How is this in keeping with his current postion that granting Griffin this exposure doesn’t legitimise him?

Well, I’m sorry, but I definitely don’t trust public intelligence

How “liberal” of you!

Fascinating discussion. I am with Alex Smith on this but for slightly different reasons.

Like Sunder, I believe that progressives shouldn’t provide the BNP with a platform so I would never interview Nick Griffin or any other his acolytes for Left Foot Forward and would be disappointed if someone else on the left did so. But I also respect the decisions of other organisations and publications to provide a platform (and believe that a magazine interview is a lot better than an event given the public safety issues associated with the latter).

I happened to bump into Iain Dale this week and he told me a bit about the interview. I reserve judgment until I read the piece but he was in no doubt that Griffin had provided a series of eccentric arguments and turned every issue back to immigration in a way that is unlikely to provide any additional support for his cause.

All the best,

Will

While I dislike this boycott, I can’t help but facepalm at Dale’s “stalinist” descriptor. Uncle Joe was, indeed, notorious for not reading magazines whose editorial policies he opposed. Who could forget Solzhenitsyn classic One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, where a man, er – loses a few customers.

@Gwyn Right on, mate. That is it – if you want the BNP do well, give them publicity. There’s no obligation on any of us to do so. There’s no law which says we have to interview them. Having them appear more and more in the media normalises them and their views – and you’ll have the mainstream parties starting to parrot their talking points.

Address the concerns of their voters, talk about immigration, talk about national culture, talk about integration – but why do all of that only to undermine it by letting the BNP drag the whole debate into the gutter?

If you want to win back their voters, the worst thing to do is to give them more time to hold onto those voters.

I would like to think that any blogger worth their salt has already withdrawn from the TP awards long before this, mainly because they are untrustworthy and ran by Iain Dale. I know that is not the case but how eager are some bloggers for web presence at the cost of doing a deal with, for want of a better word, the devil.

Adam – unlike Dale you’re not a twunt whose views are on the same wing of the political spectrum as the BNP, so I wouldn’t boycott you. But I’d like to see yourself, Will Straw off LFF, and whoever else thinks Dale is doing good, to invite Griffin onto

This bizarre idea that you can appease racist fuhrers… well. In WW2 we had to confront and destroy the Nazis. We didn’t invite them to interviews on daytime TV.

Quick politics lesson here. Right-wing is not about racism – it is in fact about personal freedom and generally less state responsibility, and therefore is generally ignorant of colour. For some reason it also tends to be the home of small c-conservative thought (perhaps because the left is historically more radical), which in the past was more racist, but is not so much nowadays since the social attitudes being preserved are now those of a more enlightened time.

Left-wing is also not about racism – it is more about collective responsibility for society and state-led action to ensure equality of outcome/opportunity. It is also becoming increasingly small c-conservative nowadays. Some supporters in the past have been racist, but mainly through ignorance and fear of those outside what they perceive as society.

The BNP have elements of both, and neither. To assume they are extreme right-wing would have to make libertarian thought (which is totally opposed to BNP ideas – at its purest it believes in unlimited immigration) something else. Likewise, they are not extreme left-wing, in that there is no concern for equality of outcome. The danger of labelling the BNP as right-wing is that you encourage those already on the right of seeing them as part of their movement and not condemning them (as actually happened to some extent with the National Party in South Africa). It also suggests to the reader that you are more concerned with the split between left and right than with that between racist thugs and human decency.

Oh, and for those making Nazi comparisons – the Nazi party was ignored and passed over (other than by security services) in 1920s Germany. That worked well…

Re: 43

I can be left and unliberal, thankyouverymuch.

Re: 48

Actually the landed classes were very fond of inviting the Nazis to dinner, all the way up to 1939. Politically speaking, the only thing the Nazis did wrong was take our oil.

@Gwyn perhaps it’s time for a special BNP version of Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, in which Iain Dale and Michael Portillo invite Mr Griffin around and introduce him to their Middle England parents?

You know it wouldn’t surprise me if the NG interview ends up being the front cover of the issue. It’d certainly raise eyebrows and generate press coverage if it did…

Re: 49

The right wing isn’t racist in the KKK sense, but it does push for a society that favours entrenched social and capital wealth – which exists exclusively in white families. The effect is a racist one, however one might argue the benign intentions.

Re: 52

I’d be surprised if Portillo never dined with Edgar Griffin, with little Nicky sullenly flicking peas at him when Daddy wasn’t looking.

Gwyn,

“The right wing isn’t racist in the KKK sense, but it does push for a society that favours entrenched social and capital wealth – which exists exclusively in white families. The effect is a racist one, however one might argue the benign intentions.”

Racism is an act of deliberate discrimination (as in BNP…) not conserving the status quo unless to do that you deliberately exclude people by race.

Anyway, I don’t actually recognise the society you imagine, which appears to have no Asian business owners for example, because all social and capital wealth is owned by white families. I assume you actually live in an area somehow ruled by the BNP?

The right wing does not always favour entrenched social and capital wealth, but it generally does not favour direct redistribution. The right wing for example has no problems with destroying corporationist monopolies, and socially would oppose any attempt to allow companies to operate private law. I appreciate this may not fit in with your stereotypical views, but actually go and look at the evidence rather than the propoganda.

“I’d be surprised if Portillo never dined with Edgar Griffin, with little Nicky sullenly flicking peas at him when Daddy wasn’t looking.”

It might have been mentioned by now. Michael Portillo (of Spanish descent) is not exactly a fan of the BNP.

Re: 56

It’s not a slander of Portillo, it’s a joke about the BNP leader. It’s a pretty good joke, in fact. I might win a Perrier award for it. Just saying.

And breaking up monopolies betrays the principle of private capital ownership which defines the right. You can’t reasonably say something’s a stereotype just because it’s true, and you can’t reasonably say that state intervention in private enterprise has any place in the ideological right. Not that I want to get bogged down in philosophy.

Yeah, the ‘exclusively’ bit is a remnant of something else I was going to say but didn’t fully delete. It’s totally wrong. All I meant to say was that the majority of wealth (real serious wealth, not corner shop chump change) starts in the hands of families like Mr. Cameron’s and Mr. Osborne’s and stays in those hands.

Watchman:

Right-wing is not about racism – it is in fact about personal freedom and generally less state responsibility, and therefore is generally ignorant of colour.

This is very debatable indeed. The terminology of the wings is both sufficiently badly used in general debate as to be almost meaningless, and increasingly irrelevant in a post-industrial country [1], but this claim here is bloody dangerous.

The headline principle of conservatism is that the status quo ante favours the conservative, and thus clearly it should be conserved. Conservatism is by definition the political philosophy of vested interests. [2]

Since the status quo in northern Europe defaults to racism, misogyny and homophobia, the idea of conserving it has always been racist. Conservatism has always been about protecting privilege from those who do not share it; Thatcher had no problems with the state interfering with the unions. The Tories were entirely happy interfering with the Stonehenge free festivals, or with people’s sexual autonomy, or their choices of recreational pharmaceutical.

Now we come to the Left:

Left-wing is also not about racism – it is more about collective responsibility for society and state-led action to ensure equality of outcome/opportunity.

Again, I understand the talking points you’re quoting, but no. The left (in 20th Britain; we’re clearly not talking here about “the left” in 19th century Germany or early 20th century Russia, and yes those did mean different things in each instance, nor are we talking about Parliament in the 1680s) is about supporting the interests of the working poor against the diametrically opposed interests of their employers. It is by definition an urban, industrial political movement.

The single largest opinion bloc on “the left” in the 20th century was the rank-and-file membership of the trade unions, who have been, as a class, overwhelmingly bigoted and small-c conservative all the way along.

The flaw in your analysis, and that of many people who are not historians, is the idea that “the left” and “the right” are in some way real things. They’re not. They are mappings on, not one graph axis, but at least ten or twelve different ones, and people use the terms without sufficient care.

A non-exhaustive list of the axes include:

1. Class: left == interests of the employed, right == interests of the employer.
2. Fiscal: left == government intervention to help the poor, right == government intervention to help the rich.
3. Religion: left == tolerant of multiple faiths and inclined to dialogue, right == One True Way and it’s MINE!
4. Race: left == recognise that the disadvantaged need to club together, right == bloody wogs taking our jobs.
5. Sexuality: left == recognise that the disadvantaged need to club together, right == bloody shirt-lifters taking our cocks. etc, etc.

And yes, I know I’m being forced to over-simplify the two extreme positions, it’s hard to talk about the ends of a continuum without doing so.

If one intends the rhetoric of left and right to be treated as technical terminology with an actual meaning, then one must clearly state in each instance which of these continua you are currently comparing points on.

In this instance, you are attempting to disclaim the authoritarianism and pre-Enlightenment values of the Right by pointing out that some of the people who align themselves with the right are actually libertarians. That really doesn’t help; ‘the right’ as a whole most certainly are not. The British Right wing are not defenders of liberty; nor are the British ‘left’.

The Left is about the interests of the industrial poor (which are in many senses conservative: think about what the miners were actually striking in favour of, i.e. the conservation of the status quo) and the Right is about the interests of business- and land-owners. To describe the right as being about personal freedom would be to call them liberals.

Liberalism is about personal freedom for all. The right and the left are both about trying to rig the system so that only some are privileged by it. Liberalism does not really feature on the right-left spectrum at all.

[1] “The Left” in the 19th and 20th centuries became so solidly associated with the interests of one specific class, the urban working poor, that there’s an argument for saying that Britain no longer has a left and right at all. It would make much more sense, in a post-industrial era, to categorise the two wings as selfish versus compassionate, or (indeed) Conservative versus Liberal. This has the added advantage of allowing the Labour Party a dignified and quiet death behind closed doors, instead of the current bear-baiting and cock-fighting.

[2] Side note; this is why Clegg’s comments about Thatcher are interesting. While he does not clearly enunciate it in the Speccy, and neither would I, his thesis highlights the way Thatcher had no problem with vested interests in the Square Mile but would resort, quite literally, to war and starvation in order to combat vested interests who weren’t our sort of people. Clegg is defining a position which says any vested interests that have gotten out of control should be dealt with by a responsible government; which sounds like common sense to me.

Also, Watchman:

Racism is an act of deliberate discrimination (as in BNP…) not conserving the status quo unless to do that you deliberately exclude people by race.

Er, no. Racism = prejudice + power.[1] Conserving the British status quo is, as Gwyn points out, by definition a policy of privileging white people over People of Colour. When coupled with power, that prejudice becomes racism.

[1] A note, as I can’t remember if you were about last time I had to go through this. This is the current consensus definition within the field. It is therefore the correct one to use in a formal political debate. I’m aware that lots of people use inadequate, deliberately obtuse or just plain wrong definitions of the concept. They are not really my problem.

Ah you had me right up until you started talking about liberalism as beyond the left-right spectrum. After that it became one of the more amusing appropriations of history and politics I’ve read on a non-libertarian website.

But I think we’re going massively off-topic.

Ah you had me right up until you started talking about liberalism as beyond the left-right spectrum

*heh* You spotted that, did you?

I’m building a case. It is a case which says that the terminology of right and left has been permanently poisoned beyond utility by the bitter propaganda of the Cold War. It also suggests that the rhetoric of right and left is useless now that we are no longer in the industrial era: that paradigm spawned from the effects of industrialisation on British politics, and is ineradicably infected with industrial-era thinking.

My thesis is that we need to move away from that terminology all together. If we can negotiate a new paradigm, in which we set liberal and progressive values as one end of the political spectrum with traditional [1] and conservative values at the other, we might be able to get some actual work done.

I will admit I pitched the previous comment as though my thesis was already demonstrated, but that’s partly because I was talking to Watchman.

[1] I mean in the sense of valuing actual traditions, like May Day, or Parliament, or Wogan.

John,

Thanks for that. As you might guess, I don’t actually agree. For a start, the consensus definition can make me racist for trying to keep hold of my own wealth (no one elses – and this would only apply if I had some…) even if I have no concern about race at all (or, in my actual case, if I want all race labels removed as I think they ignore the fact we are all humans). I think that is what is called bloody stupid. Institutional racism (what you are describing) is what produces a racist situtation where people in minorities get different treatment from those in majorities. And discrimination, which is what racism is, is about how you treat people, not about the existing power relationships.

“The flaw in your analysis, and that of many people who are not historians, is the idea that “the left” and “the right” are in some way real things. They’re not. They are mappings on, not one graph axis, but at least ten or twelve different ones, and people use the terms without sufficient care.”

Well, as a historian I know full well the difference between a philosophical concept/movement and a real thing. Hence the fact I ascribe loose values to the movements and do not ascribe them to actual parties. I also know the axes model is just a model, and that it does not actually show left and right but rather an artificially produced comparative political position. You can’t measure everything, especially in politics.

I would also note that your axes are more than a bit biased:

“1. Class: left == interests of the employed, right == interests of the employer.
2. Fiscal: left == government intervention to help the poor, right == government intervention to help the rich.
3. Religion: left == tolerant of multiple faiths and inclined to dialogue, right == One True Way and it’s MINE!
4. Race: left == recognise that the disadvantaged need to club together, right == bloody wogs taking our jobs.
5. Sexuality: left == recognise that the disadvantaged need to club together, right == bloody shirt-lifters taking our cocks. etc, etc.”

Well, that seems to be me being left wing then. Odd that. But obviously you’re correct and the right wing are all evil and selfish. And the left wing paragons of virtue. Strange how socialism has failed to build paradise yet mind…

Bluntly, what you make the mistake of doing is ascribing all the stereotypical evils of the right wing to them, without asking why someone like me (who does not discriminate, and is socially extremely liberal) believes this is the way forward. I could respond by ascribing all the centralising, controlling, petty memes that can be matched with the left wing. I won’t, because I am interested in actual debate, not straw men.

Oh, and liberalism is indeed not a right-left concept. Hence its irrelevance to a sidebar in a debate that is trying to point out right-wing is not racist, and that it is pointless and devisive to assume it is.


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