Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Why I'll join the protest at Television Centre tomorrow

This evening BBC director general Mark Thompson is defending the decision to invite Nick Griffin onto "Question Time" tomorrow night. I think it was a bad decision - made in the first place not by him but by the editors of the programme.

They had the discretion whether to invite Griffin on or not and they chose to invite him on out of some mistaken sense that since he gets x% of the vote he therefore has earned the right to x% of airtime. The simple fact is that going on "Question Time" normalises Nick Griffin and his politics and we can't afford to normalise him.

Nick Griffin will be answering whatever questions are put to him on the night; they could be on anything - climate change, the postal strike, "The X Factor" - on some level, appearing on this show helps to normalise Nick Griffin.

There's nothing normal about a party that won't allow non-whites to join it, has violent thugs among its leadership, preaches hatred of a whole religion (just one for now) - Islam - hates trade unions and socialists, gay people, the European Union, foreigners, glorifies a mythical white race and its supposedly spotless past. A fascist party, that offers only reactionary answers to social problems.

In late teenage I finally cottoned on to the fact that most people on TV are middle-class and probably went to public schools. There's nothing wrong with that as such, but it isn't normal. The people who populate our television screens, on the whole, and commission and schedule the programmes, etc, are not, collectively, normal. I think a lot of them live in a cocoon. Their values are skewiff. On this occasion they think they are opposing censorship and standing up for free speech. I think they are dangerously out of touch.

Censorship: however "establishment", the BBC is not the state. "Question Time" is a programme, not a national election, and certainly not a party political broadcast. I would be against the British state censoring the BNP - I'm against the state censoring political expression. But, to repeat, the BBC is not the state.

Free speech: the right to free speech does not oblige people to give the BNP a platform. In a Guardian article Lib Dem Chris Huhne makes a reasonable fist of explaining why he will debate Griffin, including this:

I would not appear at a meeting organised by the BNP, and nor would I extend an invitation to them. It is no part of the business of an elected liberal to drum up larger audiences for our most reviled opponents. They are welcome to their freedom of speech, but they can choose their own street corner and their own soapbox without my help.
He sounds as though he has a much sounder grasp of what's at stake here than Mark Thompson.


The simple fact is, I think, a lot of middle-class people, and especially at the BBC - who also gave the BNP a soft ride in a "Newsbeat" interview recently, of all things - are complacent about what the BNP and other far-right or racist groups, like the English Defence League, represent.

If it is a defence to say that the BNP gets 6% in elections, what is the establishment going to let them do if they start getting bigger votes? I don't trust the establishment or the state to save us from fascism. The BBC, on the current showing, will just roll over and say "well, a lot of people like them, you know".

On 10 October about 500 English Defence League racists and fellow-travellers and - alas - people they picked up on the day, had the run of Manchester city centre while an anti-racist counter-demonstration was corralled by the police in Piccadilly Gardens. The fascists are audacious and the only thing that can persuade them to back down now is large mobilisations of people who oppose them. That happened in Harrow a few weeks ago, although I fear that the fascists have learned lessons from that day and might come back for a second try. In any case, they are currently on a tour of the UK, with Scottish and Welsh Defence Leagues also being set up.

Free speech is not the issue. Stopping the fascists from growing is the issue and the more of us that show up when they show up, the easier that will be.

1 comment:

Rog T said...


As I see it that there are only two things Griffin can do

a) Lie


b) Stir up hatred

For this reason it seems to me that it is a complete nonsense to give him a platform. Having said that I'd debate with him. I'd ask him who would have wiped my father in laws arse when he went senile, if all of his carers had been sent home. I'd ask him who would have delivered my mum's meals on wheels if her delivery lady had been sent home. I'd ask him where he would find the trained nurses who cared for me when my ulcer burst. I'd ask him why all my sons best friends who's mums and dads happened to be born in another country should be sent home.