[Guest post] Having my say: Griffin on QT

This is a guest post by Nelson of spEak You’re bRanes.

Do you think I don’t understand what my friend, the Professor, long ago called The Hydrostatic Paradox of Controversy?

Don’t know what that means? – Well, I will tell you. You know that, if you had a bent tube, one arm of which was of the size of a pipe-stem, and the other big enough to hold the ocean, water would
stand at the same height in one as in the other. Controversy equalizes fools and wise men in the same way, – And the fools know it.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Image by Beau Bo d'Or (click for link)Like any thoughtful person, I think the BBC’s “Have Your Say” (HYS) is fucking rubbish. It’s not entirely down to the inherent futility of arguing on the internet, and it’s not just because the BNP appear to be actively targeting it, creating the perception that public opinion is skewed towards hate and stupidity. It’s down to the concept of “balance” which, in BBC world at least, appears to involve treating every opinion equally, no matter how idiotic or dangerous it might be.

Unlike the Guardian site or the Daily Mail site, the BBC don’t often allow all comments (with occasional moderation, of course) but rather tend to hold everything in a moderation queue before making editorial decisions about which to publish. This is apparently done in an effort to keep things “balanced”. Frankly, it does my nut that, somewhere at the Beeb, there are otherwise intelligent people who subscribe to the idea that choosing what to publish and what to suppress is somehow going to make things more representative of public opinion. Presumably these people are so ludicrously impartial, so supremely capable of stepping outside their own frame of reference that they are able to divine the mood of the nation better than the nation itself.

As a result of this highly-educated lunacy, HYS is worse than “Comment is Free” at the Guardian and it’s worse than the Daily Mail, where everything gets published but people can at least vote comments down as well as up.

Everyone knows HYS is shit. It’s why I created the Speak You’re Branes blog and it’s why people read it. We all share this bemusement and a kind of grumbling baseline level of anger that the BBC are wasting our money nurturing the awfulness. But this is not why I’m having my say now. I’m always a bit angry about the BBC (BBC news specifically) whether it’s their refusal to broadcast a charity appeal when Palestinians are being murdered or the remarkable deference and credulity they extend to powers who’ve been caught lying and cheating over and over again. Today, however, I’m very angry at the BBC. Angry enough that I finally have to say something serious about their craven behaviour.

Tonight the BBC will host an episode of Question Time on which they have invited the ex-National Front, holocaust-denying, criminal, racist Nick Griffin to appear. You’ll have to forgive me if I’m not bang up to date with the fucking news but as I understand it Peter Hain tried to mount a legal challenge to this and has sadly failed. I’m very much behind the idea that, as a criminal “whites only” organisation, the BNP shouldn’t be accorded the same status as other political parties but what if, as seems likely, they change their rules to fit within the law? Much as I’d love to see every last brown-skinned person in this country join the BNP and destroy it from within, I doubt that will happen. We cannot oppose the BNP on legal grounds alone.

I think the BBC is presenting two, equally facile, arguments here. Firstly, let’s get the free speech thing out the way. The issue is not free speech. Free speech is what I’m doing right now. It doesn’t entitle me to get on Question Time. In fact, the kind of language I use would be deemed too offensive. Unlike that revolting wanksock Nick fucking Griffin. By preventing Griffin from appearing on Question Time they would be making the same class of decision as when they decide not to invite Gok Wan on. It’s an editorial decision. The BBC trust are mostly fairly clear on this themselves, but when the point is pressed, Mark Thompson starts to talk about democracy, censorship and free speech. Free speech does not mean providing a platform, on Question Time, for anyone that would like one.

The second problem is the idea that, just because the BNP exist and are a political party, they are somehow entitled to be listened to. This is all down to the BBC’s retarded idea of “balance”, only now it’s not funny. It’s moved from creating a comically stupid comments board to legitimising a bunch of far-right racists and, almost certainly, contributing to their future electoral success. As Wikipedia puts it:

Because voters have to predict in advance who the top two candidates will be, this can cause significant perturbation to the system:

* Substantial power is given to the media. Some voters will tend to believe the media’s assertions as to who the leading contenders are likely to be in the election. Even voters who distrust the media will know that other voters do believe the media, and therefore those candidates who receive the most media attention will nonetheless be the most popular and thus most likely to be in one of the top two.

[…]

* If enough voters use this tactic, the first-past-the-post system becomes, effectively, runoff voting – a completely different system – where the first round is held in the court of public opinion.

You may even be agreeing with everything here but think that the BNP should still be allowed to appear, in which case I’d ask you to have a think about where you would draw a line. Would you allow a platform to a party that wanted to bring back slavery? A party that wanted to take away the right of women to vote? A party that wanted to lower the age of consent to 14? What about 10? 5? 2? I’m hoping we’d all draw the line somewhere. My point is simply that we can’t pretend there’s some kind of universal accepted threshold, written on a stone tablet by an omniscient moral arbiter. We have to decide, as a society, what is and isn’t acceptable and draw the line at that point. Everyone I know would agree that all humans, regardless of nationality or skin colour, are equal. Yet the BBC, by allowing the BNP a platform on Question Time, have drawn that line in such a way as to make racism appear acceptable. It’s not a forced move, they’ve made a disgusting, cowardly choice. Fuck everyone involved.

Text © Nelson, 2009. Image © Beau Bo d’Or, 2009.

56 thoughts on “[Guest post] Having my say: Griffin on QT

  1. “We have to decide, as a society, what is and isn’t acceptable and draw the line at that point.”

    We had that chance. We had it back at the European elections. Everyone knew that the BNP had the chance to make ground. ” Two thirds of us decided to idly sit by and let one-third decide who should represent us. This is the consequence, and we get what we deserve.

  2. It’s a craven and cowardly move because the current mood has them fearing for their own funding model, and there’s nothing more apologetic and sorry-looking than an organisation at risk of losing its funding, be that PSB models or advertising models.

    Even if it’s only a very vocal minority – and the silent majority are currently contributing £3bn in revenue via the TV Licence every year, quite happily – as the saying goes, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil”. And there are some very squeaky wheels hanging around on the internet astroturfing for Nick Griffin – if only because in real life, as we saw when the BNP membership list was published, they’re proven to be wholly unacceptable views to hold. They get you fired and they get you ostracised. If they’re such a great party to be associated with then those people on that list wouldn’t give a fuck about their details being public. No-one is interested in the Green Party list, are they?

    The problem is that the BBC is, like a few other previously decent outlets, increasingly run by dipshits with agendas they’re trying to be proud of and credentials they’re trying to stand up for. With the BBC it’s impartiality; with the Grauniad it’s their liberal credentials; the Telegraph tries to cram as much of itself as it can up David Cameron’s arsehole.

    At least they didn’t pull that stupid shit that the Mail’s chief mouthpieces, Littlejohn and Phillips did – bitch about Islam and the tide of immigration one second, tell their readers it’s not worth voting and then complain that the BNP got a foothold in the godawful version of proportional representation the EU use. The Greens pulled in more votes than the BNP in that voting system on issues just as critical to their core – but they’re not slapped all over every fucking paper every single day.

    Fuck the BBC, completely – impartiality should be weighted by a party’s popularity, not the objectionable characteristics of its leaders and not by how loud a couple of thousand of scaremongering gobshites can be. If it was, then Griffin and Brons would be hosting Blue Peter.

  3. It’s not about providing a “platform on question time for anyone who wants one” e.g. Gok Wan it’s about providing a platform for politicians or party leaders who enough of the country has spoken in favour of, regardless of your opinion of them. You don’t deserve to be on QT not because of your language but because you have no political power.

    I think you over estimate the power of QT the morons and racists who supported BNP before this will still support them, and it will just embolden everyone else who wants to see the back of them.

    The electorate need to wake up and vote against them, this might do it. I don’t think the BNP or Question Time are strong enough to change anyone’s mind. Nick Griffin will be crushed tonight.

  4. Not only is Nelson absolutely bang-on about the whole sorry, craven farrago (which puts me in mind of Nigel Farago, who is far too often seen “gracing” Question Time), but the cherry on the icing is the opposition that has been invited on to give Griffin the gratuitous kicking he so richly deserves. Bonnie Greer? Who cannot be counted on to make her warmed-over opinions felt on a sixth-form debating society like Newsnight Review? Jack Bloody Straw, who has all the backbone and presence of a single stem of his namesake? Why not Ian Hislop, or Paul Merton, or (and this I’d LOVE to see) Reginald D Hunter – each of these would be more than a match for Griffin? But Straw and Greer?

  5. If we allow our politicians to use language such as “British jobs for British workers”, hold hugely anti-european views or ask that Muslim women shouldn’t wear a veil when visiting an MP’s surgery then perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that this fosters a siege mentality that helps the views of the BNP become more acceptable to the general population.

    I don’t know if having Griffin on Question Time will turn us into a Nazi state but I doubt it will and I hope that once his views are shared on an open forum the other politicians present, and the audience that represent us, can prove them to be the little shites they are.

    [Edited here – Sarah.]

  6. “Nick Griffin will be crushed tonight.”

    sadly i don’t think he will. there’ll be questions on, sigh, the economy, the posties, mps expenses, a couple of other areas and maybe an attempted curveball about them forruns. he’ll have had weeks of coaching on how to not be a racist arse on telly. and any questions about being a fascist he can brickbat like he normally does.

    it’s tricky. i agree with nelson but then i also agree with the bbc. the most shameful bunch of cunts are the labour mps saying the bbc shouldn’t allow him on but then say that labour couldn’t ban them oh no.

    we should look at this positively though. jon adair and topsy et al are going to be wanking off so wildly this evening their arms will fall off. and then hys will no longer have to put up with their badly worded guff

  7. Yeah, that’s right. Equal rights and representation for everyone except the ones I don’t like or who I disagree with. Nice one, Nelson.

    And yes, if any of those figurative parties you quoted was able to muster a democratically elected representative then they would have the right to a public platform. Where do you draw the line as to who gets to make the call over whether they’re afforded that or not?

    I hate the BNP, but you’re not going to score any points by sinking to their level.

  8. You know, like it or not, Nick Griffin is a democratically elected politician. One can argue or rant about his past, his policies, his ideals and his modi operandi, but the fact remains that the British public gave him more votes than those who stood against him.

    Maybe this country is sick. Maybe the voters are stupid. Maybe it was a kneejerk reaction to what is happening (or what is perceived to be happening) in the UK at the moment.
    Most likely – I would argue – all three.

    But having granted him and his party the go-ahead to take part in recent elections, it is unfair and unethical to then try to move the goalposts just because you don’t like the result.
    If, as many suggest, Griffin’s policies and ideas are so very flimsy then they will fall apart for all to see this evening on Question Time, although whether that happening would sway any BNP voters away from the BNP, I don’t know.

    If he can justify his more “outlandish” statements and policies, then fair play to him. Because, at the end of the day, it’s down to the voting public to decide who gets elected – and not you.

  9. It’s a cynically manipulative ratings coup for the BBC, fuck all to do with freedom of speech. At present both the BBC and Griffin disgust me in equal measures.

  10. I think YOU overestimate the power of Question Time to seriously examine anything. It’s not about changing people’s minds. It’s about the platform.

    I think you also underestimate Griffin. He’s a convicted racist criminal who’s on record with his racism and holocaust denial. Yet he’s gathering votes from people who wouldn’t want to admit to being racist. And you think he’s going to be BAD at manipulating the media? That this Cambridge graduate is going to come across as a fool? God, I hope so but I wouldn’t bet on it.

  11. Question Time doesn’t involve a grilling from Paxman, or Andrew Marr or Jon Snow. A 20 minute slot with any of those would expose Griffin for what he is, but the BBC decide to put him on QT and look at all the lovely free publicity both they and Griffin are getting – sickening.

  12. That, Fin is bollocks. Normally not one of the uninterested people whom I work with watch QT. Tonight most of them will. Allowing a valid and broadly available platform for these people to speak lets them reach people who normally wouldnt bother to engage with them. It allows them a platform to preach from to an audience of suseptible muppets who would normally have only mild ill thought out badly informed political opinions and feeds them lies.

    It allows them to spout their filth and make it seem like mainstream reasoned opinion. Even the daily mail columnists whose opinions, seem to me to be, on a fairly regular basis exactly in line with the BNP feel they have to publicly make it known that they think that Nick Griffin is a rascist prick. THAT should tell you just how not in favour the BNP are with this country

  13. The BBC’s report on impartiality in the 21st century says:

    Impartiality does not entail equal space for every attitude, but it should involve some space provided that points of view are rationally and honestly held

    That’s actually a very stringent test, which means e.g. that people saying things they don’t believe (whether for money or votes) shouldn’t get a say, people who can’t logically justify their beliefs shouldn’t be on tv, and people who believe things as a result of fear, hate, emotional inadequacy, or other irrational causes, also shouldn’t be allowed on Question Time. Sadly the “rational and honest” test doesn’t seem to be applied very often.

  14. OK but surely we need to debate it. Maybe this isn’t the best platform but it’s the platform we have to counteract his views.

    The BNP exist and have a presence in the European Parliament. People are already voting for them for God’s sake. They are already out there so we can try to ignore them but it just isn’t working. We need to address this problem and we shouldn’t be afraid to give these people the rope needed to hang themselves.

  15. Curse you people. Distracting me. There’s a moral issue here.

    I’m saying that it’s immoral to allow him on. It’s disgraceful.

    As far as I can see, there are two arguments against it:

    1) No, it’s fine, it’s only racism. Not something important like council tax or wheelie bins.

    Nobody, except racists, hold that view.

    2) Sure, he’s disgusting, but we have to let him on anyway. Besides, he’ll destroy himself.

    I’m wary of any variety of pragmatism that involves compromising a fundamental moral principle. We have to decide where to draw the line. Then we have to stick with it. I draw the line so that we ALL have to accept that human beings are all equal. I’m happy to argue with anyone about taxation, education, health, finance, whatever. But anyone who doesn’t accept the basic equality of all humans can fuck right off. I think that puts me in a massive majority, along with everyone likely to be reading this.

    Oh, also, how the fuck can a racist party represent the people of this country, when we’re NOT all “indigenous” or whatever the current euphemism for “white” is.

  16. Some good points Nelson, but I’d take your comments about the internet a step further and apply them to the TV too – it is nothing more than a vacuous squawk-box. What makes headlines on it today, will be forgotten tomorrow (probably in favour of whatever is being put out on Stricty Cumming Over The X Factor on Ice this Saturday).
    If Nick Griffin wants to go on QT and try to justify his media-friendly racism, then let him. Like Fin, I believe he will get crushed tonight – having sat in the audience for QT I can tell you it is not a platform for free-speech, rather it is scripted (questions are distributed amongst the audience beforehand), and carefully stage-managed to ensure that political truth doesn’t get in the way of good TV – and seeing a racist fuckwit hung by his own petard is about as good as TV gets.

    I think that far more dangerous is the ruckus that has surrounded his appearance – that alone has given the BNP a far bigger platform then Griffin’s appearance on QT ever would..

  17. You’re right that the BBC have drawn a line. They have to because, as you say, nobody wants to see any more of Gok Wan on the telly. The BBC would say (and indeed do) that they have drawn that line on the basis of political significance and argue that the BNP have now achieved an electoral mandate comparable in size to that of say the Green Party a few years ago when they first appeared on QT. Unpalatable it is, but true as well, and also not the BBC’s fault.

    You mention drawing that line in relation to slavery and disenfranchisement of women and minors, but both of those issues have been live political debates in the past, it’s just that at this moment the overwhelming majority come down on one side of it. It doesn’t mean that can’t or won’t regress. Arguably keeping the discussion open helps to maintain the overall consensus there. But the line moves. Personally I’d like it to sit just above the Conservatives, but that’s just because I can’t stand the sight or sound of George Osborne.

    But basically you hit the nub of the issue right at the start. This isn’t a debate about whether Griffin should be able to be heard, it’s a debate about what the BBC is for. The line from the BBC is clear and unambiguous and personally I think it is in line with what their charter states they are for. Anything to do with Griffin will make most people with a modicum of human decency want to light up the torches, but that’s his fault not theirs. And it’s also a good sign.

  18. They’re a party with MEPs. They deserve to be heard. For someone who doesn’t like the BBC you seem to be content to let them decide who shouldn’t come on. What about a party who are planning on abolishing all religion in the UK, and have parliament seats? Or what if a Christian Evangelist party (prayer in schools, no abortions, etc) got seats? The BBC isn’t in a position to draw the line, that line is drawn by society and the Government. if the Government is content to let the BNP exist, and people aren’t kicking up a fuss with their MPs to have this party disbanded, then they will exist.

    I hate the idea of NG having a platform to talk from as much as anyone else, and I truly hope that he gets asked the sort of questions that make his lack of understanding of national and international politics very clear, but to not give him a platform will just give the BNP (legitimate!) fodder when complaining about how they’re a discriminated group (yes, I know, syrupey-thick irony).

  19. If the mainstream political parties weren’t so crap and the media not so interested in spin, hyperbole and ratings rather than un-biased reporting, we wouldn’t have be having this discussion, because the BNP would not have a single elected candidate in any parliament. As stands QT is going to get some of the highest ratings in it’s lame history.

    I don’t think we can point to a single instance in history and say “Yeah, that facsist government turned out alright.”

  20. I’d be interested in hearing how you respond to the following arguments, which you allude to in the comment above and have nothing whatsoever to do with freedom of speech:

    a) We don’t HAVE to let him on, but if we do, he can surely be relied upon to say something horrendous, on record, in front of a large audience.
    b) This will provide further concrete evidence to discredit him and his organisation
    c) This will be picked up by the mass media and will result in blanket coverage – possibly more than ever before.
    d) This will have an effect on those who are still unsure of, or apologists for, the BNP and turn them away from it convincingly.

    To put it another way:
    The BNP is horrendous
    And it will show ITSSELF to be horrendous on TV
    Which is a much clearer statement than the BBC implying that it is horrendous (by excluding them)

  21. I doubt he’ll destroy himself. If anything our side will – anti fascist protesters sabotaging it with megaphones is pretty petulant.

    I agree with all your points Nelson, but I still can’t help but think that this will only marginalise Griffin’s supporters even further. As you say, he is a savvy bloke and he is already banging on about some left-wing conspiracy preventing the voice of the common man being heard (bullshit of course). But denying him the chance to appear will only strengthen that argument won’t it?

    The fact is, a lot of people are disillusioned with politics at the moment. Frankly I don’t blame them. I don’t think disillusionment alone is enough to warrant a BNP vote, but the BNP is doing a spectacular job of convincing people that it is representing their needs in the face of a government that is ignoring them. It’s also doing a good job of convincing people that it is not racist, and the press have not tried hard enough to prove otherwise.

    That doesn’t mean that we have to welcome it into politics with open arms, but we are where we are. The BNP now has real political power, and a lot of supporters who blindly believe that it is simply fighting for traditional values. I’m not arguing that it is wooing Guardian readers, but I’m not sure I believe that all of its voters are as outwardly racist and criminal as its key members. Won’t these voters feel their democratic rights are being infringed upon if their elected leader is denied the right to speak? I don’t agree with their point of view, but if the end result is that they become more vociferous in their support, then we will have lost won’t we?

    You and I do agree on one thing; that as a civilised society we cannot compromise our morality – the key facet of that being equality. But at the same time, it would be disastrous if ignoring the BNP lead to it gaining more support. That would make a mockery of the morality we are trying to defend.

    I agree with you that there is a line but I think that line was crossed when the BNP seats were won in the European elections. I do not agree with the first commenter that we are getting the future we deserve. But this is the future we’ve got. And I think we have to deal with it now. The BNP is strong and has a loyal and active base, and I think pretending otherwise is dangerous.

    ps. Loved your ‘mental comfort zone’ post on SYB. It feels like a sin to disagree with you after you’ve given me so many hours of amusement :-)

  22. Minor point: not *everything* gets published on the Daily Mail comment board. They do moderate a bit, and it’s not for bad language reasons, because I’ve taken very polite issue with some of their more despicable columnists before.

  23. “I’m wary of any variety of pragmatism that involves compromising a fundamental moral principle. We have to decide where to draw the line. Then we have to stick with it. I draw the line so that we ALL have to accept that human beings are all equal.”

    There is no such thing as absolute morality and it’s wrong to imply that there is such a thing. Whilst most rational people would agree that racism is abhorrent, the only way that we can meaningfully arrive at this position is through debate. Otherwise a set of dogmatic principles will be rigidly stuck to for all time; in recent centuries, slavery was accepted as self evidently moral. It was only through self reflection and open debate that we progressed to the situation where we are now.

    No matter how strongly you believe it, you cannot unilaterally declare that the moral position that you hold now is superior; instead you must constantly prove it through rational debate. Without this there would be no self-correction of views which are later found to be baseless and harmful. With an issue such as racism it’s likely that any counter position would be dispatched in short order, in which case I don’t see what you’re worried about. But it is not exempt from the process just because you don’t like it.

    It is not up to any one person, or indeed any snapshot of society, to declare that anything is too immoral to debate. Morality is necessarily a fluid, self correcting, entity that evolves through constant exposure and debate; not through a global gagging order to suppress ideas that are contrary to the position you happen to hold now.

  24. But you are advocating compromising a fundamental moral principle, which is that people who are democratically elected have a right to a platform alongside other democratically elected representatives. Griffin and his ilk are quite clearly not representative of the country, otherwise there would be a majority BNP government and a lot fewer dusky complexions around, but they do represent that portion of the electorate who voted for them, who have the same right as you do to have their position represented and the opportunity to defend that position in open debate.

    And we don’t draw the line and stick with it, we constantly redraw and renegotiate that line through debate and compromise. You can’t just automatically assume that because your position is in line with the majority, it’s an incontrovertible truth. Part of the responsibility that comes with living in a free society is that you must be prepared to defend your position in open debate. If you exclude opposing voices from that debate, even ones who directly oppose that freedom of debate and expression, then you’ve got no hope of a free society.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve spent enough time backbiting with someone who’s essentially on my side, I’m off to kick a fascist.

  25. Enough! We have far too much line drawing already and much of it is of the ilk that was once attributed to the infamous Stasi… [i]”you have nothing to fear if you have done nothing wrong”[/i] I sympathise with your general viewpoint, Nelson but not your solution.

    It is the line-drawers who have contributed to having our country festooned with CCTV on as many street corners of this once green and pleasant land as possible. I hold no love for Griffin or his supporters… but you would need to have the IQ of a used tea-bag, before you could be influenced by the ramblings of a pygmy intellect like Griffin, let alone his knuckle-dragging assistants.

    It is a service for the public at large, that Auntie will render when she permits Griffin to speak. The bile he spews cannot be tarted up by producers and directors and it is likely that such a large public platform will be incentive enough for Griffin to open his foul mouth.

    Any watching members of the public are not going to be so easily converted to the BNP and they are unlikely to be influenced by Griffin. The reports in the daily rags, following the programme, are certain to expose Griffin’s beliefs to ordinary decent folk, who would not normally choose to watch Newsnight.

    Griffin wont be able to resist the opportunity to spout his puerile filth because he believes his own press and the subsequent weight given to it because of the European seats which underpin his belief that the tide of public opinion is now a groundswell. Griffin is the perfect argument for late abortions to be permitted and if that position bumps up against the religious tenets to which you happen to subscribe, then possibly one could always support assisted suicide… with the proviso that the population of the UK are permitted to choose who should commit suicide.

  26. If you prohibit political parties from mainstream discourse because of their views and policies, despite enough electoral support to justify their involvement, the problem is – who decides which parties are prohibited and which are not? How is that decision taken? Who rules upon why the votes of the BNP have no value but those of UKIP do? And how are the people who make that decision accountable to the electorate?

  27. There is a third issue, which is that the BBC would be in breach of their charter if they denied this kind of platform to groups once they had reached a certain level of national representation. That seems to be the hardest argument to refute- particularly for me, as I’ve never read the BBC’s charter and would have no idea where to start looking to see if it’s true or not.

  28. There’s lots of pending comments which I’m afraid I can’t publish so you’ll have to wait for Sarah. I can read them though.

    The most common disagreement seems to be people who are still insisting that it’s about free speech. That we have no right to deny the BNP their platform just because we disagree with them. As if a political party denying human rights to some of the population that they (claim to) want to represent is “just another issue”. Not all opinions are equal. Not all positions deserve equal consideration. If you disagree, then how do you argue against teaching Creationism in science classrooms?

    This post says much I agree with, but clearer than I have:
    http://leninology.blogspot.com/2009/10/mainstreaming-fascism.html

    Oh and then there’s someone saying “There is no such thing as absolute morality and it’s wrong to imply that there is such a thing”, which makes me wonder if he/she actually read the post before commenting :)

  29. “But anyone who doesn’t accept the basic equality of all humans can fuck right off.”

    Yah. But the problem is, is it not, that the BNP and their supporters don’t admit to believing that black people are inferior; rather, their line is that it’s about whether immigration, the way it works at the moment, is good for the country – both in terms of a national ‘identity’ and levels of crime and all the other stuff. As far as the BBC are concerned, this is what’s up for debate and if Griffin starts trying to claim that black people *are* inferior, they’ll censor him, because that’s done, dusted, decided.

    For the record, I don’t want them on Question Time. I don’t think people should be paying attention to them. It seems to be just because it’s something everyone can get excited and moralistic about. A case of: “Oo, let’s bring back the racists-in-denial because everyone knows how they feel about them – they can just sit in their arm chairs and pretend that by hating Nick Griffin they’re doing their bit to keep the country true and good.” Discussions about the realities of climate change, poverty and the economy are more likely to result in a collective “I just remembered there was something I needed to do, probably involving some sand and my own head.”

  30. the fact remains that the British public gave him more votes than those who stood against him

    Actually, it’s proportional representation innit, so he didn’t get “more votes” than the person he stood against, it’s just that the BNP got enough votes in comparison to everyone else to win a seat. (Nit-picky, but worth saying.)

  31. I agree with the article, especially the points about that BBC’s duplicity in deciding whose ideas deserve to be heard, or not. I’m not a LibDem supporter but im consistantly amused at how they are marginalised to ‘rank outsider’ status when it comes to the likelyhood of them winning a general election.

    However i wonder what the author believes the consequences of not allowing them to speak would be? In a perverse way might it not give them great publicity and a greater claim that the ‘establishment’ are afraid of what they have to say? In doing the right thing, might it not have the opposite of the desired effect? Im not sure of the answer, yes im sitting on the fence, but i think it’s not quite as simple as doing one thing or the other….

  32. “Oh and then there’s someone saying “There is no such thing as absolute morality and it’s wrong to imply that there is such a thing”, which makes me wonder if he/she actually read the post before commenting :)”

    The ‘implication of absolute morality’ statement was in reply to your reference to a “fundamental moral principle” that racism is unequivocally bad without question. The fact you made your second statement makes me wonder if you actually read *my* post in it’s entirety :)

    Regardless, I’d appreciate if you could address my points.

  33. Personally I believe they should be allowed to appear on Question Time. I also believe that your hypothetical paedophile party, or pro-slavery party should be allowed to appear too, should they fit the same criteria. (Quite frankly, I think it’s pretty hard to argue that the BNP aren’t morally equivilent to those two examples anyway)

    I think the European elections demonstrate that the policy of pretending that the BNP don’t exist isn’t working. Denying them a platform allows them to claim that their opposition can’t defeat their arguments, or that they’re being “suppressed” by the “liberal left elite”.

    There are strong arguments against the BNP’s positions, and their arguments do not stand up to scrutiny. I believe the way to defeat fascism is not to pretend that it doesn’t exist, but to debate it. Our side of the argument is undoubtedly stronger. Allowing them a platform, allows their weak arguments to be shot down in a very public arena.

    While I can definitely appreciate the other side of the argument, and don’t believe that I’m necessarily completely right on this issue, I don’t think denying them a platform is constructive to the end-goal of defeating fascism.

    I also believe that censorship of political parties is inherently dangerous and open to abuse. Allowing society as a whole to decide which political parties are allowed and which aren’t is also dangerous (although I’m not entirely sure if you were advocating that).

  34. Billy

    “No matter how strongly you believe it, you cannot unilaterally declare that the moral position that you hold now is superior; instead you must constantly prove it through rational debate.”

    No I disagree. ‘Racism is bad’ is an axiom that doesn’t need to be proved. Suggesting that it should be up for debate gives it validity. I do think there is such a thing as absolute morality: you must not harm others, you must consider humans equals etc. These are truths that should be unequivocal. In fact, equality is the premise upon which international law is based. If we agree that one human is superior to another, then the laws we govern ourselves by hold no meaning. Your argument suggests that the statement ‘Jews are inferior to whites’ is potentially as intellectually valid as the belief that we are all equal.

    Also I don’t think freedom of speech quite cuts it with this one – yes Griffin has the right to freedom of speech. But more important is the freedom to exist without being discriminated against because of your skin colour / sexuality / religion. This is a right Griffin wishes to remove, and that is why there is resistence to his being allowed to speak. And fair enough.

    I guess there’s no way of telling what effect it will have, because now the brouhaha can’t be undone. The only way to tell if it’s the right thing is by stepping into a parallel universe to see what would have happened if he hadn’t attended.

    I’m just crossing my fingers he emerges hurt, not helped by this. Whether it happens is another matter though, because he’s a lot more intelligent than his racist views suggest.

  35. Ellie,

    You don’t get to declare them as axioms, no-one does. By this reasoning, Nick Griffin could simply declare that his right to free speech trumps your right to equality of all humans – without debate it is impossible to proceed.

    Remember the ‘obviousness’ of an anti-racist position in itself doesn’t make racism bad, rather the demonstrable negative effect on others does. It is this evidence that must be presented to persuade others to agree with your stance on racism. Remember it wasn’t always clear to humanity that racism is a bad thing, and if we ascribed to the view that some moral tenants are above debate then we wouldn’t be where we are today.

    To borrow your example, my position is that the statement ‘Jews are inferior to whites’ has to be defended just as any other position would have to be. I’m not saying that it is equally valid, just that it has to go through the same rigour of debate to establish it’s validity. In doing so the best positions rise to the top as being able to best withstand debate.

  36. My Country Right or Left

    To a disinterested outside observer it would seem that a significant group of highly articulate people are arguing that the very appearance, on television, of the leader of an unpleasant (but nonetheless effectively irrelevant) political party will cause hoards of people to suddenly become the worst sort of slavering racists.

    The comments, of course, discount the possibility of any such effect on the writers and their class of well educated, liberal “right-thinkers”. Are they suggesting that it is the powerful who will be converted to the fascist cause? Of course not. To well educated liberal people, the powerful are only interested in power. They already have that and aren’t eager to share it. So who are they worrying about? The less educated, less liberal minded, naturally. Or to put it another way; the working class.

    There’s a nasty paternalism in left-wing writing of this sort. It basically says “people less intelligent than us cannot be trusted to make the correct decision”. In light of that here is my reason for wanting to see the BNP on question time; to prove all you patronising wankers wrong. To show you, once again, that the very knowledge of the existence of these not-so-crypto-fascists will not cause the standard of bloody Nazi rebellion to be raised on these shores. To demonstrate that the good people of this Great Britain are wise enough and smart enough not to leap to bigotry and race-war.

  37. It’s not an anxiety about “stupid people” – there are plenty of smart people who hold or have held racist opinions. For me, the worry is that if the BNP and its associates represent vocal and uninhibited public racism, it’s fair to assume that there are a number of other people who are sympathetic but inactive. Mainstream exposure makes it easier for those people to speak, act and vote as racists.

    Personally, I don’t think the BBC could have kept Griffin off QT indefinitely while he’s an elected representative. But I do think that this appearance, along with things like the feeble Newbeat interviews and national papers serving BNP talking-points as front page headlines, will have an effect on some members of the public. And at least the no-platform argument accepts the idea that there are political consequences to editorial decisions.

  38. Hi Billy

    But surely there are some truths we have to agree on as a civilised society? Otherwise how could it work? How could we make laws? We can’t simply debate every philosophical truth, or in the words of Douglas Adams, we’d go on to prove that black is white and get ourselves killed at the next zebra crossing.

    The point of the International Declaration of Human Rights is that there is a set of values that apply to all of us equally that are not up for debate. These are the values upon which we base our laws and then apply them to everybody.

    It just seems to me that you’re arguing that we should start from a point where all viewpoints are equal and then debate it from there. I accept that you probably argue that racism, when challenged, falls to pieces as it is totally stupid, but the idea of a society where it’s ok to argue in favour of racism worries me – even if the advocator loses. I think we should be unequivocal about certain things, and not entering into discourse which flatly oppresses others is one of them.

    Only an hour and 15 mins to go before it’s on by the way! Graham Lineham just tweeted (hate that verb) that he gets a right pasting! Let’s hope so!

  39. Re your last point: I totally agree. Media coverage of the BNP has been woefully lenient so far. At the very least I hope this makes up for that.

  40. You’re just a man who makes photoshops on the internet, why should anyone listen to you? People voted for him and made him legitimate, regardless of what you think of his politics. That’s all that matters. If you don’t like it, change it. Leave the hysterical emotive posturing out of it, you look a twat.

  41. Hi Sam. You’re just a man who leaves comments on the internet. Leave the ad hom attacks out of it, you look like a twat. (You see how this works, yes?) And anyway, photoshops what? I think you’re mixing your bloggers up. Must try harder.

  42. Nearly one million people voted for the BNP in this summer’s elections. Their votes count as much as anyone else’s and must be recognised; the party is due a representation in proportion to its electoral support, no more or less. I can’t see past this argument.

    To cite the BNP’s immorality as reason for their exclusion only begs the question – who makes the decision about what is moral, and who is deemed moral? Is this done by public acclamation, or do we somehow appoint an arbiter to make this judgement on our behalf?

    How is it feasible to censor parties with whom the majority disagrees? A censor would presumably be appointed by the government; the government are chosen by the electorate. Taken to its logical conclusion, the winner of an election would therefore be able to censor out whatever it chose, including all opposition parties. In this present case, the argument appears to be – most people are revulsed by the BNP, so it is justified to exclude them. But how do we measure people’s views about political parties? By elections. We had an election in the summer, and the BNP received a million votes. Do you see the problem?

    On a practical level, I would argue that a far more effective way of of countering the BNP is firstly to ignore them as far as possible, and secondly for the mainstream parties to work much harder to re-engage the hundreds of thousands of voters who felt sufficiently disenfranchised by the current political climate to vote BNP this year. I cannot believe that all of them are ardent racists.

  43. “But anyone who doesn’t accept the basic equality of all humans can fuck right off.”

    Sweet, sweet irony.

  44. Hi Ellie,

    Sure, there are rules that most rational people would probably agree to in any given situation; but the only way to establish what these are is through debate and constant challenge. Only recently has homosexuality been accepted by the majority of society; without this previously taboo subject being fair game for debate then it might still be outlawed to this day. The same is true of racism, sexism and slavery. The problem with a society that defines what is and isn’t fair game off the bat is that it very quickly falls out of step with the rest of the world, and has a moral compass that is at the whim of whoever happens to be lawmaker at the time.

    For instance it might be clear to you that murder is wrong, as is racism and homophobia; but it might be equally clear to someone else that something more contentious like abortion is inherently wrong, or the usage of GM crops or religion. A society in which some subjects are not open for debate would be in danger of accepting some contested values unfairly, and perhaps with grave consequences.

    The list of human rights you describe was arrived at through careful examination and extremely thorough debate. They were proven to be robust against counter argument and therefore earned their place. If there were any compelling arguments against these then this would have been exposed in the debate and the potential right rejected. But a debate must happen before we know this, and they must continue to be debated should any new issues come to light.

    I’m not saying that we should simply declare all viewpoints equal, what I’m saying is that they are all fair game for discussion. We all have an individual responsibility to weigh up all the arguments for and against before deciding for ourselves what position to adopt. What absolutely shouldn’t happen is that moral positions are dictated to us by those in authority who have declared that the matter is now settled and that there is no room for any more discussion.

    Oh, it’s on now!

  45. Just starting to watch this (a few minutes behind real time) and fervently hope that NG is lulled into a false sense of security and makes a complete arse of himself. If he were banned, potential supporters wouldn’t be exposed to his general chimpness and current supporters would find it easier to claim that his views aren’t that bad after all. Some are assuming that the entire electorate are fully engaged and research parties before voting for them. I personally think that slagging off generals as war criminals or using a Polish spitfire in electoral leaflets about WWII are more likely to get into the papers and put off people who might otherwise mutter about political correctness or “voting the scoundrels out”.

  46. I agree that censoring parties based on majority view is a bad idea. This could very easily lead to a tyranny of the majority.

    Unpopular views are not always immoral. Remember that at one time, the notion that all people should be treated equally was an unpopular view.

  47. [Edit by Sarah. Here’s a tip: don’t leave a spoof email and don’t leave a spoof URL if you want to get your comment published.]

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