Express columnist Jimmy Young praised the BBC’s decision to invite Nick Griffin onto Question Time:
The BNP is not going to quietly fold its tents and disappear, so surely it is better to allow it to subject its policies to open debate and questioning after which, as the BBC rightly says: “Our audiences, and the electorate, will make up their own minds about the different policies offered by elected politicians.”
Funnily enough, Young managed to write the whole of that column without slipping in a reference to how despicable he considers the BNP to be – leaving readers to draw the conclusion that the BBC will appear “courageous and wise” not because it has contributed to the undermining of far-right politics, but because it has given a platform to a rising moment.
The latter explanation requires the reader to accept that a national newspaper is willing to espouse racist extremism, which seems implausible unless you’re actually looking at a copy of the Express, where today’s headline (“KEEP OUT, BRITAIN IS FULL UP”) is a BNP slogan. Tabloid news feeds public appetite for racist politics, and the language of racist politics feeds back into the news.
Earlier today, I was reading Sarah Hartley on applying the “socially useless” test to journalism, but a front page like the Express’ is not anodyne uselessness. It’s pure harm, driving hatred and dehumanisation. And its existence undermines any arguments that newspapers may make for their own indispensability.
**Edit** This post wasn’t really supposed to be about the QT issue, but as the comments have swarmed on that point, I might as well quote Chris Dillow on why Question Time isn’t going to provide the crushing scrutiny some of the commenters below seem to be hoping for:
But this runs into Paul Sagar’s objection – that QT is not a platform for debate but merely a zoo in which soundbites are vomited into an audience who clap like hyperactive seals. There’s a danger that Nick Griffin could actually emerge well from such a show. His imbecile beliefs lend themselves better to cheap slogans than do arguments in favour of immigration – especially as viewers have been primed by the trash media to give credence to such beliefs, and as his opponents are likely to be discredited ministers who lack the courage to make the case for immigration. Indeed, as Bart Cammaerts notes, Belgian experience suggests the far right does gain votes as it gets media coverage.
Text © Sarah Ditum, 2009