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Death by Television

by Anastasia (writer), London, June 15, 2011

Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party
watch the video

The British National Party, a fascist-style movement, has all but been killed off by the fumbling and inept performance of its leader on a TV show.

The British National Party (BNP), for those who don’t know it, stands on the fringes of British political life. Many of its members and much of its hierarchy, including Nick Griffin, the party chairman, have a Nazi and racist past, something that they rather wish that voters would forget, at least the Nazi part.

Under Griffin the party has been attempting to go ‘mainstream’, persuading enough people to vote for them in the 2009 Euro election to get Griffin and Andrew Brons elected as members of the European Parliament. The movement is said to be right-wing, though a good part of its programme could easily have been lifted from old Labour Party manifestos, which I feel sure explains their appeal among working-class voters, that and the racism.

No matter what colour this movement gives itself of one thing I am certain: it is largely made up of eccentrics and oddballs, people with a grudge, people who would be naturally attracted to one kind of extreme or another as a reflection of some deep-rooted disaffection or personal alienation.

There is a well-established argument in left wing circles that the only way to stop the advance of the BNP is to deny them a ‘platform’, to stop the members speaking in public, speaking at all, by violence if necessary. It’s a view represented by one Weyman Bennett, joint secretary of an organisation called Unite Against Fascism.

Although the people in this organisation, and those who take their lead, like to claim that they understand the ‘lessons of history', the chief one being that only deeds and not words would have stopped the rise of the Nazis. It’s actually quite an ignorant view, far from understanding the true lessons of history, far from understanding that the Nazis thrived on the violence directed against them.

In the summer of 2009, in response to this kind of thinking, I wrote an article called Stopping Hitler, which concluded as follows;

Violence will not stop the BNP, oh no it will not; only words will. And the words I have in mind are their own. Yes, I would allow a platform for Fascists for the simple reason that once people at large know just how simplistic their words are it will collapse from under them. That is the intelligent deduction, not the ‘lesson of history.’

I’m delighted to say that not long after my argument found a practical and perfect illustration. The BBC runs a flagship show called Question Time, in which a panel of politicians and other public figures answer topical questions from an invited studio audience. Following the BNP’s success in the European election Griffin was invited to appear on the show. It caused a huge fuss, with people like Peter Hain, then a government minister, threatening to take legal action against the Corporation. Against all the pressure it resisted, and Griffin duly appeared.

What did we see, what happened? What we saw was a desperately silly little man. There he was, grinning inanely, nervous, evasive, sweating, trembling, ingratiating, hopeless in every way. I can only describe it as death by television. What a favour Hain and his kind would have done the BNP if Griffin had been prevented from appearing. Then he could have depicted himself as a martyr instead of the fool that the world was allowed to see and hear.

The party has never recovered. The breakthrough they expected in the British Parliamentary elections did not come. Instead it was humiliated. Since then it has been beset with all sorts of internal squabbles, including an alleged plot to murder Griffin.

Publicity, the public airing of Griffin on television, was not oxygen; it was cyanide. By giving a platform to racists the BBC has effectively killed them; for by their words, and their shifty appearance, shall ye know them. That is the true lesson of history.



About the Writer

Anastasia is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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9 comments on Death by Television

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By TonyBerkman on June 16, 2011 at 08:19 am

"Death by Television" :)

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By Anastasia on June 16, 2011 at 07:27 pm

Gary, the more the better. I actually signed up for alerts from the BNP website. Soon after the Question Time fiasco there was an apologetic vide broadcast by Griffin – “OK, I know I wasn’t great.” :-)

I guarantee you that the people who voted BNP in the Euro election have mostly never seen Griffin or the creepy Brons in action. The real test of how effective Question Time was came with last year’s general election. I have other articles on the BNP on my blog. Just use the Lijit search engine

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By Anastasia on June 16, 2011 at 07:28 pm

Tony, judge for yourself. :-) http://youtu.be/DIHNJP9e9EQ

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By Michael Ezra on June 17, 2011 at 04:20 am

Anastasia,

I concur with your view regarding "no platform." The idea became very popular in the National Union of Students in the 1970s and 1980s. Conceptually, it may not sound a bad idea to deny racists and fascists a platform, to deny them the ability to use university facilities to espouse their vile opinions. This, however, is naive. Most importantly, it is against our democratic principles. It is the thin of the wedge to start banning people for far right-wing political views. If the principle is agreed to, then people can be banned for holding any other views that it is decided is objectionable. And this brings me on to a further point, the question as to who decides who is a racist or who is a fascist. Ben Elton was a popular comedian in the 1980s. He regularly referred to the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, as a fascist. He was not the only one. If he, or those who thought like him, were taken seriously, then we would have had the ludicrous position of attempting to ban a sitting Prime Minister from speaking. This is not necessarily as far-fetched as one might think. I am aware of at least one seious attempt to ban a Conservative Member of Parliament from speaking at a university on the grounds that some wanted him "no platformed" as a racist.

The idea reached an absolute low when there were those, supported by the Socialist Workers Party, who attempted to use the policy to ban Jewish Societies from using university facilities on the false grounds that as the Jewish Society was Zionist, it was racist.

"No platform" is also dangerous for a further reason. Banning something can lead to people being interested in it. The attempts to ban D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover, and Peter Wright's Spycatcher no doubt massively assisted sales of the respective books.

It therefore should be seen that the whole policy of "no platform" is a dangeous one.

It is to my deep regret that the BNP did so well in the European election but I completely concur with your view that it would have been wrong to ban Griffin from a slot on Question Time. Democracy demanded it. And as you say, he was exposed as a fool. I hope that he is continued to be exposed as a fool and that he and his party are confined to the rubbish heap of history, the place where they belong.

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By TonyBerkman on June 17, 2011 at 03:34 pm

Anastasia, you are correct. If there ever was an episode of television to call "Death by TV" this is it. I have embedded the YouTube code into your article. Great read and great watch. Thank you for sharing it with those of us outside of England.

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By Anastasia on June 19, 2011 at 07:26 pm

Michael, hi, it’s really super to see you here! Thank you for that interesting supplementary information.

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By Anastasia on June 19, 2011 at 07:27 pm

Bill, I'll check that out.

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By Anastasia on June 19, 2011 at 07:27 pm

Garry, good for a laugh or several. :-)

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By Anastasia on June 19, 2011 at 07:28 pm

Tony, thanks for that addition.

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