Saturday, October 24, 2009

Fine. We get it. But what do we do about it?

Leading up to last Thursday, I had been reading articles on the BBC website that Nick Griffin, chairman of the British National Party (BNP), was going to be on Question Time. I am nominally aware of Griffin and the BNP but I didn’t pay much attention to them until they won two seats in the European Parliament. It was kind of shocking that people would vote for party that is overtly racist. I was curious to watch and find out what he views as the UK’s problems and what his agenda would be when he gets to Brussels. Question Time is not available for me to watch on TV. I looked on BBC America and, not surprisingly, I couldn’t find it so I had to wait until last night to watch it on YouTube. (Yay for YouTube!) The program turned out to be a disappointment. It started reasonable enough and there were a few moments of good, quality, debate but most of it seemed to be some sort of show trial of Griffin and his party. The audience was hostile to him, the host was short with him at times, and his fellow panelists kept the heat on. The focus seemed to be on the Griffin’s past statements and the BNP platform which is well-known already. There was only an acknowledgement as the reason why Nick Griffin was on there in the first place—the fact that the BNP has won seats in the European Parliament.

The BNP is a nationalist, far-right, party dedicated to reverting the UK back to an idealized demographics of a country populated by white, Christian, heterosexuals. Its policies are protectionist and revisionist in nature. The party, until by an HRC challenge, was whites only. It advocates the return of non-whites back to their home countries. It is hostile to other faiths, particularly Islam which is described as being incompatible with British culture. It is also hostile to homosexuality, preferring it to be driven back into the closet. Its economic policies are self-protecting and anti-free trade. With every election, the party is gaining support but it still remained a fringe party only able to gain local seats until recently when they earned a high enough percentage of the vote to win two seats in the European Parliament. They have not won seats at Westminster, however.

Nick Griffin is the current chairman of the party and occupies one of the two seats his party won in the European Parliament. His past indicates all sorts of unsavory views with phobias of immigrants, colored people, Muslims, and homos. If I was a Muslim, I’d be his worst nightmare.

The program started off fair enough with a question of the BNP’s hijacking of Winston Churchill’s reputation as the BNP uses him in their promotional materials. A gentleman in the audience tried to get onto a topic that I was interested in when he tried to pose a question about the BNP’s euro-skepticism but the host glossed over it saying that they were going to focus on race relations. For most of the program, it was just a pile on about Griffin and the party. I already know how disgusting this man and his party is so listening to one audience member after another go on attacking him, got tiresome. I get it, but the show degenerated into bringing up past statements and then confronting Griffin with them. He would then try to dodge the allegation, usually saying something like, “I didn’t say such a thing," all while trying to set up the BNP as being more mainstream and acceptable. His particular twisting of the KKK and David Duke as being not-as-bad-as-you-think was almost unbelievable. But he did give me a chuckle when he started a defense with, “I cannot explain why I used to say those things…”

Griffin did come up with points with that I’m sure many Brits would find palatable. For example, he champions Western/Christian values but then sets it up as a contrast of Islam. You can agree with him with all sorts of positive aspects of British life but then he sets up a twist suggestion that those values are now under attack by this evil boogey-man: a colored immigrant bringing his foreign values.

The highlight of the program is when they got into the immigration policies under Labour. Then we heard the views of the conservative member of the panel and by Nick Griffin. I was getting excited because we seemed to be getting into some meat—why were people choosing to vote BNP? Is it because they like the BNP platform or is it because the mainstream parties are not addressing their concerns? They were right, they needed to have an open honest debate on immigration and other issues but--they were missing that opportunity that was right there! I don’t understand how this show could have failed so miserably at bringing up real issues and analysis rather than taking pot shots at the BNP. I mean, did we really need to quibble over what “aboriginal” meant? Let’s have some analysis on why people are going to the BNP and how that party acts when it gets actual power. I think that is more interesting than rehashing things we already know.

Before this show aired, there were protests about the BBC’s decision to allow Griffin to come on to the show, that doing so was giving him an air of credibility. The BBC argued that they had to give a platform to the BNP to follow their directive providing all viewpoints. Considering the BNPs election success, they had to do it. I find that respectable. I actually cringe at the prospect that the BBC would have actually turned away the BNP. Why not shine a light onto Griffin and the BNP? Bringing them into a free-market of ideas actually increases the opportunities for opponents to hit back at them. If the public is going to be educated about this party, let’s do it out in the open.

Disclaimer: I am an American and I do not openly endorse any political party or candidate outside the political system of the United States. Any preferences that I do have should be understood as coming from me, looking out of my own self-interest and those of my country.

Let me be clear, I do not like Nick Griffin or the BNP.


Paul said...

Racism begins with our families, parents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, grandparents, people we admire, respect and love.

However, as we grow and mature we come to the realization that what we were told by of family when we were children were slanted lies base on their prejudices. We realize that most people are more alike than different and want the same things, like a home, steady work, a Medicare plan and schools for our children (if you travel you will see this).

We realize that most people are of good hearts and goodwill.

This current climate of blaming others for our woes is not new. We have had this before and we have conquered it .

Remember “Evil flourishes when good men (and women) do nothing”. Raise your voices with those of us who believe we are equal and we can again win this battle.

David said...

Hi Paul. Thanks for commenting. I don't think your statement that racism begins with people we love. If that were the case, I'd be racist towards the Negritos (Black Filipinos) and the Chinitos (Chinese Filipinos). And although I have grown up hearing derogatory things about them, those people were never in my life to make either negative or positive impressions. I think that parents, family, etc. can setup the stereotypes but I think that there is something to be said about experiences that either reinforce or contradict them.