The limits of no platform

I admire whoever it was on the staff of the Brussels O’Farrell’s bar that told Nick Griffin that he ‘wasn’t welcome’ there. If only we in Britain had the courage to do Griffin and his supporters the same courtesy, instead of making excuses for the fuckers. 

The principles of free speech and association have limits – free speech doesn’t extend to the right to have articles published in any newspaper you choose or to speak at any institution you like. The BBC has no obligation to give Nick Griffin airtime. 

Unfortunately, having invited Griffin to be a panellist on Question Time, the BBC can’t very well disinvite him now and let the BNP portray itself yet again as the Voice of the People silenced by the Liberal Elite/ZOG.

Probably the BBC should not have invited Griffin on. But their grounds for doing so are reasonable:

A BBC spokeswoman said: ‘The BBC is obliged to treat all political parties registered with the Electoral Commission and operating within the law with due impartiality.

”By winning representation in the European parliament, the BNP has demonstrated evidence of electoral support at a national level. This will be reflected in the amount of coverage it receives on BBC programmes such as Question Time.’

That seems to cover it. There is significant electoral support for racist and fascist politics in this country. You can make excuses about immigration and multiculturalism and political correctness and the victimhood of the white male as much as you like, the fact is that there is support for racist and fascist policies in the UK electorate and you have to face that.

The decision has received massive coverage on the papers and blogs. Chris Dillow says that the show itself is too debased:

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.

Lenny echoes this:

Just to be clear: there is no prospect, whatsoever, of a ‘debate’ of any meaningful kind taking place if Nick Griffin is allowed to be a guest on Question Time. That show is not about debate. It consists of soundbite answers to soundbite questions. Serious matters are discussed, but not in a serious way. In such a context, all that is likely to happen is that the fascist leader will take the opportunity to issue his usual string of coded racist provocations and lies, and hope for enough of them to stick.

I tend to agree – television’s not the best medium for serious debate. If you really want to understand something then books, serious newspapers, journals and even blogs are much more use. Michael Shermer’s attempt to debate a holocaust denier on a chat show whose host had no understanding of the issues should be born in mind here. (He records it, with Alex Grobman, in the excellent Denying History.)

But circumstances for debate are rarely ideal and I have seen good arguments made on QT – Christopher Hitchens’s clash with Shirley Williams is a fine example of this

A Griffin appearance on QT would also have the pleasing effect of exposing the cowardly, corrupt scum in the political class and punditocracy who ostensibly oppose the BNP but agree with much of its worldview, particularly on immigration. It would bring home how far to the extreme right the debate has gone on that issue.

I understand Dillow’s and Seymour’s reluctance to trust mainstream politicians to take Griffin on, but surely there’s room in the format for creativity. Why not buy tickets to the Griffin QT and repeatedly ask questions that highlight the gap between his public rhetoric and his fascist lineage? 

To me a lot of the critical comment stems from a lack of intellectual courage. Are we really so unsure of winning an argument with a fascist?

I like Phil BC’s take on this.

This is the stock response we should expect from establishment anti-fascism. No doubt tomorrow’s press release from Unite Against Fascism will wag its finger at the BBC and ask if the editors know the BNP is a Nazi organisation full of Holocaust-denying freaks and people with criminal records. Nor would I be surprised if the UAF commit itself to picketing future Question Times Nazi Nick has been invited to.

The problem with all this is it plays right into the BNP’s hands. We may not like it but the BNP has successfully built up a semi-stable, semi-localised electoral base who are receptive to what the fascists have to say. A core element of their propaganda is a persecution complex where the BNP are victimised by powerful forces for daring to tell the ‘truth’. This is compounded by anti-fascists attempting to no platform the BNP without offering a rebuttal of their racist narrative. In the minds of casual BNP supporters it looks as though they have the establishment running scared.

Underlying this commitment to a no platformist strategy is a thinly veiled belief the BNP’s target audience – white working class people – have a hard time thinking for themselves. They need shielding from their Nazi lies because there’s a danger at any moment they’ll become slobbering racists.

I for one have much more faith in working class people. If they can see through the bollocks regularly churned out by Gordon Brown and co, they are more than able to see Griffin for the thick prejudiced tosser he is.

That is it. BNP support is predicated on white male self-pity: the myth of the white male being oppressed by liberals/political correctness/immigrants/ZOG. The QT invite takes away that victimology card: okay, we’re treating you like a proper politician, we’re having you on a serious programme, now why can’t you answer serious questions?

I can’t help feeling this has to be better than throwing eggs.


2 Responses to “The limits of no platform”

  1. Adam Says:

    “If you really want to understand something then books, serious newspapers, journals and even blogs are much more use. ”

    Don’t you think you’re casting your net rather widely including all these in the same sentence? The purpose, scrutiny, audience and acceptance of these media is completely different. To dismiss televisual debate (and then remember a good one you saw, once) and then include ‘blogs’ as a medium for understanding (rather than the ravings of people with an inflated sense of importance, too much time on their hands and a computer, which 90% of them are) seems a bit presumptuous.

  2. maxdunbar Says:

    I have read stuff on blogs that is more useful and in depth than a TV politics show. I agree with your main point about 90% of blogs which is why I included the qualifier ‘even’.

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