Hypocrisy, Caricature, and Abuse: How Treating Nick Griffin Badly Failed, Badly

I haven’t gotten much response in the past when I said anything about the British National Party, but lack of response has never stopped me before.  Considering that the BNP has been the only topic in the news media for the last few days, I thought I’d add my tuppence.

The national news papers on Friday all carried giant headlines about Nick Griffin’s appearance on the BBC current affairs panel show Question Time. It was a huge, big, giant deal when the BBC invited the leader of the BNP as one of the panellists. It was in line with the BBC policy of including parties that have reached the electoral threshold of 5% and have leaders elected on a national level. Griffin is now one of the Euro MPs for Northwest England.

The show was stage managed so that rather than talking about the issues of the week, everything was about Griffin and the BNP. It was a set-up job, really. Half the debate, both before and after, was whether this was a good thing or bad thing for the BNP. No one wanted to give them time to air their views, but everyone wanted to get have a chance to get in a shot at them. Every panelist and every audience member given air time went to extraordinary lengths to declare their revulsion toward Griffin and the BNP. The papers Friday then took every possible sound bite out of context and ripped into Griffin and the BNP again.

Now let me state clearly that I do not support the BNP. But neither do I support hatchet jobs justified because the policies of the BNP are so repugnant to so many. I wish I could say it has amazed me, but it is really what can be expected from what passes for British journalism these days.

For example, Griffin claims to have changed views he’s held in the past. No one believes him. He was a member of the neo-Nazi National Front when he was in and just out of Cambridge and when it comes to neo-Nazis, the leopard never changes his spots. The Nazis, after all, killed millions of Jews, which makes them evil.

At the same time many members of the Labour Party were part of neo-Communist groups such as Militant, but that’s apparently okay. The Communists killed millions of Jews, Christians, and all sorts – millions upon millions more than the Nazis ever could have and over many more years – but being a former – or still borderline – Marxist is perfectly okay. No one gets the hypocrisy.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw was on the Question Time panel. No one brought up (or would have even cared) that when he was elected chair of the Leeds University Labour Society, he had the name changed to elected chair of the Leeds University Socialist Society and withdrew support from the Labour Party for not being left-wing enough. No one brought up (or would have even cared ) that when he was elected president of Leeds University Union, it was with the support of the Communist Society.

The biggest headlines I saw as I walked by news stands in the aftermath of Question Time were about Griffin’s support for the KKK. He was questioned by David Dimbleby about having appeared at a public gathering with David Duke and the KKK and before his answer was cut off, he said that it was a non-violent KKK group. Neither Chicago-born panelist Bonnie Greer nor the tabloids were having any of it, though even the (former?) Communist David Aaronovitch in The Times acknowledged that it was true. But the caricature of KKK sells more newspapers than trying to explain the complexities of racist politics in American history, so even suggesting that there are racists who are not going around lynching every black man in sight is tantamount to showing support for them.

When Griffin attempted to explain any of his views, he was excoriated as being a weasel and a liar. Either he accepted the facile comments that were thrown at him from audience and panelists alike and admitted that he was the vile person they insisted he was, or he rejected their accusations and thus proved he was the vile person they insisted he was. It was a lose-lose situation.

Not everyone bought the dinner of bile and vitriol being served up. There were about 300 complaints to the BBC about the programme. about 75% were complaining about the way Griffin was treated. But the telling indicator was the YouGov poll taken hours after Question Time. It showed that 22% of voters would consider voting BNP. This is not because the BBC agreed to have Griffin on the panel. It is because everyone on the panel made it the Nick Griffin Show and neither they nor the audience, nor David Dimbleby for all his protestations to the contrary, could restrain themselves. They gave the BNP the credibility it gained.

Labour Spied for the Communists

Even when I have referred to the Labour Party as pinko commies, I wasn’t anticipating ties quite as close as have been recently revealed.

Labour was rocked by a Cold War spy scandal last night over allegations that a Party activist linked to two members of Tony Blair’s Cabinet spied for the Czech Government when the country was controlled by the Soviet Union.

Left-wing activist Cynthia Roberts, who stood as a Labour Parliamentary candidate, worked for the Communists under the codename Agent Hammer, according to documents obtained by The Mail on Sunday.

Mrs Roberts was running Labour Action for Peace (LAP) from an office in the House of Commons. As you might expect, the socialist peacenik group had ties to Soviet Russia, the regime that had nuclear missiles pointed at UK. In the twisted logic of such groups, it was okay for the Communists to have weapons and threaten the West, but it was not okay for the West to likewise protect itself.

LAP was not a fringe group and this was not the 1960s. This was the 1980s and members of the group included future Blair Cabinet ministers Robin Cookand Gavin Strang, as well as MPs Dennis Skinner and Jeremy Corbyn. Tony Benn, former MP and Cabinet Minister in the Wilson and Callaghan Governments, later became chairman of the group and was a member in the mid-80s. When asked about Mrs. Roberts, he said, “I do not recall meeting Cynthia Roberts and there is no reference to her in my diary, which I have checked.”

Nope, never heard of her.

Dennis Skinner was an member of the LAP executive committee at the same time Mrs Roberts was the secretary. The usually candid Mr Skinner said “Don’t know the woman, never heard of her, don’t know what you’re on about.”

Nope, never heard of her.

It is fortunate that Cynthia Roberts stood for Parliament in the safe Conservative seat of Eastleigh. Otherwise there would could have been a Communist spy serving in the House of Commons. On the other hand, since Roberts’ connections have raised questions about those with whom she was closely associated, perhaps she wouldn’t have been the first.

Living in the Discredited Past

Someone forgot to tell these kids that the 1960s are over.

I am always amazed at how the most left-wing, commie organizations always like to use the word “democratic”. I think the idea is that if they can finally convince 50%+1 of the population to adopt their radical socialism, they can collectivise the US and finally turn it into a communist paradise. After all, look how it has worked so well everywhere else in the world.

They know it’s not going to be easy: “This demands a broad-based, deep-rooted, and revolutionary transformation of our society. It demands that we build on movements that have come before, and alongside other people’s struggles and movements for liberation.” Maybe Mao’s Cultural Revolution didn’t go far enough.

The comforting thing is that these are students for a democratic society. It’s why the first incarnation of this group didn’t outlast the 60s. Everybody has to grow up at some point. Well, most everybody.

What If . . .?

Philippa’s response to the 123 tag was from a book about Richard Nixon. It got me thinking about the Nixon presidency.

If there had been no Watergate affair, Nixon would have served out the full second term. Even with Ford as vice-president, I have doubts that he would have run for president. And even if he had, I think Ronald Reagan would have given him much more of a run for his money in the primaries.

Though we can never say with any certainty what would have happened if key historical event had not occurred, I think Reagan probably would have gotten the nomination. If the Democrats didn’t have anyone better than Jimmy Carter in 1976, and I can’t think of anyone better they could have had, Reagan probably would have won.

Had Reagan won in 1976 and 1980, this may have had a profound effect on the world. Soviet Communism wasn’t ready to  collapse by 1984. Would his successor – again, probably a Republican – have presented the same iron will that helped precipitate the events of 1989-90? Or were the agitations within eastern Europe enough with the backing of the American aadministration? Or would the system have collapsed under it’s own weight anyway?

Perhaps the bungled burglary at the Watergate triggered events that led to the freedom of eastern Europe today.

Appreciating Freedom of Religion

I was talking to someone from Solvakia today. She was ten years old when the Communists fell from power in Czechoslovakia.

Somehow we got onto the subject of church. She talked about how people who were known for going to church had very limited prospects under the Communist regime. She talked about how people passed down old family Bibles because that’s all there were. She remembered that people met secretly in homes.

Now that people are free to worship, the churches are packed. The Catholic church in her village had people packed so tight at the back of the nave every mass that they had to put speakers outside. This is in the High Tatras. While it may be nice to sit outside in the glorious scenery in the summer, tomorrow the forecast is a high of -2°C (28°F) after a low of -7°C (19°F). There’s snow skiing until May.

She told me that if you have been christened and don’t attend church, people look down on you. I’m not saying that it is good for anyone to look down on someone, but she did note she felt it was almost the opposite here. People look down on you for attending church.

People who have never known sacrifice often don’t appreciate what they have. Make public worship very difficult for 41 years, and some people who can’t be bothered now might feel differently.

I’m guessing that when Communism is no longer a part of living memory, the churches will begin to empty.