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Let the Facists Speak.

October 25, 2009

even when you touch yourself.

The BBC has been in the spotlight again.

This time, in the face of anger and protests, they allowed Nick Griffin, the leader of the far-right British National Party, to take part on its flagship debate show “Question Time”. Nick Griffin is your typical right-winger who loathes immigrants, has stated that Islam should be handled as if it was a disease, has denied the Holocaust (though slightly ironically supports the state of Israel in its wars against Lebanon and Palestine), and has stated his repulsion in seeing homosexuals doing their thing in public…

The BBC’s defence for allowing Mr. Griffin to take part in this publicly funded program is that the BNP has two seats within the European Parliament, and therefore has opinions that should not be censored.

Admirable BBC. Mr. Griffin should not be silenced in expressing his opinions. That is the whole idea of freedom of expression and all these ideals that people in Europe and North America parrot about, that views should be shared even if not a lot of people share them.

In my view though the stance by protestors against the BBC has been counter-productive and will create a backlash. Their protests outside the BBC, while inside Mr. Griffin was made to appear a victim as panelists and audience alike tried (almost literally) to batter the racist out of him, has given him and his party something they will certainly try to play to their gain. One poll conducted after the program showed that 22% of the public questioned would “seriously consider voting for the BNP”.

Listening to the radio prior to the program a number of right-wing politicians were speaking of a new liberal dictatorship that was stifling democracy. What is frightening about this is that it actually merits some consideration.

Within “liberal society” certain views have become so dominant that anyone who takes a counter view are vilified and ostracized. Therefore, if you are an outspoken racist, sexist, or other “ist” and you are public about it, be warned. Calling Mr. Griffin a fascist, which he certainly is, should not end the conversation and does not eliminate such thoughts from those that share his views (as polls indicate). Instead it keeps racism, sexism, and other forms of thought private and personal, allowing them to continue unchallenged in a private realm. Publicizing it, warts and all, surely is more effective in dismantling the basis of these views. It allows the real debate that would, in my humblest of opinions, win more victories than branding someone else with a name or a slogan. Calling Mr. Griffin, a fascist, is akin to dropping the word “terrorist”. How does that really solve anything?

This notion that, because Mr. Griffin is airing his views publicly we risk the sudden growth of extremism, is to completely misread society.

All societies, including (surprise, surprise) British society, has its racist elements, that will only grow and nurture if it is clamped down or silenced. How is this different from the methods and repercussions to silence democratic movements in totalitarian societies? The protestors should ask themselves why certain elements of society support such groups (because right-wing groups appear to be gaining ground in European political systems), where is this sentiment coming from and what is fueling it? Perhaps by understanding that there can be a movement to tackle the root causes of this support.

However, what is clear is the selectivity in allowing freedom of expression. A number of months ago, for the sake of neutrality and impartiality they censored a charity call of action for the people of Gaza (only once before in the history of the BBC had this been done, when it denied air time for a charity call of action for the Lebanese after the Israeli onslaught in 2006).

That is where I think the debate should be shifted, and what people are missing out on. We must ask ourselves a serious question: do we believe in freedom of expression and what does that truly mean?


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