Friday, October 23, 2009

Springboard for Griffin

I can't be the only who is already sick to death of all the news and commentary about Nazi Nick's appearance on Question Time. So, I'll keep this short and bittersweet. A number of antifascist commentators have expressed mild but pleasant surprise at the way in which old psyclops floundered on Question Time. Sarah Ditum and Sunny Hundal are among them. I wish, briefly, to demur. Griffin certainly was all over the place at points. He was challenged to an extent on his real record and beliefs, and members of the audience landed some decent blows (while the duce sat there chuckling away as if it was all a bit of a larf, and he was in on the joke). However, two things: 1) As many people expected, the overwhelming tenor of the discussion was appallingly racist, with Jack Straw, Chris Huhne and Baroness Warsi competing to sound tougher than one another on immigration. That automatically legitimises the empirical claims made by the fascists. The 'debate' is then a narrow one about who most adequately deals with the purported problem. Warsi made the claim that many BNP voters aren't really racist, merely having legitimate concerns, and therefore the mainstream parties have to 'listen' to them. That is based on a falsehood - the BNP's voters are overwhelmingly racist, far more so than the population at large. But accepting this logic means accepting a discussion on the terms of the far right, which has benefited them wherever the tactic has been tried (eg Essex, following Margaret Hodge's disgraceful pandering to BNP rhetoric). 2) Just because antifascists watching this thought Griffin came across as a sleazy dishonest windbag doesn't mean that everyone thought the same. Polls show that 40% of British people think that white people are the most discriminated against group in society, and a plurality think that Muslims are the most privileged. That was Griffin's audience, and he didn't have to win over every one of them to make this a successful evening. He needed to reach those racists who are deeply suspicious of the mainstream politicians, don't think Straw et al are serious about cracking down on Muslims and immigrants, and who suspect that the BBC is biased to the left. And those people may well have reacted quite positively to Griffin's claims, and may be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on the whole 'Nazi' thing. I wouldn't roll out the barrels just yet, that's all I'm saying.

Update: the BBC brings us news of the fruits of its labours. A Yougov poll says that 22% of British voters would "seriously consider" voting for the BNP, while more than half thought Griffin had "a point" in standing up for the interests of "indigenous white British people" (a phrase the BBC chooses to repeat without scare quotes).