Nick Griffin on Question Time: Did the fascist look foolish?


Nick Griffin of the BNP on the BBC's Question Time, October 22, 2009So did he look foolish, or did he get an easy ride? I think he often looked and sounded like an idiotic contrarian, which he obviously is, as anything resembling logic eludes the BNP consistently, and, despite being extraordinarily evasive, valid points were made — either in his own words, or through the intervention of others — about his Islamophobia, Holocaust denial and fraternization with the Ku Klux Klan.

However, I have to say that what disturbed me most about the show was that, in the second half, when most of the discussions were about immigration, the gap between Griffin, mainstream politicians, and audience members of different ethnic backgrounds narrowed considerably, as Jack Straw came under attack from all sides, and it suddenly became easy to understand how the BNP is able to play on immigration fears. Because they’re mainstream and everywhere!

Not a peep about our obligations to accept refugees, just a steady stream of complaints about unfettered immigration, the government losing people in the system, and, most disturbingly, a desire to be able to “send people back” more easily — to where, exactly? Countries where they may well be killed, tortured, or subjected to arbitrary imprisonment. These were the dreaded “asylum seekers” that those seeking “immigration targets” were talking about, but the UN Convention Against Torture didn’t get a look in, and no one seemed to care how narrow was the ideological gap between those advocating the wholesale repatriation of failed asylum seekers and the BNP’s policy of enforced repatriation for everyone who cannot produce an Anglo-Saxon ID card.

We need a grown-up discussion about immigration, to bring our responsibility to accept refugees back into the equation, to focus on how a “Fortress Europe” or “Fortress Britain” mentality openly supports xenophobia and racism, and to be honest enough to campaign for an “ethical foreign policy” — one that seeks, sincerely, to address the problems in other countries that oblige people to flee for their lives, or to travel to other countries in the hope of finding work. This needs addressing because it is often the result of our seemingly insatiable desire to exploit the economies of countries in the developing world, and, in some cases — hello, Colonel Gaddafi, go to the head of the queue! — of our willingness to tolerate the kind of entrenched human rights abuses that create asylum seekers in exchange for resources that drive us frantic with greed; in Libya’s case, oil.

On last night’s showing, the chances of having this kind of discussion are remote, and the xenophobia and racism embraced by the BNP reflects, in many ways, the steady slide towards racism that has not been substantially challenged in the UK since the late 70s and early 80s (when prevailing attitudes towards racism, feminism and gay rights were openly and widely challenged), and the intolerance of immigrants that has been particularly noticeable in the last decade.

Note: See this article for information about the UK’s obligations towards refugees, and the impact of the Human Rights Act, and this paper (PDF) from the University of Oxford’s Refugee Studies Centre for an analysis of refugees and their human rights.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009, details about my film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash, and launched in October 2009), and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

3 Responses

  1. Paul says...

    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 our family when we were children were slanted lies base on their prejudices. We realize that most people are like ourselves and not so 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 reminds me of a parable from the good book where a Levite and Priest come upon a man who fell among thieves and they both individually passed by and didn’t stop to help him.

    Finally a man of another race came by, he got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy and got down with the injured man, administered first aid, and helped the man in need.

    Jesus ended up saying, this was the good man, this was the great man, because he had the capacity to project the “I” into the “thou,” and to be concerned about his fellow man.

    You see, the Levite and the Priest were afraid, they asked themselves, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?”

    But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

    That’s the question before us. The question is not, “If I stop to help our fellow man (immigrant) in need, what will happen to me?” The question is, “If I do not stop to help our fellow man, what will happen to him or her?” That’s the question.

    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 win this battle again.

  2. John Piggot says...

    George Orwell said the word fascist was meaningless.

    Prof Tim Garton Ash said in an article in The Guardian that the word has been “hollowed out to mean little more than something the left hates at the moment”.

    Are you using the word fascist in the Orwell “totally meaningless” sense or the Garton Ash “almost meaningless” sense?

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the message, Paul. I heartily endorse your point of view, and thank you for expressing compassion for one’s fellow human beings so eloquently.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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