The appearance of Nick Griffin of the BNP on a recent edition of Question Time on the BBC has ruffled a few feathers in the political and activist landscape, particularly among those who subscribe to a concept known as 'No Platform'.
No Platform is a political position that actively opposes allowing alleged fascists to express their views in public. It basically means that the propogation of fascist ideas and concepts shouldn't be allowed to be vocalised using publicly funded platforms or in areas where the left controls the platform, such as student unions, trade unions and also the media organisations such as the BBC. Leastways that's what I can pin this concept down to.
So the BBC offering a platform to people like Nick Griffin goes against the principle of No Platform and will generate protests and action. Which is what happened at the BBC studios.
The supporters of No Platform include some surprising personalities such as George Carey, ex-Archbishop of Canterbury as well as a huge swathe of the left.
As for me I'm finding it very difficult to support the principle of No Platform. There are a number of reasons why.
- Whether we like it or not Griffin and Brons are democratically elected MEPs. Together with other BNP candidates in the Euro elections they garnered the support of just under a million voters in the UK.
- Those who try and implement a No Platform stance are in a way guilty of censoring free speech and debate in the public arena. The disgruntled right would cry discrimination as well. The left can claim it's not censorship but the general public are going to read it another way.
- We set a precedent for denying a platform on political grounds when there may come a time when the boot is on the other foot. Then we'd have to struggle under the banner of hypocrisy.
- We create right-wing martyrs. Martyrdom is very powerful.
- We set ourselves up as arbiters of what the public should be hearing in terms of democracy and the democratic process. The public hate the attitude of 'we know best' politicians, guaranteed to lead to an unwelcome reaction come polling time.
- To my mind it's an extension of what I've seen the left do in other public situations, such as with Rocco Buttiglione - the disenfranchisement of people because their particular beliefs don't fit in with what some see as acceptable.
First off, QT became the Nick Griffin Show. Worse than that it became the Let's Beat Up on Nick Griffin Show. He was subjected to a lot of attack but it left him looking like the victim of bullying. At the start of the show it seemed they were all queuing up to smack him with a verbal brickbat whilst Dimbleby as head boy pinned him down. Chalk one up to the fascists there.
Secondly the choice of guests seemed designed to poke every facet of Griffin's fascism: Jack "I'm Not Going To Catch Eye Contact With Griffin" Straw, with Jewish descendants, Baroness Warsi, a muslim, Bonnie Greer, an African-American and Chris Huhne, well Chris Huhne.
Thirdly the inability of Jack Straw to actually respond to any question without doing his "I hate Nick" speech. It left him looking like a twerp at one point, with Warsi actually following on and answering the question. One down for the establishment.
Fourthly the stupid, stupid decision to limit the debate to things revolving around BNP policies. Where were the questions on Europe and the damned Constitution, where were the questions on Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq?
Were there any good points to the programme? Yes, Bonnie Greer showed that it is possible to make fascists look stupid within a democratic framework.
So to sum it up I can't support the No Platform principal but God help us if we can't get together and show the policies of the BNP for what they are - fascist and racist.