BBC and the Beast

This post was written by Salman Shaheen on October 21, 2009
Posted Under: Democracy,Media,Racism/Fascism

Tomorrow, for the first time, the leader of a fascist party will appear on the panel of a televised national debate. Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time has caused quite a stir in the mainstream media and in the blogosphere. Some, remaining steadfast to the principle of no platform, have campaigned vigorously against the BBC’s decision. Others, like Liz Stephens on The Third Estate, argued that Griffin should be allowed on the programme and given just enough rope to hang himself with. And there will always be the BNP supporters who claim that it is their right to have their views aired alongside the other, more paletable parties. In most cases, however, the question has been framed in terms of the dichotomy between freedom of speech and opposition to racism.

I was, then, extremely interested to be sent this article by Anthony Barnett for Our Kingdom. Barnett takes a completely fresh look at the issue, setting aside the debate on free speech, and making the case that the BBC, as part of the larger political elite that has been thoroughly discredited in recent months, is attempting to show that the very public that is up in arms about expenses, is a breeding ground for fascist thought by allowing Nick Griffin to spew his bile.

The Convention [on Modern Liberty] showed that there is a smart public that does not want to be patronised and wants to think about how we are being governed. This same attitude emerged again more strongly with the expenses crisis. A true public service broadcaster as opposed to a regime service broadcaster would welcome this, probing the strength and vitality of the concerns. This should be the duty of the BBC. Instead…it broadcasts fascists.

Why? Because it is in the interests of the regime service broadcaster to project public opinion as dangerous and potentially racist. Responsible democratic opposition is squished and deprived of ‘oxygen’. But if you can show that beneath the veneer the public are worse than unwashed they are proto-fascist, why then, we will indeed need the BBC to protect us, won’t we?

It’s a startlingly cynical point and one that almost borders on conspiracy theory, but it is well worth a read and certainly worth debating. Whilst I personally can’t subscribe to its conclusions, the fact that they have been reached in itself demonstrates the level of distrust currently felt towards political and media elites. And it is this distrust which has helped turn a small group of racist thugs into a national political party with two MEPs, almost a million voters and a slot on Question Time.

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Reader Comments

I’m fed up thinking about the BNP. I don’t want to hear from them, or about them, or their supporters or if I’m being really honest, from their opponents either. They’re not all that British in their attitudes, they have no real claim to being a National party and even the Party element in their title lacks a certain something. Balloons and whistles, probably.

In spite of my wishing it so, the buggers won’t just go away. Nick Griffin is getting his slot on Question Time where I hope he’ll be given the treatment he deserves: I hope he’ll be ignored. I won’t be watching, not because I don’t care about resisting him and his odious beliefs but because it’s unlikely that he has anything to say which is even remotely interesting.

Written By Richard Lyle on October 21st, 2009 @ 6:55 pm

I can’t remember the last time I heard anyone say anything remotely interesting on Question Time, the programme is so sanitised and controlled and the speakers generally tow the party line. Griffin will say what he always does, which essentially is little more than the man in the pub going: “I’m not racist, but…” Unfortunately these opinions do exist and they need to be challenged. I think Question Time is a poor format to do that, but that doesn’t mean we can afford to stick our heads in the sand and hope these nasty little people go away.

Written By Salman Shaheen on October 21st, 2009 @ 7:07 pm

Thanks! I try to show as carefully as I had time for that there is a very strong BBC culture and sense of its larger interest which is not at all the same as a conspiracy. Though note, this passage at the end of an article in last Sunday’s Sunday Times

THE BBC has refused to answer 1,200 requests under the Freedom of Information Act about its workings — despite the fact that its journalists are among the act’s biggest beneficiaries, writes Chris Hastings.

Since the act was introduced in 2005, the BBC has refused to answer questions on subjects such as presenters’ pay, the cost of programmes and the cost of accommodation at the Beijing Olympics. It has answered only 18 of 33 requests submitted by The Sunday Times during the past year.

The corporation has spent more than £500,000 of licence-payers’ money in court cases which blocked two questions earlier this month — on presenters’ salaries and the BBC’s coverage of the Middle East.

The total amount spent resisting such requests runs into millions. The BBC uses a specific exemption clause in the act to try to withhold other, wider information.

It is now preparing to become more intransigent, by capitalising on its recent legal victories.

Last week, the information commissioner contacted several newspapers and members of the public asking them to consider withdrawing complaints against the BBC in the light of the ruling.

Written By Anthony Barnett on October 21st, 2009 @ 7:08 pm

Anthony, I wasn’t trying to belittle your article, I think it’s very interesting and an important read. I just find conflation of the expenses scandal with the willingness to air Griffin’s poison a little bit too much of a leap for me to take with you.

Written By Salman Shaheen on October 21st, 2009 @ 7:24 pm

Hi Salman. I’m not pretending the BNP doesn’t exist. I just don’t want to have his face or voice in my house. It’s the same reason I destroyed the BNP election material as soon as it came through my door during the European Parliamentary elections earlier in the year. I would more willingly challenge him and his views outside my home. I just don’t think that repeatedly yelling “wanker!” at the television screen – which is probably what I’d do – is a valid or useful form of political protest.

Written By Richard Lyle on October 21st, 2009 @ 9:31 pm

Very true. Whilst it’s always useful to know your enemy, I agree, Question Time isn’t going to tell us anything we don’t already know. The BNP are evil and Nick Griffin’s a prick.

Written By Salman Shaheen on October 21st, 2009 @ 10:41 pm

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