Saturday, 23 October 2010

And Another Thing... Question Time?

So I guess you’re all wondering (or rather, in my sad little world I imagine you’re all wondering?) what I have to say about Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time. Well strap in people, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

I think I’m in love with Bonnie Greer. Of all the people involved in the build up to Thursday’s edition of Question Time, including Nick Griffin and the BNP, the three major political parties, the BBC and the anti fascist lobby, she is the only one to come out of this with any credibility. At least she attempted to debate Griffin on his myopic world view and correct his basic schoolboy errors, but in the era of the sound bite in-depth political analysis is rarely permitted. Still, I think Nick was quite taken with our Bonnie. She said later that she’d had to restrain herself from slapping him. He’d probably have enjoyed that.

Greer also came off well because she was the only non-politician on the panel and therefore the only one of the quintet afforded the luxury of honesty. For everyone else it was bullshit as usual. Liberal Democrat MP, Chris Huhne, fell into the same trap that sadly most Lib Dems fall for on Question Time (even the usually excellent Vince Cable). They accept credit for any party political success, while distancing themselves from any unpopular policy, claiming they have always been opposed to whatever it is. You can’t have it both ways and you end up looking frankly ridiculous. Besides, he was largely a spectator. And why weren’t the Green Party invited, given that they are the only political party to have a declared policy for tackling the BNP?

I’m not sure, but I think Jack Straw maybe a genius. After all, it takes real talent to be on the same program as the leader of the British Nationalist Party and still be the most pathetic person present. Jack is the Les Dawson of politics, he’s so inept he must be doing it on purpose. He even managed to make the most idiotic statement of the evening by positing that unlike the BNP, the three main political parties have a moral compass. Oh I’m sorry Jack, when did you start using that then? Where was your party’s moral compass when you were lying about Iraq’s chemical weapons, fabricating evidence and leading the country into an illegal invasion (if that’s not a tautology)? An invasion which left at least 100,000 Iraqis dead, an estimated 5 million Iraqi children orphaned, as well as being a catalyst for the London Underground bombings which killed 56 people. Oh and then there’s all the British service men and women who have died on active duty in that country and the small matter of transforming a fringe terrorist organisation into a major global force. Maybe if you wiped some of the blood off you would see that what you think is a compass is in fact a medal from Dick Cheney for services rendered to the oil industry.

Nor should we let the Tories off the hook here. Never EVER forget that within a month of the Halabja gassings in 1988, the Tories were in Bagdad offering Saddam more money and more aid. When the Tories inevitably regain power after next year’s general election, let’s be sure to remind them of that fact every time Iraq is mentioned.

Which brings us to Griffin and the BNP. Or as I call them, simpletons. By which I mean, people who take a highly complex, interconnected global society and reduce it to a series of false dichotomies like black and white. Still, Griffin’s appearance did cause me this weekend to take a long, hard look at myself. Literally. I’ve been staring at my skin intensely and I have reached a staggeringly exhilarating conclusion: I’m brown! Granted, a very pale shade of brown, but still brown. Now, for someone born in Scotland, of Irish ancestry and who rarely leaves the house during daylight hours, I should be the whitest person in the country and yet I am brown? Which should come as no great surprise really, my ancestors were Africans, as were everyone’s, millennia of migration and evolution have lightened my skin tone, but it cannot diminish my true nature entirely. On the rare occasion when I do venture out into sunlight, the melanin in my skin darkens my complexion and I achieve colour balance with my ancestors. Not only are there no people coloured black or white in the world, the colours black and white do not exist in the natural world, period. Look at anything black closely and you’ll see it is in fact a darker shade of another colour. To pick one glib example, consider Guinness. What colour is it? Black? Wrong, it’s a very dark green. The same is true of the colour white.

If Jack Straw is Les Dawson, then the BNP are the Spinal Tap of British politics. They’re not meant to be treated seriously, they’re meant to be pointed towards and laughed at. Griffin makes much capital out of the fact that white indigenous people are being usurped by immigrants, but he seems sketchy on who these indigenous people are exactly. At one point he made reference to the Maoris and how no one would argue that they are not an indigenous people, yet the Maoris only arrived in New Zealand a couple of hundred years before Europeans, so yes, I would have to take issue that point. The Australian Aborigines have a greater claim, as do those descended from the Mongols that crossed the Bering Strait into the Americas, but the routes both those peoples used were so treacherous that they essentially remained isolated until ships were built that could travel vast distances from Europe. No such claim can be made for the British. The country has been a multicultural society for millennia, what with the Picts and the Romans and the Vikings and the Saxons and the Normans all variously taking their turn at trying to tame this land. Griffin speaks of Great Britain as if it were a static nation prior to the 1950’s. The planet Earth has existed for 4.6 billion years. The country of England as we know it has existed less than a thousand years, Great Britain a little over four hundred years, and the UK barely a century. Good news Nick, it turns out the people you wanted to protect don’t actually exist in the real world. The ‘indigenous’ population of Great Britain is in continual flux, exactly the way it always has been. Why don’t you put your feet up, have a cup of tea (that traditional British drink direct from the Indian sub-continent) and chill the hell out.

And then there is the attitude of the anti-fascist groups. Now don’t get me wrong, as long as fascism exists then there need to be organisations that can meet them head on, one of the many reasons I will be voting Green next year. But really, there is such a thing as overkill people. In the weeks and months leading up to this event, I have received a series of emails from the Hope Not Hate campaign calling for action to be taken to get Griffin banned from appearing. All too often these emails descend into the same pejorative language as used by Griffin and his ilk. Fascism is no way to fight fascism. And if you’ve read ‘The Discriminating Individual’, my essay on race and racism, you know what quote is coming next. All together now:

He who fights dragons too long becomes a dragon himself

And yes, I am repeating myself, but I find I have to because we don’t seem to be learning. So listen up, because I’ve got a lot of other projects to be working on and I don’t have time to be stopping every five minutes waiting for those slow on the uptake to catch up. STOP BOOING THE BNP! Don’t you understand that they like it, it gives them an inflated sense of self importance? It also gets them off. Think about that: Every time you shout at a member of the BNP, they become sexually aroused. That should be incentive enough to quit.

Don’t boo, turn up at BNP rallies and laugh at them and they’ll soon go crumble into dust. You only had to watch Griffin’s disingenuous performance on Question Time, his answers filled with hypocrisy, half-truth and ill judged humour, to recognise what a sad deluded little man he is. As a student of body language, it was far more enlightening to watch his facial expressions and listen to the cadences in his voice than what he actually said (I rarely listen to what politicians say, it saves a lot of time and effort if you just assume they’re lying). You can tell Griffin doesn’t believe half the things he’s saying and the other half are so ludicrous that quarter of hour’s serious debate would set him straight on a number of issues. Sadly, only Bonnie Greer even tried. For the political triplets it was time for some much needed blame shifting. “Look,” they seemed to say, “we know we’ve supported the invasion of other nations, mismanaged the country’s fiancés, mortgaged your children’s future to the banks, colluded in rendition and torture, broken countless manifesto promises and taken the piss on our expenses forms, but that guy’s a racist!”

In fact, the saddest thing about Thursday’s performance is just how much Griffin came across like any other politician, which was probably why the program format was changed to concentrate on the BNP. If the program had followed its usual format then the difference between the four elected representatives would have been virtually indistinguishable. Not in policy, but in the level of political spin each employs to conceal any lack of actual substance. The program was largely a character assassination, but no one should have been surprised by that, Griffin was never going to be treated fairly by the BBC, not because he’s fascist, but because he a member of a fringe political party and anyone who has studied the BBC knows how much it panders to the established order. There is a urban myth that the BBC is somehow a lefty liberal corporation, but in terms of news media, the opposite is very much the case, easily demonstrated by the BBC’s role as chorus to the government’s attempts to build a pro-war consensus (see ‘Tell Me Lies: Propaganda and Media Distortion in the Attack on Iraq’ for more in-depth analysis).

900,000 people voted for the BNP in last year’s European elections, a sad reflection on the state of education in this country. To vote BNP is to lay bare a complete lack of knowledge of physics, astrophysics, chemistry, biology, history, natural history, evolution, genetics, as well as myriad other subjects. Again at the risk of repeating myself, countries generally get the government they deserve and if people in our society see the BNP as a viable alternative then it is we as a society that have failed and it is for us to do something to redress that, instead of trying to sweep them under the carpet and pretend they don’t exist. The BNP are dangerous, but not terribly so. Far more concerning is the prospect of a greedy, lying, murdering, narcissist becoming the EU’s first President. Griffin is all talk, but Bliar is actually dangerous and the only fit place for him is a cell in the Hague.

And yes, a British population of 70 million is a worrying prospect, but I think by that point we will have far more pressing matters to deal with. The myopic self-centredness of the British media rarely seems to connect a British population explosion with a more general global explosion. It is said that if the rest of the world consumed the same amount of resources as the USA we would need three more planets to meet the demand. So what then happens when China again becomes the dominant superpower? We’re about to find out.

Every time I hear about the supposed Islamification of Britain, I have to seriously ask if these people have ever been to Britain. As Aussie comedian Brendan Burns says, Britain hasn’t even adopted Christianity yet! Griffin accuses Islam of being a violent religion which oppresses women. In other words, a religion. After all, the Old Testament condones murder, rape, theft, paedophilia, slavery, drug use and genocide (all within its first five books), but most Jews and Christians ignore these anachronisms, as do most Muslims of the more violent sections of the Quran. Griffin and the BNP want to stem the tide of immigration and preserve Britain’s unique character. I’m sure the Saxons said the same about the French in 1066. Besides, it’s too late. One in ten relationships in Britain are already classed as ‘mixed race’, whatever that means, and that number will only increase. Short of wholesale genocide, that level integration can never be reversed. Britain is changing just the way it always has and I for one take comfort from that. The only immutable force in the universe is change itself. Get over it.

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