Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Other voices on BNP

Support for my earlier post, where I say that the media must assume a large share of responsibility for the rise of the BNP, seems to come from this week's New Statesman diary column, written in this instance by Bob Crow, General Secretary of the RMT.

Here's Crow's bit on BNP from the diary, in full:
In the recent Euro elections, I stood as lead London candidate for NO2EU (No To EU – Yes To Democracy) [I added the link]. We were still waiting for the London declaration in the early hours of Monday morning when we found out the British National Party had won two seats in traditionally Labour-voting northern heartlands.

Labour’s historically low vote share came as no surprise to me: the anger and disillusionment with the political Establishment has hit Labour hardest of all. The government’s humiliation collided with an unprecedented surge in media attention for the BNP. The party was presented as a sort of celebrity attraction, allowing its leader, Nick Griffin, to seize a level of publicity for the far right not seen since the days of Mosley and his blackshirts.

Meanwhile, NO2EU, which like the BNP had no MEPs before the election, experienced a total blackout across the mainstream media. Nobody, it seemed, was interested in Euro-critical voices from the left, although every nutter and fascist from the spectrum of the right was plastered across the news pages.

But we still got 153,000 votes, and ran a great campaign based solely on the energy and enthusiasm of our local activists. In many working-class areas we were the only direct challenge on the streets to the BNP. I am proud of what we achieved in a very short space of time and I pay tribute to the work of our colleagues at Searchlight/Hope Not Hate, who undoubtedly stopped the BNP from securing an even bigger breakthrough.
It's always nice to see that part of me still corresponds to the Old Skule Left. Like part of me isn't dead. But I don't support NO2EU; in addition to being morally offended by their cooler-than-thou moniker, I see myself as a pro-Europe lefty. I'm willing to listen to their concerns on Europe, I have a lot of sympathy with many of their specific arguments, and could still be won around to their position. I know that there are problems with the EU, for those interested in progressive politics, and I would have really liked to hear more from them. But we've never had a grown up debate about Europe in this country, which is, lest I repeat myself, a key reason for the victory of the BNP in the last election.

So what's really interesting here is how Crow raises the issue of the media's culpability in the BNP's success. The media greeted the BNP threat hysterically, doubtless for reasons as banal as they allow for the sort of scaremongering headlines that the British press specialise in and because it gives The Daily Mail and The Telegraph et al. an easy-target, a chance to draw a rather artificial line between their sort of racism and the undesirable (i.e. lower class) sort of racism. And so without the language and without any intelligent strategy to properly discredit them, their hysteria merely provided oxygen to feed the BNP fire. Whereas, though I consider myself a well-informed voter, I heard of NO2EU only twice before I placed my X, and the second time was when I scanned the ballot paper in the voting booth.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Little funny

in a conflicted sort of way, yesterday in my most-usually overlooked daily email from The Guardian's The Fiver, a football newsletter, who said... wait for it...

between Nick Griffin's BNP winning two seats in the European elections and Him [Cristiano Ronaldo] agreeing to join General Franco's Them, it's been a good week for fascism in the north-west of England.

A little clarity

on this issue, again, of file-sharing. A timely intervention by The Man Who Single-Handedly Resorted My Faith in Science, Ben Goldacre at Bad Science clarifies some of the lies being put about by the increasingly desperate recording industry, who seem to be an object lesson in how to do yourself no favours. (As Dr. Goldacre says, 'as far as I’m concerned, everything from this industry is false, until proven otherwise.')

Bad Science pops, in its usual indomitable way, some of the recent myths about money lost in the UK due to file-sharing, and its consequences for the creative industries. And a supportive piece appeared in yesterday's Technology section of The Guardian.

Is it any wonder that the Pirate Party did so well in European election last week?

Monday, 8 June 2009

Who's fault is the BNP victory?

Like every other person living in the UK that has any human decency and functioning brain-cells, I am distraught to learn about the election of two BNP MEPs last week in our European elections. HOWEVER, I'm also more than a little frustrated at the media coverage and finger-pointing that has been taking place in the last couple of days. And even now, as I write this with my laptop burning a hole through my knees, I have to endure Nick Robinson, Tory Puppy and BBC political editor, explain to the nation at the 10 o'clock news that the fault of Labour alone that these BNP MEPs have been elected.

Well, it all smells a bit like bullshit, doesn't it?

By way of further example, Monday morning on the Today programme John Humphrys took on Nick Griffin -- the slug-face who aspires to lead the British fascists to power -- and I'm sure Humphry's fans up and down the country waited in anticipation of their hero mauling the wannabe fascist. So did The Mighty Humph put the fucker in his place? Finally given a chance on national radio to turn his powers against the anti-Christ of British decency, did he provide the blood-bath we all wanted? Alas, one could only have concluded that the Humphrys, the Scourge of Westminster, wielded a very blunt, rusty blade and came off looking flaccid. Impotent. THEN, as if to re-assert his Manhood, he turns immediately to his next interviewee, Harriet Harmann, and does not suggest, but insists, repeating a familiar mantra, that it is all Labour's fault. Now against a mainstream politician (and woman), he looked very manly, where against Griffin he seemed to... lack something.

So how can the media better tackle the BNP, how can they confront their lies and misinformation? well, for a start, they could confront the lies and misinformation of the other parties, and their hypocrisy. Taking the stage in their post-election victory celebration last night, the Tory candidate (who's name I can't be bothered to look up), says something like 'It is incumbent upon me..' blah blah blah to condemn this election of the BNP in our riding'. He was followed by the recently-elected UKIP MEP -- who's name interests me even less -- who denounced his new fellow-parliamentarian as 'scum'. And too right! You're thinking. So they should! Except that when you look at successful UK parties dominated by white males, praying upon fears of immigration and racism and stroking the pathetic sentiments of British Nationalism, you don't need to turn too far right down the Road of Lunatic Fringe. In fact, glaring examples sit right along Main St. Politics UK in the Conservatives and UKIP. For when you look at the BNP campaign literature, it is really not at all that much different from that of the Tories and UKIP: save for the BNP promise to bring in 'voluntary repatriation' -- the hideousness of which should not be under-rated -- all three parties talk of bringing Britain out of the EU so that our common-sense is not trampled upon by the Brussels illuminati, all three parties talk about limiting immigration, more general threats to British values, British currency, British national identity.

(In fact, when I got my pre-election campaign literature through the door, I thought the BNP's looked rather more sophisticated than UKIP's, with it's shock sloganeering and the picture of Winston Churchill captioned, 'He would get our money back!'. Of course the BNP were being silent on their more insidious policies, but so were UKIP and the Tories.)

So it's their fault? the rise of the BNP can be blamed on the mainstream right-wing parties? Well, yes, and we need to call these mainstream parties on their hypocrisy. I am sure that the disdain those Conservative and UKIP MEPs felt for the BNP colleague was governed in no small part by class, i.e. they aren't as sophisticated in their racism. And Labour, too, is guilty, when they so inexpertly flirt with such populism, for that is their real crime in this, not (as Robinson and Humphys would have it) just being a tired old party drunk on power, as are all parties who have been drinking from the well of legislative privilege for so long. HOWEVER, it is incumbent upon the media to challenge all parties on such lies and vote-grabbing ploys. For if they do not, when confronted with the real thing -- and do not mistake me, the BNP is a much nastier, but more ugly and more dangerous beast than the Tories and UKIP -- the media lack the language, the rhetoric and, most importantly, the moral authority to attack them effectively.

If more evidence were needed, tonight -- again, while I write this -- BBC Yorkshire news, after a lead-item describing their shock and horror at the election of a BNP MEP in our region, has just run a happy little piece on the new Mayor of Doncaster, another who's name interests me very little. The problem is, of course, that he is an English Democrat, and is like-wise anti-immigration, anti-PC -- for which read misogynist, racist, homophobic -- and anti-democratic. These issues were raised in the report, but briefly, and the overall tone, as I said, was playful and cutsie, a harsh contrast to the more appropriately disgusted tone of the report on the BNP victory that immediately preceded it.

Wake up, assholes. Racism in this country isn't confined to the lunatic right. (Which is why, incidentally, historians think that fascism never really took off here in the 1930s -- racism was already main-stream, and the Conservative party of Britain typically panders to that extreme-right racist sentiment in this country.) Stop fucking around with your Westminster intrigue, stop hanging out in front of No. 10, pretending that you understand what's going on, stop thinking that the gossip of MPs represent the real issues of the country, and maybe we can avoid more of these bastards getting in next time.

On a happier and altogether more hopeful note, I was greeted at my door on election day by a small group of students from the University who were out canvassing, trying to get people out to vote for anyone except the BNP. One of them, to my further joy, was an ex-students of mine. Unfortunately, I can't pretend that I had a special hand in shaping his politics -- I seem to remember Sam's politics being spot-on long before he arrived in my dark, basement seminar room. (I can celebrate, at least, that I didn't fuck him up and 'turn him right' or anything. We must learn to celebrate even our limited successes.) But such activism goes some way in filling the massive gap left by our limp media, where we might one day hope to see a real, interrogating journalism. In the meantime, taking to the streets seems the best way to defeat the fascist bullshit.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Been a bit busy lately...

moving house and all, so not so much time for the blog, especially since I have no Internet connection at my new (and deeply temporary) digs. (As essential as water? Too right!)

But it's Election Day here in the UK today, and so I feel it incumbent upon me to make sure that you know that I am not the only person that has been very busy of late. It seems that the Tori leader, Davey Cameron, has been very busy as well, making all sorts of new friends in Europe. Here is the gist to consider before you retreat into that dark space of the polling both, thinking that maybe it's time for a change or some other such stupid idea for voting Conservative at this election (or any other):

Anti-gay, climate change deniers: meet David Cameron's new friends

Global warming is a lie, homosexuality is a "pathology" and Europe is becoming a "neo-totalitarian" regime, according to one of David Cameron's new European allies.
and so on.

Obviously, it should go without saying that I do not then endore UKIP, the bourgeois face of British racism, or the BNP itself. (If, by chance, anyone stumbles upon this blog who is thinking of voting for the BNP, just a word: Do so and it is proof of nothing other than your own utter and total abdication of humanity. No, no. Don't argue. Vote BNP and you are, make no mistake, below ant shit in the Great Chain of Being.)

But, I suspect that I am preaching to the converted, i.e. if you are here, reading this, you are doing so because you are already too smart to vote conservative. Still, best to put it out there, just in case.