If Nick Griffin’s cameo as the Villainous Glutton on BBC’s flagship political debatathon reminds us of anything, it’s that the right to free speech does not equate to complicit agreement of abhorrent ideologies. There were many who feared that allowing Nick Griffin on the programme would provide the BNP with a platform to indoctrinate, in some vile Orwellian manner that has eluded the other parties (they would bloody well try if they could), the millions of viewers it would no doubt attract. Such a fear was a gross overestimation of the BNP’s means.
Should anyone have stepped back from the hysteria, they would have noticed that the BNP is hardly privy to slick media methods and totally in the dark about mind control techniques utilised by this man. Indeed, earlier this year they were found out for using the image of a WWII spitfire flown by a Polish pilot in a campaign stressing the need for a pure, English society. Their votes are gathered instead by rhetoric that creates false scapegoats out of greater social problems, and rhetoric that is delivered through the channels of the BNP’s own PR, and never open conjecture.
People seem to have underestimated their own voice in this debate. There is no question that the BNP should be allowed into debates around the country. They should, it’s their right as citizens and the BBC have made the correct decision in allowing Griffin on. In fact, I’m surprised they took so long about it; surely an open debate would have exposed Griffin’s views long ago, and would also have given us a flavour of his character in ways the BNP’s PR could not control. But the BNP’s idealogy roams in the fields far away from accepted public discourse of perception – we’ve all realised how jaded a reaction xenophobia is by now, surely – and the unified condemnation of Griffin is a welcome reminder that free speech does not mean people have to listen.
One wonders however, whether the occasion would have been better served, not with pantomime boos and classic put-downs (see this), but with a more sedate and meticulous scenario. It’s a shame that the other political parties swept upon Question Time not to gain points with the public for their own policies, but simply to condemn a more hated fellow, but you almost felt them justified considering Griffin mentioning the wartime imprisonment of Jack Straw’s father. Griffin certainly could have used a curtain to draw in front of his seat to curtail the jeering at times, but there is the sad realisation that he could utilise his poor reception to proclaim he was tried unfairly. That isn’t so, but considering the BBC’s reputation wincing away under intense and absurd public scrutiny, such a claim could ensure that Griffin a small portent of contentment.