Saturday, 24 October 2009

Freedom of Speech or a Platform for racists?

Like many of us, I've spent a bit of time this week mulling over the thorny issue of whether Nick Griffin should have been offered a platform on the BBCs Question Time. On one hand, I do value freedom of speech and expression, on the other, I am conscious that this freedom needs to be balanced against the possible consequences for the vulnerable within society, especially if the sentiments expressed are likely to encourage violence and hatred. A part of me felt Griffin would be sure to condemn himself out of his own mouth, another part worried about the fillip given to racist attitudes, insidious or overt, that seem to be growing in British society. I decided to wait and see.

Within minutes of watching Griffin perform, I felt a lot easier. It didn't take long to recognise that this was not going to be a slick performance as he blundered his way through the programme alternating from arrogant buffoonery to self pitying ingratiation. It was, as they say, not a pretty sight - but at least he created some near comedy (if it hadn't been so offensive) with his non violent Ku Klux Klan and the assertion that he only associated with fascists to moderate their views.

And yet ... on Radio 4 on Thursday morning they discussed the turning point in the political career of Jean -Marie Le Pen, when in 1984 a similar exposure in the media dramatically increased his foothold in French society. Over the last few decades we have seen a sea change in attitudes towards people based on gender and sexual orientation; racial prejudice has not decreased in the same way - and anti Islamic feeling has burgeoned. I just hope and pray that, when it comes to the BNP, history won't repeat itself.


  1. I agree, Sue, and I think he put up a lamentable performance. Sadly, so far, the result seems to be a big increase in support, as evidenced by the first opinion poll since the broadcast. I'm not surprised by that either. Any country that can elect Margaret Thatcher three times can elect anyone, even, perhaps especially, Griffin. Malign policies and destructive intent haven't put off the voters before.
    Thanks for your comment on my last post here. I enjoy your blog very much. Judging by your photographs of Alderley Edge, we're near neighbours.

  2. Reminding me of Margaret Thatcher has just sent a shiver up my spine...
    Thanks for visiting this blog, I am really quite flattered by some of the people who've shown an interest.

    Interesting that we are near neighbours - you are welcome to send your email address in a comment, if you want to chat more - I won't post it on the blog. No pressure though, if you just told me out of interest:)