June 10, 2009

Egg All Over Our Faces: It’s Not Just Nick Griffin

Posted in Culture Wars, Global discourse, Women's issues tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 10:21 am by Maggie Clark

When you realize what’s missing in mainstream coverage of the election of two British National Party (BNP) candidates to European Parliament, you shouldn’t be able to stand all at once. Really, the omission should stun you. And if you can’t laugh aloud at it, out of shame and awkwardness at the absurdity of the thing, you might never be the same again. I won’t tell you what it is right away, though: I’m curious to see if you reach the same conclusion — and how quickly you do. In the meantime, let me lay out the story at hand, as it’s been reported throughout the mainstream British and North American media.

After Nick Griffin and Andrew Born became the first members of the BNP, which has a “restrictive membership policy” refusing entry to blacks and asians, to attain such levels of legitimate power, there was much talk of public reaction, and justifications for their election in the first place. Within hours, Griffin had egg on his face — literally — as protestors shouted “Off our streets, Nazi scum” and held up banners condemning the party as fascist. Meanwhile, broadcasters resigned themselves to giving him airtime — a perk necessitated by his new position, but entered into cautiously because of cultural reluctance to give forum to concepts like racism and xenophobia.

And there are indeed both here. While Geert Wilders, of the Dutch Freedom Party — and another member of European Parliament — claims his issue is with “Islam as an ideology, not the colour of people’s skin”, Griffin managed to change his party into something more approachable without veering from “core values” like the following, shared on BBC Radio 5 Live after his election:

“All indigenous people all over the world have certain rights and one of those is to control their own borders so their bloodline and their culture remains dominant in their country without being hostile to anybody else. It is a basic human right.”

He is, of course, also a Holocaust denier (his adolescence in the National Socialist Movement, a group honouring Hitler and responsible for cases of arson on Jewish property, he typifies as “youthful indiscretion”), though he’s cleverly sought to downplay perceptions of anti-Semitism in his party — and why not, when clearly the menace of Islam is such that a few Jews kicking about are small peas in comparison?

So the “global warming is a hoax” shtick he also forwards — condemning an exploitative liberal base for using this issue to over-tax hard-working citizens (see? people who support immigration are just all around jerks to decent white British folk!) when the real issue is clearly peak oil (read: our need to stop being dependent on foreigners for anything) — is really just the cherry on top of one enormous shit sundae.

More interesting still is how the BNP was able to gain so much traction so quickly — a multifaceted development that leaves some thankful they only received two seats in total (Ed West of The Telegraph, writing about the need for a less polemic debate about immigration, reports that some were predicting five, or even eight, handed off). On the one hand, the BNP exploited the hell out of a recent expense claims scandal in British parliament, with Griffin deftly culling the working class vote from the Labour Party after lax rules allowed such expenses as the following to be billed to a nation already struggling with the impact of global recession:

NYT — For the Tories, the worst embarrassments lay in charges for the clearing of a moat, a shipment of horse manure for a garden, the maintenance of sprawling woodlands, the installation of a miniature “duck house” in a country house pond. The more mundane needs of Laborites and Liberal Democrats were met by claims for nonexistent mortgages, dry-rot repairs at the house of a Labor M.P.’s partner, and a Liberal Democrat’s trouser press. Before he resigned over the scandal, the speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin, claimed thousands of pounds for a chauffeur-driven car that drove him about his Glasgow constituency, one of Britain’s poorest.

Consequent displays of “breathtaking arrogance” didn’t help, either:

Anthony Steen, a 69-year-old Conservative, told a BBC reporter that $135,000 in claims for the upkeep of his country home were nobody’s business. “Do you know what it’s about? Jealousy,” he said. “I’ve got a very, very large house. Some people say it looks like Balmoral. It’s a merchant’s house of the 19th century. It’s not particularly attractive. It just does me nicely.”

So if it weren’t for the fact that the party turned to in this time of great public anger, resentment, and disillusionment, is itself one of anger, resentment, and disillusionment (to say nothing of being racially motivated in its manifestations of all three), you might even say the House of Commons had it coming.

But then again, the victories weren’t garnered solely on account of the expense claims scandal; Griffin himself said there was “an enormous correlation between high BNP votes and nearby Islamic populations.” Which leads to the other part of their winning strategy: Making the threat of immigration quantifiable, by highlighting how it directly targets the children of good, decent, white British folk.

Enter the high profile subject of Muslim “grooming” of white girls for sex, and the presentation of a calmer, more reasonable-seeming Griffin on the BNP website, where he introduces a series of three “deeply shocking” videos with such moderate caveats as “We’re not putting these up because we want to alarm people or be sensationalist, but because we want to draw attention to a really serious and growing problem in our multicultural society.”

They are upsetting, too, so consider yourself forewarned if you watch them (Part I, Part II, Part III). And they speak to a nation-wide crisis Britain has at present with exceedingly low conviction rates for rape in the country, alongside a systemic problem with cases being dismissed “by officers with a ‘Life on Mars’ attitude based on making snap judgments about the credibility of the victim,” according to The Guardian.

And it’s precious, too, that in follow-up to his comment about the demographics of his voters, even Griffin explains how “the reason for [this correlation between voters and geography] is nothing to do with Islamophobia; it is issues such as the grooming of young English girls for sex by a criminal minority of the Muslim population.” A criminal minority, did you see that? And yet the BNP’s advertising campaign would prey on the country’s horrific overarching track record for sexual assault to demonize the entire British Muslim population. Clever, isn’t it?

But what’s cleverer still — if you haven’t noticed it yet — is that for all the nuanced analysis of causality, and consequence; for all the articles about whether or not Griffin will attend the Queen’s garden parties now, or how the media will handle having BNP members on their shows, or even what kind of public outcry the election of Griffin and Bron has yielded, you will find nothing — NOTHING — in mainstream media articles detailing any measure of comment, expert or personal, from the groups most affected by these elections: the British Asians, and the British Blacks, themselves.

And though we can preach until the cows come home about how offensive Griffin’s election is, and how offensive such xenophobic and racist beliefs are, until we realize that our very discourse on the subject implicitly talks around, instead of including, the very people the media claims are equal and full citizens of the British commonwealth, we are all just as guilty of perpetuating the dangerous myth of “otherness” that presently threatens the very fabric of European unity.

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3 Comments »

  1. psalm60v4 said,

    It’s interesting in our liberal, western world, that all mujst be forgiven the past errors made in life – the child rapist, the murderer, the crack dealer.

    However even though Griffin says he has accepted he was wrong about the Holocaust, he is forever to be pilloried. He has said on repeated occasions that he rejects anti-Semitism (whatever that means – anti-Jewish is the general translation) , but he must somehow never really be forgiven for the errors of the past?

    And his stance on global warming? Many believe that the Dollar-Profit motive is what fires Gore’s love of the environment, even some of the wiser liberals.

    The BNP wins because the three major and two minor (UKIP and GREEN) spend much of their time in a political hug-a-thon showing how wonderful and centerist political life is.

    Of course the majority of votes to the BNP are racially based: the BNP is only a symptonm of a political class who extol the virtue of multiculturalism and immigration, but doesn’t have to suffer the overcrowding, poverty, ill health and generally crappy lives of those at the bottom of the pile – and the immigrants enter at the bottom, crushing themselves into an already tightly packed place.

    I think that you should go here – download the PDF http://www.channel4.com/news/media/2009/06/day08/yougovpoll_080609.pdf- and read it. The research carried out by Channel 4 (UK) is interesting in that even Green and Labour voters hold ideas such as a communist/Jewish conspiracy (last page).

    I’ve no axe to grind on behalf of the BNP. Unless liberals like yourself start to see how your actions are directly linked with the rise of such organisations, you will not find a way to change the situation.
    All the best
    ICTHUS.

    • maggieclark said,

      Hi Icthus,

      You make some tremendous leaps of logic in your argumentation above: The comment about “forgiving the child rapist,” for instance, is especially bewildering. How do we “forgive” — by not putting them to death? Because certainly pedophiles are vilified by society even after their terms are up: if there is “forgiveness” it never correlates with forgetting. If, then, execution is the only outcome that could satisfy a belief that pedophiles aren’t being coddled by liberal society, I feel you create too simple a rubric by which justice is served.

      Personally, I feel a child who’s been raped has to live with that his or her whole life through: whereas a man put to death for the act has an end to his suffering. Of course, this in turn arises from a secular perspective: For the religious, there is the presumption of a “just deserts” awaiting the condemned after death — in which case, it’s understandable that one would want to send them there as swiftly as possible. This shall therefore always be a divisive factor between many conservatives and liberals; for the rest, the division will lie with pragmatics, like the fact that putting a man to death costs the taxpayer more than holding him alive for life (and even provides the boon of manual labour, in work program cases!).

      In short, even putting aside higher concepts like the idea that a life is itself worth preserving, regardless of its circumstances, there are fundamental places wherein conservative and liberal philosophy disagree, but in such ways as to make more nuanced conversations possible without seeking to condemn either entire brand.

      However, your closing line commits precisely that blanket branding: “Unless liberals like yourself start to see how your actions are directly linked with the rise of such organisations, you will not find a way to change the situation.” There is no way to read that line, but to feel you sorely misconstrue the entire context of this piece on the basis of it being written by someone more liberal than yourself: specifically, the point of the piece IS that the same media decrying Griffin’s election itself commits a similar, hypocritical offense, by neglecting to include the very portions of the population it critiques the BNP for excluding.

      So, yes, the “liberal, Western world” has much responsibility in all of this — and yet I do find it very much a liberal concept to more readily hold itself accountable for its part in such matters, as I already amply do in the post above. But nuanced debate about proclivities on either side of the spectrum towards or away from rigorous self-reflection is itself another complex playing field; and not one, I think, for the present context.

      Nonetheless, I thank you for your response, and recommendations.

      All the best,

      Maggie Clark

  2. Sherif S. said,

    Firstly, the font size in this comment box is ridiculously massive! If you have control over that, I would suggest minimizing it a bit. I mean, seriously, it’s huge. Unless the issue is in my browser.

    Secondly. Having the BBC News on my RSS feed and reading every headline that is posted, plus, listening to some podcasts by the BBC, I would say that the MPs expenses scandal has had a lot more effect on members from the BNP being elected. In my opinion, it was the single factor that “swung” the BNP two seats instead of just some votes. The scandal was amplified once and again in the media. It began with Jacquie Smith’s husband billing his porn movies on expenses, and ended with some MP paying for cleaning his “moat” from expenses. Seriously. A moat.
    Someone from the BBC also said that it wasn’t that the BNP did a lot better, they just did less worse than Tories and Labour after the scandal.
    I’m just throwing the possibilities out there.

    And thirdly.
    While it is shocking that members of – what almost everyone calls – a Nazi/fascist/racist party have been elected to the EU Parliament, the – sad and tragic – fact remains that they were elected: democratically.
    Apparently, what translates to two seats on the EU Parliament of voters voted for the BNP.

    While I am not saying that your explanations to members of the BNP actually being elected are totally wrong (yes, there are many racists out there), I will argue that some other reasons are much, much simpler.
    People have been barraged with reports of the expenses scandal, days and weeks of newspaper come in waves of posted expenses. Gordon Brown is… I don’t even know how he wakes up in the morning. People are so displeased with the current state of affairs than, in a way, they want to “punish” the strong parties. How would you do that? By voting for someone else. Who is someone else? Well, one of them is the BNP.

    I guess it’s the same process by which The Pirate Party of Sweden got a seat. Seriously? I’m not saying they are as bad as the BNP, but their political platform is… brittle at best. Everyone knows that The Pirate Bay trial is the main reason why the party gained strong ground. The day after the verdict witnesses thousands joining. They wanted to “punish” the Union that put TPB founders in jail. Maybe not all of the members thought so, but I am sure some did.
    My argument is, I am sure that some/many of those votes are not complete belief in the BNP’s platform, rather, misplaced feelings of anger and need/want for change.

    Hey, I never said people are smart.
    And I sincerely believe that, en masse, people are very easily manipulated.

    And finally, I recall hearing somewhere/sometime that due to the amount of criticism the BNP has received, their membership might be “officially” opened to all ethnic and racial backgrounds. While that is hilariously ironic, and obviously means absolutely no change in ideology, it means they could be logistically invaded =)

    – Sherif


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