BNP leader Nick Griffin and Holocaust-denying â€˜historianâ€™ David Irving spoke at the Oxford Union yesterday. There had been intense pressure on the Union to cancel the debate, and the event was marred by protests:
“Thirty protesters pushed their way into the debating chamber to stage a protest about the inclusion of the two men. Earlier, 500 people held a sit-down demonstration outside the gates of the building but the debate eventually began about one-and-a-half hours late.”
Many people, including the great Peter Tatchell, thought that the two speakers should not have been invited in the first place:
“Letâ€™s be clear. Support for free speech does not oblige the Oxford Union to reward these men with a prestigious public platform, which will give them an air of respectability, raise their public profile and allow them to espouse their intolerant views. It is helping them propagate their bigotry.
Not offering hate-mongers a platform is not the same as banning them. Hundreds of topical public speakers and first-rate debaters never get invited to address the Oxford Union. They are not being censored. I donâ€™t feel comfortable arguing against free speech. But in this case, on balance, not giving a platform to Irving and Griffin is the lesser of two evils.
Tonightâ€™s debate will promote the fascist BNP. If it had a chance, the BNP would deny freedom of speech to others. The BNP is a threat to human rights. It should not be promoted.”
I understand Tatchellâ€™s argument, but I have to say that I agree with the President of the Oxford Union:
“The president of the Oxford Union Debating Society, Luke Tryl, told the BBC he was disappointed by the actions of those who tried to stop the event going ahead. “The way to take fascism on is through debate and that’s how we’re going to defeat them,” he said. “David Irving came across looking pathetic. He looked weak. The flaws in his arguments about free speech were exposed and I’m pleased that that happened.”"
There will always be people who vote for the BNP, or a similar party. The question is, how do we reduce their support to this permanent rump? The best way surely is to take on their arguments and points and grind them into the dust. One of the BNPâ€™s best electoral weapons is the self-denying ordinance that the rest of the political spectrum seems to have enforced on debating with them. Thus, the BNP can claim to be the voice of the oppressed, who have been silenced by the â€˜liberal establishmentâ€™ because their views are dangerous because they are true.
Plenty of people criticize the BNP, but that does not really work because those critics need to get involved in a debate and tear these people apart. Most rotten ideology, when exposes to the light of debate, withers. The BNP have not yet had that pleasure. Refusal to debate with them has given them an aura of mystique, and made them more attractive to vote for. Such people are best defeated when confronted, not ignored. Just look at what happened when they were forced to stand up and be counted (as elected councillors), and not just spout poisonous rhetoric unchallenged:
“Luke Smith (Burnley). Smith was forced to resign after he smashed a bottle into the face of a Leeds BNP organiser. Despite claiming to be the party of law and order, the BNP failed to call in the police and press charges. When Smith was chosen as a BNP candidate he had only recently been convicted of football violence. He has had several more convictions and was sentenced to 11 monthsâ€™ imprisonment after being caught fighting in Manchester.
Dan Kelley (Barking and Dagenham). Kelley resigned from the council only eight months after being elected after admitting that he was completely out of his depth. â€œThereâ€™s meetings that go right over my head and thereâ€™s little point in me being there,â€ he told the local paper.
Richard Mulhall (Calderdale). Mulhall was found guilty of benefit fraud in October 2006, including against the council on which he is BNP group leader, and sentenced to 200 hoursâ€™ community service.
Robin Evans (Blackburn). Evans left the BNP after complaining about the drug dealers and football hooligans who dominated his local BNP branch. He also criticised the Burnley BNP councillors as useless. He had previously admitted that council business was â€œmumbo jumboâ€ to him.
Steve Batkin (Stoke-on-Trent). Batkin attended none of a possible 30 committee meetings in the nine months to March 2005. Batkin only spoke twice in his first two years as a councillor and one of those times it was to ask what â€œabstainâ€ meant. He was once told to stop talking to the media after he questioned key facts relating to the Holocaust, including saying that Jewish people refused to debate the subject because they would be exposed as liars.
Paul Cromie (Bradford). Cromie came under investigation by council legal officers for giving Â£5 notes to local pensioners in Christmas cards in December 2006. Most of the pensioners were appalled at his action. After Cromieâ€™s election in May 2006 police investigated allegations, which he denied, that he bought votes by giving Â£100 to pay for a Christmas party at the Goodwin House sheltered housing complex.â€œ
These are the people we refuse to debate with. Debate and exposure is the only way to shatter their image.
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Filed in: Race politics,The BNP