Tag: Muslim’s

Addressing the motivations that drive Islamist obscurantists will help defeat them

By Daniel Margrain

Motivation guides behaviors

“The first step to combating Isis is to understand it. We have yet to do so. That failure costs us dear.” (Anthropologist, Scott Atran).

The murder of 85-year-old parish priest, Father Jacques Hamel during morning mass in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray,  northwest of Paris, by two adherents to the religious-based cult ISIS was yet another illustration of not only the depravity that this cult represents, but of the failure of domestic and international strategy of governments to deal with them. The lesson from almost a decade and a half of fighting terror with bombs is that the strategy has been an epic failure.

After the mass killings by ISIS in Paris, each subsequent attack on French soil has been marked by familiar-sounding televised addresses of condemnation of the perpetrators by president, Hollande followed by a determination to defeat them militarily. Meanwhile, French foreign policy in the Middle East continues along the same trajectory, presumably based on the premise that only through fighting fire with fire will the war against ISIS be won.

However, it would appear that with the exception of world leaders like Hollande and Britain’s Theresa May, most rational thinking people believe this eventuality to be an unrealistic proposition. ISIS are not like a traditional army and therefore can’t be fought as though they are one. Indeed, it’s the unpredictability and the random nature of their attacks in an era of globalisation which transcend the limitations associated with the traditional armies embedded within the structure of the nation-state, that sets them apart.

Although repeating the same failed foreign policy objectives undertaken by state actors in order to address the threat posed by an international terror network and ‘lone-wolf’ killers may be regarded as a sign of insanity by most, it nevertheless doesn’t appear to deter those who are motivated by the need to satisfy the financial interests of the lobbyists who profit from war.

Although it is widely understood that bombs and drones are counterproductive, it’s perhaps less understood that the establishment appear to want it that way on the basis, it would seem, that terrorist retaliation justifies the further use of bombs and drones. Ken Livingstone was surely correct in his analysis on BBCs Question Time programme last November when he suggested that bombing Raqqa will play into the hands of ISIS from a propaganda perspective enabling them to bolster their number of recruits on the back of it.

Indeed, it is clear that the aim of the religious-based cultists is to provoke an international bombing campaign precisely in order to achieve this objective. The ‘strategy’ of indiscriminate bombing of transnational ‘targets’ as a means of ending the cycle of terrorism and counter-terrorism is a policy of despair. What is needed is a total rethink that involves, in the first instance, a serious attempt at addressing the ideological motivations that drive ISIS as an organisation as well as the reasons why mainly young people are driven into the hands of this murderous cult.

The motivations seem to be varied and complex, embracing historical, theological, psychological and ideological factors. The first of these relates to the injustices meted out to the people of the region by the imperial powers. These injustices primarily originate from a series of secret meetings during World War 1 in London and Paris between the French diplomat, François Georges-Picot and the British politician, Sir Mark Sykes.

During these meetings, straight lines were drawn on a map of the middle east intended to effectively outline the control of land that was to be divided between the two countries. The French were to get Syria, Lebanon and parts of northern Iraq, while the British decided on southern Iraq, Jordan and Palestine. The idea was that instead of giving independence to the Arabs which was promised following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the imperial powers would run them on their behalf.

The ensuing chaos has largely stemmed from this agreement. What drives ISIS is their need to fill power vacuums in a post-colonial world in which the artificial imperial borders created by Sykes-Picot are collapsing. Robert Fisk made the astute point that the first video ISIS produced was of a bulldozer destroying the border between Syria and Iraq. The camera panned down to a piece of paper with the words “End of Sykes-Picot” written on it.

The wider “Arab Awakening,” as Fisk puts it, represents a rejection of the history of the region since Sykes-Picot during which time the Arabs have been denied freedom, dignity and justice. According to Fisk, ISIS is a weapon that’s not primarily aimed at the West but at the Shia which the Sunni Gulf States’ want to keep at bay. This explains why the funding for ISIS is principally coming from the Sunni states’ of Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The possibility of closer U.S-Iranian ties in the future will likely result in pressure being put on these states’ to ‘switch off’ their funding to ISIS which Fisk claims was one of the main topics of discussion at the Geneva nuclear talks between the two countries. A couple of months ago, the goal of ISIS was to maintain the Caliphate, but they now realize that this objective is in jeopardy. Consequently they are attempting to re-organise. This involves them reverting back to a guerilla-style organisational structure. The purpose of directly commanded attacks, is to prove to their followers throughout the world that despite the set-backs described, they still remain a strong fighting force.

French-American anthropologist, Scott Atran, widens the net further by suggesting that the young are motivated more by excitement and a sense of belonging than theology or political ideology:

“When you look at young people like the ones who grew up to blow up trains in Madrid in 2004, carried out the slaughter on the London underground in 2005, hoped to blast airliners out of the sky en route to the United States in 2006 and 2009, and journeyed far to die killing infidels in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia; when you look at whom they idolize, how they organize, what bonds them and what drives them; then you see that what inspires the most lethal terrorists in the world today is not so much the Koran or religious teachings as a thrilling cause and call to action that promises glory and esteem in the eyes of friends, and through friends, eternal respect and remembrance in the wider world that they will never live to enjoy…. Jihad is an egalitarian, equal-opportunity employer: …fraternal, fast-breaking, thrilling, glorious, and cool.”

Atran posits that the appeal of ISIS seems to be their offering of a Utopian society and the sense of belonging and empowerment that the religious obscurantists claim is lacking in Western society. The narrative is a future of peace and harmony, at least, under their interpretation, but with the recognition that brutality is also needed to get there.

The underlying aspect of this Utopianism is the retreat from the kind of unconditional freedom where many young people feel pressured into certain social actions, towards a different kind of freedom free from ambiguity and ambivalence that, for those concerned, enhances a form of creativity that restraint helps nurture. ISIS exploits this dichotomy by outlining a way towards significance in a society that treats the alienated as insignificant.

Maajid Nawaz depicts ISIS as akin to a brand that in order to be defeated needs to be discredited as part of a long-term strategy. This involves the creation of alternative narratives and the engendering of alternative forms of belonging and identity. Nawaz argues that the mission statement, as part of a generational struggle, has to be that the kind of obscurantist ideology that ISIS adhere to, is made as un-appealing as Stalinism or Hitler fascism is today. “We’ve got to be careful that we don’t become fixated about destroying the organization itself as part of a long-term strategy, but rather to focus on destroying the ISIS brand”, he says.

Irrespective of whether the discourse emanates from either the left or the right of the political spectrum, Nawaz argues that it needs to be more nuanced than has hitherto been the case:

“We seem to focus too much on binary approaches which on the one hand suggest that no problem exist within Islam [the perspective of many within the political left], or on the other, where all Muslims are perceived as the problem [the perspective of the far-right]. I would argue that to address the root problem we need to find a pathway between sensationalism and denialism.”

This approach will surely need to be run alongside a recognition by Western governments that their foreign policy strategies are not working. Instead of spending billions on ineffectual and counterproductive war, the money would be far better spent on effective prevention programmes on the ground. This could involve, as middle east scholar Ed Husain has argued, employing former jihadists to reach out to help educate young people about the dangers of ISIS and other extremists.

At some point, channels of communication will have to be opened up with radical Muslim groups who are willing to engage with experts outside the Muslim world to come to some kind of compromise agreement. This might even involve the formation of an Caliphate-type enclave based on ISIS lines. What is certain is the current path we are on is the wrong one.

The lack of any meaningful attempt to implement an effective strategy to weaken or destroy radical Islamism is self-evident. Ideologies cannot be defeated by bombs. Any U.S insistence that it’s dictatorial regional allies and proxies – Saudi Arabia and Qatar – deplete ISIS of funds, will go a long way to achieving desired short-term goals.

The West might have to come to terms with making a short-term pact with the devil as part of a long-term strategy that undercuts the kind of psychological and ideological motivations that drive young people into the arms of religious obscurantists in the first place.

 

 

The carnage in Nice didn’t emerge from a metaphorical clear blue sky

By Daniel Margrain

Bullet imacts are seen on the heavy truck the day after it ran into a crowd at high speed killing scores celebrating the Bastille Day July 14 national holiday on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, July 15, 2016. © Eric Gaillard

There is something deeply unsettling about the manner in which President Hollande and other leading political leaders and powerful establishment figures responded in the aftermath of the violent carnage that occurred in Nice on Thursday evening. The rolling media coverage that followed this tragic event, was accompanied by the predictable rhetorical flourishes from across the political spectrum highlighting the need for terrorism to be defeated. After every tragedy of this nature the same kinds of statements are repeated again and again even though the politicians making them must know that such an eventuality is impossible. The kind of crude public pronouncements that invariably follow tragedies of this kind are, in other words, seemingly inevitable as they are intellectually indolent.

It would appear that the establishment’s intention after these kinds of appalling acts of violence occur is to reinforce the invocation of ‘loyalty oaths’ as part of a broader strategy to marginalize and isolate minority Muslim communities. Whenever, for example, an atrocity is committed by those who self-identify as Muslims, the wider Muslim community are effectively urged to pledge an allegiance to the country of their birth or, alternatively, they are encouraged to collectively condemn the violence ostensibly undertaken in their name. Often it’s both of those things.

Any attempts to resist apology projection is deemed by the establishment to be akin to a form of treachery in which tacit support for an official enemy is implied. Crude loyalty binaries are invoked. Opposition to this sort of binary analysis often evokes the specter of the ‘enemy within’ trope among significant sections of the corporate-controlled media and the political establishment. Thus, whether implicitly or explicitly, the result is that the Muslim community often ends up being tarnished with the ‘terrorist sympathizers’ epithet. Consequently, over time the Muslim community in France, and elsewhere, has tended to become less trustful and more fearful of the wider community and vice-versa.

It has been the inability of successive French governments to successfully integrate its Muslim community minority within wider mainstream French society that has in part contributed to feelings of alienation among this community which is exacerbated as a result of the mainstream media’s response to it. The alienation that Muslims experience in France cannot be separated from the broader sociological context in which the political situation described above also plays a significant role. In relation to how the sense of alienation has manifested in Nice, Sky News’ Sam Kiley remarked:

“In the emergence of an active criminal underworld there exists a natural synergy between organised crime and violent Jihadism. …A number of people from Nice have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq alongside Islamic State…The killer in this case, wasn’t one of them. This is somebody who was a petty criminal and who was possibly radicalized on the internet as opposed to somebody who had direct relationships with terror groups.”

Kiley continued:

“Many immigrants feel left behind and excluded from the opportunities in a way that some of the wealthier residents in the city don’t. This makes them easy prey for the radicalized programme which is very effectively campaigned by Al-Qaida and IS, both of whom have been encouraging their followers and disciples to be these lone-wolf characters to use vehicles to mow people down….We need to recognize that Tunisia is the single biggest foreign fighter volunteers that go to join the Islamic State. This has been the case for well over a year.”

The misplaced notion that any long-term sense of community cohesion has been overstated, has resulted in an intellectual and media narrative in which the great social conflicts and ideological struggles were said to have been a thing of the past. This notion gained intellectual credence following Francis Fukuyama’s End of History thesis. Numerous newspaper editors and television presenters agreed.

A little over a decade after Fukuyama wrote his thesis, it’s premise had been shattered by real life events when Islamist obscurantists attacked the Twin Towers in New York. The attack was, in part, the result of Wahhabism’s ideological opposition to Western imperialist hegemony. Anthony Giddens, the former director of the London School of Economics and court sociologist to Britain’s then New Labour Prime Minister, Tony Blair, repeated a similar message to that outlined by Fukuyama in his 1998 book, The Third Way.

Giddens who, by uncritically accepting a widespread but unsustainable assumption  said“We live in a world where there are no alternatives to capitalism.” Numerous imperial wars as well as counter-insurgent violence on Western soil have been launched since Giddens and Fukuyama made their remarks. Leaving aside the possibility of global catastrophe resulting from climate change or nuclear war, the notion that capitalism will continue to exist indefinitely into the future, is highly improbable. Moreover the notion that Islamist extremist violence does not represent an ideological challenge to Western imperialist hegemony in light of the numerous atrocities since 9-11, is clearly wishful thinking. The violence in Nice is, in part, indicative of the continuation of the reactionary forces who are opposed to Western imperialism.

It took the UK corporate media some 15 hours following the atrocity in Nice to actually address the likely causes of the attack. Speaking on Sky News, Anna Guidicelli, former security analyst at the French Foreign Office, was explicit in her assertion that the state of emergency system in France is politically motivated as opposed to operationally motivated, the intentions of which, she claimed, are to undermine civil liberties. Guidicelli stated that the state of emergency in France would do nothing to address the issue of prevention or to aid justice. “I’m convinced that the underlying problems are geopolitical”, she said. “I’m trying to stress to the government the significance external foreign policy plays in these kinds of attacks.”

Guidicelli continued:

“People are radicalized, not only because they are crazy and lost but because they have a political view. While we have to recognize that the launching of war abroad has an effect domestically, the real question we have to address, is what are the interests, as part of the coalition, does our government have in places like Iraq and Syria? We have to address this issue in parliament. When we launch war we say we are doing so in order to protect our territory. But it’s exactly the contrary to what is happening. Our contribution as a country to the coalition is lethal.

In emphazising the sociopolitical context highlighted previously, Guidicelli remarked:

The attacks in France are a consequence of a complex combination of both sociological and political factors. The problems are deep-rooted and in order to address them long-term in any fundamental way it is necessary to go beyond the five year mandated electoral cycle which is dependent upon short-term ‘solutions’. What we can do now as part of a long term mix is to withdraw our troops from the Middle East. What is disappointing is that the government is not addressing this external aspect.”

On the contrary, French foreign policy predicated on the concept of endless warfare, appears to be perpetuating the kind of violence witnessed in Nice that the establishment claims it wants to prevent. This concept evokes the Project for the New American Century which predates the US-led slaughter in Iraq, the emergence of Al-Qaida and IS and the attacks in New York that preceded them. It’s therefore not Islamist terrorism that represents the catalyst for chaos and destruction in the world, but rather the United States, it’s allies and their proxies.

 

Racist tropes & the Zionist attempt to make ethics illegal

By Daniel Margrain

There is something deeply unsettling about the manner in which powerful and influential Zionists and Zionist political entities in Britain and Israel appear to be intent on subverting the democratic process in order to reinforce their mutual interests. This is sustained when tropes are adhered to which perpetuate existing racist myths such as those that invoke ‘loyalty oaths’. Whenever, for example, an atrocity is committed on British soil by those who self-identify as Muslims, the wider Muslim community are effectively urged to pledge an allegiance to the country of their birth or, alternatively, they are encouraged to collectively condemn the actions of terrorists. Often it’s both of those things.

Any attempts to resist apology projection is deemed by the establishment to be akin to a form of treachery in which tacit support for an official enemy is implied. Crude loyalty binaries are invoked. Opposition to this stereotypical attitude often evokes the specter of the ‘enemy within’ trope among significant sections of the corporate-controlled media and political establishments. The Muslim community is thus tarnished with the ‘terrorist sympathizers’ brush. Arguably, the most famous example of the establishment pressurizing dissidents to conform to this collective condemnation of the official enemy narrative was in relation to George W Bush’s evoking of the binary “you are either with us or with the terrorists” proclamation that followed the events on 9-11. It is therefore unfortunate that some prominent Zionists appear to be intent on perpetuating and reinforcing the ‘divided loyalties trope’ which has the effect of playing into the hands of racists and antisemites.

Matthew Gould and Jake Wallis Simons are two relatively recent examples of what appears to be British-born Jewish Zionists conforming to stereotypical tropes that involve the prioritizing of a foreign power, namely Israel, above the interests of the British state. The former was the first Jewish-Zionist to have been appointed as Britain’s ambassador to Israel. Gould, who along with Minister of Defence, Liam Fox and his businessman friend, Adam Werritty, through undisclosed meetings, seemed intent on ensuring that Britain would be drawn into a war with Iran, ostensibly on Israel’s behalf. Gould’s openly Zionist leanings implied a serious conflict of interest issue.

The latter example, the Daily Mail’s Jake Wallis Simons, who has been at the forefront of a sustained and coordinated media witch-hunt as part of a coup attempt against pro-Palestinian Jeremy Corbyn while simultaneously labeling anybody who supports Corbyn’s position as an “antisemite” said that he would support Israel if Britain and the Jewish state were hypothetically to go to war. Needless to say that if a British-Muslim had proffered support for any one of Britain’s official enemies, the security forces would have almost certainly detained him/her under terrorism legislation and the corporate media would have plastered the story over its front pages.

The same double standards apply to the media’s reaction to their coverage of the governments crackdown on those who support boycotts against Israel which the government looks set to make illegal. In light of the current political crackdown on almost all criticism of the Zionist state, one wonders when the government will consider the banning of anti-Zionism critiques. The governments claim appears to be that boycotts, which favour the Palestinians, are a form of “antisemitism” It’s clear that anti-democratic crackdowns of this nature violate the right to make an ethical stand against any perceived injustice and will thereby set a dangerous precedent.

According to.pro-Israeli propagandist and former representative of the Zionist Federation, Jonathan Sacerdoti- whose current job title is ‘Director of Communications for the Campaign Against Antisemitism’ – Jews regard boycotts against Israel to not only be intimidating but are also perceived to be an illustration of “antisemitism disguised as criticism of Israel which are driving Jews in fear of their lives from Britain to Israel.” With such highly exaggerated nonsense clearly predicated on an overriding and deep-seated sense of victim hood,  Sacerdoti appears to be confusing Britain’s multicultural, secular and pluralistic liberal democracy with the inherently racist, Zionist entity headed by a PM who also sees himself as the leader of the whole of the Jewish world. 

Clearly, it hadn’t occurred to Netanyahu that Jewish British people are British, just like Black, Asian or other British people. They are not Israeli. With the exception of Zionists like Jake Wallis Simons who would sooner see Israel triumph against the land of his birth, Netanyahu can make no legitimate claim to lead or control the Jewish diaspora. To suggest otherwise is to replicate the false racist and sectarian-based argument that Zionists and Jews are synonymous, and therefore to attack Israel is “antisemitism”. Netanyahu outwardly expressed this racism when he attempted to shift the blame for the Holocaust from Hitler on to the Grand Mufti. This makes sense given that Muslims are the joint enemy of both the European far-right and their Zionist allies.

The impression the Zionist propagandists want to give is that British cities are rife with antisemitism in which boycotts of Israel are regarded as emblematic. This rationalization serves a political purpose. Currently the non-Jewish population of Israel stands at about a quarter of the total and the proportion is growing. The Zionists need to halt the demographic shift and the way to do that is to invent, provoke or exaggerate, in the UK and elsewhere, instances of the new “antisemitism.” Zionism is threatened from within and so needs a new influx of ethnic Jews in order for the ethnically-based Jewish state to survive in its current form. Ideologically there is no principal difference between Zionism and Nazism in that regard. Indeed, antisemitism is the flesh and blood that Zionism and all related industries and institutions connected to it feed off in order for them to justify their existence. As Gilad Atzmon has argued:

“The Zionist project, from its onset, formed a symbiotic relationship between Zionist Jews and the Jew haters who wanted the Jews out of Europe. Zionism promised a national home for the Jews and at the same time offered to ‘take the Jews away.’… Zionism as well as the State of Israel are sustained by Jew hatred. If ‘antisemitism’ disappears, Israel and Zionism become obsolete concepts. Understanding this, Israel and Zionism have consistently contributed to the rise of antisemitism. When there is no antisemitism to point at, Jewish institutions simply invent it, as they are presently doing in the Labour party.”

But even if we were to accept the high levels of antisemitic incidences outlined by Sacerdoti (which I don’t), the implied racism inherent in the notion that there is a correlation between Zionism and Judaism, is offensive to the silent majority of Jews who want nothing to do with the apartheid, racist state. The implied notion that intimidation and boycotts are synonymous is not sustainable either. In any case the argument is a red-herring since there are existing laws against intimidation and violence. Sacerdoti seems unaware that for boycotts to have any impact there has to be a form of collective action which he is conflating with the potential negative affects they have on particular groups of people.

The position of Sacerdoti, who claims to speak on behalf of all Jews, is essentially twofold. First, that democratic expression should be constrained if it upsets people, and secondly, it should be curtailed if it leads some people to act illegally on the basis of those values. If these two principles were to be applied, there wouldn’t be much of British democracy left. The government is losing the moral high ground by seeking to quash boycotts and prevent legitimate political activism more generally. In so doing, it is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Ultimately, it has to be a legitimate course of action in a democracy like Britain for a group of people to be able to pass a resolution condemning a country because they are opposed to its political values.

Clearly, what is behind the governments decision to ban boycotts is to clamp down on local democracy and to shut down any debate that’s critical of the human rights record, not only of Israel, but its other regional allies too. It seems to me to be remarkable the extent to which double standards are applied in relation to the media’s response to those who are opposed to the governments crackdown on boycotts against Israel in the occupied territories on the one hand, and in terms of their response to Zionist state terrorism on the other. Muslims are repeatedly pressured by the elites to apologize for acts of terror committed in their name by Islamist Jihadists and more often than not, they willingly oblige. However, this rule of thumb doesn’t seem to apply to Jews following the massacres of Palestinians by Zionists.

In the current climate of Zionist witch-hunts and McCarthy-like smears, any justifiable criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians or opposition to boycotts is to risk being labelled an “antisemite”. Hadley Freeman’s complaint that she was put under special pressure to criticise Zionist violence following the successful campaign to boycott the Tricycle Theatre resulting in the cancellation of a Jewish Film Festival in Kilburn, London (despite having written an article on the subject), underlies her total disregard for the plight of the Palestinians as a consequence of this violence. This is far from unique among Zionists. Neither the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland nor the Mail’s Melanie Philips, for example, have ever acknowledged the terrible crimes committed by Israel against the Palestinian people. Instead, their preferred tactic is to take aim at Israel’s critics by accusing them of singling Israel out.   

 

War & terrorism differentiated by the power the state has at its disposal

By Daniel Margrain

The twisted ideology of terrorist Mohammed Emwazi (Jihadi John) is as repugnant as it is depraved and inhumane. It’s to the credit of the family members of those individuals Emwazi killed, such as the widow of David Haines, that they stated publicly the preferable course of action would have been to have ensured the killer was brought to trial. This would of course have been the legal and moral approach to have taken. Moreover, it would have emphasized the divide between the democratic process pertaining to justice on the one hand, and the illegal act of extra judicial killing on the other. It’s this principled divide that separates liberal democracies from that of terrorist barbarism.

It was therefore revealing that David Cameron praised the “quick fix” nature of Emwazi’s political assassination, while Jeremy Corbyn agreed with the family members by expressing grave doubts about the government’s policy of extrajudicial killing. Cameron’s subsequent cynical political grandstanding in front of the world’s media was intended to give the false impression that the West are winning the battle against ISIS while simultaneously depicting Corbyn as weak and unpatriotic.

But the reality is that the “patriotism” implied by Cameron’s stance on Ermwazi’s death resulted in the latter’s martyrdom which the terrorist sought from the beginning. Thus the likelihood is that his killing will be a further recruiting agent for ISIS in Syria that the attacks in Paris are an extension of.

As the words from the terrorist statement claiming responsibility for the slaughter in the French capital make clear, the kinds of sadists who gloat about the massacring of people enjoying their warm Friday evening in the bars and cafes of the city are warped individuals who have no moral or ethical scruples about who they kill or how.

But it’s also worth highlighting that among the religious obscurantist language contained in the statement, there are also references to “Crusader’s” which although on the surface is crude, is nevertheless an expression of something that’s fundamentally political in nature. In that sense, the statement is no different from the majority of Bin Laden’s public statements in that it provides secular, not religious rationales for the attacks.

Nowhere in the statement does it justify terrorism against the West as a means of subordinating Western unbelievers to the true faith, but uses the phrase “crusader nations” when describing Germany and France “attended by the imbecile of France (Francois Hollande).” This is the political underpinning to the dirty and inhumane method of terrorism displayed by the psychopathic killers.

The question is, would the killers have used these kinds of methods if they had at their disposal the high-tech operations and “clean” logistical tactics of their French counterparts that preceded the attacks? This includes Hollande’s 2012 arming of Syrian rebels that are in breach of a UN embargo, the emergence of France as the most prominent backer of Syria’s armed opposition, and its direct funding of rebel groups around Aleppo as part of the push to oust the embattled Assad regime. In addition, there is evidence of further French complicity in aiding opposition groups as well as Hollande’s pro-regime change rhetoric here and here, and fighter jet deals here and here.

The fact that the terrorists are unable to compete with the violence that powerful state actors can dish out means that the damage the latter are able to inflict is much more extensive and devastating than anything a suicide bomber can inflict. It is a mistake to think that all the individuals who fight under the ISIS banner are driven exclusively by ideological Islamist motives or that the terrorists represent an existential threat to our way of life.

It’s important to highlight some context in relation to this latter point. Terrible as these attacks were, they killed 0.01% – that’s one in ten thousand – of the population of Paris. There are over 600 murders a year in France. Many more people die every year in traffic accidents in Paris than were killed in this atrocity.

It’s arguably the case that many who ascribe to the ISIS death cult do so because they have, in part, been radicalized as the result of a deep sense of injustice and oppression which is then expressed by a commitment to a religious outlook and way of behaving. I disagree with the view of many of those on the “left” who argue that Islamist terrorism has nothing at all to do with Islam. It’s my contention that those who commit terrorist acts often self identify as Muslims so for them Islam is the issue.

The fact that tolerant Muslims claim that their radical counterparts are not authentic Muslims seems to me to be a canard because both factions will justify their own actions by recourse to their own specific interpretations and cherry picking of their religious book in order, in the case of the latter, to justify secular political grievances. This was the case of what is known of the background of one of the 9/11 hijackers, Mohammed Atta:

“The grievances he loudly and frequently articulated against the United States and the Muslim autocracies that the United States supports were almost entirely secular. Most of those who knew him before 1996 stress not Atta’s religious piety…but his implacable fury at the plight of the poor and the indifference of the rich… He was bitterly angry at the visible juxtaposition, in Cairo, of extravagant and frivolous luxury with mass squalor and hopelessness. Egypt’s elite, in particular, was hypocritical, he believed. They showed a ‘democratic face’ to the West, while displaying complete indifference to the misery of ordinary people at home. They had sold their country to the West for trinkets.”

Just as Emile Henry, the French bomber of the café at the Gare St Lazare more than a century ago, saw bourgeois women and children as “guilty” by association, so there are people suffering from imperialism across the world (and not just Muslims) who see the ordinary inhabitants of the oppressor nation as equally “guilty” by association with what “their” nation is doing. This is a terrible inversion of the argument that says that because Hollande, Cameron and Obama were elected, their actions in unleashing war are legitimate. The terrorist logic is that the population cannot be “innocent” because they voted for these politician’s. This is the politics of despair.

The only “strategy” the West seems to have against the ISIS terrorists which extends beyond the “sticking plaster” approach implied by extrajudicial killing, appears to be to continue to drop more indiscriminate bombs from a great height on the people of Syria creating the kind of collateral damage that the sadists who created the carnage in Paris could only dream of. This is because the West is not fighting a traditional standing army of a recognized state that’s easily identifiable, but a set of well armed, financed and organised collection of individuals who are highly mobile.

Leading Western politicians’ seem to be totally oblivious to the fact that what is supposed to separate our democracies from the tyranny of the terrorists is the concept of the rule of law. Our leaders’ promotion of a policy of bombing Syria “even harder” towards democracy makes us no different in essence from the tactics used by the terrorists we condemn, thus making the concepts of war and terrorism distinguishable from one another only in as much as the former is indicative of state power.

The Rise of the BNP: Time To Question Freedom?

The BBC’s long-running political debating programme, Question Time, entrenched itself in controversy recently, following the decision by BBC executives to allow on to the show the  British National Parties (BNP’s) leader Nick Griffin. In western liberal democracies like Britain, which supposedly value democratic free speech, is it right that Griffin be granted a major political platform such as the BBC as a vehicle with which to air his organizations views?
The intention in the first half of this article, is to provide the reader with an outline of the nature of the party, its historical trajectory and what the implications are for granting the BNP the oxygen of media publicity. In the second half, the educational and professional backgrounds of those responsible for the decision-making process which allowed Griffin on to the programme, in addition to the possible grounds by which he was invited, will be evaluated.
The BNP is widely regarded to be a far-right fascist political organization (1) (2) (3). In this sense, the party represents a unique threat to all forms of democracy at every level of society. This includes the removal of the rights of all working class people – black and white, Jewish and non-Jewish, Muslim and non-Muslim (4).
The Standards Board for England ruled in 2005 that describing the BNP as Nazi was “within the normal and acceptable limits of political debate” (5). The Daily Mirror newspaper described the party’s MEP’s as “vile prophets who preach a Nazi-style doctrine of racial hatred” (6).
An editorial in The Guardian characterizes the BNP as “a racist organization with a fascist pedigree that rightfully belongs under a stone” (7).  The European Parliament’s Committee on racism and xenophobia described the BNP as an “openly Nazi party” (8). When asked in 1993 if the party was racist, its deputy leader Richard Edmonds, who has been convicted for racist violence, said: “We are 100 percent racist, yes.” (9).
The BNP was formed in 1982 in Britain under the leadership of John Tyndall, one of the countries foremost post-war fascists, who proclaimed that “Mein Kampf is my bible” (10). At that time the BNP remained in the shadow of the larger National Front (NF). The NF split, torn as they were by internal conflict, created a space which the BNP filled (11).
One of the BNPs main activists in 1985 was Tony Lecomber. Lecomber was sent to prison for attempting to detonate explosives at the offices of a rival political organization. He was also caught with hand-grenades and was jailed for three years for assaulting a Jewish teacher (12). He was propaganda director at the time of the latter conviction (13).
Lecomber is not alone:  Many other BNP members  have been convicted for racially-motivated violence.  Kevin Scott, the BNP’s North East regional advisor, for example, has two convictions for assault and using threatening words and behaviour against ethnic minorities (14). In addition, Joe Owens, a former BNP candidate, has served eight months in prison for sending razor blades to Jewish people in the post, and another term for carrying CS gas and knuckledusters (15).
Other BNP members and supporters, that include Stephen O’Shea and Simon Briggs, have been convicted for violent racist attacks (16). In 1998, Nick Griffin received a nine-month prison sentence for inciting racial hatred (17). Griffin subsequently became leader of the party in 1999.
During the early 1990s, much of the BNP”s activities were focused on East London, where, in 1993, it secured a council by-election victory in the Tower Hamlets ward of Millwall. The price to pay was a massive rise in racial attacks (18).
At about the same time, the BNP spawned the violent Combat 18 (C18) as its security force. C18 later emerged as a Nazi terror group, responsible for a letter bomb campaign and a series of murders. C18 thugs, made up of football hooligans and Nazi skinheads, protected both BNP meetings and the BNP leadership during party marches.
In 1993, the BNP became increasingly embarrassed by Combat 18 violence. After its victory in Millwall, it decided it no longer needed the street thugs and banned dual membership. However, most BNP members ignored this plea. In September 1995, four of the five London BNP branch organizers attended a C18 meeting (19).
The Millwall seat was lost eight months later. The BNP lost momentum, with younger members going over to C18. Tyndall reversed the slide by adopting a more hardline strategy, which included bringing veteran US Nazi leader, William Pierce, to London.

William Pierce
Pierce penned the tract, The Turner Diaries, which inspired both the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and the politicised BNP supporter, David Copeland, who was convicted for the bombing of a London pub (20).
During this period in the mid-1990s, the organization began to adopt a more respectable image:
It campaigned on rural issues and, publicly at least, watered down some of its more overt racism, co-opting many of the policies which have traditionally been the domain of the political left (21).
In 1999, it  exploited the debate in relation to proportional representation as an opportunity to begin the biggest racist recruitment drive ever to have taken place in Britain, launching a new party political broadcast and delivering 15 million leaflets (22).
Since this apparent surface shift in strategy in the mid 1990s, the BNP’s support has relatively increased, albeit intermittently. In 2002, for example, the BNP won three council seats in Burnley, and averaged 28 per cent of the town-wide vote. In Oldham, the party came second in four of the five wards it contested, and took an average 27 per cent.
Across the country, the BNP averaged 16 per cent in the council wards it contested – the best election results in its history. However, this must be offset against the fact that it only challenged less than one per cent of all seats up for election. Since then, they have added further seats, a total that currently stands at 46 out of around a possible total of some 21,000.
In the 2005 General Election, the BNP stood 119 candidates across England, Scotland and Wales. Between those candidates, they polled 192,850 votes, gaining an average of 4.2 per cent across the several seats it stood in and 0.7 per cent nationwide – more than three times its percentage at the 2001 election (23). Of these votes, half originated from disaffected New Labour voters (the governing party) consisting of semi-skilled manual workers, pensioners and the unemployed (24).
However, it is important not to exaggerate the overall reach of the BNP: It did not stand nationwide, meaning its national share of the vote was substantially lower than that of other minor parties and exit poll predictions of 3 per cent (25).
Still, indications are that relatively the BNP is increasing its support amongst sections of the UK voting population (26) (27), against a background and climate of increasing racism (28). Consequently, the ugly face of racially-motivated violence appears to be never far away.
In October 2006, for example, Robert Cottage, an BNP candidate to represent Colne and Pendle Council earlier that year, was arrested under the Explosives Act on suspicion of possessing chemicals that may be capable of making an explosion (29).
Cottage was also reported has having in his possession the largest quantity of explosives of its kind found in the country (30).
On 31st of July 2007, Cottage was sentenced to two and a half years imprisonment for the charge of possessing explosives (31).
Electorally, the European elections of 2009 resulted in the BNP attracting one million votes, which translated into them winning two seats in the European parliament. One of these seats was won by Griffin, who was elected for the North West region with 8 per cent of the vote (32).
So, how can the current growing relative popularity amongst sections of the British people for the BNP, be reconciled with the organizations historical tendency for racially-motivated violence?
For the answer to that question we need to examine the specific socioeconomic circumstances and conditions which arguably provide the catalyst for such violence.
Historically speaking, the defining characteristic of fascist parties has been their apparent propensity to be able to exploit prevailing unstable economic conditions. To a large extent, fascism thrives on the support it receives from what are frequently perceived as the disenfranchised in society, who suffer disproportionately from any global downturn in the economic cycle.
Thus, the uneven growth or decline in the fortunes of fascist political parties such as the BNP, is mirrored by the economic conditions in society at any given time. In short, during periods of low unemployment and relative economic stability, workers are less likely to vote for, and support, fascist political parties. On the other hand, when workers feel socially and economically vulnerable during periods of economic downturn, then some people are prone to translate their internal frustrations and anger in an external way by terrorizing minority and immigrant communities and/or towards supporting fascist political parties who cynically channel this anger and frustration into violent actions themselves (33) (34) (35).
Moreover, support for parties like the BNP appears to be predicated on the perceived failure of mainstream established political parties in addressing many of the legitimate concerns that working people face in their everyday lives as evidenced by half of the BNP’s support (as of 2005) originating from the New Labour government as highlighted above. One of the main concerns is the lack of availability of affordable social housing in the UK, the construction of which have dropped by 99 per cent in the last 12 years of the New Labour government (36).
The BNP are a major beneficiary of this kind of disaffection which they are able to exploit electorally, as evidenced for example, by their by-election victory in Kent which stemmed from fears over unemployment and issues around immigration and race (37). In this regard, the BNP have been able to play on mainstream concerns about the economy, crime, housing and unemployment, while also exploiting more traditional far right subjects such as immigration and fears about Islamist extremism. Their use of the issue of migrant workers in particular, combines fears about immigration with the reality of rising unemployment (38).
So a direct correlation appears to exist between economic crisis or downturn, the inability of established governing political parties to address the legitimate concerns of a large proportion of the electorate, and the rise of political parties like the BNP. Given that the current global economic downturn is predicted by many experts to be a medium to long-term problem (39), the consequences for ethnic minorities who are the brunt of the BNP’s message (40), appears to be less than a rosy one. The growing popularity for the BNP is echoed in respect to the corresponding mainstream and corporate media coverage and publicity they have increasingly garnered in recent years – coverage that nevertheless, is seemingly disproportionate to the relatively small number of votes they receive (41).
In a democracy, ought not all views, no matter how potentially repugnant, be heard by the population at large, particularly if such views are apparently representative of an increasing amount of people?
If the level of support for the BNP has grown to the extent as to warrant their exposure on the popular television debating programme, Question Time, what possible grounds could there be to censor such views?
This might be a valid argument, if it was the case that the BNP are a political organization whose ideology was not fascist. As distinct from all other UK political parties, the BNP’s leader has denied the reality of the existence of the Holocaust in which 6 million Jews, alongside millions of others, perished (42). Further, unlike any other party, the BNP discriminate against people on the basis of their ethnicity over which they have no control, and openly advocate the repatriation of “non-whites” (43). Up until October, 2009, the BNP required that all members must be of the “Indigenous Caucasian” racial group (44). This requirement was challenged legally by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) who won their case against the BNP. Since October, 2009, ethnic minorities have been allowed to join the party (45).
It is for these, and other reasons, such as their use of intimidation and racial violence, that the claims for the legal legitimization of the BNP have been called into question – the case being that the agenda of the BNP is not a political, but a criminal one. All the evidence points to the fact that where the BNP have been politically active, have targeted its election campaigns or have otherwise had a presence, the resulting publicity has resulted in an increase in the amount of race attacks (46) (47).
In 1993, following their local council by-election victory in the Tower Hamlets ward of Millwall, for example, racial incidents increased by 300 per cent in the three months following the election (48). Barking in East London, has seen a 30 per cent rise in racist attacks since the BNP’s successful campaign in the borough (49). Two years ago, Griffin generated a significant amount of publicity following the controversy surrounding Oxford universities decision to allow him a public platform to address students at the universities campus. In the days following his speech, racist attacks in the Oxford area increased significantly (50).
At the time of  Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time, the BBC attracted an audience of almost 8 million viewers, three times its average (51). Following the publicity generated by Griffin’s appearance, The Daily Telegraph newspaper revealed the results of a UK Gov opinion poll which indicated that 22 percent of British people would “seriously consider” voting for the BNP (52). Moreover, the BNP claimed that 9,000 people applied to join them after the programme aired (53).
It is usual for the BBC to announce the line-up of the show one or two days prior to broadcast, but on this occasion it stated that Griffin would be appearing many months in advance of it going to air. This generated further interest from amongst others, BBC Radio One and Channel 4 News.
Was this a deliberate cynical attempt by the BBC to increase their viewing-figure ratings in the almost certain knowledge that such an increase would by turn increase the profile of the BNP?
What does appear inconceivable, is that BBC management would have been unaware of the consequences for Britain’s ethnic minority population of granting the BNP this “gift horse” amount of public exposure.
Was the decision by the BBC to invite Griffin on to the show based partly on the shared professional and educational backgrounds of those concerned?
Many of the individuals who were directly responsible for overseeing Oxbridge-educated Griffin’s appearance, had themselves been educated at one of two of Britain’s elite educational establishments – Oxford and Cambridge. For example, BBC director-general, Mark Thompson was educated at Oxford, where Griffin was granted a public platform to speak. Following his appearance on the show, Griffin, who graduated in law, told the Guardian newspaper that he admired Thompson’s “personal courage” by inviting him (54).
Nicholas Kroll, director of the BBC Trust – an organization that supposedly represents the interests of the viewing public – was educated at Oxford. At least three of the 12 members of the government-appointed trustees, were educated at either Oxford or Cambridge, while the remainder have a background in either law, business or economics (55).
So what were the grounds for the BBC inviting Griffin on the the Question Time programme?
BBC deputy director-general Mark Byford defended the BBC’s decision on the grounds of impartiality, insisting that Griffin’s invitation was not based on boosting viewing figures. Byford said it was “not for the BBC” to engage in censorship, echoing the views of his boss, Thompson, by saying that such issues were a matter for government (56). The Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who was also educated at an elite university, Edinburgh, responded that the responsibility to allow Griffin on to the programme was the BBC’s (57).
In words that would have been music to the ears of Griffin, Brown said:
“I think the days of Britain having to apologize for our history are over….I think we should celebrate much of our [imperialist] past rather than apologize for it, and we should talk, rightly so, about British values” (58).
The “values” that Brown was referring to were not made clear.
After having the ‘buck’ passed back to them by Brown, the BBC were effectively compelled to pass the issue over to the government-appointed business-friendly and Oxbridge-educated BBC Trust, after cabinet minister Peter Hain and others, appealed against the decision to allow Griffin on to the programme (59).
Although in principle the BBC Trust is able to intervene in cases like this, in practice the body never interferes in individual programme content prior to transmission. A BBC Trust spokeswoman told MediaGuardian:
“The trust is the sovereign body of the BBC and could, in principle, intervene before a programme is broadcast. However, there is a long-established convention that it does not take a view on the editorial content of individual programmes before transmission, but only reviews them after transmission” (60) – cold comfort for Britain’s ethnic minorities, many of whom would have been verbally and racially assaulted as a direct result of the programme airing.
Does the decision to allow Griffin on to the programme on the grounds that not to do so, would break the corporation’s alleged impartiality guidelines, stand up to scrutiny?
The BBC frequently break their “impartiality” guidelines. This often takes the form of  BBC journalists  accepting the views and pronouncements of those in political power uncritically and as a given. In 2007, for example, Justin Webb, then the BBC’s North America editor, rejected the charge that he is a propagandist for US power, saying:
“Nobody ever tells me what to say about America or the attitude to take about the United States. And that is the case right across the board in television as well” (61).
Webb began a radio programme from the Middle East thus:
“June 2005. US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice flies to Cairo and at the American University makes a speech that will go down in history: “For sixty years my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region, here in the Middle East; and we achieved neither. Now we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.”
Webb told his listeners in all seriousness:
“I believe the Bush administration genuinely wanted that speech to be a new turning point; a new start” (62).
Nobody had to tell Webb to say these words; he genuinely believed them.
Consider too, the pronouncements of one BBC correspondent, reporting from Iraq:
“This is not promising soil in which to plant a Western-style open society.”
And:
“The coalition came to Iraq in the first place to bring democracy and human rights” (63).
When investigative journalists challenged BBC news director Helen Boaden on whether she thought this version of US-UK intent perhaps compromised the BBC’s commitment to impartial reporting, she replied that such “analysis of the underlying motivation of the coalition is borne out by many of the speeches and remarks of both Mr Bush and Mr Blair” (64).
In March, 2009, BBC reporter Reeta Chakrabarti was asked why she had claimed that Tony Blair had “passionately believed” that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. After all, an alternative thesis – based on a mountain of compelling evidence – is that Blair was lying. Chakrabarti responded:
“I said Mr Blair passionately believed Iraq had wmd because he has consistently said so” (65).
In other words, for the BBC it appears to be a given that the unchallenged pronouncements of Western political leaders who speak on behalf of powerful economic interests, are the truth.
In 1999, the BBC  made the clear political decision to allow its own high-profile newsreader, Jill Dando, to present a DEC appeal for Kosovo at the height of NATO’s 78-day bombing campaign against Serbian “genocide” in Kosovo (claims that have since been quietly abandoned). Shortly after broadcasting the appeal, with bombing still underway, the BBC reported:
“Millions of pounds of donations have been flooding in to help the Kosovo refugees after a national television appeal for funds” (66).
This article linked to related reports on the conflict, which included comments from the Prime Minister, Tony Blair:
“This will be a daily pounding until he [the Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic] comes into line with the terms laid down by NATO” (67).
This contrasts with the BBC’s decision not to broadcast the Gaza Charity Appeal in response to Israel’s violent 22-day attack on Gaza late last year. The attack resulted in the killing of a minimum 1,300 people and the wounding of 4,200 others. Israeli forces repeatedly bombed schools, medical centres, hospitals, ambulances, UN buildings, power plants, roads, bridges and civilian homes. The BBC’s refusal to broadcast a national humanitarian appeal for Gaza, breached an agreement that dates back to 1963 and left “aid agencies with a potential shortfall of millions of pounds in donations” (68).
The BBC apparently had no concerns that this might damage its alleged reputation for impartiality. The BBC argument is made absurd by its consistent and very obvious pro-Israeli bias. An early version of January 28 BBC online article (since amended) commented:
“Israel has carried out an air attack in the Gaza strip and launched an incursion with tanks and bulldozers across the border….The incursion follows a bomb attack which killed one Israeli soldier and wounded three near the Gaza border” (69). As usual, the BBC presented the Israeli attack as a response to Palestinian violence in which it was falsely claimed that they (the Palestinians) had broken an earlier ceasefire. In fact, Israel forces had already violated the ceasefire at least seven times (70).
The BBC’s claims of impartiality, are further compromised in relation to the nature of their senior management appointments. These are made by the government of the day. At the time of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, both the BBC chairman, Gavyn Davies and his director-general, Gregg Dyke, were supporters of, and donors to, the Labour Party. Davies’s wife ran Gordon Brown’s office; his children served as pageboy and bridesmaid at the Brown wedding. Tony Blair has stayed at Davies’s holiday home. “In other words”, noted columnist Richard Ingrams, “it would be harder to find a better example of a Tony crony” (71).
BBC journalist, Andrew Gilligan lost his job after intense government flak in response to Gilligan’s report that the Blair regime had manipulated intelligence over Iraq’s supposed WMD (72).
Consider too, the establishment links of the members of the BBC Trust whose duty it is to uphold its public obligations, including impartiality. Notwithstanding the unrepresentative nature of the trust, as reflected in its members educational and professional backgrounds (see above), the BBC’s claim for impartiality cannot be sustained on the grounds of ideology alone.
One of these trustee worthies is Anthony Fry, formerly of Rothschilds and later the ill-fated Lehman Brothers where he was head of UK operations. Fry boasts on the BBC website:
“Having spent my career in the City as an investment banker, for over a decade specializing in the media industry, it’s a great privilege to bring my commercial understanding of the sector to help the BBC deliver value for licence fee payers in today’s rapidly changing broadcasting environment” (73).
Are we to believe that these individuals are independent of the government that appointed them and of the elite corporate and other vested interests in which they are deeply embedded?
Lord Reith, founder of the BBC, was honest in his assessment of the corporation and its relationship to the establishment:
“They know they can trust us not to be really impartial” (74).
What these clear examples of double standards and bias illustrate, is that the notion the BBC were obliged to invite Griffin on to the Question Time programme on the spurious  grounds that to deny him an invitation could conceivably undermine their claims for impartiality, are clearly bogus.
The BBC’s close ties to the British establishment undermines their credibility for impartiality at the first hurdle.
To recap: Many of their top executives were educated at one of the two elite universities Griffin was educated at and allowed to speak at. Moreover, having clearly made contradictory and politically-motivated decisions in the past – the latest of which was to invite the leader of a fascist political organization, whose existence is legally open to question, on to one of their flagship-political debating programmes – further undermines the BBC’s credibility.
The kind of cosy relationship the corporation has with the government of the day and with people like Nick Griffin and the BNP, makes sense when one considers the British establishments well documented historical links with the political far-right. The Daily Mail newspaper, for example, whose then owner Lord Rothermere, was both a supporter and friends of Hitler and Mussolini (75), propagated anti-Jewish sentiment at the end of the Second World War, as a catalyst for the then government to stem the flow of Jewish immigration into the country (76) (77).
This is the same establishment newspaper which, under the guise of the “war on terror”, regularly sensationalizes anti-Muslim stories on to its front pages, whilst relegating the relatively higher amount of terrorist activities of the far-right in its inside pages (78) (79).
Were the BBC justified in granting Griffin a slot on the programme on the grounds of freedom of expression?
This brings into sharp focus the concept of freedom in a liberal democracy like Britain. Unlike the First Amendment of the US Constitution, Britain does not regard unconditional freedom of expression as a right. In this sense, Britain (and most of Europe) regards such freedoms as necessarily restricted by the interventions of the state. The aim of such intervention is the restriction of some freedoms which are deemed to undermine the public good and society in general. In this regard, a persons freedom to shout “fire” in a crowded public space like a theatre, is limited by the right of other people not to be crushed to death in the resulting stampede.
In theory, existing UK law is designed to restrict the freedom of individuals like Griffin to publicly use inflammatory language that is intended to incite religious and/or racial hatred and violence. Perhaps the BBC thought Griffin’s arguments would be sufficiently ridiculed by the other panelists on the show?
Indeed, this kind of argument is often used by those who defend the right of people like Griffin to be heard. In theory, this might appear to be a plausible position to take. Clearly though, Griffin’s arguments were not adequately challenged by members of the panel on the Question Time programme (80).
Government minister Jack Straw’s performance, for example – whose position on race relations had itself been compromised by his refusal to meet with a female Muslim constituent at his Blackburn surgery – was regarded by many as inept and ineffectual (81) (82).
This begs the question as why it was the government hierarchy made the decision to use Straw as their representative (and therefore, by extension, the people) on the programme?
Could it of been that in the almost certain knowledge of Griffin’s arguments surviving the programme unscathed, they would have been aware of the likelihood of an increasing potential for racial tension and social conflict in the country?
The social policy objective of  “divide and conquer” implied by such a strategy, has served various governments both past and present very well (83). Thus, there is no reason to believe why such a strategy would not be repeated.
But Straw was not the only guest on the show who failed to expose the policies of the BNP. Many of the audience would have felt alienated by what seemed to be an attack by the whole establishment on one individual. Griffin was attempting to tap into this alienation. The biggest problem with Question Time was the lack of a genuine workers’ representative that could have punctured this attempt. Instead, Griffin was on a panel with establishment politicians, all of whom support anti-working class and pro-big business policies (84).
Whatever the reasons were for the government and BBC establishment deciding on their choices to confront Griffin, the fact that the latter effectively side-stepped the laws relating to conditional freedom of expression by granting him the platform of Question Time, highlights the limitations of applying existing British law in what clearly is a legal “grey area”.
Such a controversy would not be an issue in a country like the US, on the basis that one of the principles of the US constitution is the notion of unconditional or unlimited freedom of expression. Many people clearly remain convinced of the merits of unlimited freedom of expression and the First Amendment that overrides it, on the basis that all views in a “free” society, no matter how potentially offensive and repugnant, ought to be heard. The American, Michael Harrison, editor of “Talkers Magazine” is one such person.
When questioned by talk show host and British MP George Galloway on this subject, Harrison defended the rights of Nazis and their supporters to provocatively goose-step up and down the streets of a Jewish community in a major city, openly preach support of Hitler and to deny the Holocaust in which the relatives of the people living their would have probably been gassed to death (85).
For Harrison, the clear potential for civil unrest and violence resulting from the state legitimization of such behaviour, was a price he considered was worth paying in the defence of unconditional unlimited freedom of expression (86).
It is worth remembering that Hitler, under the guise of unlimited freedom of the kind espoused by Harrison, came to power as Chancellor in Germany in 1933 with one-third of the vote, only for him to abolish freedom altogether. Democratic freedom and the right to vote was only restored following the overthrow of the fascist regime by the allies over a decade later.
The philosopher Isaiah Berlin, in countering this unlimited notion of freedom from which emerged Hitler fascism, put it well when he said:
“One is free to move ones fist in the direction of my face, but ones freedom ends at the point at which the fist makes contact with it” (87).
Sadly, for many of Britain’s ethnic minorities, the price to be paid for allowing people like Nick Griffin on to programmes like Question Time, is an increase in the incidence of the fascist fist and jackboot to their faces.
Copyright: Daniel Margrain, 2009.
For details of specific references applicable to the above article, contact the author at: margrain.daniel@yahoo.co.uk
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