An open letter to everyone who has asked me to sign a petition registering my disagreement with Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time.
I appreciate and understand your stance. I really do. When I heard that Nick Griffin was going to be on Question Time, my knee jerked too – and when it jerked it told me pretty much the same thing yours did. “It shouldn’t be allowed! He’s vile and racist! Down with this sort of thing!”
But then I had a think and listened to my brain instead of my knee. My considered conclusion, arrived at before I banged my head really hard on the edge of a cupboard door last night, is that Griffin’s appearance on Question Time – rather than giving him a legitimising platform to pontificate his risible ideology – will probably be his undoing. Here’s why:
We live in an age in which television is still a powerful medium. It’s no longer at its three channel peak of influence, but TV still has authority and reach.
However, it is now joined by many other channels of communication – from YouTube to Twitter; media through which the BNP has been able to spread its propaganda unchecked and unchallenged. Freedom of information production is one of the beautiful and terrible things about the post-industrial era.
But public funded TV – wheezy and anachronistic as it is – is one of the last truly mediated mediums we have. The BBC may be rife with petty bias, but it usually gets the broad strokes right. And one of the things it usually gets right is Question Time.
Question Time’s audience is chosen and screened carefully. They are politically active and motivated individuals. Have you seen the rough ride they give to politicians about relatively trivial things like parliamentary expenses, rubbish collection and the postal service? Can you imagine what they’ll do to someone proposing repatriation, the restoration of capital punishment and an isolationist economic policy?
And you can bet that Mr Griffin’s fellow panellists will be well prepared to challenge his views. Rather than legitimise the BNP with mainstream acceptance my hope – nay, my expectation – is that it will expose it as the vile organisation it is. Griffin’s polemic may be as polished as a New Labour turd, but underneath that millimetre of marketing varnish lies the real stuff of the BNP. My guess is that it won’t take much scratching to show.
But – my friends counter – that won’t matter. The people who have been recruited by the BNP’s overt agenda, the disenfranchised white working class, probably won’t be watching. Question Time? Not bloody likely.
Well, that’s where those other channels of communication come in. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter. Even the good old tabs. You can count on them to drum up and amplify any snifter of controversy into a gallon of calamity. If I were Nick Griffin’s advisor right now, I’d tell him to put on his seatbelt – because he’s heading for a car crash.
This could well be Nick’s Nixon moment.