Dignifying the BNP, blaming the victims

Melanie Phillips: The true cause of the BNP’s rise

Melanie Phillips had this article published yesterday in the Daily Mail (also on her home page) and she comes out with her usual line about the BNP being a vile, racist party, but that politicians are to blame for its rise because they do not address the supposedly legitimate questions they raise. This is, of course, a fairly typical position of Phillips’s particular kind of right-wing bigot.

Phillips alleges that Griffin and his party have an appeal not because of their racism or because those who vote for them are racist, but because “he also opposes mass immigration, Islamisation and the loss of sovereignty to the EU”. He also opposes loss of sovereignty to the USA and involvement of British troops in American wars, but Phillips doesn’t, so she doesn’t mention that. She mentions her own personal hobby horses, none of them factually based, but ‘Islamisation’ had to be in there somewhere.

And there hasn’t been any, at least not unless you count increasing numbers of actual Muslim people, mosques and (in some places) Muslim schools. Yes, they look different and often dress differently, but so do certain other minorities. Of course, the nonsense about “Shari’ah courts” causes some concern, but they are only private tribunals for settling civil and family disputes as allowed by law, not criminal courts empowered to chop hands and heads off. It is all a storm in a teacup cooked up by the media to cause a sensation and thereby boost ratings and sell papers. Our supposed “loss of sovereignty to the EU” is also highly exaggerated; besides Ireland we are the only country that has not signed the Schengen accord, which would free us from having to use a passport to travel in the EU, as has already happened for citizens of other EU countries as well as Norway. This kind of isolationist nonsense won’t stop any invading army; it just avoids displeasing editors of mid-market tabloids with provincial readerships.

It may be true that the political classes are to blame for the rise of the BNP, but not for these three reasons. It is the commercial press which is to blame for whipping up resentment against Muslims and immigrants with exaggerated stories about “Muslim demands” based on dubious sources or the antics of one or two individuals or small groups. Besides the party’s own falsifications, including claiming murders in which the alleged victim turns out to be still alive, this is what the BNP feeds on, and it most likely can’t be refuted in a one-hour Question Time session.

She promotes Douglas Murray as an appropriate figure to oppose him on the grounds that he agrees with the bits of the BNP’s platform that she agrees with herself, but opposes the “nasty” bits, i.e. the racism and anti-Semitism. Douglas Murray is an anti-Muslim bigot with a dubious record on free speech, advocating in his Pim Fortuyn memorial lecture in February 2006 that “all immigration from Muslim countries must stop”, that any Muslim who condones violence against western troops anywhere in the world be forcibly deported, and that if he were born in the UK then he should be ‘returned’ to a parent’s or grandparent’s country of origin. As I noted here in July last year, Murray responded to assertions by Peter Oborne that various reports about violent Muslim behaviour were baseless with a story about a small group who plotted to murder a soldier, and an individual, a Muslim dentist, who tried to dictate a dress code to his Muslim female patients. Murray conveniently overlooked the fact that incidents involving tiny numbers of people, or outright trivial incidents, were given exaggerated importance; in fact, he was doing the same in his article.

I’m not sure if Bonnie Greer would be any better as an opponent, but it’s all academic, because Griffin should not be on the programme anyway. They need to be exposed as fascists who are looking to exploit any crisis and using dishonest rhetoric, such as talk of “identity” rather than race, which is what they say they are when they think nobody unsympathetic is listening. It’s true that there are other parties which have their fair share of bigots, but no other party seems to have such a high proportion of violent, racist criminals. To oppose him with the likes of Douglas Murray, who confirms Griffin’s currently most prominent prejudice while decrying the anti-Semitism and anti-Black racism he is trying to play down, is to play into his hands and both insult and risk injuring the targets of his prejudices. The policy should remain “no platform”.

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