BNP leader Nick Griffin's appearance on Question Time confirmed what quite a few of us knew already - that he's an extremist buffoon who is embarrassed by his once-open nazi sympathies. Invited to renounce his history of Holocaust denial and his criminal conviction for it, Griffin claimed that he could not do the former because explaining his past views and how they had changed could land him before the courts in France, if not in Britain. There is no law that threatens to prosecute Holocaust deniers who wish to repent, as he well knows. As for his conviction at Harrow Crown Court on May 1 1998, Griffin flatly denied that he had a conviction for Holocaust denial. He's correct insofar that the charge against him was brought under Section 19 of the 1986 Public Order Act. This makes it illegal to "publish or distribute written material which is threatening, abusive or insulting and intends thereby to incite racial hatred, or, having regard to all the circumstances, racial hatred is likely to be stirred up thereby." At the time, Griffin was the editor of The Rune, issue 12 of which was the basis for the prosecution. Its cover featured a large drawing of a rope formed in a noose, together with the words "What has a rope got to do with WHITE UNITY?" Inside the magazine, an editorial explained that once Britain's "white nationalist" bodies had united and achieved "final victory over those who wish to destroy us so that they can rule forever over a mass of mongrel slaves," it would be "payback time." They could "put the rope to capital use."
Anyone who has looked into the sewer of the nazi mind by reading neonazi publications and websites would know that they hold Jews primarily responsible for encouraging non-white immigration in order to destroy the so-called 'purity' of the white race. The Rune contained the usual reports of serious crime involving black criminals, in Britain and South Africa, with pictures of the culprits whenever possible. An article under the title Inconvenient facts attacked what it regarded as disproportionate and malign "Jewish influence" in the British mass media and Hollywood. This is a favourite theme of Griffin. The previous year he had produced a 24-page pamphlet Who are the Mindbenders? - The people (jews) who rule Britain through control of the mass media. It claimed that Jews run the press, broadcasting and advertising mass media in Britain - which might come as a surprise to Rupert Murdoch and family. "Jewish influence" uses the mass media, the pamphlet claimed, to "weaken the national spirit and racial pride of the British people." Throughout the remainder of the rag, the names of Jews - or, rather, anyone with what Griffin believed to be a Jewish-sounding name - were printed in bold type. The BBC received special treatment of this kind. Every agent of "Jewish influence" who worked for the organisation at every level in every region was named, including the East Midlands head of network television and the head of local programmes at BBC North. Entertainers who have appeared on the BBC such as Ben Elton and Gaby Roslin were also listed as part of the "mindbending" conspiracy.
But back to The Rune. It contained routine references to the "Holohaox," denying that the nazis had carried out a programme of mass extermination of European Jewry during the second world war. To try to prove his point and to misrepresent neonazis as the victims of an oppressive liberal elite, Griffin even called the world's leading Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson as a defence witness. Faurisson joked about his criminal convictions in France for race hatred and argued that the nazis did not have gas chambers - these were erected after the war to win sympathy for the Jews and Israel. Griffin himself whined that he had been singled out unfairly for prosecution. He displayed propaganda from Combat 18, a neonazi terrorist organisation which openly advocated the murder of ethnic minority citizens and political opponents, complaining that the Crown Prosecution Service had taken longer to prosecute C18 than The Rune. Why, C18 had even threatened to stab him, Nick Griffin, because of his "moderating influence" within the British white nationalist movement. He also claimed that C18 was largely a creation of the police Special Branch to entrap white nationalists and that its leader Charlie Sargent had been a paid informer until being jailed for the murder of a C18 rival. What Griffin did not reveal was how he obtained the C18 materials presented with such a flourish to Harrow Crown Court. In preparation for the trial he had contacted Steve Cartwright, a leading figure in the Blood and Honour neonazi music movement.
At Griffin's farm near Welshpool, the immigrant pig farmer explained that one plank in his legal defence would be the failure of the CPS to prosecute Combat 18 for publishing far more inflammatory material than The Rune. "Our meeting with Griffin went well," Cartwright later remarked. "He pushed all the right buttons, emphasising militancy as well as paying due respect to the Nationalists and National Socialists of the past. He also spoke of the need to repackage and modernise our beliefs in the hope of reaching the British public." Griffin asked Cartwright to contact Sargent's chief rival for the leadership of Combat 18, Will Browning, for materials to use as court exhibits. He also asked Cartwright to assure Browning and C18 that he (Griffin) and they were all "on the same side." Griffin later asked Cartwight to thank Browning for the materials received.
In court, Griffin made the same shambles of his case as he did on Question Time. His talents clearly do not lie in the field of presentation. He insisted that his magazine's obsession with ropes and hanging was no more than vigorous support for capital punishment for the murder of children and police officers. The vicious cartoons representing Jews as hook-nosed hens were aimed at "zionist politicians," although the accompanying captions about "greedy, pushy power-mad" and "chosen" hens dealt in the stereotypes so beloved of fascists. In fact, the whole magazine had more than a whiff of Julius Streicher's Jew-hating daily Der Sturmer paper in nazi Germany about it. As for Griffin's remark in front of police officers searching his home before charge and trial that they were "very civilised, not like the Met all - no Pakis or Jews," this was merely a factual observation, not a bigoted outburst. Such is the way Griffin lies and dissembles when faced with his past words and actions.
Another extraordinary example of this occurred on Question Time, when he was confronted with the pro-Hitler, pro-nazi sentiments expressed by BNP head of publicity Mark Collett. Unfortunately for Griffin and Collett, those comments were made to an undercover television reporter and are recorded for posterity. The Dispatches programme Young, Nazi And Proud can be found easily on Google. When a panellist quoted Collett and asked Griffin to disown him, Old Nick replied that young Mark was not BNP head of publicity. This must have come as a shock to the boy Collett - "Hitler will live forever ... and so will I" - but I suspect he was reappointed the moment Question Time went off air. The Harrow jury had no trouble seeing through Griffin's facade - he was found guilty and sentenced to nine months imprisonment, suspended for two years.
There can be little doubt that many viewers saw through Griffin on Question Time too. But that benefit is likely to be outweighed by the sympathy he has gained as the "underdog," ganged up on by a panel of Establishment figures. Given the format of the programme, this was perhaps inevitable if the other panellists were to attack him as necessary - and with a great deal of hypocrisy given the new Labour and Tory records on immigration and asylum. That is why the invitation to Griffin set up a "no win" situation for the cause of anti-racism and anti-fascism despite the magnificent demonstration of mass opposition outside the BBC.
In the studio, had he not faced a well-deserved lynch mob, metaphorically speaking of course, he would have been treated with a politeness and tolerance that his views should never be accorded. There is no responsibility on the BBC to provide a platform from which fascists and racists can peddle their views, however craftily or clumsily they present them. Nor does Griffin need to appear so that he and his outfit can be exposed as racists and fascists. Sufficient film and documentation already exists for television to do that already. Let Griffin and Collett speak on the television by all means - but let it be when they are saying what they really believe, whether to their own supporters or to those they imagine to be sympathetic reporters. Their myths and lies can then be exposed at the same time.
A blog for the socially and politically conscious, written by a young, gay activist who strongly believes in equality and justice.