Is Nick Cohen right about the BNP?
Nick Cohen, who has been much derided recently, has published an article on Comment is Free denouncing the idea that the BNP are on the rise. The local government elections in Salford kept the BNP in third place, with only a small increase in their vote. To anti-fascist campaigners, Cohen attributes the view that the BNP is running out of funds and credible candidates. The notion of BNP success is being talked up by the media and the political elite as part of wider suspicions of popular power. On the part of politicians at least, this might be brought on perhaps by being found with their hands deep in the cookie jar.
To some extent this is bound to be correct. The media narrative of a fearful elite is palpable. Whether this is actually what people are thinking in Westminster, I can’t say. It would not surprise me if it was correct however – and even newspapers as staid as the Times have bought into the hype, leading me to suspect that there’s at least something to it. On the ground, I know that people are angry. Conversations in work and elsewhere when they turn to politics have regularly revolved around how despicably our MPs have behaved and about the upcoming European elections. Thankfully, however, no one I know is voting BNP – though that sample may be somewhat self-selecting.
Saying that, I wouldn’t be quite so ready to dismiss the threat of a BNP electoral coup as Cohen seems to be. Cohen himself quotes part of a revealing remark by fascist leader, Nick Griffin, to the effect that British people don’t want repatriation right now so the BNP will slip in the back door by talking about “identity”, until they can control the media and then it’ll be kick-off time on the streets or Burnley and Dagenham. This quote is not exceptional for its content, but for the fact that it was included at all. Most of the articles I have been reading mention nothing about the political policies of the BNP, instead focussing on the rise of the BNP and attempts to stop it.
Take this BBC article; it is about the response by the BNP to the calls by Archbishop’s Sentamu and Williams not to vote for extremist parties. It includes some text from the CoE release, and a lengthy quote from Griffin and a BNP spokesperson. In the latter, there is plenty of talk about how the British people won’t let MPs get away with the expenses scandal and so on – but nowhere in the article is a timely reminder about the numerous criminal convictions of various BNP personnel, nor about Griffin’s desire for racial purity. These are words which jangle against popular consciousness – and yet the media simply accept BNP rhetoric at face value.
How Griffin and his cohorts must laugh! Not only do they openly tell each other that they’ll talk in code and be civil while they try to get a grasp on some power, but the media buys it completely. Moreover, since the BNP are “controversial”, they’re a hot topic for the media to report on. This in turn makes them out to be more important than they actually are – inherent to which is the danger of self-fulfilling prophecy. It also distorts political discourse away from groups such as No2EU, Yes to Democracy, which could quite easily have more dedicated activists and be more grounded in the British working class than the BNP; the media seems to be strangely quick to forget just how fast the BNP were ousted from the Lindsey strike, or the posties up north who are refusing to deliver BNP leaflets (Hat Tip).
On that subject for a moment, if you get a BNP leaflet through your door and you are at home, do not simply bin it. Go and speak to the postman and ask him if he feels comfortable delivering these leaflets. Talk to your neighbours, then call the local CWU and ask if you can speak to your local branch about it. It’s not a question of political freedom, as Simon Darby, BNP spokesman, would make out. Its about stopping the BNP from performing the very acts of openly lying that their leader has told us he is going to perform. It’s about stopping racism, and undermining the ability to buy an election via leaflets simply because the media is too lazy to do a proper investigative job on the BNP.
If the BNP want these leaflets distributed, it’s entirely within the remit of the posties to collectively decide that BNP members will have to give them out on their own.
Moving back to the original topic however, I think it’s important not to dismiss the threat of the BNP. I’m all in favour of mobilising activists, trades unions and other groups against fascism via the Hope Not Hate campaign. However, that campaign strikes me as worryingly apolitical, bearing in mind that recent Households Below Average Income data shows the complete failure of New Labour’s third way guff when it comes to combatting the sharp end of capitalism (Hat Tip). Especially when considering our own methods of fightback, we do need to take the Right seriously because an electoral breakthrough for the BNP would be bad news.
Ignoring the issue of credibility for a moment (and they would certainly gain some of that), the biggest boost to the BNP would be financial. Our own domestic MPs have been greedily sticking their noses in the trough but the European Union is a spectacle to behold when it comes to doling out cash, as UKIP’s Nigel Farage would apparently be the first to admit. Handing the BNP two million quid to spend on promoting their ridiculous ideas would be seriously bad news – doubly so bearing in mind the media climate we’re in, wherein one only has to dig out an opposing press release in order to consider a piece of churnalism “balanced”, however tendentious or inadequate it may be.
It seems that this is just one more thing which Cohen has got just a little bit wrong, but another take can be found at Zebra Mbizi, which I’ve only today read for the first time. (Cartoon credits to SchNews, to which everyone should subscribe).