Home > General Politics, Local Democracy, Miscellaneous, Race and Colour > We’ll huff and we’ll puff and we’ll blow their house down

We’ll huff and we’ll puff and we’ll blow their house down

As huffing and puffing seems to be what lefties are best at, in the eyes of the Right-blogosphere at least, we at Though Cowards Flinch thought it might be fun to try some.

It has come to our attention that the magazine ‘Total Politics’ is planning to publish an interview with Nick Griffin, the racist leader of the British National Party.

Before we forget, therefore, we thought we should announce that, in the event of the publication of this interview, TCF will withdraw from the annual voting process to rank the popularity of UK blogs, run by Total Politics magazine, which once we welcomed and which made itself relevant to the internet through the annual UK blogging guide (pictured).

Our withdrawal will of course be laughed off as inconsequential, and ‘exactly what you’d expect from humourless, sanctimonious Lefties’ by the people who run Total Politics, if indeed they notice it at all.

However, we do hope that an early announcement of our decision to withdraw from a process which has provided, at the very least, some light-hearted entertainment over the last couple of years, will provide other bloggers on the Left with some food for thought over whether they should participate.

This will clearly be a personal decision, and we understand that there are a multiplicity of views on the ‘no platform’ question as it relates to the BNP. It behoves us therefore to set out briefly our reasons for proposed withdrawal.

As a group of bloggers, we broadly support a ‘no platform’ stance in respect of the BNP.  This is not a call to ban the BNP, or deny their individual members’ civil liberties. A more effective approach is solidarity between anti-fascists, without recourse to the law, to make a clear statement that the BNP are beyond the pale.

Publication of an interview by Total Politics, which will be distributed to every parliamentarian, peer, political journalist and to councillors across the country, does the opposite. It is a further acquiescence to the BNP message being accepted as a normal part of British political discourse. It is not.

We also do not feel that such an interview is in keeping with the mission statement of TP, which is to be “unremittingly positive about the political process”. Lest we forget, this is a party which abuses that process. Its elected officials are amongst the laziest and most incompetent, giving the lie to their promise to help solve local problems.

Not to mention the outright thuggery of some of them.

Thus we seek solidarity amongst Left bloggers, and any bloggers writing from a different perspective but who share our views on this matter, as a way of seeking to force the hand of Total Politics into the withdrawal from publication of the planned interview.

Total Politics should be made aware that to proceed with publication it will risk, via a boycott, losing whatever legitimacy its voting process has as a measure of blog popularity , with consequent negative impact on its business.

For more information on our stance in respect of the BNP and similar fascist organisations, the following blog entries may be helpful: In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king (by Duncan),  Once more on the no platform policy (by Dave), Churchill and my dad: Why I’ll march against the BNP (by Paul) and SDL world pub tour continues (by Gordon).

  1. Will Mossop
    March 10, 2010 at 9:07 am


  2. March 10, 2010 at 10:18 am

    If you’re tired at 9:07am, you should really get to bed earlier.

  3. freethinkingeconomist
    March 10, 2010 at 10:26 am

    I think solidarity in the blogosphere is a mistake. In fact, I would even question whether outfits like LibCon – which I love – actually advance their causes, because you end up reading it thinking “they would say that wouldn’t they”. Do any of you think the existence of the IEA or ASI actually furthers the acceptance of right wing ideas? For every post I read that convinces me of something new, I read 10 that convince me that they are blinkered nutjobs.

    When birds of a feather flock together, all you get is the impression of an echo-chamber, of all of you subjecting yourselves to the very rigorous and searching criticisms of, um, yourselves and other likeminded thinkers.

    Post 1: “I think we need to dismantle the unfair structure of capital property ownership and corruptly enforced rights of the bourgoisie”

    Post 2: How I agree with Post 1

    Post 3: Look, John Harris, Polly Toynbee and Seamus Milne think we are right.

    How does this do anything to advance the cause?

    • March 10, 2010 at 2:48 pm

      If only LibCon were a bit more of an echo chamber! We had a thread on the NHS this morning where the original post convincingly demolished the idea that private healthcare was more productive, and the first few responses were mainly generic wingnut talking points about how evil the NHS is. And one on the BNP which immediately got infested with fascists.

      Hey ho.

  4. March 10, 2010 at 10:35 am

    Count me in (btw was that the direct message you sent to my Twitter account?) I will withdraw as well as giving Fascist Griffin a platform is utterly wrong. No platform!!

    Unlike freethinking I think solidarity isn’t a mistake it’s a necessity esp. on issues like no-platform!!

  5. March 10, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Giles, this blog has a long history of arguing with other people. In fact if you look at the blog over its three years via me, my own attitudes have changed in the writing. Paul and I bounce off each other, occasionally write opposing posts – and we’re on the same blog. When it comes to the professional commentariat, you can rarely find anywhere more likely to argue with them.

    What you seem to be suggesting, however, is that argument for arguments’ sake is a good thing. That we’ll only convince people if our own views can’t be put into context. I disagree. Everyone pigeonholes everyone else – but this is not to say that we can’t be opened to that one new thing amidst ten blinkered. That depends on the quality of the writing and its eclectic subject material, not on the absence of common beliefs.

  6. freethinkingeconomist
    March 10, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    At least it shows that Lib Con is admirably open. Far less abuse at the dissenters there.

    Of course all blogs are open. But here is an example I had in mind; if a site that is traditionally pro-Keynesian takes a stance against trans taxes, it is taken more seriously than if the IEA or ASI does. In a way, I am sure solidarity is good, but the appearance of solidarity can diminish the effect for the non-tribal neutral looking to make up his or her mind.

  7. March 10, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    Hi there. I’m really glad to have come across this blog, which is in my view a valuable contribution to the true left in the blogosphere.

    Iain Dale’s decision to interview Nick ‘Useless’ Griffin is in my view a reasonable decision to take, for one simple reason; the remit of TP is to really cover politics in its entirety. The BNP is an unfortunate reality, but it does exist. It seems to me that we have a choice to either ignore the BNP and play in to their martyrdom complex or to engage with their ridiculous and distasteful ideas, showing them up for the poor substitute for policy.

    Iain Dale is a reasonable voice from the centre-right, and has weighed the decision to engage with the BNP carefully, and on his terms. I have no doubt that the interview (which nobody has seen, IIRC) will show Griffin as the burbling idiot he is. His politics are unreasonable, and that will emerge, I am sure, from his interview.

    Returning to your collective’s participation in the TP Poll for blogs, I hope you’ll have time to consider whether withdrawing from that process is really in the interest of the blogosphere or the left. Yours seems to be a worthwhile collective, and a voice the TP poll needs. It is quickly becoming the only game in town.

    Thanks for reading my little intervention into the dispute. It was lighthearted, and I hope you’ll agree that on subjects like this, a little more light than heat is called for.

  8. paulinlancs
    March 10, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    Ben, thanks for the courteous engagement. I realise your piece was lighthearted, and it was funny. I’m not averse to a bit of lighthearted whimsy on this blog myself, though as I’m a ‘dour leftie’ it sometimes get interpreted differently.

    I understand the rationale you put forward – that excluding the BNP only serves to fuel their victim status, and that the only way to engage is through debate. This is a position also held by people who consider themselves to be on the left, and I can see its attractions. Indeed I agree with the victim status theory to the extent that using the law to ban/restrict the BNP would be a mistake.

    But I disagree that enaging with th BNP as though they are an acceptable part of the political process is the way to deal with them. Griffin will always be able to spin the lie that he is not a racist, and that his party is something other than it is, however good the interviewer is, and in any event any accommodation of the BNP’s publicity needs is to give them additional legitimacy. First Total Politics, then the Evening Standard?

    Given this, I feel it is perfectly reasonable to exert whatever pressure we can bring to bear on the TP editorial team, in this case through the threat of a boycott.

    It is, though, important to set any such action in context. Such action will not, of course, stop the BNP in their tracks. This has to be done on the ground through the development of a Labour/socialist movement meeting the material needs of working class people in a way which utterly undercuts the divisive discourse of the BNP at grassroots level, and makes their existence irrelevant. I am not one of those people who says the BNP is a Conservative party problem – it is clearly not, it is a problem associated with the failure of the Left leading to the BNP filling a political vacuum.

    To this extent, while asking TP to exercise a different editorial judgment is justified in my view, and in general taking Conservatives to task whenever they allow the BNP the kind of accommodation of the type now planned, I think it’s also fair to say that doing so is as much about establishing left solidarity for other more important actions. That explians, in some way perhaps, the somewhat self-effacing manner of our boycott call – it is not the most important thing we will do this year, but is still necessary.

    Others from the TCF authorship may of course have a stronger view on what TP is proposing to publish. We are of totally of one voice on all matters, but on this are broadly in tune, I think.

  9. March 10, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    Paul’s already covered your article, Ben, which I enjoyed too. Is Geraldine Dreadful a regular feature of your site?

    On Griffin and TP, I disagree that interviewing him will show him up. Though I’m a little cynical, what I actually think is at work is some flirting with the dark side of right-wing politics, precisely because it’ll cause controversy and bring further publicity to Iain Dale.

    Even if that’s not the case and Dale’s motives are pure, to whom will the interview show up Nick Griffin? It’s audience is predominantly professional politicos. If they haven’t caught the drift about Griffin through Question Time and fifteen hundred million exposés, they’re not going to catch up now.

    How many more interviews do we have to grant Griffin, in the name of exposing him? After what point are we really just acting as his publicity officers?

    Besides, if exposing Griffin and the BNP is what the article is all about, there are tales from all over the country which do that admirably, without the need to allowing the man himself to answer questions with a healthy dollop of untruth thrown in for good measure.

  10. March 10, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    I’m a bit confused by Giles’ focusing on the solidarity thing.

    For me it seems overwhelmingly obvious that we should boycott TP if it runs an interview with Griffin.

    And I reckon the more blogs do it, the more it fucks up TP’s “top blogging” thing; if all the leftwing blogs pull out – due to solidarity against Griffin – that sends a strong signal and actually hurts TP. I’m all for that. Don’t see anything “close-minded” or “echo-chamber” about it.

    It’s collective action to achieve a political goal. And it would be nice to do that with our blogs, rather than just write words all the time.

  11. Pogo
    March 11, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Either you support “freedom of speech”, even if it allows those you detest to be heard, or you don’t… Your choice comrades.

  12. March 11, 2010 at 10:26 am

    If your definition of “freedom of speech” is the “freedom to be heard”, well that’s up to everyone listening – but there’s nothing explicit or implicit to such a right that demands that all publications should turn over space to the BNP (or any other group for that matter).

  13. freethinkingeconomist
    March 11, 2010 at 10:43 am

    No, there is no demand that it should, there is no demand that is shouldn’t. There are no demands at all. That is what I think Freedom is.

    I am an extreme liberal on such matters. I tend to think bad arguments out themselves. I am glad every time John Redwood posts on why the government should cut at the same time as the private sector, and put up rates, or whatever his latest version is: it shows that the people who believe things different from me have BAD REASONS.

    Imagine if he were banned from doing so, just because he was wrong. His cause would be strengthened, because his case could not be challenged. ‘We are right but no one will let me say why’

    I don’t think going missing from TP’s blogs will be much noticed. The readers it is trying to inform about the blogosphere won’t notice your absence unless they already know you. Imagine if ‘Little Man Tate’ decided to absent itself from the iTunes charts. I think they would recover.

  14. March 11, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Who is calling for the banning of something Giles?

  15. freethinkingeconomist
    March 11, 2010 at 11:40 am

    Not me. I was calling upon people to imagine what would happen IF actions were taken that resulted in the BNP or anyone else being banned from making statements. I am boldly presuming that you are hoping your solidarity against TP has some effect, and might sway them towards not doing this sort of interview. It could surely not be just a symbolic gesture ….

    Who is demanding that all publications turn over space to the BNP? Is that why TP are doing the interview – because of some such demand? Someone should be told, that’s a scandal ….

  16. March 11, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    I think you are mixing up several issues.

    1. No one is calling for a ban on the BNP making statements.
    2. The boycott is not aimed at creating such a ban.
    3. No rights to freedom of speech are being infringed.

    No Platform to Fascists is a policy which does not seek to engage the organs of the state in creating a ban. We do aim to create pressure on other political actors not to share platforms with, or give publicity to the mouthpieces of the bullshit spewed by the BNP.

    You can agree or disagree with the efficacy of the tactic, but repeating the usual trope that this threatens their rights to freedom of speech is silly.

    When I mentioned publications turning over space to the BNP, I was extrapolating from Pogo’s conflation of the right to speak and the right to be heard. If all political parties have a right to be heard, then surely we can’t simply leave matters to editors and journalists. All publications should turn over space.

  17. freethinkingeconomist
    March 11, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    You don’t intend to infringe their freedom of speech at all. Just creat pressure so that other political actors – or in this case, a magazine – does not give publicity to their ‘bullshit’.

    Oh, now I see. People who don’t spew bullshit are still totally secure. That’s alright then. I have no objections.

  18. March 11, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    freethinking, No platform simply means that nobody else is compelled to be instrumental in putting forward these fascist beliefs whether it be a trade union, college …..or Total Politics. You have the freedom to deny fascists a platform. The fascists aren’t being censored they are not being banned, they are just not being given a platform to spout their politics that are based on a racist ideology, which represents violence and hatred. They violently smash freedoms and free speech to others they rally against.

    For me I am an unequivocal supporter of no platform for fascists. It is a basic fundamental principle and frankly, freethinking, I don’t understand why the concept of no platform is difficult to get your head around and confusing it with censorship.

  19. freethinkingeconomist
    March 11, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    I don’t wish to wind anyone up so I will end my contribution to this here.

    I know you are not calling for a change in the law banning the BNP from speaking. But the freedom to deny fascists a platform, and the denial of the freedom of fascists to present their odious views (for us to mock, expose, and smash), seem to me rather close. It not being effective is not a particularly good defence.

    I don’t see any sign that Total Politics is being ‘compelled to be instrumental in putting forward these beliefs’. It is probably dirty commercial logic that drives their decision. Or, like me, they think that interviewing the BNP is the best way of showing them up as the idiots they are.

    best, Giles

  20. March 11, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    Giles, you wouldn’t be likely to offend anyone if we could see that you were trying to understand. The sarcastic comments don’t help.

    Let me reply to your final comment:

    No one is under any obligation to repeat what Griffin has said, to interview him, to participate in the same debates with him. Agreed?

    How is the exercise of these rights, or our desire that people should exercise these rights, a curtailment of freedom of speech?

    On commercial logic, you are probably right – but then there is no moral argument against us intervening in the commercial logic so that it better reflects our own standpoint – in this case, by a boycott.

    On interviewing the BNP, as I said before, how long has this defence of “We’re only doing it to show them up, honest guv” been used? How many more exposés are required before it just becomes free publicity?

    If showing them up is what is at stake, there are plenty of ways to do that – and an interview with Griffin is probably the weakest, if it counts at all.

    Incidentally, no one used the the defence that “it’s not effective”. It’s comments like that which lead me to suspect you aren’t even trying to understand what’s being said here.

  1. March 10, 2010 at 9:43 am
  2. March 10, 2010 at 11:00 am
  3. March 11, 2010 at 12:11 am
  4. March 11, 2010 at 1:53 am
  5. March 11, 2010 at 10:18 am
  6. March 12, 2010 at 8:03 am
  7. March 12, 2010 at 6:22 pm
  8. March 14, 2010 at 1:13 am
  9. January 7, 2011 at 1:29 pm
  10. May 17, 2012 at 8:55 pm

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