I have, as long as the furore has continued, refrained from comment on the decision to invite Nick Griffin onto Question Time. The reason for this revolved largely around the way in which the debate was framed. Whilst BNP supporters and those of a libertarian bent offered arguments in favour of the BNP's freedom of speech, and liberal and establishment anti-fascists spoke of the BBC pandering to racism, my feeling was that neither of these viewpoints was reflected in the decision to invite Griffin onto the show.
Watching it last night, that suspicion was largely confirmed.
The programme itself was entertaining, and for any critic of the British National Party offered a plentiful selection of foot-in-mouth moments from Griffin to fill several pamphlets. Indeed, the blogs of Lancaster Unity, Hope not Hate, and others are full with reports of Griffin squirming when faced with his own quotes, backpedalling on his own words, and repeatedly being exposed as a bigot on all levels.
Particularly entertaining was Bonnie Greer, whom the BNP website claimed was there to "fabricate black history and be paid for it." Her choice as the token "‘joker in the pack’ non-politician" was made in "an obvious attempt to stir up trouble," the party said, citing its own views as those of "observers." Greer was able to demolish Griffin with little effort on the night, berating the BNP's history of the British Isles and definition of indigenous people as "a joke," which "you should know, Nick, having a 2:2." In response, the best Griffin could offer was cringing thinly disguised with a "smile" and round of applause.
Jack Straw, too, was on fine form. From cutting through Griffin's evasions on the Holocaust with the promise that - as Justice Secretary - he would ensure there were no legal repercussions from explaining his position to an impassioned speech about non-white soldiers in the Second World War, he was extremely convincing in challenging BNP racism.
Beyond that, though, there was little of any worth on offer. Chris Hunhe, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, offered an argument on immigration that could have been an apology for the BNP, whilst the Conservative community cohesion spokeswoman Sayeeda Warsi failed to demonstrate where the Tories stand apart from the BNP on any issue besides race. That Jack Straw was forced to argue against Labour's immigration policy being too soft shows the level of absurdity that mainstream debate on this topic has reached.
Indeed, this episode of Question Time served as a prime example of the Propaganda Model of Media Control, particularly as it relates to fascism, in action. Nick Griffin was not invited onto the show in order to uphold the BBC's "responsibility of due impartiality." It had nothing whatsoever to do with freedom of speech across the political spectrum, lest we are about to see members of the Anarchist Federation on the panel, and it certainly wasn't about the BBC pandering to racism.
No, he was invited on specifically to flail and flop. In doing so, he and the BNP serve well their role, both as convenient foils for mainstream parties, and as part of the flak machine driving the political agenda rightward.
As long as we're pointing out the fact that the BNP are odious racists, we're ignoring the fact that New Labour have built up a state within a state of immigrant prisons, instituted exactly the scenario of hired thugs smashing in refugee doors and dragging them to forced deportation that the BNP desire, and in getting "tougher" have condemned untold numbers of "illegal" immigrants to life as enslaved non-persons on the black economy.
As long as we're arguing with the BNP over whether white or non-white communities get more, we're ignoring the fact that state multiculturalism has driven people into these utterly imaginary "homogenous communities" in the first place, enforcing segregation in the name of "diversity." We're ignoring the fact that richer areas get greater funding and resources than poorer ones anyway, and that even without immigration the "strain on services" would still exist for the poor because we live in a society dominated by capital and motivated by profit, where those without capital either serve their purpose or are cast to the sidelines.
As long as we follow the BNP's mandate and define people along racial and national lines, we're distracted from the vicious class war being waged by the ruling class. Welfare has replaced the poorhouse, bankruptcy has replaced the debtor's prison, and the disparity is somewhat less visible to most, but the principle remains the same as it did in the era of Oliver Twist.
That is what we're ignoring as long as we're obsessing with the BNP, and that is precisely why those in power continue to obsess with them. An opposition to fascism that sees groups such as the BNP as the embodiment of pure evil, on the brink of absolute power, only serves to feed existing power structures. Only by offering a perspective that doesn't merely oppose their position but also the addresses very real grievances they twist in order to draw people to them can we build an anti-fascism that doesn't feed the state-corporate propaganda system.