This will be quite a serious blog - fair warning!
I’ve just caught up with the episode of Question Time from last week where Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party, was on the panel - I know it’s taken me a while. You can still get it on iPlayer and bits of it are doubtless on YouTube. It’s interesting to watch it now, though, given the changing coverage of the story before, during and after its broadcast. The BBC was criticised for allowing Griffin airtime, then briefly celebrated for having him on as, the coverage said, it exposed him for the crackpot he is, before finally being slated again as polls indicated a surge in BNP membership.
I find myself very conflicted about this. Here’s why:
- I loathe everything about the BNP - everything they stand for I reject and find repulsive.
- I fervently, passionately believe in freedom of speech.
- Therefore, although I find the BNP disgusting, I would defend their right to say what they think.
- People are voting for the BNP, therefore they do have a mandate to represent the views of some people in this country; therefore, also, the BBC should have them on their programme as they do represent (ironically) a minority of people, and the BBC has a duty to represent minorities - hence Asian Network, 1Xtra, etc.
So, here is my problem - because of what I believe I find myself, at one and the same time, feeling sickened by hearing Nick Griffin spout his filthy, ill-informed and prejudiced views whilst simultaneously feeling obliged to defend his right not only to hold those views but to have them heard. Which is probably why I’m still twitching, an hour after watching Question Time back.
So, the aftermath. The BBC has been attacked for allowing Griffin on because it has caused a surge in interest in the BNP. The BBC, the criticism goes, has allowed the BNP “the oxygen of publicity”. I disagree; it is not the BBC’s fault that some people in this country subscribe to racist and hateful views. Whose fault is it? In the programme some blame was attributed to the Labour government’s immigration policy. This may or may not be true - I don’t know enough about the issue to comment. However, as a media teacher it is fascinating and frightening to watch the story unravel. And, though it pains me to say it, education must be to blame somewhere along the line.
Mr Griffin’s education was clearly lacking, as demonstrated in his annihilation by Bonnie Greer, clearly speaking from a more informed position than he was. And, more frighteningly, the education of those who support and vote for the BNP is also lacking. If there is one thing I believe in more than anything else, it is that the education system in this country should turn out people who are tolerant of one another, accepting of difference, and able to work together to achieve peaceful and constructive solutions to issues they may face. That there are people in this country and, I am told, in our school who are not tolerant demonstrates a failure of the education system.
So, I tolerate Nick Griffin. I do not like him, I loathe his views, but he has a right to hold them. The one thing I cannot help but think, however, is that if Nick Griffin had been educated properly, that he would think differently about the world.
In the mean time, I take comfort in the fact that, in at least some quarters, the response to this debate has been the typical British one: humour. Thank you, Cassetteboy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QAvkFS_cgk