Thursday, 1 October 2009

No compromise on 'No Platform'

Since the election of two BNP candidates to the European Parliament in June, many anti-fascists have felt increasingly concerned about broadcasters giving the fascist party a platform. They are right to be concerned: airtime for the BNP provides them with greater legitimacy, allowing them to seem like another mainstream political party. The reality is that interviewers and reporters rarely expose them for who they are, and what they really represent, so it is fanciful to believe this can actually discredit them and instead benefit anti-racists.

It is therefore absolutely right that we insist on 'no platform' for Nazis, in any circumstances, throughout the media. When Nick Griffin is interviewed on BBC2's Newsnight, or Radio 4's Today programme, it is a boost to his whole project of presenting the BNP as a respectable electoral proposition. At a time when the fascists are encroaching further into the mainstream media it may be tempting to drop this principle as 'unrealistic', but that would be a mistake.

The recent attempts by the English Defence League - essentially the streetfighting wing of the far right - to intimidate Muslim communities illustrate why this matters. It is the ugly face behind the media-friendly mask: fascists like Griffin seek to use any available platform to seem legitimate, while the thugs go on the rampage on the streets of Birmingham, Luton, north London and elsewhere. Ultimately they want the confidence to smash democratic instituitons and organisations such as trade unions, community groups and left wing parties.

Part of the anti-fascist response has to be refusal to participate in any broadcast discussions or interviews also involving BNP representatives. Simply appearing alongside them gives the impression that the BNP can be debated with rationally, that they are entitled to the oxygen of publicity, that they are an accepted voice in politcal debate. It makes it more likely, too, that they will be allowed a platform elsewhere: in trade unions and student unions, at election hustings, etc. Implementing a 'No Platform' policy - without exceptions - strengthens united resistance to the fascist threat.

It is shameful that Jack Straw has accepted the invitation to appear with Griffin on Question Time (on 22 October). Whatever Straw says on the night, his mere presence in the studio alongisde Griffin allows the BNP leader a veneer of respectability. The task of anti-racists and anti-fascists is to strip any false legitimacy from the BNP, which means (among other things) refusing to in any way share a platform with their members.

Read a very strong critique of the Newsbeat appearance from Lenin's Tomb HERE.

Michael Rosen's stirring case for a consistent No Platform policy is HERE.

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