Throughout the flicker of history’s eyelid, controversial politicians have utilised the media as a stage to preach to the masses. Adolf Hitler used his skills of oration and articulation to manipulate a generation of Germans; the same can be said of the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il, with his military style announcements. On the Thursday 22nd of October a new controversial figurehead played the starring role in the latest media stage production. Curtin up, Nick Griffin, leader of the British Nationalist Party (BNP) took his seat on the panel of BBC’s Question Time, and we all hoped he would break a leg, literally.
The BBC’S decision to give him the leading role was a controversial one. Mr Griffin is a man who believes that a leader of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, was not a violent man. Furthermore, he has previously denied the Holocaust and has called homosexual acts in public repugnant. The outrage amongst the body politic was evidenced by the mass protests outside the BBC during the recording of the programme and gasps from a disillusioned audience. Yet, for all the controversy the BBC made the correct decision to invite Mr Griffin onto the show to air his views. Firstly, the BNP are an elected party, they have won seats in the European Parliament, the BBC have a duty of impartiality and must provide a fair hearing to all political parties. Most of the BNP’s beliefs are undesirable and outrageous, but to put a gag on their mouths will only aid the BNP’s cause.
Traditionally, fascist parties in Britain thrive on attention and controversy and to give them valuable exposure may seem to work in their favour. Their appearance on Question Time, one of the top political broadcasts, may even give some legitimacy to their cause. Nonetheless, if the BBC had denied the BNP an opportunity to air their views, an air of mystic would surely arise and people might delve into the archives to learn some of the party’s policies. Upon investigating, one might build a moderate skewed impression of the party and thus support their cause, an undesirable outcome. What’s more, the BNP appeals to anti-establishmentarians, they promote the idea of one voice against the masses; to rescind their invite would surely advance their appeal in this regard.
Equally, as tradition dictates that the far right parties thieve on attention and controversy, this attention is often short-lived and history should repeat itself here. Nick Griffin’s performance on Question Time was comparable to George Clooney’s in Batman and Robin.
It was a chance for his policies to be heavily scrutinized and for him to offer justification, but this was not an Oscar winning performance. One audience member noted, “Nick Griffin really did not get a particularly good reception. Gradually the audience got tired of his comments. There were sighs of boredom when he started talking” Moreover his appearance has resulted in extraordinary outbursts from within the BNP, Lee Barnes, BNP’s legal officer, criticised his leader for “failing to press the attack” after his weak performance, in which he appeared ambivalent about his attacks on Islam, overawed and evasive. It is for this reason that the BBC were correct to permit the BNP to speak. They were exposed for what they were, a group of racists and bigots. Nick Griffin failed to offer justification or reasoning behind his beliefs and inspired disillusionment rather than support. In light of his performance it would seem unlikely that the BNP will be offered the chance to star in a sequel.