Thursday night I did a segment on BBC Five Live centered around a guy named Nick Griffin. For those Americans who don’t know who he is, Griffin is the head of the British National Party.
He’s also a member of the European Parliament.
To put it bluntly, Griffin and his party espouse a crude form of nationalism that has been called racist, Anti-Semitic, Islamaphiobic, homophiobic (gee, have I left anything out?), you get the picture.
Earlier Thursday, Griffin appeared on the BBC program “Question Time”. His appearance sparked angry protests, with about 25 people breaking through barricades at the BBC’s London TV studios. Suffice to say Griffin was taken to task for his views, so much so that he’s complaining about the program, and demanding to come back on in a different format. Ironically, the show drew four times as many viewers as normally watch it, the Jon and Kate effect, if you will.
So what was I asked to talk about on a BBC radio show? The links between Nick Griffin and our own home grown racist-Anti Semite, David Duke. They are linked, through an appearance they made together back in 2000.
They’re also linked by a shared desire to achieve their racist ends through the acquisition of political power. Duke, you may remember, is the former member of the KKK who went on to become a member of the Louisiana state legislature. He also made unsuccessful runs for President, the House, and Senate. Duke understood. as does Griffin, that wearing Klan robes and reading Mein Kampf won’t win the kind of support necessary to create the lily white world they want.
So they use the tools at their disposal. They run for political office, and demand fairness and accuracy in reporting their philosophy from a media both claim is dominated by Jews and other liberals. The question becomes to what extent do they have the same right to speak as anyone else? Are protesters acting properly when they demand that Nick Griffin not be allowed on the BBC? Does giving the Griffins and David Dukes a platform in the mainstream actually lend credibility to their organizations and views?
My older brother Clayton (who passed away a year ago tomorrow- RIP) once told me you can’t be halfway for the First Amendment. His position was that the cure for racist speech was better speech to drown it out. I have a hard time disagreeing with this line of thinking. Once you start saying people have no right to express their thoughts, no matter how obnoxious, where do you draw the line?
You tell me. Should racists like David Duke and Nick Griffin be given mainstream airtime?