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Melanchthon: The worst thing about the BNP, at the moment, is how many true things we let them say

Melanchthon prefers to remain anonymous.

There is much anguish about the election to the European Parliament of two BNP candidates, with passionate debates about whether they should be ostracised, countered in debate, or pelted with eggs.  I, personally, find much of the BNP’s platform and personnel unpleasantly beyond the realm of proper democratic debate — in other words, I don’t think certain of the things they want should be permitted even if there were an overwhelming vote in favour of them.  In addition to their unpleasantness, my understanding is that they are also typically incompetent in office, failing even to promote their own agenda.  Thankfully, that has up to now tended to mean that BNP councillors rarely last more than one term in office before being voted out.

GRIFFIN NICK Unhappily, I don’t believe that we can rely on this continuing.  This is partly because Nick Griffin is much more articulate and intelligent than the clichéd thug that the BNP has often put forward in the past.  But much worse than that is that Nick Griffin has identified a number of true (though uncomfortable, for many of us) things to say.  I believe that to counter him properly — and with the platform of his elected position he will be democratically entitled to much more media exposure than he has been granted up to now — we need to consider the truths he presses, and consider in which cases what we really need to do is address the point (stop it from being true) and in which cases we need to find a way to justify the point.

It will perhaps be clearer if I mention some of the things I mean.  I emphasize that in none of these cases do I share the BNP’s interpretation of their implication and in few, if any, would my policy response be remotely similar to theirs.  I accept that by stating what will follow some readers may feel that I am giving unnecessary publicity to potentially inflammatory points of view.  Indeed, if it were not for the fact that the BNP has just gained two elected members in a national election, I would probably take that view myself.  But we now will have no choice but to debate with them, and if we are to debate with our opponent properly we need to understand the strongest part of his case.

So here goes.  I shall start by putting down two such “truths” in italics, then ponder how one might respond.

When challenged as to why members of ethnic minorities are not allowed to be members of the BNP or stand as their candidates, Nick Griffin responds that the media do not regard it as racist when there are associations that exist to promote the interests of Afro-Caribbeans or Africans or Indians.  And there are many such organisations, such as Operation Black Vote or ABPO.  So why should it count as racist that there is a group that exists to represent the interests of ethnic Britons, and thus has a membership consisting of those it exists to represent?

Here we have two ways to go.  First, we might condemn all racially-based interest groups as racist — and indeed this is a path that some liberals, including some prominent people in the media, do indeed take.  This insulates them from this attack.  Alternatively, we might say: okay, but what you fail to mention is that the groups of this sort that we do not condemn restrict themselves to lobbying and pastoral assistance.  They do not stand for election.  You do.  If you are going to stand for election in a liberal democracy, you need to stand as people that can represent the whole community including those not like you.  If you can’t do that, then you are not merely acting as one lobbying group amongst many.  Instead, you are putting yourself forward to act, with political executive power, in the sectional interest of one race over another.  And that’s racist.

When people complain (or have complained in the past) that a system works against an ethnic minority (e.g. by placing white Britons ahead of Bangladeshis in a housing queue or when the education system perhaps unconsciously devotes more resources to white boys than black girls or encourages greater aspiration amongst white boys than Pakistani boys) such people are lauded as anti-racism campaigners and seen as noble representatives of the poor and the oppressed against the system.  But when people complain that a system works against white Britons (e.g. by placing Bangladeshis ahead of the white Britons in a housing queue or by devoting more educational resources to Pakistani boys than white boys or, perhaps unconsciously, encouraging greater aspiration amongst ethnic minority boys than white boys) they are condemned and ostracised as racists, their concerns are not taken seriously, they might lose their jobs, and they are fair game for mockery and vilification in the press.  Is that fair?

There are four ways one might respond to this one.  One traditional thought has been that the white British community was so much larger and better-placed than ethnic minorities that it could just live with this kind of asymmetry.  Apart from anything else, it might be assumed that it was just so implausible that white Britons could really be the subject of racist housing or education systems that it was perfectly reasonable to believe that anyone suggesting that white Britons were the victims of racism shouldn’t be regarded as making a genuine point, but was clear just aiming to stir up hatred and racism.  I fear that this is a rather middle-class response, the instinct of people that would feel able to laugh off any racism directed at themselves and would know of no-one white of whom it might be plausible that he or she could have his or her life chances harmed by racism.  But not all white people are in such circumstances.  Some, particularly poorer such people, are more vulnerable.  Indeed, it is precisely because some such people, even when white, are vulnerable that government interventions take place in housing and education.  So this response is unsatisfactory.

An alternative response would be to be more suspicious of anyone suggesting of any race that it was the victim of racism.  This is, in fact, probably a trend already growing.  The drawback to it is, of course, that it is difficult to keep track of all parts of government at once, and especially when systems unconsciously act against certain races, it can be useful to have people point it out.  Thus it would be undesirable to have too blanket an opposition to and suspicion of those alleging racism.

A third option might be to aim to be proactive in the area — e.g. to be particularly sensitive to individual white Briton concerns about treatment when such white Britons live in areas with significant ethnic minorities and when those white Britons are not themselves the most powerful people — but nonetheless to remain suspicious of any “white Briton representatives” alleging such racism (perhaps on grounds similar to the first response).  This appears to be the approach of certain of the Labour MPs most exposed to pressure from BNP candidates.

The fourth response is to say: you’re right.  We need to change our attitude.  There can indeed be racism against white Britons and that could be a problem in some cases.  Thanks for bringing it up.  We’ll take it from here.

Similar such lessons might be learnt in other cases.  Here are a couple of obvious such cases discussed frequently in Conservative circles:

  • Radical Islam is a threat to our country’s culture and values and it has been appeased by our liberal elite.
  • Illegal immigrants and bogus asylum-seekers haven’t been deported.

On the second of these topics, though the BNP has something true to say, their challenge is much more to the Labour Party than to the Conservatives — for Conservatives have been consistent critics of the government on precisely this point.  On the first, there are a number of critics of Radical Islam on both left and right, but also appeasers on both sides.  Be that as it may, the issues in this area are debated frequently and so one should have ready responses available to the BNP, and to know when we want to agree and when deny.

So, one problem we are going to face is that in the case of BNP contentions such as the four I have quoted, the BNP will have the best ally in politics: the truth.  With greater publicity and exposure, it is likely to focus on repeating its truths.  The truth in what is said will be sensed by the public, and build credibility for the BNP.  So we need to deny them the truth by changing the situation, or accept the truth but justify ourselves.

These are the first topics for us to engage with them upon.  Once we have dealt with their truths, we can move on, with confidence in our rightness, to expose their lies.

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