Don’t Underestimate the Racists…

nobnp.jpgI know I’m late on this, but I’m going to add my tuppence worth on the freedom of speech argument sparked by the debate recently organized by the Oxford Union.

Whether or not I agree with them, “historian” David Irvine and BNP chairman Nick Griffin are entitled to their views – everyone is free to believe whatever they want. What I strongly disagree with, however, is the argument – even supported by Labour’s Higher Education Minister – that giving such people a platform gives the audience the opportunity to knock down their opinions.

The problem is I don’t believe that most people are capable of knocking down the arguments of those like Nick Griffin or David Irvine. Why? Because neither Griffin nor Irvine, or others like them, are stupid. Those who invite them to speak in the belief that they can easily knock down their arguments are the stupid ones.

It is utterly naive to believe that people who hold racist or bigoted views are intellectually deficient. Their views may be ignorant, but this does not make such people unintelligent. I may not agree with what they say or believe but that does not mean that they are not able to convey their arguments in a way that is convincing, and that can – on face value – sound plausible.

Those who have led – and lead – racist movements and parties have never been idiots. They have always been sophisticated (at least on the surface) with an air of respectability, well-educated men with slick words, who use statistics and research to reinforce their arguments and who are able to manipulate the public’s fears, weaknesses and vulnerabilities to their own ends. Unfortunately those who think they are capable of arguing against such people are often not as prepared or informed about their side of the argument as the bigots are.

Hitler was not a stupid man – he could not have been to have organized such systematic and calculated atrocities on such a grand scale. Those who followed him and carried out his order were doctors, engineers, lawyers – people with more than half a brain – taken in by the supposed legitimacy, at the time, of his views. Nick Griffin is also not a fool – he studied law and history at Cambridge. Believing that racists are missing a few brain cells is convenient, but plays right into their hands. Once they start talking some may actually be impressed by the apparent lucidity and coherence of their views, making it even more important that such people are not given high profile platforms from which to speak.

The liberals of the world have good intentions, but sometimes such intentions can be naive and misguided. Prejudice and racism are extremely complex. The Griffins and Irvines of this world are well aware of that. They know that respectability is key.

Let’s not play into their hands by underestimating them… Unfortunately I feel the Oxford Union has already done that.

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3 thoughts on “Don’t Underestimate the Racists…

  1. I beg to differ on this one Lo.

    I think that there are a number of educated people who would take them to task on some of their views using relevant and sometimes unemotive date to tackle their positions. That has always been the case with debate. The house argues one way with their key points and the opposition take them to task on that.

    The rabble that descended on Oxford Union only helped to fuel more publicity on what could have been a well handled debate. Think about it this way, Norman Finkelstein who is a vocal critic of Israel had his invitation removed because of the political leanings that prevented him from being able to posit a view against what is usually pro Israel. Again think of someone like Louis Farakhan being banned from coming to the UK.

    I say no. Give them a chance to come and give their views. The audiences aren’t that huge anyway. It’s behind closed doors and rarely gets into the mass media. If we do become that selective in choosing who gets to air their view in such a debate, then we have to really revisit what we mean by freedom of speech. If the BNP can erect a ladder and speak about their opinions with little interruption in Hyde Park Corner, or if we are to be honest be given the space as a political party to broadcast, would it not be wiser to create a space where equally intelligent people can critique, analyse and provide counter argument.

  2. You are completely on point Lola. People often overlook the fact that those who frequently stand before the public and espouse such views have generally been elevated to the positions of spokepersons through some combination of charisma and gifted articulation. Not to mention the fact that their having done so, while espousing such utter nonsense is a obvious testament to an extraordinary ability to manipulate and influence.

    All too often, we make the mistake of believing that our moral correctness will make our positions unassailable. We believe we can send ordinary Joe’s to debate because our logic is superior and our position is just. But sound logic is not necessarily compelling, and truth alone is rarely persuasive…

    Such views must be challenged! But care and caution should be used in determining who should speak for the “good guys”. The only thing worse than avoiding the fight, is losing it…

  3. I watched a repeat of the programme BBC’s HardTalk where Nick Griffin was discussing about Black women not liking Black men choosing White women over their own. I was intrigued but more importantly I was seduced by his level of understanding. In my mind it makes him one of the few English people who has a good grasp on the subject, which as you know, is so close to our hearts. Problem though I have to remind myself that he wants the likes of me out of his country and that his politics are completely right wing. The standard of his delivery and approach is as such that it will not be long before we start to vote for BNP. Something that I hint at hint at in my blog – Things that Black people say and do (http://ma99ie.wordpress.com/)

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