Sunday, October 25, 2009

Nick Griffin on Question Time

This persuaded me to watch television for the first time in about ten years. It was truly remarkable to see British politicians talking openly about race, which is pretty much the only taboo subject in the UK.

I think I must have felt something of the thrill which people in the 1950s had reading 'Lady Chatterley', back when sex was taboo and racism was commonplace.

Almost from the word go the debate made me proud to be British. The majority of the white panellists and audience clearly found the BNP shameful, and attacked Griffin relentlessly. Many of the black and asian members, however, seemed to be going out of their way to try to understand what the concerns of the BNP voters were.

Even Griffin himself, the closest thing we've had to a fascist demagogue since Mosley, seemed to be amused by jokes made at his own expense. Which during a live debate on national television is quite a feat. Maybe he was faking it as part of his scheme to not come over as a nutter.

I was reminded that Orwell thought that the British were immune to fascism because they'd find it ridiculous.

Certainly Hitler and Mussolini have always been comic figures to us. Given what they did, and how many of us died to stop them, that's quite remarkable. I don't think anyone else in the world finds them funny. We did at the time.

The only exception to this classically British orgy of embarrassment and smoothing-over was the American, Bonnie Greer, who came over as insincere and patronising. On the other hand, she was the only person who stood up for the classical Mill/Voltaire view of free speech. A form of uncompromising American fundamentalism that I can absolutely identify with.

I wonder if the reason that we don't seem to do extremism is because we don't really care too much about anything as long as no one gets too upset.

After Kate Fox's demolition job on our national character, Watching the English, which I found all too convincing, it's nice to be reminded that embarrassment, squirming, hypocrisy, evasion and reserve have their good sides too.

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