tag: Election2009

Jun 2009

British National Party: Is the BNP racist?

Is the BNP racist?

This is a brief addendum to the last post, rather than an article in its own right. But I wanted to post it separately for search ranking reasons. It goes without saying that the British National Party (BNP) understand that being publicly labelled as “racist” loses them more votes than it gains. As a result, they do much to avoid the word. They claim they’re simply an “organisation concerned with one community or race”. As such, they insist, the BNP is just like other such organisations (such as the Black Police Officer’s Association, or the Action Group for Irish Youth).

This is, of course, complete nonsense. And in this articleIs the BNP racist? — Matt Wardman explains exactly why.

Is the BNP a racist party? Yes. It is. And don’t let them try to pretend otherwise.

UPDATE (20:23) FlyingRodent makes an excellent point about the BNP.

I hope it’s not too extreme to point out that our granddads’ response to their generation’s Nazis was to bomb them and strafe them from the air; to shoot them with machine guns and rifles; torch them with flamethrowers, incendiaries and white phosphorus; to crush them with tanks, blow them up with grenades and high explosives and so on, and then march their supporters off to prison. I don’t know how people could’ve missed this, since we have well-publicised memorials at which we salute their courage for kicking Nazi arse so righteously, every single year.

Not that I think this would be a reasonable response to the BNP, of course, but it sure puts all this Oooo, we must understand the motivations of poor, misguided racists who consciously vote for Nazi organisations in perspective.

It’s particularly amusing when you consider that lots of the right wing commenters here spend much of their time grousing about a lack of chimpanzoid chest-thumping and ostentatious moral outrage in modern liberalism – yet suddenly, when we’re talking about an openly racist and fascist organisation, we have to understand.

Well, Bollocks

(via PDF)

2 comments  |  Posted in: Opinion

Jun 2009

The water through which we swim

Over in the UK, the leader of the far-right BNP, Nick Griffin, was elected to the European parliament. As was another member of his party. On a very low turn-out, over 800,000 British people decided a bunch of thinly-disguised racist thugs were the best people to represent their views. That’s almost a million self-declared cretins.

See, I just have to go with the “easily manipulated idiot” explanation. The idea that so many people could rationally decide to vote for the BNP, in full knowledge of what they truly represent? It’s just too damn depressing. Mind you, we don’t live in a world where the depressing has an inverse relationship with the true.

We are none of us entirely free of prejudice. A wise man once said that “racism is the water through which we all swim”. But the idea is to swim against the current, folks, not get swept along with it. We challenge our racism whenever it appears in us. And we do so not because we’re being oppressed by political correctness, but because ultimately racism lessens us as individuals, it attacks the foundations of the society we live in and it’s no less than a direct assault upon the human soul.

Yeah, you heard me. For whatever the soul may be, whatever you believe it to be, it must surely include the imperative to rise above those blind prejudices that damage us. It is, if it is nothing else, that which inspires us to compassion and empathy. Much of what happens in politics and business… in modern life itself… is a direct assault upon the Sacred. But when people like Nick Griffin are carrying out the assault in such an overt and brazen manner, then we are obliged to challenge it.

The prejudice that lurks within our collective psyche can leak out in any one of us when tempers run high or emotions take control. And we must always be on our guard against that. But to deliberately and with premeditation walk into a polling booth and give voice to it? There’s something wrong there. Those 800,000 voters need to wake up.

This isn’t about the BNP. I still think this will do them damage in the long term as I question their competence and their ability to handle the inevitable internal rifts this will create. It’s about the people who voted for them. Let others try to coax them with promises and warm platitudes. I’m telling them to fricking sort themselves out. To wake up. We live in a profane world. And they are making it that much worse.

A couple of discussions sprang up on the U-Know! message board regarding Griffin’s election. One concerned the recent protest at his public press conference. For those unaware, Griffin was shouted down by a crowd who also threw eggs (personally I was dismayed. None of the eggs appeared to hit him).

I was a little surprised, however, to find this question being asked…

Other than “it’s fun”, which I won’t comment on, what do these people throwing eggs hope to achieve?

Sure, the question is coming from the message-board’s resident Tory, but it represents a theme that I’ve found emerging both in the mainstream media and on blogs. The protest was counter-productive, they say. Or it was hypocritical… restricting the free speech of fascists is surely the tactic of fascism, they say. Let him have his say and he’ll dig his own grave, they say.

They say a lot of things. But they are generally talking shit.

See first thing to point out is that this isn’t really a Free Speech (capital letters) issue. The “right to free speech” is about the freedom to express your views — yes, even reprehensible ones — without fear of prosecution. What it isn’t about, is guaranteeing anyone the right to be the loudest speaker in a given public place. The BNP have the right to stand for election. They have the right to distribute leaflets, publish a web site, hold meetings and so forth.

But when they start to spout their vile garbage in public, then others have the right to express their disgust. To heckle. To shout them down if they see fit. As for what this achieves…? It is a stark message to those 800,000 voters — and to anyone tempted by the rhetoric of fascism — that these views are contemptible. As are those who espouse them. It is a demonstration that those who would give voice to racism will be challenged. A reminder that the rest of us won’t allow this prejudice to gain ground.

Griffin should not be arrested for stating his views. But each time he does so in public, he should be challenged. And each public utterance of racism should be drowned out by a thousand voices in opposition.

3 comments  |  Posted in: Opinion

May 2009

A glance around Europe

With the European elections almost upon us, I figured I’d present a quick round-up of what stories are being covered by the media throughout the continent. Based purely on a single, unscientific glance at what currently has the most “related stories” on that country’s google news page. Given that this can literally change from minute to minute, it’s hardly something to which a lot of meaning should be attributed. So fair warning, and on with the round-up…

Britain: Julie Kirkbride and Margaret Moran to quit at next election

Two MPs locked in high-profile battles with their constituents over expenses claims ended their parliamentary careers within 10 minutes of each other yesterday when Tory Julie Kirkbride and Labour’s Margaret Moran announced their intention to stand down at the next election.

I myself have been preoccupied with the expenses katzenjammer of late, so I can hardly blame Britain for it’s preoccupation. I’ve found it endlessly fascinating from the standpoint of group psychodynamics as well as psychologically interesting on the level of individual MPs. See, I have some theories about the nature of political power and the effect it can have on both groups and individuals. And this scandal is like a public demonstration of my views. All wrapped up in a thick blanket of genuine absurdity… with moats and duck-islands and claiming back unpaid taxes on expenses. I think it’s fab. But while lots of people are speculating about the impact this will have on the election results, there’s not many people actually discussing the elections themselves.

Well… excluding all the talk about how well the ultra-nationalist BNP might do. The elections are being covered from that angle, sadly enough. I don’t see the BNP as quite the threat that many view them as. Not because I don’t think they’re reprehensible. They are, and I do. But because I think they’re incompetent. If they were to get an MEP or two, I suspect it would result in the party splintering within a couple of years. Of course, I want to see them do badly. But I think a small taste of power could do serious damage to them. Clouds and silver linings and what have you.

France: Scientology on Trial in France: Can a Religion Be Banned?

As a fiercely secular nation, France has always had an awkward relationship with religious groups. Officials often find themselves struggling to strike the delicate balance between maintaining church-state separation and honoring the right of citizens to express their faith. But in the current case against the U.S.-based Church of Scientology, authorities have abandoned their usual attempts at fine-tuning religion’s standing in French society — instead, they want to ban Scientology from France altogether.

I’m doing something of a disservice to the French here. The elections have a media profile (according to my own unscientific assessment of the google news sites) slightly higher than the scientology trial. Sarkozy appears to be talking tough on crime because of the rise of the far right. So we’re unlikely to see a Gallic drift leftwards during this election. Isn’t it weird how the far right so easily sets the agenda for the centre right, but for the past three decades the centre-left has been steadfastly distancing itself (policy-wise) from its ideologues? I’m (honestly) not making any value judgment there; it’s just an observation.

Germany: Opel talks break down in Berlin

All-night talks in Berlin about the future of Opel and Vauxhall have broken down without reaching a decision about who should buy GM’s European unit.

It’s all about the economy in Germany, but it’s not really feeding into the elections all that much with the whole nation, government, opposition and population united in their frustration at General Motors. Seems like they were in the process of signing the contracts that would allow the German government to begin financing Opel when someone noticed that a GM representative had scribbled “oh, and another €300m as well. Plees.” onto the document in crayon.

Greece: Greek pair develop swine flu on return from visit to the Capital

The country’s health minister yesterday said a 21-year-old man had been confirmed as having the virus after his compatriot, also 21, tested positive on Tuesday. A third man, who had been travelling with the infected pair, tested negative for the virus.

The Greek media is focussed equally on the elections and swine flu. They seem a good deal more concerned about the virus than anywhere else in Europe. Hard to tell why as they’ve not had a disproportionate number of cases. As for the elections; it’s a familiar story. The party in power is being accused of corruption and running the economy into the ground. A backlash is expected. In this case it’ll be a lurch to the right. All depends on who is in power really. If Pasok was the party of government, then the lurch would be leftwards. Greek, Dutch, Irish, British, German… we are all of us an unimaginative lot when it comes to casting our ballot.

Ireland: President calls for Ryan report prosecutions

President Mary McAleese has said she believes there should be criminal prosecutions as a result of the Ryan report into institutionalised child abuse.

Here in Ireland, understandably enough really, the focus has been on the Ryan Report. Seems the institutions of the Catholic Church have managed — somehow! — to emerge from the Ryan Report looking even worse than anyone imagined. It’s harrowing. My own time with the Christian Brothers (one of the congregations covered by the report) contained nothing remotely close to the severe and sustained abuse revealed in the report. But I’ll never forget the atmosphere of the place. The constant threat of “the leather” keeping us all in line. It’s perhaps unsurprising, so, that in a time when the nation is reliving its collective childhood trauma, the media aren’t as interested as they might be in the European elections.

Italy: Berlusconi’s popularity slides as Letizia mystery deepens

The Italian newspapers have been preoccupied with one subject and one subject only: the relationship between prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and a young woman from Naples called Noemi Letizia.

OK, seems like the Italians don’t really have their eye on the ball right now.

Netherlands: World scrambles to find response to North Korea

The major powers were last night scrambling to find a credible response to North Korea’s increasingly brazen sabre rattling — one that would punish the renegade Communist regime without triggering a second all-out war on the Korean peninsula in little more than half a century.

For reasons I can’t explain, the Dutch are far more worried about the whole North Korea thing than anyone else in Europe. Leastways if my glance at google news Netherlands is anything to go by. They are waaay more preoccupied with news from Pyongyang than they are with who they’ll be sending to Brussels. Let’s all hope they’ve got their priorities wrong on this one.

Poland: Polish shipyards sold after rules breach

The government agency in charge of disposing of two of Poland’s shipyards on Thursday signed an agreement selling the bulk of their assets to Netherlands-registered United International Trust. The yards were forced into liquidation by the European Commission, which found they had received illegal government aid. The Commission ruled that the yards had to be broken up into smaller units, which were offered for sale via auction.

The Polish media seems to be talking about the elections alright. And like in Germany there’s a heavy emphasis on the economy (hardly surprising in the midst of a global recession). The shipyards story is really the first time that Pawel Public has had a decent excuse to get pissed-off with the EU, so it’ll be interesting to see what kind of effect this has on the polls.

See what I did there?

Spain: Brilliant Barcelona outclass Man Utd

And as Ferguson grimly accepted the truth that Manchester United were dismantled by Barcelona, additional pain came from the knowledge that he knew what was coming and still his Premier League champions were ill-equipped, tactically and technically, to deal with it.

The day after Barcelona wins the Champions League probably isn’t the best time to do a quick survey of what’s happening in the Spanish media. A closer look, however, would seem to suggest that in truth, the Spanish media are all over these elections. There appears to be a national debate underway between the socialists and the free-marketeers. The outcome of this debate will doubtlessly heavily influence the kind of MEPs that’ll be making the trip between Spain and Belgium.

Either that, or the Spaniards will just vote against the government like everywhere else.

Anyhoo, that’s it for now. I know that only covers a small number of the nations voting, but this was only a glance around Europe after all.

3 comments  |  Posted in: Opinion

May 2009

The Local and European elections

The next couple of weeks will see two sets of elections here in Ireland. There’s much evidence to suggest that the electorate is going to take an opportunity to kick the living crap out of the government. There’s also some evidence that the left might pick up more support than usual. Ireland is traditionally more socialist-leaning than many countries (certainly than the UK or America) and with the spectacular collapse of the Celtic Tiger and sudden return to high unemployment, the drift away from the centre-right is inevitable.

That said, the big winners are still likely to be Fine Gael, the main opposition party. Though politically indistinguishable from the governing party, Fianna Fáil, they will be seen as the best way of bloodying the government’s nose. Because there’s no doubt that the big losers will be the parties of power, including the Greens… having thrown in their lot with the centre right, they are not in a position to capitalise on the fallout from the recent economic anarchy. Labour and Sinn Féin could do very well, especially in the Locals.

[Aside: I will admit to a chuckle when I read about how Sinn Féin MPs at Westminister have been claiming the absolute maximum in expenses despite refusing to participate in parliament (they cite a moral objection to swearing fealty to the Queen which every MP is required to do prior to taking office). Of all the parties involved, they are probably the only one who can legitimately claim to be representing their voters by bringing the British political system into disrepute.]

Anyhoo, Sinn Féin have become the “Will they? Won’t they?” force in Irish politics south of the border. Their policies don’t appear to be quite as unsavoury as some nationalist groups (more Plaid Cymru, less BNP), though the fact they renounced guns more recently than some other Irish parties still puts a lot of people off. A local election during a time of unprecedented public disillusionment with the government could prove to be their springboard towards a larger role in Irish political life however.

All the same, I have a fundamental problem with nationalism, and while many of their policies are attractive I do find the emphasis on “Irishness” to be a little disconcerting. I’m Irish myself, but I’ve spent most of my life as an emigrant and only returned a few years ago. Also, while my partner is an Irish citizen, she is naturalized and didn’t start life that way. So I find some of Sinn Féin’s language a bit exclusionary at times. Again, don’t confuse this with BNP-level stuff; it’s not; but it’s far from ideal.

That said, maybe the leftwards drift will be less pronounced and wash up at the feet of Labour. The Irish labour party didn’t follow Blair’s New Labour in having a complete conversion to free market princples, but nor can they be considered traditional socialists. They have tended to be in favour of the privatisation of public assets of late, though they’ve re-adopted some of the language of the left now that it seems like it might be in vogue again. A fact that generates a somewhat sceptical glance from this direction.

I don’t imagine there’s going to be many big surprises in either the locals or the Europeans. Large loss for Fianna Fáil, smaller loss for the Greens, large gains for Fine Gael and Labour with the chance of Sinn Féin picking up plenty of local council seats as well as one MEP. Also a small increase in the number of socialists and independents gaining council seats.

As for me? Despite being a ‘traditional’ Green voter, the Greens lost my vote by supporting and perpetuating a government that spent the best part of a decade overseeing an orgy of capitalist excess. I gave them my voice and they allowed it to be effectively silenced in return for not much at all. I suspect, therefore, that I’ll try to help an independent socialist on to the local council and see if I can’t do my bit in sending Mary Lou to Brussels. It’s hardly ideal, but I’d be a fool to pass up the opportunity to help give this government a slap.

1 comment  |  Posted in: Opinion