Dave Ryan attempts to summarise the debate on TCD Phil.’s controversial invite
Next month, following an invite from the Trinity Philosophical Society, Nick Griffin MEP will address the house. Nick Griffin, for the unaware among you, is the leader of the British National Party, a political party so right-wing they make David Cameron look like Leon Trotsky. They push an agenda largely based on the opinion that immigrants have ruined Britain.They are effectively, for those of you old enough to remember, the National Front in sharper suits. The BNP have experienced a growth in interest (and press coverage) since the global financial crisis hit in late 2007. They even got a seat in the European Parliament in the most recent European elections. Here are some of their greatest hits:
‘Writing about the bombing of the Albert Duncan, a gay pub in London’s Soho, by a former BNP member in 1999 he said, “The TV footage of dozens of ‘gay’ demonstrators flaunting their perversions in front of the world’s journalists showed just why so many ordinary people find these creatures so repulsive.” Former BNP Director of Publicity Mark Collett described gay people as “AIDS monkeys” and said that AIDS was “a friendly disease because blacks, drug users and gays have it.”’
(Source: University Times)
The debate that Mr. Griffin has been invited to attend is entitled ‘This House Believes Immigration Has Gone Too Far’. Presumably this suggests that Nick Griffin will be the sole proposition, and either another guest speaker or members of the Phil. themselves will be the opposition. The question that needs to be asked is: Should he be allowed to address the House? What I’ve attempted to do is summarise both sides of the argument, and rather than tell you what to believe, I’ll allow you to choose for yourselves. And this is only a summary, I implore everyone to read up as much as they can on this debate.
The Case for cancelling his appearance
The Red Writers blog published an open letter on September 14 to complain about the decision to invite Griffin to the event.
‘The sense of legitimacy afforded by an invite by a debating society, particularly one as prestigious as the Phil, directly contributes to the momentum of these groups. Moreover, appearances by far-right speakers in events such as this are strongly correlated with increases in the incidence of hate crimes in the surrounding areas. These dangers are particularly acute in times of economic crisis, where ‘blame the immigrants’ rhetoric offers an easily-understandable explanation for complex socio-economic processes.’
This is a fair point to make. The growing popularity of the BNP has led to a massive increase in public appearance and media coverage for the party, and Griffin in particular. Any coverage given to this group grants them a measure of legitimacy. Particularly in a time of economic crisis, where people historically will turn to extreme ideologies. The rise of the hard right all across Europe over the last number of years is evidence of such. Can we allow a man with such hateful rhetoric a platform from which to project and spread his hate? Surely this is beyond the realms of free speech.
We must also criticise the Phil for having made the invite in the first place, as it appears that at least to some extent, it was a publicity stunt to get asses in seats and pack out the room when Griffin comes to town. They have benefitted from granting this hateful point of view an audience.
There are also groups that find his presence incredibly offensive. As noted on thejournal.ie last week: The Union of Jewish Students in Britain and Ireland has condemned the invitation and called on Trinity College “to deny the BNP a platform”, saying that such events are publicity stunts which “tear apart student communities and contribute to a hostile environment for Jewish students”.
The key factor that make Griffin dangerous is how persuasive he has been. Someone can preach all the anti-immigration rhetoric they like, no harm will be done if they can’t persuade anyone to believe them. But Griffin, to some, will seem incredibly rational in defence of his views, and the fear is that it will sway people.
The case for allowing the debate to go ahead
First and foremost, cancelling his appearance could be seen as incredibly hypocritical. Voices from the left, generally advocates of free speech, have sought to cancel this event owing to the dangerous views Nick Griffin preaches. For better or for worse, this is an act of censoring a man who, despite how much the vast majority will disagree with him, is still entitled to be open about his views. To cancel the event paints the left as believing in free speech once they agree with it, and Nick Griffin, instead of being portrayed as a racist, as a fascist, will spin himself as a victim of some sort of liberal agenda, which he could get more press out of than if he had been allowed to speak in the first place.
By the time people have reached university level, those who are susceptible to becoming politically active are having their ‘awakening’. It is important that we view these people as mature enough to come to their own conclusion on what their preferred political ideology is, and not have the rest of us make our minds up for them. Therefore debates like this are very important, particularly with the aforementioned rise of the hard right. These issues are at the door, and no good can come of ignoring the debate.
There are unlikely to be many undecided people on the night at Trinity College. Racism and homophobia are not really fence-sitting issues. And do the left really want the people who aren’t sure if homosexuality is a good thing or not on their side?
Finally, perhaps the most overlooked aspect is that he is not being offered an uncontested platform. He will be debating against someone who will be specifically there to deconstruct him, so even if his hateful rhetoric doesn’t do enough to discredit him, members of the Phil would be only too delighted to do so. He will also, presumably, but subject to points of information from the floor, so lefties who seek to discredit him further can attempt to make fun of him in a rational manner.
Feel free to add more points either side of this argument in the comments section, we love a good debate. I’ll leave you with footage of Nick Griffin’s appearence on Question Time.
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