Last night, a lively rally took place at the Amnesty International headquarters in east London to launch a pressure group called Expose, aimed at sharpening media scrutiny of the British National Party.
The organisation, whose work-in-progress website is here, and of which I am a founding member, owes its inception to the hard work of a number of NUJ representatives, especially David Crouch of the Financial Times. The idea for it emerged after the BNP gained two seats in the European elections last year, and after its leader’s subsequent appearance on BBC1’s Question Time.
I would urge anyone opposed to the BNP to sign up.
Speakers at last night’s rally included our very own senior editor, Mehdi Hasan; Sunny Hundal, editor of Liberal Conspiracy; Peter Hain, who bravely criticised Question Time for hosting Nick Griffin; Michelle Stanistreet, the NUJ’s deputy general secretary; Pat Styles of Bectu, the media and entertainment union; and Weyman Bennett, joint secretary of Unite Against Fascism.
Mehdi opened proceedings with a pessimistic take on the present situation, declaring that “we live in dark times” and dismissing the “piss-poor” journalism of the BBC in covering the BNP during the past year. Mehdi’s main message was a powerful warning against the “normalisation” of the BNP.
Sunny sought to expose various “myths of the right”, such as that a fall in immigration would result in a fall in racism, pointing out that racism was still a small but present element of British society before enhanced immigration.
Peter Hain, a veteran anti-racist campaigner, issued a characteristically strong call against allowing the “unique” BNP an “uncontested platform”.
Michelle Stanistreet gave a fascinating insight into the mindset of the newspaper group for which she used to work, as a journalist at the Daily Express under Richard Desmond, which — she said openly — simply told “lies” and made up “investigations” about immigration and asylum.
Pat Styles cut through the phoney respectability and “modernisation” of the current BNP, pointing out that its members are a band of criminal “skinhead thugs”.
And Weyman Bennett made the thoughtful point that intellectual arguments against the Nazis — including the intervention of Albert Einstein — did not stop the slaughter of six million Jews.
This last point was made in response to one of the few dividing lines that emerged during the meeting: over whether or not the BNP should always be engaged with.
Despite just warnings about being seen as censors, the clear consensus appeared to be that freedom of speech was to be backed at all times except when it involves the (illegal) incitement to racial and religious hatred of millions of people.
To be continued . . .