Becky Montacute and Ben Weich address this contentious issue
The only effective way to deal with views such as Nick Griffin’s is to question them, have them out in the open, and to criticise. Leeds Student made exactly the right decision by giving Nick Griffin a platform, because by allowing him to voice his opinions, they allowed us to see how ridiculous they are.
A particular favorite quote of mine (for showing just how stupid Mr. Griffin is) came when the interviewer, a gay man, asked him what exactly it is he finds so objectionable about people like himself. Griffin’s reply was to explain that gay people simply need to understand that “a lot of heterosexual people – we don’t want to persecute you – but we find the sight of two men kissing creepy.”
Another absolute gem comes when he moves onto civil partnerships, saying that as it undermines the institution of marriage “children will die over the next few years, because they’ll be brought up in homes which aren’t married.” Students aren’t stupid; the vast majority of them know that opinions like his are not just vile but absolutely ridiculous. They are not about to become BNP recruits anytime soon after seeing this sort of rubbish from him in their student newspaper. Just as the fallout from Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time made us question the standing of the BNP, the more people understand what his views actually, are the less they want to support him.
The NUS have a no platform policy, and have written an open letter to Leeds Student asking them to remove the interview. This policy stops criticism from happening. It is also a policy put in place by a body, who should not be trying to push policies onto member universities. The editor of Leeds Student was elected democratically by the members of her union, and so absolutely had the right to make the decision to publish the interview.
Views need to be heard to be challenged, not hidden away and for us to pretend they don’t exist. People like Nick Griffin exist, students need to know that and need to shout about just how wrong people like him are. This is the only way to fight these views, and so Leeds Student were completely right in their decision to go against the NUS and print the interview.
In justifying the publication of their interview with Nick Griffin, the editors of the Leeds Student must ask themselves what purpose it serves. I myself struggle to come up with something worthwhile. The leader of the British National Party, as the interview itself will attest, has nothing either relevant or valid to say, leading one to wonder whether it was a mere publicity stunt. Many column inches have been devoted to the subsequent discussion and debate, so the Student has succeeded in this respect.
But I find it laughable that, in her response to the NUS’ call for the article to be retracted, the paper’s editor argued the need to confront extreme politics. This would hold more water had the interviewer actually challenged Griffin, instead of offering a predictable, recycled probe into his views on homosexuality and the Holocaust.
No, I’m afraid this smacks of an attempt to generate controversy by flogging a horse which has long since been deceased. Post-recession (and with many of their votes returning to Labour), the BNP’s last embers of popularity are flickering out, and they are no longer considered significant or threatening. Sensing his 15 minutes are almost up, Griffin has reduced himself to a Rent-a-Shock, popping up with the political equivalent of a steaming bag of excrement whenever an editor wants a cheap story. I find the validation of this tedious.
Inevitably, the other half of this article will at some point mention the importance of the freedom of speech, and this is a fair point. But we’ve heard what the BNP have to say. There’s a distinction between giving someone the chance to express their views and simply offering them the exposure they don’t merit, and that line has been crossed.
I don’t take exception with the Leeds Student publishing this interview as such, but rather the way they’ve dressed it up. It wasn’t a serious piece; it was an attempt to get Griffin to say something outrageous. They should have presented it for what it was: the closest thing political journalism comes to the Jeremy Kyle Show.