Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

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Monday, November 13, 2006
Horrified because not horrified. ARC writes:
...waiting in a Heathrow flight gate late on Friday I could not avoid catching a long session of BBC news that was showing on a huge screen. But (while their coverage balance could have been better) this is not material for a biased BBC post (their coverage balance could also have been worse).

The lead story was the acquittal of Griffin on charges of hate speech. They described the acquittal, showed the discussion outside the courtroom and then showed an excerpt from the covert BBC film of his speech at a BNP meeting that had been the cause of his prosecution. Then they showed the chancellor demanding new laws to ensure that such acquittals would not occur again. After some discussion, they moved to their next item; the MI5 warning of the number of plots and the rate of radicalisation among the moslem young.

The speech horrified me. Let me rephrase that: the excerpt from the speech, shown in that context, horrified me, because the speech itself did not. I had been expecting something crude in language, viciously offensive in tone and wildly inaccurate in fact; something that would not have lessened my belief in free speech or my contempt for laws against it, but would have made the temptation understandable; something that would leave me willing to discuss whether its form, if not its content, should be moderated. The part the BBC showed failed - massively - to live down to these expectations (and I have a hard time seeing the late-night BBC choosing to suppress Mr Griffin's worse indiscretions and show only his milder remarks). In the excerpt, Mr Griffin asserted, in no very exceptionable language and tone, that many verses in the Koran assert the rights of Moslems engaged in Jihad to the loot and slaves so conquered. I am not given to reading the Koran but I know the history of both the byzantime empire and its moslem successor states very well and the moslem conquest was run along such lines; they were not of course unique in this among armies of their time and place.

My first thought was that free speech is in real danger in this country; we have come very far in a few short years when that particular speech can be prosecuted. My second thought was that anyone capable of being tempted to old-style (as opposed to PC-style) racism would have that tendency sensibly increased by watching that news bulletin; the government's strategy seems a good deal worse than useless in its own terms. My third thought was that the 'safety fascist' culture of fear has its analogies elsewhere. The police have had 'racist' insults thrown at them a lot by the government and others for years; quite apart from political appointments, it may be that senior police officers are now tremblingly eager to provide evidence of their anti-racist credentials.

The chancellor asserted that public opinion would be behind his call for further laws. One can only hope it will not be so.

UPDATE: After I posted this, my correspondent contacted me to say that he had misremembered the name of the BNP leader. I didn't spot that at the time but I have now corrected the post.