Breaking up meetings being legally addressed by a democratically-elected politician (however obnoxious — and the BNP is obnoxious) is not something that should be acceptable in any democratic society, where speech is (meant to be) free, especially when the ultimate protest — voting him out — is after all available.
This is not something that those who disrupted today’s press conference with the BNP’s Nick Griffin seem to recognize. In a democracy even a man like Griffin has a right to make his views heard, and the press has the right to hear what he has to say — and to print what they see fit. Sadly, this basic truth seems lost on Donna Guthrie of Unite Against Fascism (UAF — the organization that is pushing itself forward as the voice of those opposed to the BNP, and which was reportedly behind today’s disruption), who, speaking about Mr. Griffin, was quoted as follows:
This is not a person who should be given any coverage by a legitimate free press.
I’m sorry, Ms. Guthrie, that is not for you to say. I also note the stink of the censor-in-waiting that surrounds that weasel word “legitimate.” I have no time for Griffin or his party, but they are news — and stunts like today’s only make them more so. Such stunts are also highly counter-productive. Labour MP Jon Cruddas put it this way:
As soon as they [the BNP] come here, they have eggs or whatever thrown at them. This reinforces the image they have tried to set up . . . We should be challenging them in terms of policy, ideas and their views about black people, rather than reinforcing the sense that they are victims and outsiders.
It’s worth adding that UAF’s website includes a list of prominent “supporters.” These include Tory leader David Cameron. Mr. Cameron’s opposition to the BNP is to be commended, but as someone so publicly associated with UAF he needs to make clear what he thinks about the approach UAF appears to be taking. Put it another way: Is Cameron in favor of free speech, however unpleasant that speech may be, or is he not? As was said at the time of the row over those Danish cartoons:
Free speech is free speech is free speech. There is no but.
So, Mr. Cameron, where do you stand?