An example of the fluid and interlinked nature of NFB's research interests is this extract, taken from pages 32-34 of the NFB 6 of the 2004 BBC 'Secret Agent' documentary. That show was a truly awful piece of work both as 'investigative journalism' (not) and political progranda--for the BNP rather than against them, in its effect. We could have placed it in the journalism section (how not to do it) or the Searchlight section (as they were greatly responsible, indeed have boasted about such). Ultimately though, and in the absence here of the forensic detail in the original article, we placed it here because of the pithy summary of what is different about the Nick Griffin BNP, and why old demonisation/criminalisation strategies won't work. All very relevant when seemingly endless attempts to drag the BNP leadership through the courts continue to evade the key question of how and why such neo-fascists retain a significant reservoir of support.
WHY THE BBC/SEARCHLIGHT PERSPECTIVE WILL NOT DEFEAT THE BNP
...Consideration of the Secret Agent should not exclude the documentary's woeful inadequacy in terms of explaining the nature of the BNP and its support, never mind undercutting it. Not surprising, for Ford later admitted the programme's "purpose was to expose illegal activity, and if you make such allegations it would be perverse not to make the evidence available to people who might bring a prosecution" . In other words, no duty to educate entertain and inform, but merely to incite prosecution.
The programme not only failed to address why the BNP is getting support in Yorkshire and elsewhere, but not doing so played into the BNP's hands. Take one reason for BNP progress, paedophilia in Keighley, with at least in part a racial element (Asian men, White girls). Griffin was shown vehemently denouncing such activity, in terms that will have appealed to some beleaguered families in the area. No attempt was made to explore his allegations, and they certainly weren't refuted, indeed many voters would have got the clear impression only the BNP cares about the issue. As it happens, another programme did attempt to address paedophilia locally, Anna Hall's 'Edge of the City', eventually shown on Channel Four 26/8/04. Originally due to be broadcast before the June elections, it was pulled after pressure from West Yorkshire police . Not surprisingly, Livingstone's 'Race Adviser' and Met Police hireling Lee Jasper, who favours a new apartheid of racially segregated schools, didn't want Edge of the City shown, complaining that "innocent people will be scapegoated" [157a]. A more interesting take came from Rob Waugh of the Yorkshire Post who after pointing out White men are just as capable of grooming and exploitation, made two further telling points. "There is no denying that there is a racial or cultural context to what has been happening in the Bradford area and the film raises uncomfortable and ultimately unanswered questions about how and why such targeted abuse has emerged in the Asian community". He reported "a large gap between what the mothers perceive as systematic abuse and ultimately what police and social services, at least corporately, will admit" (11/8/04). It is in this gap between popular perception and officially admitted reality that the BNP seek to position themselves.
Certainly, Anna Hall did not solve the problems she addressed --but that is not necessarily her role, bringing them into the public domain was good enough journalism. Contrast that with one issue Secret Agent conspicuously flunked-whether Steve Barkham was, or was not, racially attacked, the event he said propelled him into joining the BNP. If he wasn't, that would be as interesting as if he was, either way a greater understanding of his psyche would have been gained. The 'criminalisation' strategy for dealing with the BNP fails to address local issues-housingproblems, unemployment, council corruption and so on. Criminalisation has never defeated Republican (or Loyalist) paramilitaries in Northern Ireland, and will not eradicate the basis of support for the BNP or similar. It also misses another historical reality-some voters favour Far Right parties in a crisis situation not despite criminality, but precisely because they have a certain edge, and ability to 'look after themselves'. While the BNP are not Nazi, one important lesson of Weimar was some middle class voters (and politicians) tolerated Nazis precisely because they were more effective (pro-capitalist) thugs than opponents. Then the obvious point—in many working class communities today, criminal convictions are either irrelevant or grant street credibility.
On a theoretical level, Secret Agent, as with other Searchlight-sourced drivel, doesn't begin to grasp the real (not cosmetic) changes facilitating a BNP breakthrough. Put simply, there have been three historic strategies (or 'Paths') on offer to British fascists since World War Two, and all to a greater or lesser extent still exist today.
Path One is the gravitational pull of classical Nazism, an entirely dead-end fetishism adhered to by sad losers addicted to violence and strange uniforms. In the old National Front, at least until the early 1980's, this ideology was both partial sub-text (Strasserism) and rival (the British Movement). In the BNP's early days, and also in John Tyndall's Spearhead Support Group, base of his ongoing challenge to Nick Griffin, Nazism is an openly accepted current. And as such, any growth in popular support for a Tyndall-recaptured BNP would be severely circumscribed.
Path Two is semi-Tory populist electoralism, the main problem of which as a strategy is being outflanked by either the Tory Party proper or the likes of the UK Independence Party. In our current electoral system, very difficult for this to succeed on its own, for any group, even with a fascist past (or perhaps especially with a fascist past) just offering electoralist solutions will not have the ideological organisational and personnel werewithal to compete with more pure versions.
Path Three is non-Nazi fascist strategies, of increasing importance since the early 1980s, reaching an apparent deadend when 'third positionist' fascists of the 'political soldier' tendency captured and then dissolved the Official National Front in 1990. In that decade, and organisation, Griffin (an enthusiastic national revolutionary) cut his political teeth and refined his strategic thinking. On its own, the non-Nazi fascist strategy pursued by the political soldier NF was never going to succeed, partly because of esoteric elements (pro-Qadhafi/Khomeini for example) but also because it was self-consciously elitist [157b].
However, what is unique about Griffin, and partly explains his success, is his combining for the first time elements of Paths Two and Three, while rejecting Path One. The BNP's current presentation of racism (as separatism not superiority) and making tactical alliances with non-white groups were all first tried there, as too dropping anti-semitism, even if Griffin didn't like it then. Playing with street politics (as he is shown doing on Secret Agent) does not make Griffin a Nazi, and for him is not counterposed to electoral politics. This is a qualitative strategic advance on the old NF policy, with elections merely excuses to hold provocative marches, or simply publicity stunts.
Even if my understanding is debatable, at least I have an explanation for BNP success-something Secret Agent doesn't, indeed partially contributes to. As for Searchlight, consider this recent gem. Griffin's (now reversed) decision to stand against David Blunkett in Sheffield is on the one hand mocked because "Sheffield is not one of the BNP's key areas...it is a sign of the BNP's current weakness". On the other hand "Griffin stood a good chance of coming second, giving the BNP a publicity coup...Sheffield has also witnessed growing BNP support in recent years and Brightside specifically has been targeted in successive local elections" . In other words, they explain everything and nothing, like Goebbels (or Stalin) offering facts to suit any conclusion. But then, fighting fascism was never their main agenda. Leave it to these 'experts'? Hardly. Speaking of 'Secret Policeman', and it should apply to 'Secret Agent' too, Ford has said of the BBC "we would not deserve to be funded if we did not do this sort of thing". On the contrary, they do not deserve to be funded as long as they do.
Mention must be made of another programme on Yorkshire BNP, 'Boots and Suits', (Yorkshire TV 26/8/04) thankfully only transmitted in that region. Screened just before Channel 4's 'Edge of the City' it acted as trailer not antidote. Fronted by Nick Ryan, long-time Searchlight collaborator and shallow hack, Boots & Suits plumbed new depths in terms of counterproductive coverage. A guided tour of his birthplace (Saville Town, Dewsbury) saw BNP Organiser Nick Cass make observations about the changing local population and their dress code that fitted the pictures perfectly. Given Cass actually pointed to the house his family used to live in, Ryan's lame riposte that the BNP "offer a false vision of the past" would have convinced few watching. Nor too would another local disagreeing with Cass when what was shown backed the latter. Unchallenged, Cass and David Exley word perfectly articulated the BNP's new 'race policy' in cultural terms. Cass refuted Lord Ahmed's stupid prejudicial remarks about young white males with short hair and tattoos by adroitly citing David Beckham, to which the programme again had no reply. Ryan is perhaps too used to drinking with Nazi Satanists like David Myatt, and worrying about bats following him to confidently take on the BNP. After falsely presenting himself as 'victim', Ryan accuses Nick Griffin of " naked [political] opportunism" as if this is a criticism. Ultimately, if this documentary wasn't BNP-made, it should have been. A classic "journalist...doing the party's job, helping to publicise its threat and create an image that's far greater than reality" . Ryan's inability to comprehend the BNP (garbling history to imply Griffin joined the party in the early 1980s not 1996!) is a luxury antifascists cannot afford. Although Ryan is hardly an anti-fascist. Over the years he has persistently equated the Far Left/Greens with the Far Right, seeking to exaggerate similarities/ connections and even manufacture them —just the line Special Branch take. While Ryan admits meeting SB only once, the similarity of his agenda to theirs hints at extensive and ongoing contact, even aside from indirectly via Searchlight . Illustrating the incestuous intersection between secret state, their informants and media disinformers, Ryan Nick Lowles and Darren Wells have been on friendly terms since at least 1998 . If 'Boots & Suits' had any effect, it would (like Secret Agent) have boosted the BNP in a key target area. Ryan and co probably gave Yorkshire BNP free rein to divert attention from the Secret Agent operation. Not worth it--a verdict unaltered by Sykes' baseless claim Ryan's programme "clearly showed" the BNP "harbouring hard-line Nazi views" .
Secret Agent. and Boots & Suits, illustrate how shallov. the BBC/Searchlight understanding is. The BBC's grasp of the BNP's nature and support is so poor that Nick Griffin is not standing in Keighley at the General Election despite Secret Agent but in large part because of it.
155) cited Daily Telegraph 22/7/04
156) BBC News Online 20/5/04.
157a) Black Information Link (web-site) 13/8/04
157b) on this very period, read the detailed account in the PhD thesis to which there is a link to the right of this page.
158) Searchlight January 2005 p. 16
159) Nick Ryan 'Homeland' Mainstream (Edinburgh) 2003 p.245
160) see 'Homeland' p.75/99 for a start
161) 'Homeland' p.37
162) 'Homeland' p.42
163) Bradford Telegraph & Argus 27/8/04 (Caroline Wright)