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  Europe
Should We Limit Freedom of Speech?
Protests Greet Nick Griffin’s Appearance on BBC
By Shane Clarke
London Correspondent
BNT leader Nick Griffin

Protesters gathered outside the BBC television centre in London today to express their anger at BNP leader Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time, the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme. This raises the question – should freedom of speech be limited?

Nick Griffin is the leader of the BNP – British National Party, a far-right wing political party notorious for its racist, fascist standpoint. At the same time, he is a duly-elected MEP representing the BNP, as voted for by the people within his constituency. So, he is a valid, legitimate, member of the European Parliament.

Without a doubt, the BNP’s views are repugnant – morally, ethically, democratically and so on. Their manifesto is one of racial intolerance and somewhat extreme, occasionally nonsensical views. But does this mean we should limit their freedom of expression? Does this mean we should say to the million people in Britain who voted for them, “Hey! Your vote doesn’t count because you voted for the bad people!”?

It is a quandary for everyone who values civil liberties because, on the one hand, we have a party reminiscent of the Nazis, but on the other, can we really seek to deny them the right to express their views simply because we disagree with them? We are quick to condemn the people of Islam for taking offence at cartoons of Allah, shouting that everyone has the right to express themselves and that they shouldn’t be so quick to take offence, and then we turn around and do the same thing. Is it not a little hypocritical?

I have sat and watched protestors and commentators talking about Nick Griffin today, and they have said a lot of sensible things – there is no room in modern society for racism, no one wants a dictatorship, and there is certainly no place in government for a party of fascist thugs. However, I must insert one note of caution at a remark that I have heard over and over today. Commentators and protestors have been telling how our grandfathers fought and died in the Second World War to defeat fascism. WRONG! They fought and died to defeat Hitler. I would remind these people that it was our grandfathers that used to laugh at racist comedians like Bernard Manning and Jim Davidson, who enjoyed racist entertainment programmes like the Black and White Minstrel Show, Til Death Us Do Part, and Love Thy Neighbour. It was our grandfathers who used to marginalise minority employees at work.

It is the modern generation that has really come to grips with the evil that is racism. It is the modern generation’s responsibility to stamp it out in all of its forms. However, should that be done by restricting freedom of speech and people’s civil liberties? I don’t think so.

The only way to defeat the cancer that is far-right extremism is to have people like Nick Griffin appear on programmes like Question Time and expose them for what they are. Let them have their say, and let people see for themselves what small-minded people they are.

Remember the story of Chicken Licken, who thought the sky was falling because an acorn fell on his head. Through word of mouth he convinced all his friends that the sky was falling, but when they saw the reality, they saw the way things really were. Word of mouth had made something seem bigger than it really was, but when people saw it for themselves, they realised how tiny and insignificant the reality was.



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Shane Clarke serves as London Correspondent for The Seoul Times. He has been involved in humanitarian work for numerous years. He’s also a freelance management consultant. Having completed an honors degree in Law at Wolverhampton University, he then moved on to an MBA at Warwick Business School. He’s heavily involved in the fight against international parental child abduction to Japan.

 

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