Saturday, March 13, 2010

Not boycotting those who will not boycott

From time to time little blog spats take place which become heated, personalised disagreements of no interest to anyone outside the blogosphere. I have to say these are the one aspect of the blogging that I have absolutely no time for, and absolutely no interest in. They are tedious in the extreme and only appear political because it is political people who indulge in them. Just this once I'm going to mention one, just to make it clear why I'm not getting involved.

Iain Dale, who is a Tory blogger of some renown, is heavily involved in Total Politics, a magazine that goes out to all sorts of political types. Iain has recently interviewed BNP leader Nick Griffin for the magazine. This gives Griffin a platform and presents him the opportunity to pose as a respectable politician.

This is a bad thing and I wish Iain and Total Politics had not done this, in my view they are playing a dangerous game. However, almost every news source I use has interviewed Griffin and his BNP henchmen at some point so Total Politics is hardly forging new ground here.

However, over at Though Cowards Flinch, they decided this was too much to bear and issued a call for every political blogger to boycott the Total Politics blog awards because the magazine carried the interview. They explicitly do not a call for a boycott of the Guardian, or the BBC or Channel Four News, who have all interviewed Griffin, but target Total Politics because it's small enough to push around and Dale is a Tory.

That's not good enough.

AVPS points out that the boycott achieves the reverse of it's intention; "By advocating action against TP, the TCF comrades have ensured Iain's interview will receive wider circulation than would otherwise be the case. Inadvertently, calling for no platform in this case means Griffin gets a broader platform."

That, in fact, those who issued the call are more interested in emphasising their political differences with a Tory than they are in minimising the amount of publicity the fascists receive. They have ensured that this interview, that they say they wish never happened, is read far more widely than if they had never mentioned it. The success of the boycott call will be judged by how much harm it does a Tory blogger even as it helps the BNP get its message out which, in reality, is a side issue to the call - which is a big part of why I don't trust this initiative.

I don't believe Iain was right to conduct and publish this interview but I've never before heard that it is a principle to no platform or boycott people who don't believe in no platform - I think the idea has always been to try to persuade them they are wrong, something this boycott is not going to do, in fact it will entrench those who oppose no platform in their position.

Blog wars of this kind have nothing to do with real politics even when they work, which this one doesn't. I love Liberal Conspiracy, for example, but its personalised attacks on Iain Dale come across as puerile and tribal, something that I have no interest in and always makes me think less of what is, more generally, an excellent site.

I wont be taking part in the call for boycotting Total Politics. Nor will I be mistaking the fact that I despise Tory ideas for the need to despise individual Tories. The few times I've met Iain Dale I've rather liked him and don't feel the least bit bad about it, I just don't want him running the country is all.

Inventing new principles that we have to boycott people who don't agree with no platform for fascists risks weakening the no platform principle itself. No platform relies upon the idea that we specifically deny a platform to fascists, and only fascists, because of the threat they pose to democratic politics. We do not boycott people because they don't agree with us, at least grown ups don't.


luna17 said...

Nobody is suggesting it is a principle to boycott those who give fascists a platform. It can, however, be an appropriate and effective tactic. In this instance it is fairly obvious why Total Politics is targeted: if lots of left-wing bloggers boycott the blog awards process, it scuppers those awards. It can therefore achieve a result, in a way that promoting a boycott of The Guardian or whoever else couldn't do.

Jim Jepps said...

Which is precisely why I said "The success of the boycott call will be judged by how much harm it does a Tory blogger even as it helps the BNP get its message out which, in reality, is a side issue to the call - which is a big part of why I don't trust this initiative."

Scuppering the Total Politics awards is not 'a result' if it has increased the profile of the Nick Griffin interview, amplifying his voice. There is a complete lack of proportionality in this boycott.

It neither helps contain the BNP nor does it increase the number of people who advocate no platform. Those are the only metrics of success that we should use when assessing an anti-fascist tactic.

Anti-fascism is not a stick to beat the Tories, especially when it helps the BNP get their message out.

James Mackenzie said...

I remember the day the Scottish Green Party conference rejected no platform. It was about to go through until a passionate delegate from the Highlands protested that he would be denied the right to point out the fascists' flaws at hustings. His right to free speech required us not to go down that route, as, he argued, did the tactical arguments.

I'm still convinced, although I would never do what Dale did and Question Time did and actually encourage them.

ModernityBlog said...

Surely the real issue is how we fight the normalisation of the BNP?

How else do we make the case that neofascism should not be normalised.

The alternative is to roll over and accept the BNP as legitimate as the Greens, and that their philosophy and all that follows is legitimate as the Green's (which I don't accept).

We need to keep the pressure up in delegitimising the BNPs' very existence and their views.

Jim Jepps said...

I agree. My issue with the boycott thing is that the focus is actually just trying to get one over on a Tory - which may be a worthy aim at other times but it is a misuse of anti-fascism and no platform.

I think this boycott is a distraction at best from genuine anti-BNP activity.

No platform is about combatting that normalisation - which is why I'm still in favour of it - but it is certainly harder now that all the news agencies have caved in, followed by most mainstream political figures.

claude said...

I love this sentence you wrote:

"Blog wars of this kind have nothing to do with real politics even when they work".

At last someone who said it loud and clear. How refreshing. The real world, alas, could not care less about such "intra-blog" politics.