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A few years ago, Nick Griffin and the BNP were controversially given their first ever mainstream platform when they were invited to take part in the BBC’s Question Time. However, rather than allowing him to publicly embarrass himself by attempting to justify his party’s flawed ideologies in a public arena; the studio audience instead decided to turn it into a pantomime – booing and shouting at every word he said. This immature spectacle had no effect against the British National Party and instead allowed the party and it’s supporters to feel even more alienated than they had been before. All the audience did was re-legitimise the BNP as a political alternative.

The reason that extremist right wing parties thrive is because they appear to offer the only alternative to people who are against the dominant neo-liberal ideology in society. So long as the BNP, the English Defence League and other Neo-Nazi groups are seen to be outside of the mainstream, and are seemingly able to offer the political answer to disillusioned portions of the population, then they will continue to be a stain on the democratic landscape and an embarrassing national shame.

Pushing these extremist groups ‘underground’ (either metaphorically as in public discourse or physically as in the case of Afghan mountains) is precisely what causes them to create horrific events – like the recent massacre in Oslo. This is because these big statements become the only outlet for the expression of their resentment towards mainstream society as legitimate diplomatic paths are closed off to them. The controllers of public discourse keep extremists underground because they are fearful of ‘giving them a platform’; but this just means extremists are more likely to resort to extreme measures.

If Breivik (and the Neo-Nazi network that he claims to be part of) had actually been given a platform in the public arena, then would the massacre have happened? Would they not have been publicly shown to be flawed with their group’s supporting ideology being halted way before they took action on it?

Hitler himself rose to power because he offered the disillusioned workers of inter-war Germany an alternative and it should be remembered that the attempts to repress Hitler in the 20’s actually had the opposite effect as it lead to a virtual strengthening of the German Worker’s Party, the writing of ‘Mein Kampf’ and eventual political domination.

If extremists are pushed underground then they will not be defeated but instead become more resentful and gather momentum. It is only by giving extremists a platform in open debate that their ideals can be disproved and further tragedies can be avoided. We must keep in mind that ideology not something that can be stopped with further security or state intelligence: this is a battle of minds (and minds cannot be seen on CCTV.)

This Article Was Published in ‘Nouse’ (University of York) 30th July 2011

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