Another day, another unpleasantness on the sole of my metaphorical shoe. Once again Nick Griffin has rolled up and pitched his wagons in a minefield, and sadly none of the ensuing shrapnel has even so much as dented his pride. Shame.
Nick Griffin is a fully-rigged ocean-going horror, but he seems inexorable. This most recent controversy is not before time, and (obviously) I agree with the people who are speaking out against him, but it remains to be seen what lasting impact it will have. In a nutshell, the situation is this: concerned with the attempted association with Armed Forces veterans by the racist, neo-fascist British National Party (that link goes to their homepage and might therefore be NSFW), a group of retired Forces officers led by former Heads of the Army General Sir Mike Jackson and General Sir Richard Dannatt sent a letter to the Times calling on the BNP in general, and Nick Griffin in particular, to “cease and desist” their attempts to associate with veterans’ charities.
The is strong stuff. Seriously strong. Something no-one in the mainstream media seem to have picked up on is the particular import of that phrase “cease and desist”. In the mouth of a military officer, that phrase has roughly the same meaning and threat-level as Dirty Harry, .44 Magnum in hand, saying “Go ahead. Make my day.”
The Generals are not alone. Youtube now hosts two videos, one by Andy McNab, at one stage the highest-decorated serving soldier in the British Army, and another by Simon Weston, survivor of the Sir Galahad fire in the Falklands War, both condemning the BNP. The letter and videos are part of “a campaign against racism and extremism” run by the group Nothing British, who are titling the effort ‘Operation Stolen Valour’.
Nick Griffin is not a smart man by any means, but he has responded with genuinely startling stupidity. In a staggeringly misjudged statement published on the BNP’s website but widely reported elsewhere, he has accused the generals of being no better than, if not actively identical to, Nazi war criminals hanged at Nuremburg in 1945/6.
The internet doesn’t have many rules, but one that has gained a great deal of traction, perhaps even to the extent of general acceptance, is that the first person in an online debate to invoke the Nazis loses the argument by default. This is a now-accepted, modified version of Godwin’s Law, which in its original incarnation stated that “As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1” (there are other arcana surrounding the law: Google ‘Quirk’s Exception’ if you don’t believe me).
Nick Griffin, assuming he doesn’t reload and take aim at his other foot, will be on Question Time tomorrow night. I will be watching with interest. I think he should be given the forum he craves. After all, how are we going to take him apart unless we put him in the arena and sic the wolves on him?
As the “cease and desist” generals might put it: “Ready, aim…”
Time for Zen, to remind us who we ought to support in this debate: