UK: Of Fascists and Folk Devils

guardian.co.uk

Far-right politicians - not to mention ballerinas - receive a disproportionate amount of media coverage in this country

Alastair Harper
December 22, 2007

This Christmas seems to be one of unexpected love stories for all our merry British fascists. Simone Clarke, the first member of the English National Ballet to introduce the goosestep to Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, is to marry her BNP councillor boyfriend; at the same time, Channel 4 is showing a documentary on the black shirts' favourite society girl, Unity Mitford, and her attempts to outdo her big sister Diana - who'd only bagged Oswald Mosley - by going for the Fuhrer himself.

Clarke and her fiance Richard Barnbrook actually got together as a direct result of this newspaper, since it was an investigative story in the Guardian exactly a year ago that revealed Clarke's BNP membership. The journalist Ian Cobain is currently awaiting his invitation to the wedding. Barnbrook met his future wife at the stage door when he was sent along with a bunch of flowers on behalf of the party, which begs the question; what kind of flowers do fascists go for? White lilies has to be a contender.

Channel 4 is hoping to wow Britain by building on the work of the New Statesman's political editor Martin Bright, who followed a lead to find out if Unity secretly had Hitler's love child in a English "maternity home for the gentry". Bright admits himself that "there were too many loose ends for a news story and my research sat in my notebooks until this year when I mentioned it to Mark Roberts, an executive from Channel 4, who agreed to put the story on film."

So, in other words, as much respect as I have for Martin Bright's journalism and editing (this respect deriving from his always sending friendly emails when he doesn't want my articles), the whole thing looks like it's going to be typical bollocks melodrama history: "All this story might be as true as a blue arse growing out the side of the moon. But then it might not. Nobody knows if Hitler's baby is walking among us right now. The evil ticking away inside ready to explode with an almighty blitzkrieg!"

Unity Mitford's known story certainly ends with her dead at age 33, of meningitis caused by her firing a bullet into her own head after Britain went to war with Germany. If her story was made into a film, it should begin with her and her sister Jessica fighting in the playroom of their large country house, Swinbrook, each innocently but desperately trying to outdo the other by scratching swastikas or hammer and sickles - as their respective political inclinations took them - all over the walls. The film would end with the solemn and deluded letter Unity wrote to Hitler before placing the gun to her head. A poetic account of the end of the Real Aristocracy staggering in their last moribund moments towards the new age of extremism. Or The Remains of the Day, in other words.

If the Mitfords lived in the era that ended their form of aristocracy, surely we are already a few generations after extremism came to an end. Sure, a few deluded goons linger on and join the BNP, but then a vague version of the aristocracy still lingers, invited to the odd premiere and even allowed to be photographed for tabloids if they happen to be with real celebrities.

What is odd is how profound and out of proportion the coverage is for movements like the BNP, when compared to the actual threat these small and unimpressive bands of lunatics present to our system of government.

Barnbrook is an "artist, sculptor, teacher and Nationalist" according to his entry on the BNP website. This is a ludicrous idea and requires the whole population of Britain to point and giggle at him until he crawls red-faced into a hole.

Since I was visiting the town anyway, I popped down to see the protest against Nick Griffin and David Irving at the Oxford Union back in November.

There were hundreds there, delighted to be screaming "fascist!" at anyone attending the debate. One group of protesters attempted to charge the police, having declared them collaborators. I noticed that someone's mother had kindly knitted an anarchy symbol on his beanie hat.

The closest the protest came to a clash of ideology was when a drunk, bear of a man took off his top to reveal a small St George's Cross tattooed on his back. He offered to fight anyone for a couple of minutes before a weaselly-looking accomplice arrived just before the police did and shouted at him: "Leave 'em, Wayne. There's work in the morning." It wasn't exactly the battle of Cable Street.

Protesting against a bunch of fringe lunatics like the BNP is a way for people to find an easy scapegoat, some kind of definite, evil-made concrete they can weight themselves against. It makes them think they'd have never fallen for the real deal, never have made the mistake Unity and Diana Mitford and thousands of other British did and begin to think Hitler was a solution.

Perhaps because it is easier to answer yesterday's questions than deal with the murk and moral confusion of any of today's.

http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/alastair_harper/2007/12/of_fascists_and_folk_devils.html

Related:

Five convicted of terror charges are freed
Independent
13 February 2008

... Four of them, Bradford University students, were arrested after London Muslim schoolboy Mohammed Irfan Raja ran away from home in February 2006. He left a note for his parents saying he was going to fight abroad and they would meet again in heaven, the Old Bailey heard last year. ...

Raja was serving two years youth detention, Zafar and Iqbal had been given three years detention, Malik was sent to prison for three years and Butt was given 27 months' detention.

When sentencing, Recorder of London Judge Peter Beaumont said they were preparing to train in Pakistan and then fight in Afghanistan against its allies, which included British soldiers.

All denied having articles for terrorism and said the material, downloaded from various internet sites, was not intended to encourage terrorism or martyrdom.

They denied having extremist views and some said they were researching ideology and other matters.

Allowing their appeals today, Lord Phillips, sitting with Mr Justice Owen and Mr Justice Bean in London, said: "We do not consider that it was made plain to the jury, whether by the prosecution or by the Recorder, that the case that the appellants had to face was that they possessed the extremist material for use in the future to incite the commission of terrorist acts.

"We doubt whether the evidence supported such a case."