Yesterday evening I happened across an anti-BNP protest in Birmingham city centre. I’m not entirely sure why they felt the need to protest then – as far as I know there was nothing specifically BNP happening in Brum yesterday. I suspect it was to echo the protest in London where BNP leader Nick Griffin was holding a press conference. Nevertheless given the lack of elected BNP officials in B’ham over say, Stoke, it seemed like an odd choice.
What seemed like an even odder choice was their method of protest. They chanted, the abused and generally they professed their hatred through intimidating and aggressive methods without really educating anyone on why the BNP are racist/fascist/homophobic/sexist/generally reprehensible humans. Sure they said it, but they never once gave examples. They could’ve pointed to comments from prominent BNP supporters that women should enjoy rape, links to the National Front or well-publicised Holocaust denial. For the entire time I was observing I didn’t once hear them tell people why the BNP are bad, only that they are. And the protest in London was worse at echoing the uninformative sentiment.
But what’s the point? Why should ordinary people passing through the city centre believe protesters without evidence? And why should they believe people who act in a manner that echoes one they are fighting against?
Surely the way to argue against a group who you believe will erode democracy, remove free speech and employ violence and interrogation is to not to use their methods as a template to get your message across. Yes, what they propose is nothing short of terrifying, but hounding them out, not giving them a chance to speak and refusing to nobly argue your point and show your point of view is correct can only be viewed as undemocratic and equally oppressive.
The way to get people round to your thinking cannot be to deny the opposing side a voice, that can only serve to drive them underground and make their message more dangerous. And even if you did succeed in stamping out the opposing view through intimidating, what kind of victory is that?