Okay, so the Mayoral election result narked me off. Big surprise there. Finding out the results on Friday evening made me feel like I was in the prologue of a dystopian science fiction novel about how evil baddies take over Government and get to use fucking stupid laws enacted by the previous administration to oppress and terrify the population. Like that one with that bloke kneeling in front of a half buried Statue of Liberty at the end, screaming 'You maniacs! You blew it all up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!' Gulliver's Travels, I think it was.
More worrying than the oaf who became Mayor is the frankly bizarre result of the BNP managing to get someone elected to the Assembly. If there's anything that'll convince me of the possibility of one day standing in front of Max Von Sydow as he swishes a riding crop and barks that, 'There can be no escape!' from somewhere or other, this is it.
Having said that, watching his acceptance speech felt a little more like watching the shouty pissed up bloke on the tube swinging his carrier bag and frothing at the mouth than the icy, clipped Von Sydow, and it has contributed to some people suggesting that we should just allow them to show exactly what a bunch of nutters they are.
But I'm not convinced. Part of the reason Barnbrook looked like such a tit is because he isn't experienced in making this sort of speech to what will inevitably turn out to be a largely hostile crowd. Giving him and his sort more experience might lead to them getting better at it. It's only a matter of time before someone whispers to Barnbrook, 'Psst! Stop ranting like a shouty nutter. If you want people to think you're really concerned and hard done by rather than just a nazi - act like it. And drop the gimmick of wearing a suit exactly the same shade as a Hitler Youth uniform. You arse.' Then where would we be?
Fair enough - we'd probably be in the same position as people who turned up at the zoo to laugh at chimps sticking their fingers up their bum only to find that the chimps with their fingers up their bum had combed their hair - but maybe not.
The BNP have been relatively successful in sanitising their image recently. They're very good at overrunning newspaper and BBC message boards with their 'I'm just a normal person like you and I went to a BNP meeting and they were all normal people like you too' messages that get people looking at the BNP website. The site itself is pretty sanitised - you'll only find a summary manifesto with most of the bonkers stuff taken out, and you'll find what purports to be a list of answers to criticisms, which will satisfy less sceptical readers.
It's quite easy for them to tell people they're not racist and point them toward a page on their site that says 'the BNP isn't racist' as proof, especially since they've removed the most overtly racist stuff and replaced it with vague question begging pronouncements. We're unlikely to be in the position of seeing Dimbleby skewering Nick Griffin with words taken from the BNP site again - at least in the near future. Sure, there's some stuff still on the site there - like the claim that Baghdad is different from other places because of the genes of the people who live there - but it's disappearing gradually.
At the moment, Barnbrook is probably being roundly congratulated for his speech for mentioning Londoners of all colours and not accidentally blurting the word 'coon', but that will change the more practice they get.
There's another important thing to remember here. It's that the BNP lie. No, really. You only have to look at their old Press Officer admitting he'd have used different language to explain that black people will grow up with low IQ and end up mugging you if he knew he was being recorded - or Mark Collett's reaction to being told he'd been filmed telling a documentary maker that his children would have been better off living in Nazi Germany in Young, Nazi and Proud to see that. Giving them the space to show their true colours also gives them the space to lie.
This is something the actual Nazis took advantage of in Germany in the 1930s. The Nazi Conscience by Claudia Koonz is an excellent book that charts how the Nazis tailored their message for specific audiences, giving the stormtrooper types what they wanted in 'Der Sturmer', the SS something more outwardly sophisticated in 'Das Schwarze Korps' and distributing copies of 'Mein Kampf' with the more inflammatory references to Jews taken out. Hitler himself avoided more overt anti-semetic pronouncements for years - which allowed him to be painted as less radical than some of his followers.
The BNP are doing something similar now. They are helped to some extent by the tabloids who set things up for them. Barnbrook wouldn't have been able to growl about 'perlrdgl cructnuss' if the tabloids hadn't spent so many years spoonfeeding us all stories about PC Gone Mad that almost inevitably turn out to be bollocks. He wouldn't have found it quite so easy to slur about money going to minority groups if papers like the Mail didn't do things like take reports that show that immigrants don't get a disproportionate share of local authority housing and turn them into scare stories about the amount of immigrants who get local authority housing. With that done for them, the BNP don't have to a massive amount themselves.
It's nice that they're too rubbish to manage even than that right now, but with practice, we could end up seeing something similar to the situation of creationists debating scientists in the US. Often, creationists come out on top in these debates despite having the weakest argument because they've discovered a few techniques that work - like asking a question that takes two seconds to ask, but an absolute age to answer. Like bussing in sympathetic audiences. Like regurgitating utterly discredited outright lies that the audience might not have heard before.
Saying that we should defeat the BNP's arguments is all well and good, and I agree. But we do need to remember that we're talking about people who aren't arguing in good faith, and are desperately trying to hide their real motives. I was a little unimpressed with the 'You're fired!' Hope Not Hate leaflets handed out at tube stations this year. They reproduced old arguments that the BNP have already attempted to counter, like stating the BNP don't support the England football team. What they should have done is actually point out the techniques the BNP use to fool people and identify how they work - like posting to message boards posing as normal people, or including supposed rebittals to critics on their website that actually lie even more*. Point out the bits where they expose themselves as racist - like the argument that Baghdad is the way it is because of the genes of its inhabitants (which has the added bonus of exposing their pretence that they're only arguing against the religion of Islam).
It's a little naive to expect them to remain a bunch of wuuurghing shouty men forever, and we should be prepared for gradual improvement.
And besides, if looking like a ginormous bell-end was a barrier to being elected, we'd have a different mayor.
*There's a section that attempts to explain their 'Africans for Essex' lies which includes another lie about the numbers of Africans who took advantage of a council rehousing scheme. See this discussion in the comments on this post over at Eric the Fish for more.