Hmm. I’ve just seen a rather disturbing interview on Newsnight with Kirsty Wark attempting to rip Tommy Robinson limb from limb. Now in my view, Robinson, who used to be the spokesman for the English Defence League, is a deeply unpleasant character. He comes across as a garrulous bully, and I think his views are ghastly, but, he royally spanked Wark’s arse this evening! It was hideous, car crash television. Wark obviously felt like some sort of moral champion with right on her side, and was therefore hideously under-prepared. She wanted Robinson to take responsibility for the attack on the mosque in Finsbury Park last year, because Darren Osbourne, who drove his white van into a group of innocent Muslims, had apparently googled speeches by Robinson countless times in the weeks running up to the attack. The online material which Wark was attempting to pin onto Robinson was factually flawed. She spoke obsessively about the “speedy radicalisation of the far right” but refused to see that three Muslim terrorist attacks in short succession (one in Manchester and two in London) had played any part in Osbourne’s growing anger. She quoted texts out of context for the sake of sensational telly, and then sat, mortified, as Robinson reminded her that it was actually watching a BBC documentary about Rochdale which had sewn the attack’s initial seed. He then was able to freely claim the the BBC had systematically refused to report any stories pertaining to right wing demonstrations. Wark, I’m afraid, came across as smug and then utterly flustered when her spurious line of questioning was entirely undermined. We deserve much better journalism than that - particularly in these deeply sensitive times.
The problem is that, in order to maintain a sense of democracy in this country, we actively need far right leaders and spokespeople, just as we need the so-called “loony left” and the myriad politicians whose views sit somewhere in between. Those are the uncomfortable facts. Or maybe they’re the facts we need to celebrate? Someone will alway stand up to express or fathom the inner thoughts of people in this county, and by attempting to silence anyone, you run the risk of turning them into martyrs. Unless you can, by law, prove that someone is practicing hate crime, there’s actually nothing you can do to silence his or her opinion. And there shouldn’t be. The joy about living in the UK is that we have freedom of speech. I don’t agree with a great deal of what I read in the Daily Mail, or watch on that ghastly Loose Women show (which I’m now boycotting). I regularly, and sometimes angrily challenge the nonsense which gets spouted, just as many people who read this blog will disagree with what I write, and may well contact me to tell me so. But we can’t and must not silence views that we simply don’t agree with, or else those views go underground where they seethe and expand. By all means attempt to change someone’s mind. By all means rail and rant about what they say, but do not hide behind the smug firewall which tells you that everything is black and white, and that anyone whose beliefs don’t fit into a narrow, Liberal viewpoint is evil and must be silenced. This is what, I fear, Wark was doing this evening. And because of this, she royally lost, and many people with far right views in this country did a little celebratory dance.