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By Jason Michael
Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has pulled out of the November News Xchange media conference because the BBC sprang it on her that she would be sharing the platform with right-wing media personality and erstwhile Trump administration eminence grise Steve Bannon. Commenting on her decision Ms Sturgeon stated on social media:
I believe passionately in free speech but as [First Minister] I have to make balanced judgements – and I will not be part of any process that risks legitimising or normalising far right, racist views. I regret that the BBC has put me and others in this position.
We have every reason to believe, having few reasons now to trust the BBC, that the decision to reschedule Mr Bannon was an attempt by BBC bosses to tarnish the solid reputation Ms Sturgeon has for progressive politics and tolerance. Since his election as leader of the British unionist Labour Party, the BBC has continually used Jeremy Corbyn’s associations with Palestinian and Irish Republican leaders as a stick with which to beat him. Putting the Scottish First Minister on the same platform as a key US Alt-Right influencer must then be viewed as a ploy to line her up for the same set piece for future political attacks. This alone was reason enough for Ms Sturgeon to give the conference as wide a berth as possible, but she has another reason.
Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) October 20, 2018
Steve Bannon is a Nazi. Let’s not beat about the bush or be overly cautious about saying this; he is a Nazi. The moment we say this there will always be some quasi-intellectual objection to the use of this descriptor, invariably demanding that we do not use “Nazi” as a lazy catch-all term for people on the right with whom we disagree. The objection will also come with the insistence that Nazis must be accompanied by jack boots, repression, and death camps, and the criticism that its use disrespects the victims of the “real Nazis.” Let’s put that to bed right now.
Such comments come from racist enablers, and like all bampots with an opinion on the internet they have latched on to something of a point; these are not “real Nazis” – a broken clock is right twice a day. “Real Nazis” of the historical variety were members of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei – or the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) – between 1920 and 1945, when it was finally rendered kaput with the allied victory in World War II. Steve Bannon is not and never has been a member of the NSDAP and so therefore is not a Nazi in that historically pedantic sense. But Nazism, in perfectly legitimate modern parlance, describes the racist right-wing authoritarian ideology that gave rise to the Nazis in the early decades of the twentieth century, and which still gives rise to racist right-wing authoritarian movements today – movements like the so-called Alt-Right. Calling Steve Bannon a Nazi is a handy and accurate shorthand for the ideology he espouses and promotes. It is perfectly justifiable to call him a Nazi.
Neither does this argument that “real Nazis” must be accompanied by jack boots and extermination centres hold much water – not even historically. The Nazis were in existence as a party with a racist right-wing authoritarian ideology long before the formation of the SA and the SS, long before Hitler came to power (even before he was a party member), and long before the first concentration camps and death camps were opened. The ghastlier artefacts of historical Nazism – Dachau and Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Gestapo, and the SS-Einsatzgruppen – are not what made the Nazis Nazis. Nazis were Nazis because of their pernicious ideology and their desire to implement this ideology through taking control of the state and limiting the rights of others. This perfectly describes the ideology of Steve Bannon and the Alt-Right in the United States and their political ambitions and successes. It perfectly describes similar people and groups on the far-right in the United Kingdom.
Bannon has not been "no platformed". He still has the platform. He has not been invited so the platform is still hi… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
olwen🏴mcg🏴 (@olwenmcg) October 23, 2018
Why was it right for Nicola Sturgeon to pull out of this trap event? Ms Sturgeon is not an ordinary citizen. As the elected First Minister she is the first citizen of Scotland, her office bears the dignity of state and democratic power – something Steve Bannon does not have. When the office of any nation’s elected leader is used as a foil for the opinions of others it lends those opinions legitimacy, the right to be heard as equal opinions as those of the elected. Bannon has not been elected in Scotland and neither has anyone sharing his diseased racist opinions. He may have the right to free speech, but he does not have the right to be heard or to be listened to – least of all by the First Minister. Neither he nor the racist right-wing have earned that right in our country.
In sharing a platform with Bannon the First Ministerial officeholder will, as Nicola Sturgeon has said, risk legitimising or normalising him and his dangerous and unwelcome opinion. If he is good enough to be listened to and addressed by the First Minister, it will be assumed, he and his noxious ideas are worth our attention. They are not. It beggars belief, quite frankly, that the BBC – the British state broadcaster – has seen fit to invite this man to speak. His past association with the US President and the Trump administration may afford him some measure of acceptability, as a person, but he is a hate preacher, and as a hate preacher he must be cast out the same way the BBC casts out radical Islamist hate preachers and voices of hate and intolerance of every hue. But, sadly, we have come to expect little better from the BBC – itself the media apparatus of a right-wing British government.
Is Stephen Bannon racist?