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Should blogs link to the leaked BNP membership list? Probably not

Linking to defamatory material isn’t a good idea, and as Matt Wardman writes:

this scenario exists in the case of the BNP Membership List if a single person is on there by mistake: links will be to a post alleging that x, y or z is a member of the BNP. Bearing in mind that BNP Activists are posting that the list is out of date, and that the current membership is of the order of 6,000, linking to a posting suggesting that 10,000 people or so are BNP members looks a touch perilous.

Anybody else searched for namesakes in the list? Just me, then?

24 replies on “Should blogs link to the leaked BNP membership list? Probably not”

Surely since the BNP is a “valid political party” claiming that someone is a member can’t be defamatory.

I would feel sorry for them if it wasn’t for redwatch.

It’s hard to call. Certainly if you’re a cop, being wrongly accused of BNP membership could lose you your job, so I think that would come under defamation. Not sure about other professions.

As for Redwatch, I agree entirely.

People are already losing their jobs over it. Which is illegal, of course, so we can look forward to some unfair dismissal cases.

Doesn’t matter whether they’re a legitimate political party for the purposes of defamation law, surely. There’s nothing illegal, for instance, about being an obnoxious power-mad manipulative miserly puppy-hating control freak, but plenty of people would sue you if you called them that.

The BNP may be bad, but they’re nowhere near as dangerous as the other parties’ attempts to ban them.

It’s been interesting to watch some of the forum conversations about it. You’ve got people arguing in favour of harassing the people on the list, and the justification seems to be “yeah, it’s wrong, but it’s okay to do it because HITLER WAS WORSE”.

And of course, BNP membership doesn’t necessarily mean they’re in Combat 18.

> Doesn’t matter whether they’re a legitimate political party for the purposes of defamation law, surely.

Depends whether saying “X is in the BNP” is in itself defamatory. I think that depends on context.

>>Which is illegal, of course,

Is it though? If there is a condition in your terms and conditions of employment that you do not actively promote or join any political party and you do so (or fail to declare it) then that is a breach of your terms. This is a well known clause in their contracts. It is also arguably reasonable as it is a conflict of interest. Nobody is saying that they aren’t allowed to vote for the BNP but they aren’t allowed to fund, campaign or otherwise affiliate themselves with the BNP. In certain professions, such as the military or the police, actively supporting any political party would be problematic as these groups are meant to be politically neutral. The BNP is possibly a special case as they are the only “legitimate” political party which advocates that any members of different ethnic groups should be treated differently. In the police especially since they’re constantly being accused of being institutionally racist. Having members of the organisation actively campaigning to change society so that the organisation is allowed to be institutionally racist* is a definite problem.

*The BNP manifesto states that they will rescind all equal rights legislation and make it legal to discriminate on ethnicity.

> The BNP is possibly a special case as they are the only “legitimate” political party which advocates that any members of different ethnic groups should be treated differently.

Er, Labour do that, too. In fact, the idea that different ethnic groups should be treated differently is thoroughly institutionalised in the UK today. Look up the rules for adopting from abroad, for instance.

> If there is a condition in your terms and conditions of employment that you do not actively promote or join any political party

Well, two things. First, any political party? Any police officers about to be sacked for joining Labour? Second, I’d be surprised if there were a clause like that in Talksport Radio’s standard contracts. It’s not only police officers at risk here.

>>Look up the rules for adopting from abroad, for instance.

It’s hardly the same thing though, is it?

I don’t think I said it was the same thing. But you gave a reason why you think the BNP are a special case and that legal sanctions against them are therefore more allowable than legal sanctions against other parties, and that reason simply doesn’t hold up.

That being said, you know what? It’s not bloody far off being the same thing. If you adopt a one-year-old from China, Social Services will instruct you to teach that child everything you can about Chinese history and culture and to seek out other children adopted from China so that your child can meet people they can relate to — the implicit reasoning being that they couldn’t possibly relate to white folk. So the kid has white British parents, speaks English as a first language, is brought up in the UK, has no memories of any other life, and government policy is that they must be treated differently because of their ethnicity — to the extent that they will even refuse to allow prospective parents to adopt the child if they suspect they won’t do enough to emphasise to the child how different they are. As far as I’m aware, the reason for this appallingly racist state of affairs is not that Social Services are run by the BNP.

“It’s not bloody far off being the same thing.”

Once more, the argument of the beard. So, because some elements of adoption law are daft, we can’t criticise a political party that want to ethnically cleanse Britain? That’s a bit like saying “when I had dinner at my friend’s house, he gave me red wine with fish, so he has absolutely no right to complain when he comes round mine and I serve him a turd on a plate”.

A number of employers (including the Police, the NHS and others) require their employees to adhere to a code of conduct that requires commitment to equality and diversity. Being a member of an inherently racist political party is surely at odds with this? If I found out that, say, my Doctor was a member of a political party that wanted all Scots ethnically cleansed from England, I wouldn’t trust him to take a plaster off, never mind prescribe me drugs.

> So, because some elements of adoption law are daft, we can’t criticise a political party that want to ethnically cleanse Britain?

We can’t criticise them? Since when?

McGazz, I disagree with you, about loads and loads of things. I hereby criticise your beliefs. See the way you didn’t just lose your job there?

> a code of conduct that requires commitment to equality and diversity.

I know. That always cracks me up. They’re opposites.

Sorry, had to dash.

I reiterate that at least one DJ has lost his job so far. He had no sort of working-with-the-public or upholding-justice type remit. He also had a very good excuse, not that he should need one.

I have no problem with a law forbidding the police from joining any political party (except that such a law is useless, as they can always help anonymously if they really want to). But I have no doubt whatsoever that there are British police officers in both the Labour and Conservative Parties, and I’ll not hold my breath waiting for that scandal to hit the headlines.

And the point of my response to David is that it is the political and social norm in this country to treat different ethnic groups differently. If you want to come up with a reason why the BNP should be an exception to various rules, that one don’t cut it. I never said there was no possibility of finding any others.

>>I have no problem with a law forbidding the police from joining any political party

We’re not really disagreeing then? I questioned whether it was necessarily illegal to fire someone because of this and it appears that it isn’t, in some cases and is in others.

Well, firstly, I said “People are already losing their jobs over it.” You and McGazz chose to interpret “People” as “Police officers and absolutely no-one else”. Rod Lucas is not a police officer and currently makes up 50% of the people who’ve lost their jobs (or as good as) over this.

Secondly, as far as I can see, there is no law forbidding the police from joining any political party, which I would have no problem with. There’s a law (or possibly just a policy or a regulation or something — whatever) forbidding them from joining the BNP while allowing them to join other parties. Since those other parties are the ones who created that regulation, I have a big fucking problem with that. Does no-one else see any problem at all with the principle that if Party A gets into government they can ban the police force from joining or supporting Party B?

And I disagree with you that, if you want a reason why the BNP should be an exception to the rules that govern other parties and membership thereof, that the fact that they treat people differently based on ethnicity isn’t a good enough reason, as Labour and the Tories currently both also do that, as do many of our public services.

> McGazz, I disagree with you, about loads and loads of things. I hereby criticise your beliefs.

And if you had a disagreement with a friend over one issue – would you consider him/her “not bloody far off being McGazz”?

> Does no-one else see any problem at all with the principle that if Party A gets into government they can ban the police force from joining or supporting Party B?

That’s not really accurate. Police Officers are free to join Party B, Party C, Party D or Party E – just not Party F, as they’re a bunch of openly racist cranks. I doubt Party B, C, etc would change that rule if they came to power. Out of interest, do you think members of, say, an Islamic fundamentalist political party should be able to join the police? Should Loyalist extremists be allowed to join the PSNI?

> Out of interest, do you think members of, say, an Islamic fundamentalist political party should be able to join the police? Should Loyalist extremists be allowed to join the PSNI?

> I have no problem with a law forbidding the police from joining any political party

Do keep up.

> I doubt Party B, C, etc would change that rule if they came to power.

Oh, well, as long as you doubt it, that’s fine. I’ll add it to the list of things that everyone doubted or flat-out denied would ever happen: ID cards, presumption of guilt, abolition of juries, murderers getting let out after three or four years, government crack-down on people having a glass of wine of an evening, state employees approaching members of the public to measure their waists and then tell them they’re obese, state vetting of pub menus, smokers being denied NHS treatment….

In the law, precedent is everything. If Party B were to try to ban the police from joining Party C, and there were a legal challenge, that legal challenge would run straight into the above precedent and founder. Because, as with all these things, the Government have made sure they set the precedent over something that all right-thinking people approve of.

This is really a fascinating topic – as an American this is something I’ve never had to think about in my day to day life. As far as I know, the police, military, teachers, nurses, docs, chemical biologists, nuclear physicists are free in the U.S. to belong to the KKK or Neo-Nazy party or any radical group they like as long as it never is brought into the workplace. You’re free to worship and practice what you like on your own time, without wearing company logos to your “rally” or whatever and of course, do not do anything illegal.

My line of work is fairly benign so I believe I can wear KKK garb or a Nazi uniform to work and the worst that can happen to me at the office (aside from a beating in the street after work) is a dress code violation (not allowed to wear logo garments or political statements or bed sheets). It’d be asinine for a career move but I can do it. But there are some people I know in all those aforementioned careers are openly rabid racists with radical or hateful political views that I find to be disgusting. The bottom line in the US is that what becomes grounds for dismissal or arrest is when you’ve been convicted of specific illegal actions be they misdemeanors or treason. We can’t fire people because we suspect they love Pakistan more than the U.S. I believe Harvard University has on staff one of Osama Bin Laden’s brothers (not full brother naturally). We have muslims serving in Iraq (as does the UK I’m sure) and surely in combat there are moments of conflict of interest.

In a complete contradiction of what I just said, I personally think you’re an idiot if you commit your name to a political party because that information can be leaked out by anyone at any time. I’m listed as independent despite my clear (if you know me) affiliation with one party. I do that because there’s enough history in the world to know that a) declaring a party is pretty meaningless and b) that declaration can come back to bite you on the ass in ways far more diabolical than being sacked and c) information will get leaked, it always does.

I’m really tired so if this makes no sense, I’ll take the heat for it but I think what I’m trying to say is – does it even matter?

> In the law, precedent is everything.

So, just to be clear, you’re saying that it’s completely possible that a future Conservative government will pass a law banning the police from being members of the Labour Party (or any other political group), and any appeal against it will fail purely because of the current rules about the BNP? The legal establishment will all agree that a combination of precedent and a crap, continuum fallacy argument makes it impossible to argue with it?

Oh, no. The Conservatives and Labour get on very nicely and happily acknowledge each other as the establishment. But would the precedent by used against any splinter parties in order to keep them out of the club? Well, yes, I don’t think that’s even slightly far-fetched. Would the Tories ban membership of UKIP by portraying them as just as racist as the BNP? Yes, I think they’d love to.

Furthermore…. Just to be clear, you’re saying that it’s completely possible that a future Labour government will pass a law banning the display of any sort of political slogan near the Houses of Parliament, and the legal establishment will allow this? Or that a future Labour government will increase state surveillance of the public until the only nation watched more than the British are the North Koreans? Or that a future Labour government will get rid of the right to trial by jury because it’s inconvenient? Or that a future Labour government would see people given criminal records for slightly overfilling their bins? A dozen years ago, wouldn’t anyone who’d suggested these things have been accused of either propagandistic slander or paranoid borderline insanity? I am no longer surprised by anything any government might try, and I’m unconvinced by the “But that’s absurd!” argument.

> As far as I know, the police, military, teachers, nurses, docs, chemical biologists, nuclear physicists are free in the U.S. to belong to the KKK or Neo-Nazy party or any radical group they like as long as it never is brought into the workplace.

Yeah, that’s how it should be. While I wouldn’t mind the police being banned from joining any party, I’d have even less problem with them not.

I don’t care if a police officer is racist. I care whether he acts racistly. And I don’t believe that racists can’t contain themselves and act non-racistly at work, because I’ve had to do all sorts of things at work over the years that I strongly disagree with or dislike. That’s the nature of work: being nice to people you can’t stand in return for money.

Inevitably, the BNP has something to say on this one:

http://bnp.org.uk/2008/11/bnp-policemen-no-way-al-qaeda-policemen-no-problem/

In fact, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), the same body that says they are searching high and low for BNP members in the force, as reported above, confirmed that officers convicted of serious crimes while serving could remain in their posts.
So who would you rather have protecting you? Extremist Muslims who advocate beheadings and bombings as justified crime prevention tactics? Or a police officer who joins a political party that has at the heart of its manifesto taking back the streets from thugs, yobs and drug users?

As much as I loathe the BNP, I do think the rule should either apply to all political parties, or none of them. For as long as the BNP is a legitimate political party (legally speaking) then it’s technically no different from other things I personally find repellent, such as evangelical religious groups. Making an exception of the BNP just plays into their hands.

Sorry, me again. What I mean is, we can have BNP councillors – who, presumably, are involved in decisions about local policing, about spending that may influence race relations, etc etc etc. If that’s acceptable, why is it unacceptable to have BNP police? Membership of the BNP doesn’t necessarily mean somebody’s anything other than a bit simple, and banning it won’t stop racists from being cops.

I do think that whether it’s evangelical pharmacists or BNP cops, the rule should be Do Your Fucking Job. Break that and you’re out, but if you want to be a crazed bigot on your own time – and it doesn’t directly impact on your job, so for example marching with the local skins through the area you police, or refusing to investigate a burglary because all property is theft, would count as a “you’re a dick, here’s your P45” case – then it’s not your employer’s business.

> the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), the same body that says they are searching high and low for BNP members in the force, as reported above, confirmed that officers convicted of serious crimes while serving could remain in their posts.

That’s a perfect example of these measures playing into the BNP’s hands. What ACPO have done is to put the BNP in a position where it’s pretty much impossible to deny that they’ve got a bloody good point.

Related, sort of: I was in BBC Scotland the other morning and sat in front of their text message system, which shows listeners’ incoming messages. The programme immediately prior to MacAulay & Co was about alternatives to prison, so the texts were still up – and I reckon a significant majority were to the right of the BNP. Bring back hanging for people who look a bit funny, that kind of thing. Tony K’s right when he calls that programme the Angry Pensioners Show, but it was alarming to see just how angry said pensioners were.

And now the Government have had a member of the Opposition front bench arrested and harassed for, er, opposing the Government. In a mere two weeks, my cynicism has been proven insufficient.

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