UKIP isn’t even being subtle now – if it ever was. The BBC last night (3rd February 2016) aired a UKIP party political broadcast. Now firstly I want to clarify I have no issue with UKIP airing political broadcasts. Though I completely disagree with their (hidden) policy positions regarding privatising the NHS , its closeness to hedge-funds and some thoroughly dodgy donors – Arron Banks , Richard Desmond & other unsavoury fat-cats & wealthy individuals (who’s interests in using UKIP is in no way as a vehicle for their own personal/business ambitions, but totally out of altruism, and in no way to incite anger amongst working class voters, offering a simplistic analysis of the problems they face and providing a convenient scapegoat in the European Union (EU) & ‘immigrants’ ect to distract from the activities of said wealthy donors)…..sorry lost my train of thought….
The political party broadcast……so I disagree with UKIP entirely – but to use the quote attributed to Voltaire:
I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
However this does not, in my book, extend to racism. My issue was not with the act of broadcasting a UKIP video itself, rather its content. Simply put the broadcast was racist. There is not other way to word it. To be melodramatic and perhaps invoke Godwin’s law I would describe it as ‘racist propaganda’. The broadcast focused on the potential situation of Turkey joining the EU and what this would mean for Britain. It was presented by Alexandra Philips, who holds the lofty office of ‘Head of Media for Nigel Farage’. It was clearly was intended to look as if it was an objective, factual analysis of the merits of Turkeys possible membership – however it was far from this. To me it seemed discriminatory and xenophobic to focus on entirely on Turkey. The video to me is yet another example of the scapegoating of the ‘outsider’ – regardless of the pros & cons of Turkey potentially joining the EU – to frame this important issue simplistically and make use of the rhetoric of fear was simply disgusting.
The tone of the video and the way it was edited (in one frame statistics about Islam in the next headlines about suicide bombings) was racist. It singled out the Turkish people as some problematic outsiders to be feared, despised and kept out. The video was also by inference discriminatory towards Islam (the religion of approximately 97 -99% of Turkish population). The four-minute UKIP advertisement warned about the number of ‘Islamic imam schools’ in Turkey, highlighting the shrinking number of Christians, showing a succession of images of minarets.
The central reasoning of the video appeared to be framed around Turkish Islamic societal structures, history & culture as a problem regarding integration and membership of the EU – rather than the authoritarianism & appalling human rights record of its government. This was deliberately divisive with the intention to misinform. To focus singularly on Turkey in a negative manner & thus by inference Islam (its largest religion) is appalling. Firstly, the broadcast attempted to assert this as the only issue regarding any possibly negative externalities of Turkey’s membership of the EU (ignoring entirely the authoritarian policies of its government). Second the advertisement was framed as such to be presenting an idea that Turkey being a majority Muslim nation was problematic in itself, and reason enough for it not to be in the EU. This is ‘islamophobic‘.
Everyone is used to the poisonous rhetoric of Ukip, working to play one community off against another but this takes it to another level …. Ukip is using a party political broadcast, that means that they have brought the BBC and C4 into this. The use of minarets [is] purely a coded nudge and a wink to their supporters. This is abhorrent to many liberally minded people – Tim Farron, Leader of the Liberal Democrats
Now, some people might ‘articulate’ (laughable I know) an argument against my view along the lines of this:
First, I honestly cannot be bothered to unpack & deal with how everything with the ‘UKIP, common sense, we want our country back, I’m not racist but...’ brigade is framed in terms of colour. It singled out the Turkish people and painted them in a negative light with the clear intent to sow fear, misinform & divide.
Second, in reference to that ‘sharp, informed’ rebuttal – I would direct such individuals attention to the United Nations. For example in March 2007, the UNHRC adopted a resolution entitled ‘Combating Defamation of Religions‘. On 30 March 2007, the UNHRC adopted a resolution entitled ‘Elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief‘. This resolution called upon the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief (Doudou Diène) to report on this issue for the Human Rights Council.
In August 2007 Diène, reported to the General Assembly:
…on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance on the manifestations of defamation of religions and in particular on the serious implications of Islamophobia on the enjoyment of all rights…
In line with this the entire broadcast can be seen as a tirade of discriminatory, vile & simplistic sound-bite arguments, presented as fact. The reality of this video was for racism, xenophobia and bigotry to be given a platform at the licence fee payers expense. Whatever your views regarding the pros and cons of the EU & ‘euro-scepticism‘ – the use of scapegoats, the use of imagined enemies & fear should not be the methods in use by those arguing for ‘Brexit’. Apparently, though yet unconfirmed, a few UKIP bigwigs weren’t very happy with the broadcast…. It doesn’t reflect well on the party. It undermines any validity their critique of the EU might hold.
Further, in broadcasting this content, the BBC provided bigoted, divisive, scaremongering with a national platform given its millions of viewers. Yes, racism needs to be challenged in the open & critiqued publicly in order to combat it. And as I have emphasised from the beginning of this article, the issue is not with a UKIP party political broadcast, but its bigoted discriminatory content. The only argument the UKIP broadcast held regarding Turkeys membership was that as Turkey was a majority Muslim nation and this was ‘bad’, something to be feared and by implication a threat. The form of irrational, ill-informed xenophobia has no place on the BBC – an institution which is meant to represent the best elements of ‘British values’ inclusiveness, fairness & equality – not hatred & prejudice.
By Frederick Antonio Gallucci | International Law LLM | @gibblegbble