Just a quick post to draw attention to an interesting article in the Times Higher Education magazine about the use and misuse of history in the pursuit of ‘Lessons’ and in particular the manipulation of ‘bad history’ at the hand of public officials (here).
In a week when a lot of us have been wondering how the repellent ideas of Nick Griffin and the BNP and people like Jan Moir of the Daily Mail can gain support in modern Britain, it’s worth thinking about this part of the article:
“Such behaviour is invoked in our own times as ‘medieval’ and people who do such things – in the Balkans in the 1990s, for example – are deemed to be ‘throwbacks’ to another time. In this manner, they are classed as ‘aberrant’, and so can be bracketed and put aside.
“The truth is that, then as now, violence in the streets is inspired by key actors, who act knowingly, and who are informed and often linked up with privileged access to media. There are agents provocateurs – preachers, journalists, politicians – who endorse behaviour by those who respect their authority. So, rather than the product of ‘ignorance’ or ‘age-old hatred’, responsibility for violence ought to be identified along lines of communication and excitation.”
‘Past Mistakes’ Times Higher Education, no 1,918, 2009
The ‘mob’ that vote for the BNP, or the ‘mob’ that support homophobic comment in papers like the Daily Mail are not blameless in their hatred, but they are often manipulated by those espousing false history and downright lies – see this article rebuffing some of Nick Griffins claims (here).
It’s important that people like Nick Griffin are challenged head on in the media, they are the agents provocateurs that need to be exposed as the hypocrites and opportunists that they are. Focusing on the leaders and the commentators won’t solve the problems that allow hateful opinions to flourish, but by doing so some of their ability to exploit and claim legitimacy will be dimmed.