Who’s afraid of a neo‑Nazi rock band?

Guy Birchall

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Topics Free Speech

Hope Not Hate has been in the news again this week, after demanding that a neo-Nazi rock band be stopped from performing in Scotland.

White supremacist wailers Bound For Glory were set to bring their brand of thrash-metal fascism — fash-metal, if you like — to an undisclosed Caledonian location.

But the band will not be Sieg Heiling in the Highlands after all: they’ve been forced to cancel their event after the Scottish government and Hope Not Hate both urged home secretary Amber Rudd to ban the Minnesotan bigotry enthusiasts from entering the UK.

Now, most people won’t lose much sleep over a bunch of skinheads losing the opportunity to headbang. However, if you believe in freedom of speech, then you must recognise that neo-Nazis have just as much right to hold a concert as anyone else. This is the point Hope Not Hate always seems to miss.

Hope Not Hate is a woefully misnamed organisation: its lack of ‘hope’ is demonstrated by its view of the public; by its belief that a place like the Gorbals is just one thrash-metal gig away from going a bit Goebbels.

It never seems to learn that the best way to deal with extremists is to let them say what they like. Hope Not Hate vociferously objected to then BNP leader Nick Griffin appearing on Question Time. That would contravene its idiotic practice of ‘No Platforming’ people it disagrees with. It doesn’t realise that No Platforming only ever serves to give certain organisations more power and the allure of danger.

In the end, Griffin’s appearance on Question Time ruined his career: he was shown up to be an idiotic racist unfit to run anything. Within a few years he had lost his seat in the European Parliament, and the leadership of the BNP and the party itself began to eat itself, in that way fanatical groups tend to do.

Let them speak, all of them — the racists, the homophobes, the sexists, the fascists, the Stalinists. Let them all say what they really think and you will find that the vast majority of Brits see them for the idiots they are. You see, unlike Hope Not Hate, I have faith in, and indeed hope for, the British people. So-called anti-fascists, on the other hand, seem to think most of us could be swayed by a bunch of swastika-waving morons and a couple of guitars.

We’re better than that and always have been: even when fascism was sweeping Europe, Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists barely got off the ground. If Hope Not Hate wants to be worthy of that name, it should stop trying to ban people it dislikes. Freedom of speech and open debate are the best means for combatting hatred.

Guy Birchall is a writer based in London.

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Topics Free Speech

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