Sunday, 21 October 2012

From threat to farce in a tweet

Does anybody remember Nick Griffin? For a while there the BNP supremo was, almost, a big shot. He scandalised the chattering classes by appearing on Question Time and even managed to win a seat in the European Parliament.

It didn’t last though, the media rapidly lost interest in his peculiar brand of sweaty belligerence, his party performed badly in the 2010 elections and has been haemorrhaging members and councillors ever since. Like many people who used to be someone and now have too much time on their hands Mr Griffin has found a home for himself on Twitter.

This week his antics brought him back into the public eye when he used the social networking site to publicise the address of Michael Black and John Morgan, the gay couple who have had the ruling that they were treated unfairly by the Christian owners of a B&B who refused to rent them a double room upheld by a court of law. Mr Griffin tweeted ominously that a ‘British Justice team’ would be visiting the couple to ‘give them a bit of drama’ and encouraged supporters to protest outside their house.

To their credit the nation’s Twitter users either ignored Griffin completely or condemned his comments. As Michael Black told the public reaction seemed to be ‘overwhelmingly in support of our stand against discrimination’, he added that the ‘vast majority’ of people in the UK had long since seen ‘what an idiot Nick Griffin is and reject his views.’

Quite so, the country has moved on and embraced difference as a positive thing; everyone apart from Nick Griffin and his kind that is. Whatever they were doing though it certainly wasn’t protesting in the streets, maybe there was something good on television.

The only protest was on Twitter against the crass comments made by Nick Griffin, his account was, all too briefly, suspended and Cambridgeshire police are launching an investigation. I doubt he has done himself many favours in the light of this by tweeting ‘if you get burgled and police don’t want to know, just tweet something Peter Tatchell can claim to be offensive. Plod will be round in minutes.’ Indeed he will, hopefully to feel your collar Nick.

It is more than a little ironic that this self appointed spokesman for the silent majority has chosen to comment on British justice because that is just what this issue shows in action. Both sides had the opportunity to put their case, the evidence was weighed against the law and a decision reached, some people aren’t very happy about that decision, but that’s just how it goes; you can’t win em all.

Personally I think the court got it right, the owners of the B&B are, of course, perfectly free to live by their religious values, but they have no right to impose those values on other people who either don’t share their faith or interpret its teachings differently. If they struggled so much with the idea that people live valid lives that are different to their own maybe they shouldn’t have gone into a different line of business.

Nick Griffin and the Christian B&B owners, who are I imagine not all that pleased to have attracted his support, may not like it but public attitudes towards sexuality have changed dramatically over that past couple of decades and that is a good thing. We don’t live in a utopia of acceptance and equality, but these days it is the bigots who feel like outcasts.

Bigots like Nick Griffin who want to inhabit a world where everyone is a stereotype and anything new or different is something to be feared. That sort of thinking is an invitation to live a monochrome life; most people these days prefer to embrace the rainbow of possibility that comes with accepting that we are all, as the song says, what we are and that life is better and more fulfilling if we try to get along.

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