“Is it true? Is Nick Griffin now a Ukipper?” tweeted staunch and loyal Tory Walaa Idris (@WalaaIdris), aghast, disgusted and ever so slightly
delighted dismayed by the smeary associational slur (but not so aghast, disgusted and dismayed as those of us who wonder why this failed ex-MEP and bankrupt racist continues to merit so much airtime and so many column inches). “No. Our constitution forbids ex bnp members joining so please nip this particular smear in the bud before you spread falsehoods,” slapped Ukip Stormtrooper Bill Etheridge (@BillDudleyNorth), with all the combat effectiveness merited by Emperor Faragine.
“So you don’t want Nick Griffin’s vote?” taunted Ms Idris for the Dark Side. “Then better let him know – hear he intends to vote and support Ukip.”
This got Dudley-North Bill’s goat a bit, and it became apparent that his armour had been cloned. “Gosh we better start vetting everyone who votes for us to make sure they are a good person then hadn’t we?” he mocked. “Dear oh dear.”
But then the Galactic Ukip Empire mobilised. Deputy Chairman (and formidable media performer) Suzanne Evans (@SuzanneEvans1) waded through her schematics on the Death Star and fired a tractor beam: “Seriously Walaa, research by academic mate of mine found 8/10 Satanists vote Tory. Will you tell them not to?” And she expanded her universe: “Could be more now of course 😉 but less than 2,000 votes in it nationwide according to 2011 census.”
This was far too tempting a statistic not to dig out.
The article to which she refers is ‘Satanism in Britain Today’ by Graham Harvey in the Journal of Contemporary Religion (10:3, 1995). So it’s not so contemporary, but certainly worth a bit of extrapolation. Harvey found that 45 per cent of self-identifying Satanists voted Conservative in the 1992 General Election. But “a member from the Isle of Man.. would have voted Conservative given the opportunity”, which raises potential Satanist support of the Tories to a startling 55 per cent.
Yes, it was a very tiny data set: members of the Temple of Set, the Church of Satan and the Order of the Nine Angles and Dark Lily (not making this up – honestly) were all contacted with a questionnaire and 11 of them responded. The existence of the Northern Order of the Prince (aka the Order of Satanic Templars) could not be corroborated. But that was 11 responses out an estimated 50 (devil-worshippers were fairly thin on the ground in the immediate post-Thatcher years: her light of righteousness obviously kept them at bay). In research terms, a response rate of 22 per to a questionnaire is actually quite impressive.
There are other variables at play, of course. Rather like Conservative Party members, Occultists may have deserted the Tories in droves after John Major began to spread his particular brand of polytheistic paganism. And this was the pre-Ukip era, which, had they existed, might have been the preferred party of choice for all those who read horoscopes, played with Carebears, listened to Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, or enjoyed fantasy visits to Narnia. And it isn’t quite clear what Satanists believe (or do). Not all are into child abuse or sacrificing chickens; not all subscribe to the horns-and-pointy-tail depiction of their supreme deity; and, for many adherents, the correlation between Satan and Set is theologically dubious, not to say a principal cause of schism among them.
But what is interesting is the reason given for Satanists supporting the Conservatives: the party “best represents my own standards of stability and law & order”, explained one. So Satanists incline toward conservatism, presumably because Lucifer himself knows and understands the principles of Natural Law and the preeminence of organic and incremental societal development in accordance with the the traditions and mores of an established culture. But three members voted Labour (remember this was pre-Blair, who did much to re-cast New Labour as the natural party of Law and Order), and one even voted Liberal Democrat. “This should already suggest that the stereotypical Satanic image is inaccurate!” Harvey parenthetically quips.
So, Suzanne Evans isn’t entirely wrong (though she admitted possibly confusing her “8 out of 10” with cat food). The manifest objective is to tarnish Ukip with some sort of endorsement from Nick Griffin, leaving voters to infer more than a whiff of racism permeating its substructures.
But surely democracy is about persuading supporters of one party to vote for another? Provided that you remain true to your core philosophical principles and seek to propagate values consistent with participation in the democratic processes of liberal democracy, what is wrong with trying to attract the votes of those (many thousands) who voted BNP in 2009? There were 943,598 of them. That’s an awful lot of potential racists to right off.
And then there’s the crass assertion that a party must be judged not by its reasonable moderate and enlightened core vote, but by the most extreme, obnoxious, vile and loathsome individuals it might also attracted. If former BNP-ers are a constituency to be written off, why bother trying to court the votes of any who resile from the prevailing orthodoxy of immutable equality? Or is it only the refusal to accept racial equality that is beyond the pale?
Judging a political party by its most eccentric supporters or infamous apologists is as unintelligent as judging a blog by its comment thread. Just because people with “silly monnikers.. sound off in a way they never would at work or at home (and) reinforce the worst aspects of their characters.. (in) a seething mass of babyish sarcasm ” (© Bishop Alan Wilson), the assertion is that all ensuing conversation below the line either springs from the prejudices or is endorsed by the mind of the author. And so the most obsessive, aggressive, unpleasant and hyper-critical who infest a blog chat-thread become the yardstick by which the blog’s arguments are judged. If the barometer registers even slight Islamophobia, racism, homophobia or misogyny, and such comments are not somehow monitored, rebuked or censored, the assertion is that these are the accurate readings of the blog’s pressure gauge and the author or host must agree with them.
And so, if you write about the BNP and then permit Nick Griffin to respond, you’re gifting a platform to an abhorrent racist and so you, too, must share his hateful bigotry. And yet Griffin might be just one respondent in a hundred, and those hundred might represent just a tiny fraction – just 0.5 per cent – of a blog’s entire readership, for the vast majority of daily readers of this blog never bother to comment at all. Is it really sensible to judge the goodness or worth of an entire presence in cyberspace by the feverish ranting of the six, eight or 10 who have set up their tabernacles and established a permanent residence in the comment threads?
Is it really rational to disparage an entire political party just because it might attract a few die-hard bigots or revolutionary zealots?
Would Hitler support Ukip?
Would Margaret Thatcher like Downton Abbey?