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Why was a fascist on the Andrew Marr Show?

Marine Le PenWhen it comes to fascists and the far right, giving them air time is a decision that should not be made lightly. If they are to appear, they should be rigorously challenged and forced to defend themselves. Anything less just gives them an opportunity to push their propaganda. When I learned that Andrew Marr was to be interviewing the French National Front leader, Marine Le Pen this Remembrance Sunday, I thought the BBC were having a laugh. It was obvious this encounter was not going to be a grilling. If you want to drag someone over the coals, you send for Jeremy Paxman or Andrew Neil. Marr, never known for his combative interviewing style, treated the French fascist leader as one indulges a pet tamagotchi. 

It was a master class in poor interviewing. Not only did her lies go unchallenged, Marr also gave Le Pen free reign to push her views in the gently, gently, tones that have won her party a large following. On multiculturalism, she said that in the English-speaking countries, fundamentalist Islam is advancing. Demonstrably untrue. On the European Union, her Europe of free nations stands opposed to the “totalitarian” EU – more rubbish. Asked about Russia, Le Pen expressed her admiration for Vladimir Putin’s model of “reasoned protectionism”. You know, the sort of “reason” that allows for the murder of journalists and persecution of LGBT Russians. Not once did Marr step in to challenge these bullshit views as Le Pen looked relaxed and, at times, appeared to be enjoying herself.

Asked about Muslims in France and whether they have anything to fear from a FN presidency, which looks more likely thanks to Trump’s victory, she replied “we’re not going to welcome any more people. We’re full up.” A decent journalist might have snapped back that this wasn’t the question that was asked. Going on, she said the FN were not bothered about people’s religions, as long as they abided by secular French codes and values. This would be the same Le Pen who compared public prayers by Muslims to the Nazi occupation of France, and said that the increasing “Islamisation” of France was putting “civilisation” at risk. Utter drivel.

And then Marr made the misstep of allowing her to emphasise the generational break between her FN, and the more openly authoritarian and classically fascist FN of her father. Along with claiming that her party isn’t racist (a claim easy enough to rebut had Marr bothered doing the most cursory homework), she was allowed to burnish her own “anti-fascism” by calling the Holocaust – the historic culmination of Europe’s fascist experience – the central feature of the Second World War. Famously, Jean-Marie Le Pen referred to it as a detail.

What then is the point in all this, apart from showing the dismal standard of Marr’s journalism? I’m not quite sure the BBC know either, though it does smack of the liberal naivete you can often find in its circles. “That Marine Le Pen is interesting and controversial, let’s have her on.” The worrying thing, however, is the actual content of the interview. Prattling on to her heart’s content, there was very little, if anything, that hasn’t already spilled forth from the mouths of UKIP and right wing Tory politicians. Nothing Le Pen said hasn’t already found itself expressed – often, more stridently – in editorials and hatchet jobs. Our politics have become so poisoned that her small-minded anti-Islam, anti-foreigner, anti-EU scapegoating idiocies don’t seem all that horrifying any more. And thanks to Andrew Marr, he’s just helped normalise the reception Le Pen and her hate-fuelled mob can expect in Britain.

14 Comments

  1. John Penney says:

    It is quite true that Marr is a dreadful interviewer, apparently incapable of doing his homework on interviewees, so that their lies and evasions can be exposed. Similarly last night Evan Davies did a similarly incompetent series of interviews on the Trump victory with UKIP and the Far Right Libertarian, Ron Paul. The BBC only seems to go into hostile intervew mode with the Labour Left and trades unionsists. No surprise there surely ?

    On the main plank of your article though, you have fallen into the usual Left trap of exaggeratng the nature of populist Right organisations and therefore seeking to apply the “No Platform” line inappropriately.

    Sorry, but the current French National Front, packed out with old and young fascists as it is, is not a Fascist organisation. It is a radical Far Right Populist Party, operating within the bourgeois democratic electoral system, WITHOUT a street army using mass violence to dominate the streets and suppress the Left organisationally and politically. It is the use of mass violence and intimidation by genuine fascist movements that justifies the special “No Platform” tactic. I was active for many years in applyng that tactic myself, so I have no qualms whatsoever in applying it physically or organisationally, but only when appropriate.

    However, since Marine le Pen isn’t actually the leader of a fascist party, and , unlike her ghastly fascist father (with whom she is utterly at war) probably isn’t a fascist personally (though this is still open to doubt), there is no basis for a No Platform position , and the poisonous brew of xenophobia and pseudo (“neo-Strasserite”) anti globalist capitalism, populist rhetoric of the radical Right National Front, and its much less radical UKIP counterpart, will have to ve countered politically by the Left through having a more credible POLICY OFFER to tackle the ever deepening global and domestic capitalist crisis.

  2. Tony says:

    The BBC used to give a lot of very favourable coverage to the BNP. It even had Griffin on whilst not allowing the likes of John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn on when they were dissenting backbenchers.

    I think that Alan Simpson said he was due to appear about 6 times but he was dropped probably as a result of a request from the then Labour leadership.

    I did not see this particular interview but I did see some of Corbyn and he did rather well. He needs to dress smartly all the time when he is before the cameras.

    1. John P Reid says:

      Nick Griffin was crucified on Question time, McDonnell and Corbyn had never been on select committees, they were hardly well known, others on the far left Tony Benn, Diane Abbott, George Glaloway were almost in weekly

  3. David Pavett says:

    I agree with John Penny’s comments. I would like to add a few more. If we are going to complain about journlism (and, God knows, we need to) then it has to be on an informed and reasoned basis.

    1. I didn’t see the Le Pen interview but I am prepared to accept that Marr, for whom I have little time, gave her an easy time. But the same can be said of his interview last Sunday of Jeremy Corbyn. In other words he is just not very good at his job whether interviewing figures of the right or left.

    2. The implication of Phil B-C’s article is that special standards should be applied when interviewing the far right. This is undemocratic. ALL politicians should be interviewed with critical rigour.

    3. When dealing with the far right critical standards should not be replaced by abuse. In this piece we got the following assertions “Demonstrably untrue”, “bullshit views”, “Utter drivel”, “Le Pen and her hate-fuelled mob” …. Why would mere assertion be regarded as acceptable when it comes to dealing with the far right?

    The point surely is that if someone like Le Pen is within sighting distance of the presidency it cannot be explained merely as a matter of “hate filled mobs”. It is disconcerting to have a left-wing sociologist writing as if it were so.

    4. The comparison of Muslims praying in the street to the Nazi occupation is bizarre but, on the other hand, it is understandably disturbing in a country with strong secular traditions. And even here in the UK I have to say that I do not want to see religious groups of any type occupying public spaces for acts of worship. What Phil B-C seems not to appreciate is that there are perfectly legitimate reactions to such thing and that Le Pen is making use of that. Simply dismissing it all as “bullshit” doesn’t take us forward.

    5. The important thing is to understand the plausibility of the arguments used by people like Le Pen (and even Trump) and to see that large numbers of perfectly decent people are taken in by it for want of awareness of a clear and convincing alternative. Dismissing them all as “hate-filled mobs” doesn’t help.

    1. Rob Bab says:

      @David P
      Your “…comparison of Muslims praying in the street to the Nazi occupation is bizarre…” point, brought to mind John Penney’s recent cheap shot pop at Rob Green and Stephan Bellamy, when he said;
      “Don’t worry lads, sorry about your utter disappointment with “the Left” , but I’m sure there will be a suitable radical Strasserite populist movement along to fill the gap…”
      This endless referencing of the ‘Nazis’ as a cover all insult is counter productive. The Left has been caught out napping and failed to realise that it no longer has the potency it once had.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strasserism

      Your no.5 point, “Dismissing them all as “hate-filled mobs” doesn’t help.” was recently demonstrated by Karl Stewart when he said;
      “The significant minority of Trump voters were right-wing conservatives and white supremacists – and by ‘Redneck’ I mean the scum of the earth Rob. The racist, lynching, sister-shagging filth who voted for Trump.”

      David, do you agree the whole ‘everyone who’s not a Leftie Socialist is a Nazi scum/no platform’ carry on is now redundant?

      1. Karl Stewart says:

        Yes, I should have worded that comment better. The way I wrote it gives the impression I only think that of a minority of Trump voters.

        What I intended to express was that, firstly, Trump voters, i.e. the totality of Trump voters, are a significant minority of the total US voters.

        The “right-wing conservatives and white supremacists” description applies, in my opinion, to all Trump voters.

      2. David Pavett says:

        I think I made it clear that in my view dismissing people on the right as Nazi scum who deserve to be no-platformed is not a serious political stance.

  4. Peter Rowlands says:

    I agree with John Penney and David. This would I think apply to a number of the more prominent right populist parties ( Freedom Party in Netherlands and Austria, Danish Peoples Party), but not , I fancy, to Jobbik or Golden Dawn who seem to me to be the genuine fascist article. However, in some instances, (and I cannot cite any because I don’t know enough about any of the parties in question) there will be ‘grey areas’ which there needs to be some sort of consensus about on the left.

  5. Richard MacKinnon says:

    What do you suggest the BBC does Mr Burton Cartledge? Ban those from stating an opinion you dont agree with?

  6. Bazza says:

    Interesting in the last EC elections the media were full of the FN winning in France but if you do think critically whilst they came top in the precentage of the votes by party with I think 20% of the vote with 80% collectively for others (in a low turnout) this was about 12% of the total eligible electorate and 88% of the total eligible electorate didn’t vote for them!
    Whilst I am afraid the weak Socialists may go out in the first round of the Presidential Election in the run off with the top two what usually happens is the left/centre left/centre/centre right supporters usually vote for the non-FN candidate so hopefully it should be something like 66% for the non-FN candidate and something like 34% for the FN.
    So hopefully there will be no political earthquake in France but as others have argued in the absence of a credible left wing candidate with a credible and rigorous socialist agenda who knows?
    And we also need to try to engage with the millions of non-voters.
    I feel and hope history will repeat itself and of course this Right force of opportunists (led by the Le Pen family business – they were given a mansion by a rich supporter) will try to talk up Brexit and Trump!
    Apart from the usual looking in the mirror I have had 3 shocks in the morning over the last few years -the Tories winning, Brexit, and bloody Trump and I getting to dread turning on the TV on the morning after elections.
    So yes here we urgently need to put flesh on the bones of the thin skeleton of policy then why not get CLPs to have open public meetings where we can put our radical ideas out to discussion – could take one at a time such as Housing, Education, the NHS, the Economy, Environment,Transport, Peace, Intenationalism and Security etc. (perhaps every 3 months) we may not fot all in but after Step 1 Policy Development then Step 2 Policy Sharing and Engagement; it could all be pretty exciting and should take us up to the General Election and we start the campign then and then the morning after the election hopefully I turn my telly on and its time for Step 3 Policy Delivery – if not I’m getting a new telly!

  7. Bazza says:

    Oh yes and think the FN are probably wolves in sheeps clothing!
    Solidarity!

  8. James Martin says:

    As others have said the FN are not a fascist organisation, although there are fascists active in it. One of the problems I have with articles like this that paint organisations like the FN as fascist is that it disarms the movement and miseducates younger comrades into what an *actual* fascist organisation is. It is why I no longer support Hope Not Hate who concentrated endlessly on UKIP to the exclusion of just about anything else when again, unlike the EDL/BNP/NF etc the UKIPs are not fascists, and not even close. It is the same sort of idiocy that led Paul Mason to write about wanting to be behind the police barrier (yes really, nicely behaved, doffing his former leninist cap and everything) protesting against that nasty Mr Farage if he marched to parliament about the Brexit judgement.

    I don’t like the FN, but if the French left hadn’t have allowed them to be seen as the real opposition to the EU bosses club among French workers then they wouldn’t be anywhere near as big an electoral threat as they are now (much the same as the British left in relation to UKIP, particularly after the tragic loss of anti-EU fighters like Tony Benn and Bob Crow in fact).

  9. Karl Stewart says:

    I think we need to blame the racists for racism and blame the fascists for fascism.

    Not blame ‘the left’, which is just another way of pandering to the racists.

    This fake ‘leftism’ that excuses the racists and only attacks the left is pretty pathetic and very cowardly.

    And it strengthens the ultra-right.

  10. Chris says:

    Free speech

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