David Modell, film-maker and producer of Dispatches film Young, Nazi and Proud, writes about the latest race row involving Mark Collett, now publicity director of the BNP
Mark Collett, BNP publicity director. The combination of that name and title never fails to make me chuckle. That Mark's reward for single handedly destroying the BNP's efforts to present itself as a mainstream "non-racist" party should have been to be made their chief spin doctor tells you a great deal about this rather dysfunctional organisation.
When I met Mark in 2002 he was head of the BNP's youth wing. A presentable and apparently articulate 22-year-old, he was a favourite of Nick Griffin, the party's leader. I had approached the BNP and suggested making an observational film about Collett. Griffin believed Collett would be a safe pair of hands in which to trust the party’s reputation. He was wrong.
In the last scene of the documentary, we see Collett trying to call Griffin on his mobile phone to resign from the party. Over the course of six months, at times believing the camera was switched off, Mark not only revealed a poisonous prejudice toward black people but also; a deep-seated Nazi sympathy, an affection for Hitler and the Third Reich, an admiration for a notorious loyalist killer, and twisted homicidal fantasies.
When the media's attention has occasionally fallen on Mark in the years since, he is quite rightly discussed in the context of the remarks he made to me. The fact that Griffin refused to accept his resignation following the programme and has in fact promoted him should be used as a persistent indictment of, and revelation about, the BNP's true nature.
Against this background, it was with a degree of incredulity that I listened to the BBC Newsbeat interview with "Mark and Joey... two young guys" who were simply described as "young BNP members". One of these was Collett, the other Joseph Barber, who helps Collett run Great White Records, the BNP's answer to the Blood and Honour white power music label.
"Mark and Joey" would have loved the broadcast interview. Their roles in the party were never explained to the listener, so they were able to appear simply as representative party members. Collett's confession of Nazi sympathies was never even referred to.
The interview was typical of the sometimes flawed reporting of the BNP when the BBC engages its representatives in mainstream broadcasts. The BNPs heritage of neo-nazism and position in the "white supremacist" movement is often not understood by poorly briefed reporters, who conduct interviews in a format designed for credible politicians.
In the case of the Newsbeat interview the lack of depth is even more inexcusable as this was clearly prerecorded and edited, so there should have been time for proper research and scrutiny.
I would never argue that we should not allow the BNP airtime. But reporting the organisation has to be done with great care because of the distress and damage it has the potential (and the will) to cause. Failure to do so risks collaborating in the dissemination of a destructive hatred.