I wouldn't make a very good spy. In 1985, I thought it would be a good idea to pop along to a pub in Ilkeston and melt into the background during a National Front meeting.
I'd have got away with it, too, if I didn't have long hair, flares and an Afghan coat. If nothing else, the smell would've given me away.
A couple of weeks ago I registered on of the Far-Right Talkboards. Under my own name (I've never really seen the point of pseudonyms), with no hidden agenda, and no motive other than wanting to understand why people think the things they do (and this particular Board seemed to have a few Members who might be able to actually argue the toss, rather than just go for name-calling and dark, sinister – if seemingly never acted upon – threats).
When the World History of Pointless Exercises is written (presumably by Giles Brandreth, with an hilarious forward by Richard Stilgoe), there might be room for a tiny sidebar sandwiched somewhere between a chocolate manufacturer changing the pronunciation of their name from “Nessuls” to “Ness-Lay” and the entire acting career of David Bowie. That's where you'll find My Heroic Foray Into The Alternative Universe Of The Ultra Right.
Ultra Right, I found for starters, isn't so much a political delineation as a philosophical stance: Most people are willing to accept that they've got it wrong occasionally. It's not very nice, but it goes with the whole “Being Human” territory. Not these people, though. On any subject, no matter how trivial. They aren't just “right” they're very, very, very right. All the time. About everything. Loudly. In their own imaginations.
Call me naïve, but I actually believed it may be possible to engage in some debate: A sensible exchange of views, coolly yet cogently expressed, based around a central theme. But waiting for a suitable juncture to drop my two penn'orth in was like hanging around outside a phone booth for a tramp to stop having a dump inside it: The waiting around was unpleasant enough, and I wouldn't have fancied going in afterwards, anyway.
The nature of the “debate” on the Forum often follows a pattern:
A) This is my point of view.
B) Frankly, I disagree with your point of view.
A) Sorry to disappoint you, but I still hold to my original point of view.
B) As do I.
C) Neither of you are True Nationalists, unlike myself, and I have it on good authority that you both enjoy the practise of ____________ , which you are wont to pursue in the company of _________, who likes to ___________ while you both insert ___________ into one another's ___________.
From this point onwards, things tend to go downhill rapidly.
The Lunar Society it ain't.
One of the few interesting things about the Board is the insight it gives into the various splits and factions among the Far-Right. There's the...
BNP Loyalists (“Griffinites”). These are the people, most of whom have joined the Boards only recently, who see their job as being to derail any debate that may be going on as soon as it becomes uncomfortable to their stance. Which is all the time. Their typical tactic, to this end, is to either use distraction, by sending things off on an entirely unrelated (but harmless) tangent (“Has anyone seen any good movies lately?”), or to just take the straightforward “I seen your Mum _________ with a __________!” approach.
There are the BNP Reformers (“Butlerites”). These are still Members, but detest Griffin and genuinely believe that they will somehow be able to wrest control of the dying enterprise from his tightly grasped claw.
Michael Barnbrook (“of the Yard” - I always expect him to end his posts with “Mind how you go” or “Keep 'em peeled”...) is a Reformer (and of the minority on the Board who actually seems to understand the concept of “debate”). He's also someone with form (to dig into my own vast experience of Met' argot: years of watching The Sweeney finally paying off there...) within his Party. Whatever the role he actually played in the Expenses Scandal (which will be debated for years to come), being on the side of the Taxpayer isn't something to be knocked, whatever your politics. He does, however, display a touchingly childlike innocence in his fond belief that, should he become Leader (he intends to stand), there might actually be something to inherit other than a pile of unpayable iou's and a brand name slightly less respected than Enron.
As a sidenote: The Griffinites routinely refer to Butler as “Brothel” Butler, or just “Buttler”. Waggish sophisticates that they are.
Then there are the Unaligned Nationalists. They aren't members of any faction, but they've done more for “Nationalism” over the years than anyone else and they're more patriotic than You. Fact. End Of. Got It?
Unaligned (now, at any rate) is one Jim Dowson, who recently posted (as “The Bruce”) a series of incoherent, grotesque rants and taunts. Aside from their entertainment value (“Griffo is the mighty king and I am his prince!”), they show his mental state to the World better than a team of burly men chasing him with a straitjacket and a butterfly net.
A recent showing on the Board is the BFP. Indeed, the Board is about the only place they exist (yesterday's “Launch” doesn't seem to have happened) and, as their “raft of policies” are distinguishable from the BNP's only with DNA analysis and a Hadron Collider, they've got their work cut out for themselves in making any kind of impact whatsoever.
And then there's (ex-BNP Webmaster) Simon Bennett. To describe him as “a bit of a strange one” is like saying Howard Hughes had the odd "funny little way" about him. In the days and weeks following his defection from the Party (a result of the Marmite fiasco), he was a Very Angry Man. But this was the kind of anger that soon turns into a Crusade For Justice. I have a friend who got a parking ticket in 2003 and has since compiled a dossier on that particular parking space that could rival the Collected Papers and Investigations of the Royal Society for exactitude, detail and pedantry. On the one hand, his Crusade against the Parking Enforcement Department of Nottingham City Council has paid off – no warden will ever mess with him again. On the other hand, he doesn't get invited to many parties anymore.
So with Bennett. At first, he seemed to be an interesting character; knowing where the bodies were buried, and always (it seemed) on the brink of marking them on a big map. But little more has come of it, and he's become yet another “Nationalist”: Albeit the self-proclaimed Guru of the Boards, who will shout down any perceived opponent and endlessly defend his own stance with an obsession (at times he seems to be on there 24/7) bordering on the unwell, and a (self-proclaimed) taste for violence and threats that doesn't so much “border” as “take up residence at the centre of” psychotic (a recent missive to someone who seems to have irked the touchy fellow ran: “Post one more time and my bat will connect with your f*****ng head you c***. I know your IP and your address you f*****g c**t”). As an asset to any emergent party (he's closely associated with the pre-doomed BFP) he can be ranked alongside Lee Barnes (whose rantings have already led to the resignation – after just over a week – of their much-trumpeted, straight-arrow Treasurer, John Savage).
If anything, the Boards demonstrate that the Far-Right are just as good (if not even better) at falling out and fragmenting as the Far-Left ever were. Once upon a time, there were three of us would (attempt to) flog the Socialist Worker (pronounced “Sooooo-Shlist Work-Ah!”) in Derby. If we'd only devoted a fraction of the energy to plotting against Thatcher that we spent planning one another's downfall, the Old Bag would've been finished by 1986.
The Boards will continue to be a useful resource for us. It's on there that the splits, the bickering, the petty squabbles and the (very) occasional useful lead are laid bare.
I think I'll rather just watch from the sidelines from now on, though...