When I started my company, Redemption Films, in the early 1990s it happened not because I had planned to do it but rather because the UK film censors, the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) had refused my short film, Visions of Ecstasy, a certificate on the grounds that they felt it was blasphemous, which effectively banned its release in the UK. That action forced my career sideways and I decided that if I couldn’t make my own films then I could at least release the films that l liked.
That was in 1990 and, two years later, in 1992, I founded Redemption with the aim of releasing and distributing european horror and exploitation films. At this time because horror films, and particularly European horror and US exploitation films, had, in the UK, been labelled ‘Video Nasties’ there was an air both of persecution and of subversion in not just watching these films but even of handling or writing about them. Indeed, in the early 1990s when the internet was still in its infancy, word-of-mouth, fanzines and illicit bootlegs were the only way most horror fans read or heard about these films; with fans smuggling in rare or underground films from Holland and other less censored countries.
Ban this Vile Filth!
Draconian fines and occasionally even more draconian prison sentences were imposed on horror fans caught with unclassified copies of films like Nekromantik or The Gestapo’s Last Orgy. This sense of hysteria and persecution increased even more, when in 1994, two ten year old boys were found guilty of the appalling murder of a two year old child called James Bulger, and the judge speculated on whether horror films might have influenced the two young killers? The UK media then had a field day linking films like Chucky to the murder and the BBFC, ever conscious of the public opinion, tightened censorship still further, banning, among many, three of Redemption’s films (Bare Behind Bars, Sadomania and Exorcism), a ban we challenged in court and lost.
In the end it would take several more years of expensive and time consuming legal battles against the BBFC and the UK government before the BBFC backed down and its ruling director, a man called James Ferman, resigned. With Ferman gone following the BBFC’s defeat over pornography in 2000, a case also instigated by Redemption, the level of censorship across all film genres was gradually relaxed with the UK going on to enjoy several years of relatively liberal film classification and censorship.
Now though I am seeing and experiencing for the first time since those dark days new levels of censorship across all media, instigated in part by the UK government and supported in many cases by the mainstream media (msm), while being driven and fuelled by the ideological totems of the left - political correctness and cultural marxism. This time the state’s ire, rather than being directed at exploitation films, is being focused on what it loosely terms ‘right wing and ‘far-right’ politics, the modern day ‘Political Nasty’. Like the ‘Video Nasty’ of legend, the powers that be are determined to turn the Political Nasty into a ‘catch-all’ bogey man onto which they can blame everything from Islamic terrorism to ‘hate speech’ and ‘hate crime’.
Currently the Conservative Party are in power and it is a conservative Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, who has proposed legislation that would make it a criminal offence to view ‘far-right’ material online. She has also created a
whole slew of new powers for the police to tackle instances of online abuse and hate speech.
To take the term ‘far-right’ first, the Conservative Party is technically a rightwing party, though since David Cameron was made leader it has become increasingly Blairite, a shift that has continued under Theresa May’s leadership. It should also be remembered that way back in 2002 that it was Theresa May who described the then conservative party as the ‘nasty party’ and she wasn’t being complimentary.
Nevertheless, many on the left view the Conservatives as ‘fascist scum’ and definitely right wing, while Hope Not Hate, the UK’s equivalent to the US’s Southern Poverty Law Centre, describes as ‘far-right’ political parties like
Ukip as well as news site like Breibart so the blanket criminalisation of all sites and organisations to the right of the
now very soft-right conservative party would effectively be a massive act of anti-democratic censorship on a par
with the worst excesses of the Chinese government and one that would ban thousands of sites.
The UK has no Bill of Rights like the US to protect free speech and no First Amendment enshrined in our constitution so the people look to, and rely on, our government to protect our democracy and our freedoms to say, watch and think what we like, this Conservative government looks set to destroy that trust.
The Home Secretary cited the sites of ISIS as justification for this legislation and most people would not have a
problem with that as ISIS’s whole reason for existing is to destroy our way of life and it actively encourages
its supporters to commit acts of terrorism and violence.
The “far-right” is, aside from a few loonies, completely different to ISIS in every way in that to varying degrees it espouses political opinions and not violence. Many of those opinions are racist, or anti-semitic or offensive to many, but that is the point of democracy, it is our freedom to say what we like no matter how offensive it is. Furthermore the definition of far-right is so nebulous that the Guardian newspaper seriously described the mainstream and establishment Spectator magazine as the originator of the generally far-right Alt-Right, while others have called the entire Trump administration fascist, its leader, Donald Trump, literally Hitler, who in turn supports the Klu Klux Klan.
The UK has always had an active far-right from Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists in the 1930s, though to the National Front in the 1970s, through to the British National Party in the 1990s and 2000s which received
nearly a million votes in 2010 European elections. Ukip got four million votes in the last election and were it not
for the success of Brexit were vying with the Liberals to become the countries third opposition party.
The far-right, which presumably now includes parties like Britain First and anti-Islamic pressure groups like EDL, have always been tolerated and accommodated by the establishment in the same way that groups like Class War and the Socialist Workers Party are tolerated. They may not be nice, but they have a legitimate voice and a right to be heard and people have the right to listen to them and make up their own minds should they wish to seek them out.
In turn the Alt-Right and Alt-Lite movement that is emanating from the US, but which has similar groups in the UK and Europe, is a young and eclectic mix of people, ideas and opinions covering all aspects of life and the right. There are also, infamously, groups like the Alt-Right headed up by Richard Spencer, that unashamedly promote white supremacy, and sites (when not blocked or offline) like the Daily Stormer’s which are genuinely antisemitic and deliberately offensive, and there are many others that are neither.
In much the same way that the Conservative Party and the Labour Party have activists and think tanks bouncing ideas around so does the Alt-Lite and Alt-Right with talk covering everything from feminism and relationships to immigration and the wall. Some of those ideas are going to be provocative, and unpleasant, or even deliberately offensive as on 4Chan, but they are to paraphrase a certain Lord Mayor, part and parcel of politics online.
These people are not ISIS or advocating terrorism, they are espousing ideas and new ways of dealing with old problems, they are talking and sharing thoughts not bombs, and regardless of the Home Secretaries opinions on their ideas the UK Home Secretary should welcome their expession and not try to shut democracy down.
© Nigel Wingrove 2017