Public Image

We must endeavour to present ourselves as ordinary everyday citizens

- BNP Activists’ Guide

BNP leader Nick Griffin knows if he is to turn European electoral victory into domestic success his party must improve its public image.

Our image is determined by the media who portray us in a bad light to dissuade people from voting for us

- BNP Activists’ Guide

He has set about changing this in two ways:

  1. Softening the party’s message
  2. Attempting to muzzle his members to stop them making gaffes

Manipulating the Media

So what are we doing with the British National Party? Well we tried to simplify its message in some ways and to make it a sale­able message. So it’s not white supremacy or racial civil war or anything like that, which is what we know in fact is going on, and we’re not supremacists, we’re white survivalists. Even that frightens people. Four apple-pie words: freedom, security, identity and democracy.

Once we’re in a position, when we’re rather more subtle, where we control the British broadcasting media then perhaps one day the British people might change their mind and say, ‘Yes, every last one must go’ [...]

But if you hold that out as your sole aim to start with you’re not going to get anywhere. So, instead of talking about racial purity, we talk about identity.

- Nick Griffin during a conference in the US alongside former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke

The party attempts to keep a tight rein on its media statements, as can be seen from its constitution, published in August 2009:

SECTION 10: STATEMENTS TO THE MEDIA

1) INTERNAL AFFAIRS
(a) No member of the party may be interviewed by, or give any statement to, the news media on matters internal to the party who has not been given prior authorisation to do so by his or her Regional Organiser or by a national official of the party.
2) LOCAL POLITICS
(a) No member of the party may be interviewed by, or give any statements to, the news media on matters of local politics who has not been given prior authorisation to do so by his or her Regional Organiser or by a national official of the party. The exception to this rule is any elected representative for that local area.
3) NATIONAL ISSUES
(a) No member of the party may be interviewed by, or give any statements to, the news media on national issues who has not been given prior authorisation to do so by his or her Regional Organiser or by a national official of the party

- BNP Consitution

And in the publication of its language and discipline manual, reminding its members the BNP is not racist.

The party also mobilises its members to comment on stories appearing on the internet.

This operation was apparent after the volume of complaints alleging bias against the BNP after Nick Griffin appeared on Question Time.

Here’s how their campaign works:
What is Cyberactivism?The British National Party

Web editors like running BNP stories because of the traffic they generate. As instructed, BNP activists are quick to leap to the defence of their party. Often BNP members will post comments claiming to have been neutral but now convinced by the party’s arguments in the story or comments section.

These tactics aren’t limited to traditional media outlets. After the Everton v Stoke City football match was called off because of BNP activity the BNP urged its members to take to the message boards.

And neither does it stop there. Activists are encouraged to join community groups too in an attempt to improve the party’s image.

Community activism means our activists getting involved in the affairs of their neighbourhood at all levels. This could include applying to be school governors, volunteering for community projects, work with youngsters or pensioners, organising community events and seeking to be elected onto community groups that run local grass-roots projects.

- BNP Activists’ Guide

Muzzling the Members

Not content with telling his members how to dress:

Make sure you look presentable. No naked torsos in summer, unshaven scruffs or skinhead haircuts (put them in caps or hats)

- BNP Practical Tips for Effective Leafleting

And how to behave:

If you encounter any unpleasantness from a member of the public, stay calm, measured and polite. Don’t raise your voice in reply. Any confrontational behaviour will attract attention, so impress the public with your maturity and good manners and leave the reputation of ‘aggressive lout’ with your opponent. Address men and women as ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’. Courtesy and gallantry may be old fashioned but it can be extremely disarming in these modern times

- Activists and Organisers’ Handbook

Nick Griffin has issued an edict ordering them to hold their tongues:

Careless Extremism

The Chairman made it known that a policy of zero tolerance should be enforced against any member who jeopardises our electoral chances by making extremist remarks. Organisers should convey to members the necessity of observing the utmost caution in this respect. The party guidelines on vocabulary have now been updated and a new version will be publicised online this week. Action: MM to publish in May Organisers’ Bulletin.

- Minutes of the BNP’s Advisory Council Meeting, Sunday 26th April 2009

Realising he cannot trust them not to revert to type he has also ordered bloggers to remove the BNP logo from their sites in case their views land the party in court.

All local BNP blogs must change their names and operate instead as a local community website. Use of the BNP logo must be discontinued. It is impossible to control and oversee local websites centrally for legality of content and this measure protects the Party from any potentially costly legal challenges. Action: National Organiser

- Minutes of the AC Meeting, Sunday 25th January 2009

These moves to control the party’s public image are a direct result of journalists’ excellent work scrutinising the BNP. Or, as the party’s Communication and Campaigns Officer Officer Martin Wingfield puts it:

To explain why much of the media is hostile to us you only have to read through the National Union of Journalists’ guidelines for reporting on the British National Party.

This is presumably a reference to the NUJ’s race reporting guidelines. Wingfield goes on to tell members how to improve their public image:

One favourite media smear is “the young burly skinheads of the BNP.” To demolish that one is easy–just make sure that as many of our candidates and representatives as possible are well dressed, middle-aged ladies or older gentlemen with plenty of hair.

As Wingfield concedes, journalists have a key role to play in how the BNP is viewed by the public.

The NUJ has a set of race reporting guidelines that include a section on reporting racist organizations.