There’s a horrifying scene in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar when a roused rabble are on the hunt for “conspirators” after Caesar’s death.
Coming on a lone citizen, they demand to know his name, which, tragically for him is, Cinna.
“Tear him to pieces,” demands the rabble-leader. “He’s a conspirator.”
“I am Cinna the poet,” he replies. “I am Cinna the poet. I am not Cinna the conspirator.”
You can hear his panic in the repetition as the mob carry him offstage, presumably tearing him apart as they go.
The irrationality and dangerousness of the mob is a recurrent theme in Shakespeare. And I reckon the Bard knew a thing or two.
That Cinna-the-poet moment is the reason I am against making public the names and addresses of convicted paedophiles.
Though it’s not just about the perils of mistaken identity. I don’t think public dismemberment would have been the right fate for Cinna the conspirator either.
And I don’t think stoning or lynching is the right fate for anyone who has already undergone their official judicial punishment for crimes real or imaginary.
On that basis I suppose I ought not to approve of publishing the names and addresses of members of the Brutish Nasty Party.
On the other hand, you can be pretty sure the numb-skulled bigots of the BNP are mostly in favour of the “outing” of paedophiles. So perhaps it’s only fair that their own private details should be made public.
Which is exactly what the public-spirited Wikileaks website has done (again) this week.
Mind you, I tried in vain to see who around here might be a paid-up racist. Round and round went the “Loading” symbol, but the web page wouldn’t open.
I assume it was neither censored, nor nobbled by the BNP, but simply overloaded with too many people trying to look.
I did find, though, that there is no truth in the claim that the party has a member in the House of Lords.
What they do have is a bloke from Stoke-on-Trent who styles himself “Lord”, which is not quite the same thing.
The real lord whose name he almost shares is an 85-year-old field marshall, decorated hero of World War II, former head of the British armed forces, former Lord Lieutenant of Greater London, eloquent opponent of the Iraq war and, for good measure, Knight of the Garter.
A man far too wise, intelligent, experienced and dignified to have any connection with Griffin and his guttersnipes.
Happily, Lord Bramall was not lynched or torn apart on account of the brief mistake of identity. I hope he wasn’t too embarrassed either.
Two other former heads of the Army, generals Sir Mike Jackson and Sir Richard Dannatt, are among top brass who have called on the BNP “to cease and desist” from “hijacking the good name of Britain’s military for their own advantage”.
Their spokesman James Bethell said: “People are fed up with the BNP using the honour of Britain’s armed services and the memory of fallen heroes to promote the politics of racism and extremism.”
Apparently the latest BNP list does include a number of lower-level army officers and – disturbingly – a smattering of doctors.
How many of these are “Dr”, “Captain” or “Corporal” in the same way “Lord” Brian Bramhall of Stoke is a lord is a matter of conjecture.
What is clear is that the apparently growing number of women members is still unsurprisingly outnumbered seven-to-one by men.
Aggressive, anti-social and violent behaviour by women is on the rise too, but the girls still generally lag behind the boys in such things.
The published list dates from April, so there’s no way of telling how many black or Asian people have rushed to join the BNP since the party dropped its illegal bar on non-white members last week. I think I can guess.
Shortly after GW Bush was elected president for the second time I saw a couple of maps of the USA, which as far as I know were genuine. One showed which states voted Republican and the other which states had the lowest average school grades. The two were almost identical.
The greatest concentrations of BNP membership are in the East Midlands, around the Yorkshire-Lancashire boundary and in south Essex, with another pocket in Lincolnshire. It would be interesting to plot that distribution against one of educational achievement too.
Suffolk, I’m glad to say, has very little BNP presence (just 82 members, 21 of them in Ipswich), even though Griffin was raised and schooled in the county.
Which leads me to wonder what effect it had on him to be one of only two boys in the (nearly) all-girls St Felix School in Southwold.
There might be a fascinating psychological study in that for someone. If he was worth it.
- As a footnote, I see Griffin intends to 'complain' about the alleged bias shown towards him by the BBC after they kindly - and wholly unnecessarily - invited him to take part in last night's Question Time. Of course, should they ever get anywhere near power, the BNP would offer a free, friendly and unbiased platform to all who wished to express any dissenting opinion of any kind, wouldn't they? Yeah, of course they would.