A golden dawn for bullsh*t: The BBC let The Spectator's Fraser Nelson gaslight its audience

The Spectator publishes racists regularly but its editor will never admit that.

Fraser Nelson is very polite. I’ve met him on a couple of occasions — years ago when I was allowed into newsrooms — and that’s the first thing I’d say about him. “What’s Fraser Nelson like?” “Oh yeah, very polite…” But some of history’s greatest monsters were polite in personal interactions and certainly knew which fork was the right one to use when eating the brains of their enemies.

I don’t like Fraser Nelson or the magazine and website he edits. The Spectator is the ‘polite’ face of racism, xenophobia, and fetishising fascistic ideas. It promotes Rod Liddle, Brendan O’Neill, Toby Young, and Taki, is presided over bilious windbag Andrew Neill, and has never encountered a culture war topic it didn’t want to gin up for clicks and attention.

And, of course, The Spectator was one of the launchpads for our preposterous prime minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Piffle Wiffle Waffle Who’s Wife Is That? Johnson, whose time as its editor was spent impregnating staff and insulting Liverpudlians.

If Fraser Nelson remained in his darkened corner, pumping out his periodical for the peculiarly racist, I might not pay much attention. But sadly, he’s a regular talking head on BBC political programmes — despite editing a magazine that makes hay by calling for the broadcaster’s head on a platter — and even, on occasion, fronts documentaries for BBC Radio 4, in which he makes assertions and grand claims that fall apart like Richard Harris’ cake in the rain.

To radio and TV producers, Fraser Nelson is the impeccably well-mannered acceptable face and oddly accented voice of the right. Only I find very little acceptable about Fraser Nelson. He, unlike some of his columnists and contributors, simply knows how to say the quiet part quietly. He affects a reasonable demeanour but the ‘moderate’ act is about as convincing as granny’s cloak draped over the wolf waiting to gobble Little Red Ridinghood up in a few quick bites.

Nelson is the topic of today’s newsletter because of his appearance on BBC Politics Live yesterday when confronted by Owen Jones over articles The Spectator definitely published — an encomium to the Greek far-right party Golden Dawn and a piece originally-headlined ‘In Praise of the Wehrmacht’, both by Taki — he outright denied that the articles existed and pumped out a form of verbal chaff designed to distract the viewers’ radar and focus their fire on Jones. Jo Coburn, the presenter of Politics Live and sometime attendee at The Spectator garden party, let the argument roll.

The counter-attack against Owen Jones by Fraser Nelson and others was two-pronged:

  1. That he was involved in a social media ‘cancel culture’ campaign and hadn’t read the article. Nelson called this, “an inverted pyramid of outrage”.

  2. He was engaged in ‘whataboutery’ by raising the racism published by The Spectator during a debate on Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension from the Labour Party following his response to the EHRC’s report on antisemitism in the party.

I don’t think Owen Jones was trying to cancel The Spectator — that’s not going to happen — nor do I think he was engaged in ‘whataboutery’. His point, well-chosen and well-put, was that Nelson is brought on to TV and Radio shows to discuss racism while continuing to be an editor who publishes and enables racism. Fraser Nelson may not like hearing that, he may even not believe that is what he is doing, but the words he enabled into print speak for themselves. Here’s Taki on the Wehrmacht:

Rommel wanted to stop the invasion on the beaches, Rundstedt inland. They argued their case to Hitler, who prevaricated. As it turned out, without air cover the Wehrmacht was slaughtered by saturation bombing that would have spiced up Dante’s and Milton’s description of hell, a place neither had visited…

…What fascinates me is the willingness of the German defenders to fight when their deaths were a certainty. At first many people froze, some ran, others cried for their mother. I’ve seen what shrapnel does to the human body and it’s not pretty. But fight soldiers must, and both sides did so nobly and to the death.

… and here’s what he said about the Golden Dawn, a party which is now banned in Greece:

"Golden Dawn came into being because of PC, poor Greeks at times getting fewer benefits than African illegal immigrants.

Then Golden Dawn became very popular with certain poor Greeks while it defended them from being mugged by Albanian criminals and drug dealers, and for safeguarding older folk after bank withdrawals.

Golden Dawn members might need some lessons in social etiquette, but what the bien pensant need much more is to get off the pot and their double standards.”

That’s what Fraser Nelson claims was never published as he waves his gaslight around on BBC Politics Live. Oh and that’s before we even get into the dog whistle construction of his attempts to shut Owen Jones up: “…shrill misrepresentations of what people are saying.” What Nelson and a lot of his readers and fans don’t like about Owen Jones is that he’s young(ish) — he’s 36 like me — gay, and left-wing. The fact that they call him ‘squealer’ and dismiss him as ‘shrill’ is entirely about his politics and his sexuality, though they’d deny that and point to their ‘many gay friends’ if you accused them of doing that.

Nothing I’ve written here is going to stop Fraser Nelson from being booked on Politics Live and given copious airtime elsewhere. He’s worked very hard to become the polite right-winger who turns up and offers up the easy soundbites that producers are hungry for. It’s a great grift and it rages on.