The BNP or British National Party which describes itself (from its website) as "The BNP is the foremost patriotic political party in Great Britain", is a right wing political party here in the UK. Here's its Wikipedia entry. Its constantly being accused of being facist (something that would be illegal in Germany for instance) and is constantly being accused of racist violence. Dont take my word for it - the BBC news site has chapter and verse on this. They infiltrated the BNP for six months and found it to be an alarming place.
Thats the background. I'm not outright attacking the BNP per say, I'm stating that theres lots of accusations around them and stating for the record that their views diverge wildly from mine. I'm using the BBC as a news site in this case, because a lot of people hold them in high regard.
Now, it would appear that their membership list has leaked into the wild, exposing names, telephone numbers and home addresses for over 10,000 paid up members. Woops. There's even a heat-map here where you can see where they live.
There's quite a lot of news on this over the web, and within minutes it was apparent that most folks were being very careful, not providing direct links to the list. This of course, just piqued my interest, and within 2 minutes I had it in my sweaty little paws. A quick check revealed that I didnt know anyone (indeed, only 21 members in Aberdeenshire and 9 in Angus) - phew.
Now, is this a huge invasion of privacy - yes - and a huge failure to secure personal information - of course. And yet at the same time for folks who have been bothered by the BNP in the past, or who disgree fundamentally (at a molecular level indeed) with what could be easily described as racist policies - well, there's a degree of Schadenfreude
I guess what I'm saying that as IT folks, we're often in a position of trust, and have to keep that trust, no matter how odious or repulsive the client and/or individual. We cannot be the judge and jury - now thats a very slippery slope.
Practically, of course, some of those members who have been outed are in some difficuly. Some organisations - the Army, Police, and such like, have policies which forbid its members from joining this particular organisation (such is its right wing leanings). And if a person was outed as a BNP member for instance, would I continue to support that persons' shop, or business? Would I be concerned that a person who holds what could be seen as extreme racist views look after family members, pets, money, title deeds and suchlike? If a BNP member has decided to join this organisation, support this organisation financially, but decided to keep their political views secret, then today is a very black day indeed. Pun intended.
And heres' another slippery slope. If we started to discriminate against those - even those with extreme views - then where would we stop?
Democracy's a slippery beast, and when you remove georaphic boundaries, its very easy to start thinking of large groups of people as a concept, and not as individuals anymore. Next step after that is the gas chambers.
And perhaps this is the biggest irony. Society has learnt from the holocaust and uses rules developed to prevent the next one - to protect the very people who sometimes deny it exists.
Now isnt this the ultimate example of 'I may disagree with what you say but will defend your right to say it". Even if those people deny this very right to others based on the color of their skin?
See the dilemma. But at least we have this dilemma. I'd rather have an uncomfortable dilemma than a racist state.
I would ask any BNP members out there to review their wisdom in associating with a party that seems to attract such extreme views, and seems unable to safeguard your privacy. I would also ask any BNP members to review the blog post about Gurkha's from yesterday and ask you the question: Would you deny Gurkhas - who have demonstrated hundreds of years of allegiance to Britain as perhaps the hardest fighting soldiers in the world, and paid time and time again with their blood - the right to retire to the UK? Even through they are not white? Does this illustrate the shallowness of the racist argument held dear to some BNP members' hearts?