Try as it might, PressTV — a station sponsored by the Tehran regime — cannot disguise its racism
You might not know it, but the British National Party has a television station. Actually, that’s a rather grand way of describing what amounts to little more than a YouTube channel and a website selling DVDs.
You’re unlikely to have seen its programmes, and to be honest, you’re not missing much. If only Nick Griffin had managed to secure funding for the National Front from Colonel Gaddafi, whom he visited cap-in-hand in 1988, BNPTv might today be a properly resourced, professional affair, capable of hiring celebrity journalists, maintaining foreign bureaux, attracting high-profile guests, and broadcasting their output via satellite, in the fashion of a real television station.
But where BNPTv has failed, through lack of funds, the Iranian government’s propaganda television station, PressTV, has succeeded.
PressTV is headquartered in Tehran and is broadcast internationally by satellite. It has an impressive and generously resourced operation in London. The station’s flagship programme is a panel discussion fronted by the Evening Standard reporter Andrew Gilligan, who is sometimes able to persuade politically mainstream guests to appear on his show.
There are certainly some who might argue that Gilligan’s involvement does little to enhance the status of the station. However, Gilligan’s Forum is an oasis in a sea of marginal, extreme and nasty politics.
As you’d expect, the station broadcasts slots with the usual suspects, George Galloway and Yvonne Ridley. It has also developed a fondness for putting neo-Nazis on the air, and publishing Holocaust-denial material.
Last week, the JC reported that PressTV had published a paper written by the 7/7 conspiracy theorist, crop-circle enthusiast and former honorary fellow of University College London, Nicholas Kollerstrom. Kollerstrom is a man who claims that Jews were not murdered in Auschwitz, but instead happily played water-polo together in its “elegant swimming pool”. The article published by PressTV is a pseudo-scientific version of the same argument, in the form of a summary of various “studies” beloved by those on the extreme right, which purports to demonstrate that Jews could not have been gassed in the death camp.
PressTV’s editorial team is anxious to let its audience know that it stands full square behind the man they call a “distinguished academic”. Their introduction to the article notes that “The West punishes people for their scientific research on Holocaust but the same Western countries allow insults to prophets and religious beliefs”.
How PressTV ended up promoting Holocaust-denial is another story. It starts with a former “Miss Newcastle” and friend of David Irving, Lady Renouf. Renouf has appeared as a pundit on PressTV on a number of occasions. In recent years, she has been active in forging links between the British far right and the Islamic Republic of Iran, and spoke at the infamous Holocaust-denial conference in Tehran, where she met with President Ahmadinejad.
Renouf is also associated with the “New Right”, a group which brings together an assortment of neo-Nazis (including a BNP officer) and the Islamic Party of Britain, which is linked to George Galloway’s Respect party through Mohammed Naseem, a prominent figure in both parties.
Renouf urged PressTV to champion Kollerstrom. They cheerfully obliged. In other words, the publishing of Kollerstrom’s Holocaust-denial paper wasn’t a one-off misjudgment, resulting from editorial decisions made in Tehran. Rather, it is the product of the London bureau’s association with another prominent neo-Nazi.
PressTV is desperate to shake its image as a source of propaganda for a vicious authoritarian regime; so desperate that it once tried to hire the son of the Secretary of State of the Environment, Hilary Benn, to front a “youth” show.
The unsurprising discovery that the station has an enthusiasm for the British extreme right will have made that task rather more difficult. However much time and effort they expend on creating a false façade of respectability, racists and bigots just cannot camouflage their true nature.
David Toube blogs at hurryupharry.org. Alex Brummer returns next week