So this week I took part in a radio show for a Liverpool radio station. The show’s topic that night was on bigotry and the producer had read an article I had written on the subject and invited me onto the show to talk about it. I had my reservations about this as a) I am not a human rights authority and don't want to set myself up as any sort of spokesperson and b) having my voice broadcast to around a million listeners (allegedly) is my idea of hell. But the bigotry article was written for a company I used to work for who had recently been hit by Google’s Panda and had seen a significant decrease in their site traffic and I thought that maybe promoting their site on air would help them.
The other reason I decided to do it was that I knew I was scared to, and there is a line of thought that fears should always be confronted in order to pass through them. This ‘confront your fears’ theory doesn’t always hold water. I’m scared of jumping into shark infested waters but that doesn’t mean I should don a wet suit and head out to the Great Whites’ breeding grounds. So even though my inner voice was saying, “don’t do it mate, you’re gonna’ look a nob” I said ‘what the fuck’ and agreed to talk.
I am not a spokesperson on bigotry. Yes, I’ve researched and written many articles on the likes of Nick Griffin and the BNP and I find bigotry of any kind pretty repulsive. The bullying mentality of bigots, the fear, ignorance and intolerance of anyone who does not fit into the bigot’s ‘view’ of how the world should be and what makes a ‘normal’ person is completely irrational to me. If bigots actually looked at the reasons why they act the way they do they may actually begin to question their own views.
A lot of bigoted views are handed down from parents. Nick Griffin, the BNP leader, was taken to his first National Front meeting at the age of 15 by his parents. The father of the French National Front leader Marine Le Pen is the founder of the National Front. In most cases it doesn’t take a huge leap to find out the reasons why bigots are the way they are. To me it’s not about being politically correct; a bullshit label that has just given bigots the excuse to say, “Oh it’s political correctness gone mad, you can’t say anything now.” There is a big difference between comedians such as Sarah Silverman, Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks etc making a point through humour that isn’t seen as ‘politically correct’ and a taxi driver coming out with the statement, “Hitler didn’t kill enough of them” on the subject of Polish people working in the UK.
Anyway, by the day of the radio interview my anxiety levels were set to ‘freaking out’. I had done plenty of research but I should have listened to the radio show first as this wasn’t an in-depth radio show tackling the wide range of issues that make up bigotry. The interview turned out to be a 15 minute conversation and I did have trouble answering some of the questions that I was hit with when put on the spot. These were questions about people who use the 'race card' to their own advantage. The ‘dead air’ time as I frantically searched for answers to those specific questions seemed to stretch so long that I could actually see my life flash in front of my eyes.
In the end I didn’t actually listen to the on-air interview; I couldn’t put myself through that sort of torture. I know my voice varied from sounding as slow as a weekend stoner to Mickey Mouse on helium complete with sentences that trailed off into a low rumble on a few occasions, all within 15 minutes. I don’t think the presenter was that happy either with the interview as he ended the conversation with the killer put down, “Well you’re an interesting man.” This is basically another way of saying, “Well that was a load of shit wasn’t it?” or as my friend kindly put it, “He said you were an interesting man? That means he thought you were a dick.” When the interview was over I asked, “Was that okay?” to be greeted with, “yep, fine” and then the click of the telephone being hung up on me.
The rest of the four hour radio show was supposed to be calls from listeners. I think two people phoned in on the subject of bigotry, and I’m sure one of the callers was the presenter’s friend who talked coherently, clearly and longer on the subject than I did. Someone did call in about having their unemployment benefits cut but I think they had just called in on the wrong night.
With a few days breathing space I can now say it was no big deal. I should have just went on and talked without all the in-depth preparation, there really was no need for it. I’m glad I did it for the experience alone and I now have a newfound respect for people who can go on-air live and talk calmly without any fear. These fears we build up into major anxiety mountains are usually unfounded. Once you have actually confronted them the fear does disappear. If only the bigots out there would use the same reasoning life would be a lot simpler for everyone.
If you're not failing every now and again, it's a sign you're not doing anything very innovative - Woody Allen.