The Eesti Ekspress-hosted debate between Martin Helme and Abdul Turay got off to a hot start, confirming Godwin's Law within the first few seconds.
After that mention of the Nazis, though (namely, Turay accused people like Helme of being responsible for the evils of the 20th century), the two spent a good part of the debate arguing over the exact nature of post-WWII immigration in Europe, seeming at times to operate with two separate sets of facts.
The adversaries - Turay in a black suit, Helme in a plain white T-shirt and white trousers (a bit of color coordination Eesti Ekspress hinted was not staged) - trotted out the causes of various riots from Manchester to Stockholm in what seemed like an exercise in comparing apples and oranges. In essence, Turay claimed that the riots came down to economic disparity while Helme maintained that it was a cultural problem.
Helme argued that much immigration from non-European countries had taken place since the mid-1990s, while Turay pointed out that many people of other races had arrived in the 1960s and 1970s and later immigration to the UK had a distinctly Eastern European character. That matter was left unsettled.
But between the attacks and interruptions, there was a surprising amount of agreement between the two - Turay, whose views tend conservative, opposed multiculti views.
Both agreed that mass immigration was not the answer, with Helme emphasizing that individual immigrants were rarely a problem, but that critical mass was.
Turay asked Helme whether, if Turay had a child in Estonia, he would consider him or her Estonian. Helme said yes.
Unsurprisingly given the context that spawned the idea to have the two meet, large swaths of the debate were given over to Turay grilling Helme about his character and the controversial "if you're black, go back" comments.
After being asked by Turay a second time whether the Conservative People's Party would accept black people in their ranks, Helme said: "I believe we would. Why not?"
Turay continued this line, asking Helme why, then, could black people not be physically present in Estonia but were allowed party membership. Helme accused Turay of circular reasoning, of adopting the conventional view that "Helme must be a racist."
Turay took the intellectual high road here. "When have I said you were a racist?" Turay said, countering that he only took issue with the content of what Helme said. "I don't know if you're a racist."
A readers' poll indicated that 46 percent thought Turay had prevailed, with 27 percent for Helme and 26 percent who thought both or neither had won.