No platforming is not censorship | @Bigkid4

board-812129_1280@Bigkid4 has taught maths well for 13 years. Prior to that he taught Maths badly for about 5. Although his support for Labour waned while Labour was in government, he is now keen to support Labour’s efforts to remove the Tories from office.

I’m reading quite a bit about no platforming recently. Most commentators seem to think it is a freedom of speech issue. They are mistaken in my opinion. The reason for this is simple. No organisation or individual is obliged to listen to promote or engage with ideas they find abhorrent. Furthermore if an organisation has through, their own hard work over time, built their credibility to the point where they have a significant following then they have every right to decide who they invite to speak on that platform.

In no way does this prevent anyone from expressing their views as they see fit. When an organisation no platforms someone they make a statement that people with certain views cannot use that organisation’s credibility and audience as a platform to express their views. It is not saying the person cannot express whatever views they wish in any fashion they wish. It is simply saying that they have to build their own platform in order to do so.

When you share a platform with someone you give them credibility. The greater your audience. membership and credibility you have the more sharing a platform with someone benefits them. If someone holds views that are abhorrent then why would any organisation be out to do them any favours?

The other accusation thrown at those who no platform is that they are being precious or over-sensitive and trying to avoid views they don’t like or protect themselves from hearing views they find offensive. While there may be some of that going on to reduce no platforming to that is to do everyone a disservice.

No-platforming is a political statement. It’s one way of saying that certain views are so unacceptable and lacking in credibility in the opinion of a group or organisation that they have no interest in engaging with them. In my experience the decision to no platform is often contentious and motivated by a desire not to do the person or group holding certain views any favours rather than by a desire to insulate or protect anyone from offence.

If you stand on a platform with someone you have no control over how the media portray the event. You have little say in what the public discourse about that event looks like. Once you share that platform with the person whose views are beyond the pale you have no control over what is remembered about the debate or event. Given the nature of our media is it any wonder that lots of people have no interest in trusting in the media to report accurately or impartially?

I would also point out that anyone who wishes to hold views that others find offensive is welcome to do so but they are not entitled to speak on any platform they see fit. Nor they entitled to be invited to speak anywhere they happen to wish to. They certainly have no right to demand anyone listen to them. While they are entitled to express whatever opinion they wish to they have no right to demand that their opinions be respected (just their right to express those opinions). Perhaps it is the people being no platformed that are being precious because they cannot imagine or deal with anyone not wishing to hear their views.

3 thoughts on “No platforming is not censorship | @Bigkid4

  1. OK so no platformng in the strictest sense is not censorship but in no sensible world can it not be seen as an attempt to close down debate. When Mill famously called for freedom of speech he also limited it by reference to the harm principle. By that he recognised that one persons freedom of speech should not be paid for by others being harmed as a result. By being harmed I do not mean that there should not be the result that peoples strongly held beliefs should not be challenged. With freedom of speech we have the right to argue against others ethics, religion or whatever. Harm in this context means physical harm or something close to it.
    So let’s again examine the purposes of most of the current examples of no platforming. In these cases those being no platformed are not espousing violence to others at all. Indeed in many cases like Tatchell he has a long history of defending oppressed groups. In fact the no platform advocates simply do not agree with those they act against. When say racist groups were no platformed or even excluded from debates it was because the harm principle was clearly happening. In the current crop of this action it is the weakness of the no platformed arguments that are the motivating factor.
    Do not be deceived, what is happening now is indeed an indirect attack on debate and therefore on freedom of speech itself.

  2. You say if a person is invited to a certain venue, say a university, and has his audience, he should be allowed to speak correct? But what often happens is that small number of students who are oppose to the speaker demand school officials to stop him, often times with threat of violence. The officials who are often complicit with those students, no platform the speaker citing security reasons. Whatever you say, that is the reality. And I suspect you know that already and support it nevertheless.

    Who decides “certain views are so unacceptable and lacking in credibility” anyway?

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