The Withering of No Platform Policies?

Anti fascist demonstrators in Leeds

Anti fascist demonstrators in Leeds

In the Huffington Post, Jessica Elgot has a long review of the free speech issues of 2012.  It features many quotes from yrstrly, speaking on behalf of English PEN.  Mike Harris of Index on Censorship also gives his twenty penn’orth.

It also has a fascinating comment from Nick Lowes of Hope Not Hate, suggesting that the traditional ‘no platform’ policy towards extremists has become “outdated”.

For Nick Lowles, head of Hope Not Hate, which campaigns against far-right extremism, censorship online is problematic, and means the anti-fascist tradition of never giving extremism a platform, has become old-fashioned.

“I think you have to look at the mindset at the person behind it. The tweets against Tom Daley were horrible, but some people’s lives are made an absolute misery every day by this abuse. We have to pay that attention.

“There’s been a long history in the anti-fascist movement of “no platform”, but a lot of those principles have become outdated, because of new technology, people have a platform online.

“I’m not going to sign up to a Twitter debate with Griffin, that’s beyond the pale. But at the same time we need to do more to take on their ideas in the blogosphere, there are ideas are out there in swathes. Or we sit on the sidelines, condemn them, and refuse to engage, that’s when we look like the pro-censorship group.

“The more controversial things they say, the more attention they get. It’s actually easier with people like Nick Griffin and David Irving. But there’s mainstream hatred of Muslims all over Twitter. We have to be in the argument, expose their ideas. “

Much as I loathe the Griffins of this world, I have always thought that blanket ‘no platform’ policies are counter-productive.  Whenever people like Nick Griffin are actually given a platform, they expose themselves as incoherent and small-minded, and it gives the rest of us a chance to argue against them.  Denying them a platform usually leads to martyrish cries of censorship and political correctness, and does little to challenge the fear- and hate-mongering.  Its interesting to see stalwart anti-fascist groups like Hope Not Hate Coming Round to that point of view.

Update

Thoughts from Phil on the LibCom blog, (not LibCon!) taking to task my narrow definition of ‘no-platform’.  And an interesting elaboration by Nick Lowle on the Hope Not Hate blog.

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