No Platform just makes the bigots someone else’s problem
The debate about students and free speech has flared up again. NUS LGBTQ officer Fran Cowling refused to share a platform with veteran human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, acusing him of racism and transphobia.
Many people have pointed out that refusing to speak alongside someone is not the same as denying them a platform; others argue that it can amount to the same thing.
The standard argument against No Platform is that we should debate people we disagree with, because we will win the argument. This is a point I have made in many contexts. But there is a collary to this which is often glossed over: No Platform just makes the bigots someone else’s problem.
No Platform is just a clever form of NIMBYism. When students refuse to engage, the people with unsavoury views are not discredited to the extent that they fall out of the discourse. Instead, they double-down. Although they may be prevented from speaking in a particular place, they usually take their speech elsewhere. Continue reading “No Platform: Political Fly-Tipping”
The newspapers were very happy to publish pictures on their front pages of an actual murder, and yet felt unable to publish pictures of a religious figure in charicature.
Ever since the hideous massacre of journalists at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper, I’ve been relaying a pair of juxtaposed facts about the media coverage of the incident. I am preparing a talk to some media studies students about the coverage, and I have just realised I have never properly blogged about what I noticed.
Better late than never, I’m doing that now. Continue reading “The Newspapers’ Double-Standards on Charlie Hebdo”
We are challenged by an island’s worth of puzzles as the player is transported to the gothic mansion of Grey Holm and the hostile hospitality of The Craftsman
For the past few weeks I’ve been playing The Room series, a set of three games for mobile devices by Fireproof Games. This week I completed The Room Three, and thought I’d write a quick review.
The premise of all three games is simple. The player is presented with an ornate contraption, and the task is to unlock the secrets contained within. Do you pull this lever, or press that button? What combination of switches must you flick in order to open the door? How do I make that panel slide back? Where is the key that fits that lock? Continue reading “In Praise of The Room Three”
To see an office so clearly labelled ‘PEN’ with its door kicked in is personally chilling, and I feel the intimidatory censorship of my Kurdish colleagues quite acutely.
Ordinarily, I am a couple of degrees removed from the people who are persecuted for standing up for free speech. But an e-mail that was sent to me over the weekend brought the perils a little close to home.
On 2nd February 2016, the offices of the Kurdish PEN Centre in Sur Amed (Diyarbakir) were attacked. Photos provided by my colleagues at Kurdish PEN show the door to their office was bashed in, and the abstract statues in the courtyard were decapitated. Continue reading “Attack on my colleagues at Kurdish PEN”
For human rights defenders, advocating for a constitutional amendment is the only consistent approach
Not a week goes by, it seems, without a mass shooting in the USA. The world’s oldest democracy also has the highest rate of gun related deaths in the developed world. It’s a shocking public safety problem, and it’s caused by the fact that the Constitution of the Unitied States says that the government cannot curtail its citizens’ right to bear arms.
Many constitutional scholars say that the 2nd Amendment does not really mean that individuals can arm themselves. Rather, they say, it simply stops the Federal Government from preventing the formation of militia. The authors of that text were, after all, mindful of tyrannies, dictatorships and unchecked state violence. Continue reading “On Gun Ownership, Nothing Less Than Repeal of the 2nd Amendment Will Do”
I’d previously written off the Asher’s case as exactly analagous to the case of the homophobic Bed & Breakfast owners. But Peter Tatchell’s article has persuaded me otherwise.
Remember the controversy about the ‘gay cake’? Last year, a bakery in Belfast refused to make a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan. A court ruled that the bakers had discriminated against a customer on the basis of his sexual orientation, contrary to equality legislation. The customer, Gareth Lee, was awared £500 in compensation.
The case will be considered in the Appeal Court this week. Ahead of the hearing, the veteran gay-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has published a surprising article defending the bakery. There’s a version on the Guardian comment pages, and a longer version sent to Peter’s mailing list.
I recommend reading the entire article, but the crux of Tatchell’s argument is this:
It is discrimination against an idea, not against a person.
The bakery refused to support and propagate the idea of same-sex marriage. Lee was not refused service because he was gay, but because of the message on the cake.
This is a subtle point but also a persuasive one. The implications loom large. Tatchell asks:
Should a Muslim printer be obliged to publish cartoons of Mohammed or a Jewish one the words of a Holocaust denier? Will gay bakers have to accept orders for cakes with homophobic slurs? … If the current Ashers verdict stands it could, for example, encourage far right extremists to demand that bakeries and other service providers facilitate the promotion of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim opinions. It would leave businesses unable to refuse to decorate cakes, print posters and emblazon mugs with bigoted messages.
Freedom of expression and freedom of conscience surely means the freedom not to engage in the commerce of distributing ideas that you oppose.
I’d previously written off the Asher’s case as exactly analagous to the case of the Bed & Breakfast owners who refused service to a gay couple—This blog has previously discussed the issues raised by such cases. However, Peter Tatchell’s article has persuaded me otherwise.
The Medium of Icing
Who would have thought that patrsies are political! Almost 10 years ago, this blog also discussed the Medium of Icing.
Last year, the amazing Zano project crashed both literally and metaphorically. Once the largest ever European project to have been funded on Kickstarter, Zano was an ambitious plan to produce thousands of remote control drones with auto-follow and return-to-base capability. But the idea failed spectacularly in November 2015 when the Welsh company Torquing Group went bust.
This was obviously a personal and financial disaster for those running the company; and a serious disappointment for everyone who had paid £139 or more to Kickstarter in the hope of receiving one of the first batch of drones.
However, it was also a public relations nightmare for Kickstarter. It is certainly not unknown for crowd-funded projects to fail and not deliver the backer ‘rewards’ as promised, but the high profile nature the Zano project, and its complete demise, threatens to destroy the trust that millions of people have placed in the platform. Worse, it could undermine the whole idea of crowd-funding as a way to finance products and creative content. Continue reading “Kickstarter’s Honest Response To A PR Problem”
Dressing up as a génocidaire is totally fine.
One striking aspect of the Star Wars behemoth is how the bad guys have become hip1. The triangles and chevrons of the Darth Vader and Stormtrooper mask have become iconic in their way, and adorn T-shirts, rucksacks, pin-badges, and even baby clothes.
It therefore seems natural that one can buy Darth Vader and Stormtrooper outfits for your kids. Continue reading “Mass Murder LOLs”
Is this censorship or merely curation?
You’re all aware of the controversy surrounding the Cecil Rhodes statue at Oxford University, right?
To recap: Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902) was the colonialist, businessman and white supremacist whose career in Southern Africa had huge impact on the continent. The celebrated Rhodes Scholarship programme at Oxford University was established by his estate. As such, there is a statue of him at Oriel College at Oxford. Some current students are campaigning to have the statue removed on the grounds that Rhodes was a racist and not someone who should be glorified in stone.
This campaign is happening in a milieu of renewed debates about freedom of expression and decency at universities. I am against ‘no platform’ policies, and against the abuse of useful innovations such as Safe Spaces and Trigger Warnings as a way to shut down offensive speech. Continue reading “Rhodes, Political Correctness and the Censorship of History”
Defending the law, the Chinese government pointed to legislation proposed in Western nations.
Whenever I moan about the British Government interfering with and weakening our human rights protections, one thing I usually note is what a terrible example it sets to other countries around the world. How can we expect other Governments to respect human rights if we do not respect them ourselves.
Here is a concrete example of this problem in action, courtesy of The Guardian.
China introduces its own ‘snooper’s charter’
Defending the law, the Chinese government pointed to legislation proposed in Western nations, such as Britain’s draft investigatory powers bill, which grants similar powers to the UK government.
There is no need to comment further at this point.