No Platform For You, My Friend!

No platforming.

A concept that seems to cause a lot of debate and somehow even controversy, despite the fact that very few people actually disagree on it. Oh, sure, they might get into it over definitions within the concept, but as for whether or not no platforming in itself is a thing that should be done, my opinion is that everyone is pretty much in agreement – no platforming is a thing that can and in many cases should be done.

“But you just want to silence critics, you fascist!”

It is interesting that this is the first argument you turn to, imaginary interlocutor. I haven’t said anything so far about why I believe no platforming is sometimes a good thing, and yet you seem to leap to the assumption of malice on my behalf just to be able to disagree with me. But, now as you’ve mentioned fascists…

Let’s illustrate my argument with an example. Meet Dick. Dick is an imaginary fascist that I just totally made up, without any relation to any actual person, living or deceased.

spencer

Heil to you too, totally not Dick. 

Dick is a pretty typical white supremacist fascist; he enjoys long walks on the beach, stimulation conversations with intelligent women who can reliably prove their Aryan descent back to at least 1750 and the establishment of the white ethno-state by the expulsion of all non-whites by any means necessary, and even though the Holocaust totally wasn’t a thing, guys, we probably should exterminate the Jews anyway because… Well, better safe than sorry, ya know? Now, however much we might like to agree with Dick that long walks on the beach and intelligent women are good things, it is an unfortunate fact that it is the ethnic cleansing that he most likes to talk about – particularly when he’s giving a speech.

Now, let us imagine that Dick has been invited to speak, say at a university. From his background it is fairly obvious that any speech he might give will be heavy with extolling the virtues of burning crosses and Zyklon B, and so the question becomes “What reason is there for Dick to be allowed to speak at the university?”.

Among the maybe three readers of this post, two lines of reasoning is now occurring.

The first was done even before you finished reading the line following the question, and can be summed up as “You can’t take away free speech, man!” What is implied in this is that everyone has the right to say whatever they want, whenever they want, without any restrictions. If you believe that, you have no grounds to oppose teaching creationism in school or allowing flat earthers to crash astrophysicist conferences or letting Jenny McCarthy give lectures on vaccines, to name a few examples.

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Like, trust me!

This is essentially the “All beliefs must be respected and what is true for you isn’t true for me-argument, only repackaged to sound more hip and principled. This is, of course, a lazy, bullshit argument – lazy because I sincerely doubt anyone actually believes it, they merely spout it because in this example situation, they don’t really want to talk about why they think a fascist should be allowed to give his speech. I don’t have to give time to or respect any belief that includes killing people just for being born the way they are, and Dick’s words actually do have real effects on real people – a platform doesn’t exist in an ideological vacuum.

The second consisted of listing arguments for letting Dick give his speech at the university. Doing this, however, implicity accepts the possibility that there exists a scenario where the pro side of the argument column ends up empty, or that it is outweighed by the con side. In other words, there exists situations where everyone can agree that an individual has nothing useful to contribute to whatever is being discussed, and thus probably shouldn’t be given a voice on the relevant platform. I wasn’t invited to the conference on the feeding habits of Arctic brown trout that took place at the nearby research institute, because I have nothing at all relevant to say about Arctic fucking brown trout. Similarly, I might say that Dick shouldn’t be allowed to give a speech at a university, because he advocates fucking murdering people for their ethnicity and religion! This is (or should be) a line of reasoning that is not at all controversial and entirely acceptable to anyone, with the possible exception of trolls and genuinely paranoid people.

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Hmmm…

I am not saying that everyone necessarily agrees that the reasons given pro or con in any individual situation are good ones, and thus on what people should and should not be allowed a given platform, but what we don’t disagree on is that not absolutely everyone should be allowed any platform they choose at any time. Who’s the fascist now, eh?

(It’s Dick. Dick is the fascist)

So, I’m sorry. You’re going to have to explain why you are giving a platform to someone, and why you feel what they are saying is relevant. You can’t simply hide behind “Free speech, man” and metaphorically wash your hands of anything that’s being said on a platform over which you have influence. Not unless you want Princess Märtha Louise of Norway to show up and talk about angels, mediums, healing and fountains of light for hours on end. Yes, she really does that. The struggle is real.

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Just like Touched By An Angel, only even whiter. 

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