No “No Platform”

MAY 2022 Forums General discussion No “No Platform”

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  • #83628
    ALB
    Keymaster

    Arising out of the leader of the French Front National Marine Le Pen speaking at the Oxford Union yesterday there was a debate on BBC Radio 4 last night between Weyman Bennett and Tom Slater, of Spiked magazine.

    Bennett, SWP leader of "Unite Against Fascism", had gone on record as saying:

    Quote:
    We will demonstrate to argue that fascists should never be allowed a platform.

    In the debate Slater completely demolished Bennett's arguments, using the same ones that we have always done:

    That "No Platform" is not the way to deal with people with obnoxious views such as Marine Le Pen. Rather than try to physically stop them from speaking, put them up on a platform and refute their views forcefully point by point. Trust people to be able to see through them. Censoring what you don't want people to hear is a patronising and elitist attitude towards people as if they are incapable of making up their own minds up or might be corrupted by what they hear (while you're not). And when “no platform” becomes the norm who's going to be next?

    The last point is particularly pertinent to the SWP as they have been "no platformed" themselves at some universities, a victim of their own policies.

    We know that Spiked is a mutation of the old "Living Marxism" magazine and "Revolutionary Communist Party", but on this issue they are right. In fact they seem to be waging a useful campaign against censorship and for free speech at universities:

    http://www.spiked-online.com/freespeech/campuscensorship

    Of course we were waging this same battle 40 years ago:

    #109271
    LBird
    Participant

    Are there only two positions:1. No Platform; or2. No 'No Platform'.?Surely within any society there are always going to be some views that that society will insist has 'No Platform' within it?Isn't the real issue 'who determines' what counts as a view that should be given a platform, and one that shouldn't?That any view has historical and social roots, and that what is allowed a 'Platform' in one period, perhaps isn't in another, and vice versa?I'm in favour of neither 'No Platform' or 'No 'No Platform'' in the abstract; I can see grey areas and contexts, that need discussing, and voting upon.I can see why some societies would ban 'Mein Kampf', and why some wouldn't. I've read it, and regard it as laughable, but I can see why the symbolic importance of a ban of Nazi works could be justified, in a society which is coming under pressure from Nazis, who are organising and attacking working class people.To me, the real issue is 'who determines a ban?'. The problem with the 'No Platform' brigade is usually that they are not democrats, they are Leninists/Maoists etc.

    #109272
    ALB
    Keymaster
    LBird wrote:
    Isn't the real issue 'who determines' what counts as a view that should be given a platform, and one that shouldn't?.

    No. It's about whether anyone should determine what views shall or shall not be allowed to be expressed.

    #109273
    LBird
    Participant
    ALB wrote:
    It's about whether anyone should determine…

    Well, if no social body 'determines', then each individual will 'determine'.To pretend 'whether anyone', is to answer 'each lone individual should'.I've long suspected that there is an undertone of 'liberal individualism' on this site, often made evident by posters opposed to my 'Democratic Science' views.Put simply, I think 'democracy' should determine, whereas you think 'individuals' should determine.There is no 'non-determination' for the social animals that we are.

    #109274
    ALB
    Keymaster

    By "anyone" I included institutions as well as individuals. I don't think any instiution should ban the expression of views, even if it has a democratic mandate or majority backing to do so. I agree that no "lone individual" should have this right either, nor should any private association like UAF or the SWP. Nobody or no body should. On the other hand,  "lone individuals" should be free to express their point of view without punishment or retribution.Actually, and no doubt this will confirm your worst fears about "liberal individualism", I think that this article in the US constitution gets it about right:

    Quote:
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    Suitably adapted, this could apply in socialism too.What frightens me, rather, is a "totalitarian democracy" in which a majority vote can determine which views can be expressed and cannot be expressed. I know you can come back and argue that a majority has first to determine that no decision can be taken "abridging the freedom of speech" and that it is by virtue of this decision that individuals can express themselves freely (as opposed to some inalienable right of individuals to free speech). I hope you do.

    #109275
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    I recall the para-military uniform act was brought in to stop the black shirt BUF parading in the 30s .Here in Scotland i think it has only been used once ever, against some protester wearing black beret, combat jacket and sunglasses, shouting "up the IRA" at a troops out march in the 70s.I watched Question Time today….George Galloway, himself a victim of political violence, correctly describing how the BBC pre-planned for him to be thrown to the lions and how the press gleefully described the heckling of himThats the grey area i think we should be concerned with. Not the principle on no platform but how the media manipulates who is given a platform and for what purpose, acclaiming such rights as supposed free speech to ensure that one voice is heard loud and clear.Along with the usual we had a business think tank as there often is. Since the departing of Bob Crow, has there been a trade unionist on QT for them to attempt to crucify? I recall in my youth TUC leaders were worthy of regular tv exposure and their conference given live coverage…ahhhh…those were the days….I think those who protest Le Pen at a meeting where it is totally voluntary to go or not…and their absence from protesting the media who are in our sitting rooms shoving their billage down our throats uninvited is the real issue…the antics of no platform is trivial and distracting from the real question we face about democracy and free speech.

    #109276
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    ALB wrote:
    What frightens me, rather, is a "totalitarian democracy" in which a majority vote can determine which views can be expressed and cannot be expressed. 

    What would be even more frightening would be a form of democracy that allowed one small committee to appoint an even smaller committee  to control  what is said and by whome.

    #109277
    steve colborn
    Participant
    #109278
    LBird
    Participant
    ALB wrote:
    What frightens me, rather, is a "totalitarian democracy" in which a majority vote can determine which views can be expressed and cannot be expressed.

    But the reverse of this is just as 'frightening':

    Quote:
    What frightens me, rather, is a "individualist democracy" in which a minority of one vote can determine which views can be expressed and cannot be expressed.

    We seem to agree about the latter:

    ALB wrote:
    I agree that no "lone individual" should have this right either…

    But you go on to argue:

    ALB wrote:
    …nor should any private association like UAF or the SWP. Nobody or no body should. On the other hand,  "lone individuals" should be free to express their point of view without punishment or retribution.

    I find it inconsistent. Why should a 'lone individual' decide for themself whether their 'view' is socially acceptable or not?What if the individual persuades another 'lone individual' of their 'view', and they both argue it?Do these two now constitute a 'private association' (in effect, a tiny UAF or SWP)?I can imagine an argument being put forward that, as long as the views are 'non-political', then they should be allowed to determine their freedom to hold (and thus speak them and thus propagate them) their 'own' views.But, once again, 'who determines' "non-political"?For example, during the 1970s, the organisation PIE was formed, from 'individuals' holding views that many think should be banned. They could argue that their views are 'personal views', and ask why shouldn't they be allowed to disseminate and persuade others of those views.Clearly, PIE is an emotive case, but it serves as an illustration of the need to address social and historical context when discussing 'No Platform' and 'No 'No Platform''.

    ALB wrote:
    I know you can come back and argue that a majority has first to determine that no decision can be taken "abridging the freedom of speech" and that it is by virtue of this decision that individuals can express themselves freely (as opposed to some inalienable right of individuals to free speech). I hope you do.

    Yes, I agree that it is a decision of a majority to determine the extent of 'freedom of speech'.I'm in favour, as I'm sure you and all other comrades are, of as much freedom of speech as possible. But, also as you say, this is not on the basis of the bourgeois ideology of 'some inalienable right of individuals', but on the basis of a majority committed to a 'freedom of speech' which they determine the extent of and can limit.I think a social majority is a better judge of 'as possible', 'extents' and 'limits', than are 'lone individuals'.As I've said before, fear of 'democratic mandates' or 'majority backing' is rooted in our experience of bourgeois society, and its underlying ideology of 'the fear of the mob', itself rooted in the 'inalienable right to property'.This 'ideological fear' can only be overcome by the democratic practices of a class conscious proletariat as we develop ourselves, in the process of building towards socialism.

    #109279
    ALB
    Keymaster

    I have no fear of democratic mandates. I just think that there are some fields where this should not apply, precisely over what ideas individuals hold and express as well as over what food they eat or clothes they wear. Some decisions should be taken democratically, others individually. Obviously I don't think that an individual should be able to dictate decisions on such matters either, though they can seek to change people's minds about them.Anyway, supposing that a decision has been taken to try to prevent the expression of some point of view, what do you envisage should happen to those who persist in expressing it?

    #109280
    robbo203
    Participant
    ALB wrote:
    I have no fear of democratic mandates. I just think that there are some fields where this should not apply, precisely over what ideas individuals hold and express as well as over what food they eat or clothes they wear. Some decisions should be taken democratically, others individually. Obviously I don't think that an individual should be able to dictate decisions on such matters either, though they can seek to change people's minds about them.Anyway, supposing that a decision has been taken to try to prevent the expression of some point of view, what do you envisage should happen to those who persist in expressing it?

     Exactly!  Its got nothing to do with "fear of the mob". That is a complete straw argument. Its got everthing to do with where democracy is required and where it is simply not required – where in fact trying to impose a "democratic mandate" is utterly pointless , stupid , impracticable and a complete waste of everyone's time. In fact the whole argument is self contradictory.  Democracy is supposed to be about the resolution of conflicting differences of opinion over some proposal about  some practical course action and so presupposes those differences in the first place.  To extend the concept of democracy to people's thoughts or modes of self expression implies the suppression of those very things that democracy is supposed to be about. This is not democracy, it is totalitarian thought control. It is fascism.  We are no longer allowed to think what we think.  We must toe the Party Line, embrace the Party Line, become the Party Line.  Sod that. I say.  Who wants such a Brave New World?Agreement and consensus should be allowed to emerge naturally and spontaneously though human interaction and debate and not be  forcibly in the sense of wanting to eliminate the different ways of looking at the world by means of some kind of insiduous thought control:  "You shall henceforth not think these thoughts again because society has determined they are unthinkable.  You shall henceforth conform to what society has determined by democratic mandate"".  That is pointless and it will in fact make democracy pointless even if it could be implemented.. Of course we must respect and abide by majority decisions but that does not have to entail relinguishing our own point of view – does it? – and if we were forced to can we truly be said to be living in a democratic society at all?

    #109281
    LBird
    Participant
    ALB wrote:
    I just think that there are some fields where this should not apply, precisely over what ideas individuals hold and express…

    [my bold]I agree with you, ALB, but the issue is 'who determines' the 'fields'?In any specific vote on an issue, we're likely to be identical in our opinion, I think.But I think the validity of which 'field' is decided, is by a vote, not by lone individuals.It's the majority that gives legitimacy, not the individual.

    ALB wrote:
    Anyway, supposing that a decision has been taken to try to prevent the expression of some point of view, what do you envisage should happen to those who persist in expressing it?

    Simple. They should be prevented.I'm a Democratic Communist.

    #109282
    LBird
    Participant
    robbo203 wrote:
    To extend the concept of democracy to people's thoughts or modes of self expression implies the suppression of those very things that democracy is supposed to be about. This is not democracy, it is totalitarian thought control. It is fascism.  We are no longer allowed to think what we think.  We must toe the Party Line, embrace the Party Line, become the Party Line.  Sod that. I say.  Who wants such a Brave New World?

    This just sounds like 'libertarianism' to me, robbo.Replace "people's thoughts" with "people's property", and I think you'll see what I'm driving at.

    robbo203 wrote:
    Of course we must respect and abide by majority decisions…

    But this is inconsistent with your former rage against 'democracy' as 'thought control'…

    #109283
    ALB
    Keymaster
    LBird wrote:
    In any specific vote on an issue, we're likely to be identical in our opinion, I think.

    Probably. I hope so.But to descend from the realms of philosophy to everyday political life, what do you think of the "No Platform" policy, and attempt practice, of some groups aimed at any group or individual who are or who are deemed by them to be "fascist" or "racist"?

    #109284
    robbo203
    Participant
    LBird wrote:
    robbo203 wrote:
    To extend the concept of democracy to people's thoughts or modes of self expression implies the suppression of those very things that democracy is supposed to be about. This is not democracy, it is totalitarian thought control. It is fascism.  We are no longer allowed to think what we think.  We must toe the Party Line, embrace the Party Line, become the Party Line.  Sod that. I say.  Who wants such a Brave New World?

    This just sounds like 'libertarianism' to me, robbo.Replace "people's thoughts" with "people's property", and I think you'll see what I'm driving at.

     And what you are "driving at" is nonsense.  You completely overlook the distinction I made.  "Property" is a practical matter and so falls within the legitimate realm of democratic control.  Whether or not you think a particular scientific theory is correct or a particular form of artistic expression is good or bad is not a matter  for "democratic control".  Or are you seriously telling us that in your version of "communism" individuals will not be allowed to think differently , express different thoughts and disagree with each other on anything because some "democratic mandate" has been issued. Yes or no LBird? (You have still to explain how a democratic vote by 7 billion people on the merits of String Theory, and thousands of other scientific theories besides,  is even going to be remotely possible in a  practical sense but I have given up trying to press you on a matter on which you are clearly reluctant – and for good reason – to offer an opinion)If what i say is "libertarianism" then I'm proud to call myself a libertarian communist.  I don't think any other kind of communist is actually possible.

    LBird wrote:
    robbo203 wrote:
    Of course we must respect and abide by majority decisions…

    But this is inconsistent with your former rage against 'democracy' as 'thought control'…

    [/quote] No, it is not at all. The "thought control" I'm talking about and what you seem to be proposing is the absolutist elimination of all differences of opinion in the heads of individuals  on the pretext that some mysteriously arrived at "democratic mandate" has authorised that. from on high.   That is fascism not democracy in my opinion.  Democracy must acknowledge the right of individuals  to disagree or else it ceases to be democracy.  Disagreeing with others is wholly consistent with  respect ing and abiding by the decisions of the majority. That doesn't mean you agree with the decision per se but rather that you agree to go along with the decision. An important distinction which you seem to completely miss. And you miss it becuase you dont understand that democracy is about practical matters.

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