Should the EDL be allowed on Newsnight tonight?
The BBC, in it’s sometimes less than infinite wisdom has decided to allow the leader of the English Defence League a slot on Newsnight tonight. Let’s start from the top. This is an utterly hypocritical decision, were it to be one of those ‘extremist Islamic preachers of hate’ that the Daily Mail and Tom Harris seem to see round every corner, the BBC would have no hesitation in saying ‘thanks, but no thanks. Having said that we also have to say quite clearly, that No Platform is a nonsense tactic. Indeed, as Lisa Ansell rightly says;
No Platform, means no discussion. No discussion means censorship can justifiably be claimed.
I would also add, it gives them ‘anti-establishment’ kudos. Furthermore, as Lisa rightly says in comments, the purpose of these occasional appearances is to humiliate and denigrate organisations like the EDL, rather than seriously combat their politics, and this only makes matters worse. However, I do feel differently when it comes to the British National Party and the EDL. The EDL are a different and more dangerous organisation and indeed they are in many ways directly comparable to a known supporter of Al-Qaeda, for example. They are thugs and criminals and the most lumpen elements in our society.
So, the ‘No Platform’ question is, I would contend, slightly more complicated. Also, there is a difference between saying they should not be on Newsnight to saying they should be prescribed, for example. Certainly, I feel communities should have the right to stop both their and the counter-productive counter-marches access to their area if they so wish (just as I support the right of Northern Ireland’s Catholics to curtail the marching rights of the Orange Order).
Just screeching no-platform at the BBC however, is simplistic and rather a-political. I am sympathetic for calls for tighter restrictions on the EDL however, but this is not the way to defeat their politics ultimately and we cannot rely on the state or establishment to apply such restrictions even-handedly. It is therefore wrong to see struggling for and demanding ‘no platform’ as an end in itself because it fails to challenge the EDL politically and expose the politics they espouse; and, finally, it leaves their fate in the hands of a state and or an establishment we simply cannot trust to be even-handed.