Why ‘no-platforming’ annoys me….
I have to say that ‘No Platforming’ is one of those typical left-wing positions that deeply annoys me. Every time a story in the news brings it up it is one of those debates that the left ties itself in knots over. It has become an issue because Ken Livingstone and Jenny Jones have pulled out of the BBC’s Mayoral debate tonight because of the participation of the BNP candidate. Aside from the actual issue, Ken is being a wee bit inconsistent here. The BNP candidate was given time after Ken’s participation in the recent debates both on Newsnightand Sky News. So, if he felt so strongly about it why did he participate in both these debates? Indeed, my only quibble is that the BNP candidate was not present in the main debate. If they were then they would have doubtlessly been roundly thrashed by all present.
This is my first source of annoyance; the dressing-up of political weakness as a point of principle. If there are left-wingers who feel that the BNP cannot be beaten in a serious intellectual debate, something which is implied by the no-platforming, then seriously, why do you believe in left-wing politics at all? Not only are the BNP bigoted and vile but they offer, frankly, stupid and unworkable solutions to problems which sometimes are actually real but don’t exist for the reasons the BNP say they do. This makes them rather easy to expose within the context of a debate. Leaving this unexplored and demonising them, maximises the BNP’s appeal as a party of protest. It appeals to those that feel alienated and neglected because as far as they are concerned they are ignored and betrayed by mainstream politics too. So, it gives these people something in common with a Party we are trying to drive them away from. Incidentally, you will often hear BNP voters claim they don’t have a clue what they stand for, some truthfully and some less so no doubt, this is a direct product of no-platforming and a clear indictment of its effectiveness as a strategy.
Secondly, and this is what annoys me the most, it is a volition of basic democratic principles. Democracy, we should remember, exists not for those that agree with us but even more so for those that do not. Where does all this stop? Does anybody seriously suggest no-platforming UKIP, despite the fact that you can literally just about squeeze a cigarette paper between their immigration policy and that of the BNP? No they don’t. Why not? Why not this great moral outrage every time a UKIP candidate steps-forward? Are they not ‘fascist’ enough for the left to get worked-up in a tizzy about? Viewed from the standpoint of democratic principle, that of allowing your opponents, no matter how odious, to actually speak freely, No-Platforming, far from being ‘principled politics’ as many on the left insist it is, is actually deeply unprincipled. It belies a contempt for both the letter and spirit of democratic theory practice, something that is sadly too common on the left.
Many on the left feel that this is a principled response to the BNP’s fear-mongering doggerel. It isn’t. The principled, the democratically correct response, is to meet the BNP in open political combat, face them down and expose them and their policies for what they are.