Explainin’ The Cosmos goes super serial

20 Oct

Word up manfolks/girls.

XCOS (that’s this site here) is officially the UK’s 15th best blog devoted to hit-and-miss “humourous” articles. However, occasionally I get the urge to write something serious. Today, I did such a thing, so please enjoy what is written below. Comments appreciated, especially if you disagree.


“No platform” is the problem, not the answer.

Reverse psychology is one of modern life’s greatest discoveries. Imagine, if it were possible, you could tell a Victorian parent with an unbearable scamp of a child that the best way to get the child to behave would to tell him to misbehave, and they’d look at you as if you’d just escaped the Royal Bethlam. Yet it seems to hold true, often when we find people telling us not to do something, we find ourselves doing that thing we were not to, just to stick a proverbial finger up at those bossing us about. Politics is no different, and I fear that the BNPs recent (limited) successes, coupled with the forthcoming appearance on Question Time by their leader, Nick Griffin, represents a lamentable victory for a strategy designed to defeat them – the “No Platform” policy of stopping, or trying to stop, the BNPs members from speaking in public, as advocated by many leftist and centrist groups. Here’s why.

Firstly, “No Platform” seems to have two dual agendas; the first being to stop the propagation of far-right hate, which in itself is unquestionably honourable; the second agenda seems to be a way of “defining the opposition” (to borrow a quote from Gordon Brown) – where the “No Platformers” define who and what the BNP are, and what they stand for. This is a dangerous game to play.

Consider the following hypothetical conversation:

No Platformer: “I see that Nick Griffin’s going on the telly. He should be stopped.”
Joe Public: “Why’s that then?”
No Platformer: “Because he’s a racist, bigoted man, and his party are Holocaust deniers, and wish to see ordinary British folk like us“sent-back” to their ancestors place of birth.”

So far, the No Platformer is entirely in the right, in terms of what he is saying and his intentions. And, indeed, if he gets the following reply;

Joe Public: “Fair do’s. I do not wish to know anything about the BNP, they sound like a nasty lot.”

Then mission accomplished. However, it is problematic for the “No Platformer” is if the reply is thus;

Joe Public: “I cannot blindly accept that, please provide me with proof that the BNP are all the things you allege.”

In fact this is where “No Platform” falls short. Any possible reply to that request would put the “No Platformer” in a bad light, and thus the antagonists in a comparatively good one.

Should the “No Platformer” provide evidence to back himself, he then finds himself providing the source material he was trying to suppress. He has failed.
Should the “No Platformer” refuse to provide evidence to back himself, “Joe Public” may decide to do his own research and find the source material the “No Platformer” was trying to suppress. Fail again.
Should the “No Platformer” provide evidence to back himself, only to show that he has been exaggerating the case against (albeit with the best of intentions), not only would this be a failure, but a damaging one at that. Reverse psychology see – if you exaggerate your adversary, you may find that you become an unwitting cheerleader for your adversary if your claims are found to have been embellished.

The fundamental problem with the “No Platform” position is that it is unnecessarily paternalistic, insofar that it attempts to stop us from hearing or seeing the BNPs views “for our own good”. This, I feel, is a rather glib indictment on society, and tantamount to suggesting that the public are too stupid to reject the BNPs hideous policies. While there could (and should) be an argument for keeping the BNP from indoctrinating the young by keeping them out of schools and colleges, I’m afraid the same cannot be said for a grown-up society.

Most importantly, I feel that the most effective way to tackle the BNP is to face them head on – after all, its not just claims about the BNP that can be shown to be exaggerated or false – the BNPs own claims can, and must be. I am under no doubt whatsoever that the claims that Nick Griffin and co. would not stand up to scrutiny, so why not allow the opportunity to happen? What’s more, allow as many people as possible to see the car-crash happen. Nick Griffin on Question Time is a mixed blessing – a large television audience is expected for Thursday, however a lot hinges on the quality of the panellists. I hope Baroness Warsi, for instance, has a real square go, but unless her and the other panellists land fair punches at the appropriate times, it may prove to be a wasted opportunity.

Last point – if you remain to be convinced by any of the above, just remember the legacy of the “No Platform” policy: 2 MEPs. 1 MLA. 58 local councillors. To those who believe in this action, I would urge you reconsider, before any MPs are added to that list.

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2 Responses to “Explainin’ The Cosmos goes super serial”

  1. tomasz. October 20, 2009 at 5:35 pm #

    in hip-hop terms, this would be referred to as "REAL TALK". nice one.

    Like

  2. Will November 8, 2009 at 10:20 pm #

    Many thanks! Apologies it took so long for your comment to appear, turns out moderation was turned on. Who knew?

    Like

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