I was rather surprised to read BBC news this morning as they included one about students rioting outside the Oxford Union.
The main reason was the freedom of the speech as two very controversial speakers were invited to speak at a student event in the Union:
- David Irving – infamous historian with several rather bizarre conclusions about world’s history, including the idea that holocaust never existed;
- Nick Griffin – national chairman of British National Party who has also been infamous for holocaust denial, antisemitism and racism.
The main question that has been raised is “Whether it is acceptable to provide platform for similar people with ‘generally recognized inappropriate views’ to speak to the public?” There are different unions (say, trade unions and student unions, including Oxford University Student Union) who use so called “no platform” policy that forbids giving speech platform to people with certain views or opinions, for example, calling for racism.
On the other hand people argue (including current president of the Oxford Union, Luke Tryl) that it is better to provide certain platform for such unacceptable views, challenge them and indicate their flaws & ludicrousness in an open debate. At least this will not force such bizarre opinions underground where we have no control over them. If such opinions are openly debated then eventually the objective truth should be deducted.
Of course, there is always a threat that general public is not intelligent enough or has too limited education to understand the real outcome of the debate. The problem is that even if objectively ‘the right opinion’ wins, the general public might have a belief that ‘the wrong opinion’ was better. Another problem is that people advocating ‘the wrong opinion’ use events like the one at the Oxford Union to show that they are nice people, even more – that they are the ones who suffer and are mistreated by the public. For instance, British National Party (BNP) has published several articles on the event in the Oxford Union:
- BNP article No.1 on the issue (25th of November);
- BNP article No.2 on the issue (26th of November);
- BNP article No.3 on the issue (26th of November).
At the same time articles mentioned above are rather funny, and an average educated person should be able to see that their are scum.
Still do we have the right to limit information to the general public just because they might not be able to draw ‘the right conclusions’ from it?
Maybe similarly we shouldn’t allow not-so-intelligent people to influence paths of our countries by voting for our MPs?
Can we (society, government) influence and educate the general public and how should we do this?
Can this be done via debating societies and clubs or public debates?
Our debate club must have a say on this as well, thus we should have a debate on the motion that “This House Would criminalize provision of platform to racism, antisemitism or similar”