Tuesday, 16 February 2016

No platform

Continuing with the same theme, a National Union of Students officer has refused to share a platform with the well-known progressive campaigner Peter Tatchell, on the grounds that he's racist and transphobic. When he asked her for evidence, she refused to speak to him and wouldn't produce any.

Anyone who knows Peter knows very well he's never been remotely racist or transphobic. On the contrary, he's backed every anti-racist and pro-transgender campaign in his 49 years of human rights work. The accusations are totally absurd.

Yet the NUS officer, Fran Cowling, won't back down and the NUS leadership is supporting her rather than Peter. Peter sees this as another example of the growing censorship of free speech at universities and elsewhere.

He says: "This sorry, sad saga is symptomatic of the decline of free and open debate on some university campuses. There is a witch-hunting, accusatory atmosphere. Allegations are made without evidence to back them - or worse, they are made citing false, trumped-up evidence.

"The race to be more left-wing and politically correct than anyone else is resulting in an intimidating, excluding atmosphere on campuses. Universal human rights and enlightenment values....are often shamefully rubbished as the ideas of Western imperialist white privilege."

He points out that even if he did happen to be racist or transphobic, the best response isn't to shut the person out (what's called no-platforming) but to debate with them and expose their views for the nonsense they are. Open debate is surely what universities are all about.

But Fran Cowling and the NUS are happy to see Peter smeared as some kind of entrenched bigot, and then when he asks for evidence, they're too sneaky and cowardly even to respond. They're beneath contempt.

Pic: Peter Tatchell


  1. The whole idea that someone is phobic because they disagree with someone's opinions is getting out of control.

    I don't know anything about the people in your story, but isn't that slander when a person publicly lies about another?

  2. I think Cowling might end up a lonely woman as she will probably find a reason to stop talking to everyone.
    Good God... I had to check to see what Tatchell had done wrong.... how the hell can anyone get in a tis about Peter Tatchell. Beggars belief.

  3. Bijoux: Very true. "Phobic" ought to mean having an irrational fear but as you say it's now being defined as simply disagreeing or having an unpopular view. But in this case, Peter doesn't disagree with transgender anyway, he's very supportive.

    Good point about slander. Yes, surely he can sue her for defamation?

  4. Scarlet: Exactly. Peter is an entirely open-minded, tolerant sort of guy. Hard to understand how anyone could loathe him so much. Yes, she'll no doubt find other people to smear and ostracise. A crazy, venomous woman.

  5. i found this very interesting.
    i followed your links to learn more. i'd heard his name on bbc but was unfamiliar with his work or efforts in any detail.
    he seems like a nice enough fellow who has been speaking his mind regarding what he believes for many many years. perhaps before miss know all was even out of nappies!
    such a fuss.
    it makes me think of the ridiculous display going on right now for all the world to see... of our presidential election.
    they've done everything but literally throw ROCKS at each other.
    why is it that when it comes to public forums... it disintegrates into children on a playground? have we not advanced AT ALL?
    but tammy... maybe that's what free speech is all about.
    allowing someone to show just how big an ASS they are! LOLOL.

  6. maybe i should amend that last sentence...
    to show just how big an ASS SHE is! :)

  7. Tammy: Politicians love to throw insults at each other, the more outrageous and fabricated the better. The same goes on here. It's all very tiresome. I don't know why they can't just have a civilised exchange of views.

    She is an ass, for sure.

  8. I don't really know much about Peter Tatchell, but I am increasingly worried by the tendency to try to gag people and institutions.

    It's bad enough when it's workplaces or unions, but now it seems that even the government is very happy to invite opinion and debate as long as it agrees with their own views, but if it doesn't, they'll either ignore it or change the rules as they go along.

    I've heard two stories today which should scare anyone with any feeling for fair play and democracy: one concerns a certain 'cross-bench peer' who from his privileged and rarified stratum of society has declared that he thinks it would be a good idea to make pensioners do community work or have their pensions cut, and the other was an instruction to certain government-run bodies (schools and local councils were mentioned) that they were no longer permitted to boycott unethical companies or countries based on - for instance - the fact that they profit from the arms trade or tobacco products.

    Isn't this how fascism grew in pre-war Germany? Isn't this a step on the road to a totalitarian state? I used to think that 'they' knew what they were doing and had our best interests at heart - 'they' being those who make the rules and head up the committees, councils and government. They older I get, the more convinced I am that it's 99% self-interest.

  9. How bizarre. He was always loved by my old uni in the 1980s. I remember Germaine Greer being heckled and banned from somewhere. This seems like the NUS has gone loony.

  10. Jay: I read the same two stories. On top of the totalitarian aspect, they are both moves to reduce public services (in the form of pensions) and limit what those public services can do (in terms of their dealings with commercial companies). And the government will no doubt once again crush any democratic protest and bulldoze these proposals through Parliament.

  11. Rachel: Yes, Germaine Greer was another victim of attempted censorship just recently, on account of her anti-transgender views. The pro-transgender lobby wanted to ban her from giving a lecture rather than having an open debate with her.

    I don't know much about the NUS apart from this particular issue, but their policies are often controversial.

  12. I do not know or know of both the people you mention but I am familiar with the phenomenon of character assassination to achieve some dubious goal. This is a common ploy that our politicos and quasi politicos indulge in regularly and I have learnt to ignore them as, there is little else one can do.

  13. Ramana: Character assassination is exactly it. Sweeping smears with no evidence to back them up. Not sure what her goal might be except to paint herself as some right-on leftie for career reasons.

  14. Use character assassination only with people like Hitler

  15. John: Yes, she should save her venom for someone who actually deserves it, and not innocent victims like Peter Tatchell.

  16. I agree, that's really sad. From what I've been reading, our universities also no longer believe in free speech. The times have really changed!

  17. Jean: It seems to me that the whole point of university is to be exposed to a wide range of views so you have a thorough understanding of a subject. If someone doesn't want to hear certain views because they might offend or unsettle them, they shouldn't be at university in the first place.