...a blog by Richard Flowers

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Day 2519: Why the Oxford Union is Right about Free Speech


Mr Jonny makes the case for Freedom of Speech applying to people we would rather not hear. But I want to go further.

Free Speech is not, and cannot, JUST be about the right to say things that other people find objectionable; it must ALSO include our right to HEAR what is said, so that we can REBUT it.

When something is PARTICULARLY POISONOUS, it is more important than ever that it BE rebutted. But how can you make a COUNTER ARGUMENT if you pretend that it doesn’t exist? Worse, how will anyone even THINK of a counter argument it if you stop them from knowing what is being said?

A case in point takes place at the Oxford Union this week.

The Oxford Union – a students’ junior House of Commons debating club, not to be confused with the Oxford University Students’ Union – are hosting a Free Speech Forum. The guests include leader of the British Nasty Party, Mr Nick Griffin, and Mr David Irving who can best be described as a “storyteller” (since the word “historian” is usually used to describe people who describe events that are true). These invites have been triggered outrage and protests from the University’s Jewish Society and the Oxford University Students’ Union – a students’ welfare organisation not to be confused with the Oxford Union.

The policies of the British Nasty Party – that all the ills of the country can be blamed on the immigration of people from other countries, especially if they are of a different colour – are not just wrong, they are stupid and short sighted and amazingly ill-thought out and people need very much to know what they ARE.

And not least because we should be able to spot it when, sometimes, more ELECTABLE parties might try to hint at policies from that agenda too.

Making up a version of the past where the German Nasty Party somehow did not set out deliberately to murder millions of Jews and gypsies and gay daddies and Slavs and disabled people and pretty much anyone else they thought were looking at them funny, is just AMAZINGLY offensive, and people need to know that attempts to airbrush genocide out of history are being made.

And not least because we should be able to spot it when, sometimes, more RESPECTABLE organisations might try to forget some of the people on that list too.

The call to “just not invite” these people overlooks the obvious: even it WE refuse to listen to them, SOME people will. Forcing them “underground” and making “martyrs” of them only ADDS to their sinister CACHET.

Rather than sticking our fingers in our ears, we should be using them to POINT and LAUGH.

1 comment:

Jonny Wright said...

Very well said, Millennium! I started writing you a comment, but it got rather long, so I turned it into an article on my own blog: