Conservatives are very in favour of free speech when it suits them, and one has to wonder about their motivations for threatening universities and student unions who have a ‘no platform’ stance on speakers and lecturers who are deemed to be beyond what a democratic society should allow under the rule of law.
Does freedom of speech have limits? Well many Neo Liberal philosophers thought not, but then again many of those philosophers were reactionairies in the 1930s who aligned themselves with fascism and corporatism.For them, the views of the ruling elite, the chosen illuminatae and successful capitalists, should be permitted freedom of expression, in a time when like now, the media was in a battle between the establishment, the new right and the voice of truth and disclosure of corruption. To us today however, we find that yes, we the public want restrictions on freedom of speech when that goes over into hatred, and the advocating of discrimmination against identifiable people or races.
Today we have the jihadis versus the Britain Firsts on each extreme, and feeding each other, plus we have the odd attention seeking super-sexist, homophobe, anti semite, or zionist who calls for the (quicker) eradication of Muslims from the occupied West Bank and the creation of an ethnically pure, greater Israel. For years the media kept the lid on the skin head movement and it was a ‘street corner’ phenomenom until the internet came a long and Extreme Islamic terrorism really took off as a threat in the west. Working class dissaffection could be turned into anti islamic sentiment and it could gain a critical mass with the media having to pay attention to the new Alt Right parties across Europe. The ‘unpopulists’ as i like to call them, represent about 1 in 5 of adult voters, and that is about the proportion of small minded racists I have encountered in daily life. That they were denied a platform in the 1950s and 60s was a natural result of World War II, but should they be given a voice? Is preaching hatred part and parcel of the freedoms we should allow?
For me the answer is clearly no when it relates to specific races, gender, religion or sexuality. People can seek a private platform for this type of hate talk, but it should be in the media’s and public sector’s interests to not afford them a platform, while also it should be a matter where their existence and opnions should be aired by those institutions. Are we not free as individuals to hate and discriminate against people whose politics we don’t like? . Why then not allow the extremists, the sect haters, a platform as a matter of intellectual scrutiny and to uphold that concept ? Well in a democratic society governed by the rule of civil laws, we are free to act until we restrict the freedom of others. Hate Speech is implicit in restricting other people’s freedom by inciting threats and menaces against them. Discrimination speech is explicit in disfavouring the freedoms of definable individuals in society.
As you may have noticed, the ‘neo liberal’ ideology, like Lenninist Marxism, has failed and been replaced, not too subtly by a different form of ideology, that of right wing nationalism. In large this has always been the resort of the wealthy elite in distracting the public from woes at home, or in expanding their empires and access to resources and economic influence. In this we are not talking about the Alt Right, we are talking about the rush to the right by the forermly internationalist conservative parties, epitified by Trump and Brexit.
Nationalism suits the billionaires of this world, who by the way are virtually stateless themselves, being constantly in travel and registered only as high net worth individuals in the best tax havens or most attractive dens of excess like Monaco and the Cayman islands. This small section of society, are obsessed with defending their wealth and increasing their power. They are about winning, and the Neo Liberal philosophy including globalisation, suited them extremely well in defeating wages inflation, which in turn eroded the value of money and thus their net worth. They are also obsessed with another thing withihn this, increasing productivity while decreasing costs, that is part of their big game plan. Nationalism is a dangerous game for them to play becauuse it could move nation states towards protectionism, as is much of the economic sentiment behind Trump’s election and the anti immigrant, Brexit slim majority.
However that risk of a move back to the old tribal chestnit, them vs us, is worth taking, becauise Nationalism is the best distraction from the fact that Neo Liberalism, their core ideology, has failed and its low wage, high cost of living net result is now creeping further up the social ladder, and that automisation is about to be rolled out across western society, decimnating jobs in the service sector. Like in Chess, this is a Gambit, where they give up some march on Globalisation, the race to the bottom – workers being only worth what the cheapest are, and the inevitable return of slavery at that low end, regulation free level – in order that they can keep the public away from ideas of government acting as a positive force in society in terms of well being, standard of living and technological progress.
This foray into anti neo liberalist ground is now revealed as my explanation as to why the Conservative and Unionist party are so keen on punishing ‘no platform’ universities. We are in a period of distractioin from the real economic issues and hang over from globalisation and hyper inflation in property markets and their related financial vehicles. That Neo Liberalism has failed is of no surprise to socialists and centrists, in the same way as the failure of Marxist Lenninist economics in the USSR was no surprise to Conservatives and market economists. What the conservatives need is to hold the ground centre right and in doing so they would like to shift debate to the right, with the extreme of the right wing being given an open platform, to distract the public from the growth of left wing ideology as a major voice in the dialectic, so much of which is formed in each epoch of university under graduate periods of around half a decade. They want Conservatives to be rubbing shoulders with the left, presenting themselves as the vpoice of reason against the far right, such that their radical right wing economic programme becomes wrapped up in a nice cosey, centrist political feel and a new ‘inclusive’ Britain is something they can somehow claim, while in fact they manage to shift the debate away from Marxist ideas.
Marxits ideology may seem dead and buried to most of us in the West, but that is certainly not the case to the leaders of the world’s largest national economy, the correctly addressed People’s Republic of China. They have a different economic model, eminating from a different philosophy. They are driving a Keynsian economy with larger elements of free market econimic freedoms than any previous marxist socialist government has dared. They have a form of command capitalism, where individual entrepreneurs are enabled by the free availability of credit mediated by the central bank, which underwrites the chinese ‘private’ investment banks and manipulates their currency to a low level favouring economic dominance in balance of trade. They have a planned infrastructure which is inclusive to poorer regions, and see their industrialisation as be-freeing their paddy field peasants from poverty and ignorance. So large is their infrastuctural programme that it threatens the long term availability of salt free building quality sand for concrete. They drive forward on five year plans, building whole new cities, rebuiklding the old, and faciliating ‘marketism’ to a state which is domninating the world economy. Such ideas and the success of the Chinese macro economic policy, as a divergence from tradtional Marxism and an adoption of a controlled level of ‘marketism’ are dangerous in a west with growing inequality of opportunity. These ideas could shift the power base back to ‘big government’ and away from the current ‘big corporate’ driven agenda.
It may seem that this is a lot of effort and will cause a lot of trouble to achieve, but as I say, Universities breed most of the leaders of the country, and are the hot houses of radical new thinking. An epoch is perhaps defined by the generational span of social mingling from the newest under grad’freshers to the post grad’s. People who are in the political clubs and debating societies, going on protest marches, and influenced by the government policy of the day. “No Platform” as a debate is purely a distraction for the current student epoch, indeed some of the speech content in a public place would probably lead to convictions under current law. No it is something for the Conservatives to tie up student organisations with as a different fight from that which is against their economic policy, and they probably have no intention on winning it, they can just back away and be seen as ‘testing the bounds of democracy and free speech’ while having conventiently fillibustered their way through much of current debate, allowing this single issue to even eclipse all others in the sphere of higher education.
“No platform’ for hate, discrimination, and incitement to act to destroy democracy is in fact a “No Brainer” for any public institution, and a good many private ones too. Holding up the rights of freedom of speech in relation to these ideas being driven into a somehow more dangerous ‘underground’ is just a tautology in itself – democracy is of course going to have to stop freedom of speech when it preaches the end of democracy and freedom of speech. Instead giving the far right, or extreme islam, or anti Democractic Revolutiuonary Marxism a platform legitimises their cause amongst the weaker minded and more vuldnerable young people. Politicians talk of how Hitler was denied a platform and there in lay his core of support and legitimacy, and the Alt Right and Neo Nazi movements have somehow been able to bend the media’s ear to listen to this, much as it is dismissed, it is kind of a foot in the door for a platform, which should be denied.
The alternative to not allowing any credible platform to extremeists is not the stifling of debate. It is not the appeasement to the imaginary meta liberal ‘dictatorship’ that international organisations perpetuate in order to suppress debate, that is largely a Neo Liberal myth. We can have a sensible debate in open platform politics about the polciies of the council of refugees, about freedom of movement and employment across national borders, abouut low cost countries, about the influence of Islamic fundamentalists and isolationists within our western societies. There are holy cows to be slaughtered or at least endure aputations in order that crises like the Syrian refugee and Afrcian – Asian migrant crises be managed equitably.
Most of all though, we need to shift the debate back to being the balance between the interests of labour and capital, society and industry, the individual and the environment, science and technological progress, personal well being versus personal wealth accumulation. Most of all between what is truth and how we can define it, and what is fake and mere opinion.