free speech – who can we safely deplatform?

You threaten that equality by trying to manipulate who I may and may not hear in public debate. (Tildeb)

There seems to be a lot of confusion about what free speech can mean in human society. Is it the right to express what you want without censorship or restraint, or is it the right to a public platform because you have ‘news-worthy’ views?

I’ve been engaged in some form of discussion (not very productive) with Tildeb over on his blog around this issue. I argue that in many cases it’s not sensible to provide a platform for people who promote hateful or discriminatory viewpoints. Tildeb argues that this makes me dangerous and a threat to shared freedoms.

As Tildeb doesn’t want to answer my questions, I thought I’d put one out to Blogland. Are there any views so discriminatory you would support rescinding speaking invitations already issued? Or is it true that there is a ‘free speech’ principle which means everything should always be debated in public?

Because I have a pretty low opinion of human beings. I think we’re still largely driven by fear and basic herding instincts. I think we all to often resort to discrimination and violence to make ourselves feel stronger and in control. I think it’s all too easy to manipulate large groups of people using fear to do illogical and harmful things. In contrast, I think Tildeb has a high opinion of human beings: logical, educated, intelligent creatures who can skillfully evaluate information presented to us and come to ‘correct’ conclusions.

But I’m not suggesting that I personally decide if someone is ‘safe enough’ or ‘too dangerous’ to be given prominent public speaking platforms. I’m suggesting that those making decisions look at the context for calls to deplatform controversial figures and allow community members to have a voice and a choice about who is conferred with the honour (and resulting prestige) of speaking engagements in their area.

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