Debate: No platforming is a great strategy

Ivan Merker 26 January 2018

The no platforming issue will always be a controversial one – critics link the policy to an infringement of freedom of speech, itself a concept that is hotly debated and, at times, difficult to define. Some view no platforming as the suppression of expression, that to restrict certain types of speech is to undermine a fundamental value. This, however, overlooks the basic purpose of the policy – no platforming does not necessarily equate to censorship or violated freedom of speech.The National Union of Students’ (NUS) No Platform Policy directly addresses this argument: “NUS supports freedom of speech, thought and expression. But NUS opposes those who attempt to utilise this freedom in order to remove freedoms of others.” This captures the main spirit of the policy. No platforming is not directed at the freedom of speech, but at hate speech. Universities should be safe spaces for all students, and when there is the possibility of any such group being threatened or discriminated against, then students should have the right to decide whether the attacking views should be broadcasted at all.

There is no value in airing bigoted opinions, especially if students already recognise the hateful nature of them. Intellectual discussions and dialogues can be started even without having to invite speakers to ignite them through controversy, and universities should be first and foremost looking to protect oppressed groups.

Some participants in this debate have branded students today as “snowflakes” and as being too sensitive, but the issue at stake here is really humanity. The impetus of modern no platforming comes largely from BME, LGBT+ and other marginalised groups.