Monday, 26 November 2007

Oxford Union & the fascists: What's so hard to understand ?

Posh-boy Fascist Nick Griffin and bogus-historian / Nazi apologist David Irving are to speak at the Oxford Union tonight.

Angst-ridden liberals are turning themselves inside-out trying to reconcile the right to free speech with the policy of ‘no-platform to racists.’ It’s a tired old argument that seems to be revisited every time the fascists get an airing.

As a (non-angst ridden) liberal, with some experience of fairly ‘direct' action against fascists, let me explain:

Free speech protects anybody, however repugnant their views, from prosecution by the state provided that they don’t incite hatred (something by the way that both Griffin and Irving frequently do and seem to get away with).

‘No platform’ is a practical policy that calls upon organisations to take a voluntary decision to deny the fascists opportunities to legitimise their views. Campaigning for no-platform is a practical way of exposing the neo-Nazis for what they really are - and there’s no contradiction between that and free speech.

The trouble with the Oxford Union Society though is that it isn't a local community centre or a trade union branch. In fact it's not even a 'proper' student union (the real Oxford Students' Union have a no platform policy). It's an elitist private debating club for over-privileged twits who think that they are the next generation of the nation's great and good. They think they can achieve what Paxman and numerous others have tried and failed: to out-debate Griffin and Irving - who let's face it - are not going to simply roll over because they've been humiliated in a debate.

Actually that's a charitable interpretation - the upper class brats have probably invited the fascists into their hallowed chamber for the wacky shock factor - the same way they they have invited porn stars and gangsters in the past. But of course Irving and Griffin aren't bothered about that - they are just pleased to be at the heart of an Establishment institution that gives them gravitas and respectability in the mainstream.

Which is why the protests are not only legitimate but necessary.

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