No Platform May Be Necessary
Why I hesitantly feel I must agree with last week’s Boar column on No Platform practices against the BNP.
In last week’s Warwick Boar an opinion writer whose name slipped my mind argued strongly in favour of the so-called No Platform policy which in short argues in favour of excluding the British National Party (BNP) from as many public debates as possible: they should not be granted a platform. Rather than being undemocratic voice oppression, the columnist argued, it is in fact the exercise of one’s own democratic rights which eventually help democracy to stay healthy: in a mass democracy as that of the UK, we choose who we want to listen to (i.e. consider relevant), just as much as we welcome some people into our house and keep others out [NB: my metaphor, not his].
Close as it comes to the truth, things are not entirely so: the house, after all, is the UK, and the BNP is already inside. Similarly, as the author already seemed to hint at, BNP radicals will – even in the face of overwhelming counterevidence and refutation – continue to speak their unchanged minds. Perhaps sadly, extremist nationalism is a pocket that will continue to exist in all countries, but we must be realistic, recognise it as such, and act accordingly.
As a convinced democrat and social liberal, I feel all groups in a society must be heard and let others be heard to come to genuine reflections of the democratic will. This is a condition which applies to all groups, and it serves to keep the body politic healthy. However, what the BNP appears to be doing, seems very much like tactics of the communists in central and eastern European countries after the second world war: play a double game of democracy (broad national platforms, cooperation, etc.) on the one hand, and coercion (infiltration, targetting political opponents and eventual subjection of all parties to their will) on the other. A party seeking to place its own agenda above that of democracy must be handled with velvet gloves.
If what the Boar column states is true, extremists affiliated to the BNP have bombed a leftist bookshop in 1993, continue to target vocal opponents on the internet inciting violence against them, and seeking invitation to debates to foster an image of party equality. In this light, the last practice seems suspiciously much like an infiltration technique through seeking a platform: the acceptable tip of an ugly iceberg.
For me, this seems enough not to invite them into my house. This is the way democracy ought to protect itself against extremist protuberances: through watchfulness and civic decency, which does not always means engaging in discussion. Eventually, No Platform stands or falls with the number of people denying the BNP their platform.