Yes, She\’s Right…

She is indeed featured here.

The Oxford Union debating society have invited Nick Griffin and David Irving to speak, despite the concerns of our local police and the city council, the student union and the Jewish and Muslim societies. I fully intend to be joining the demonstration outside the Union on St Michael’s Street from 7pm this evening. Doubtless there are some who won’t agree with me (I fully expect to be featured on Tim Worstall’s or the Devil’s Kitchen blogs later today, which will inevitably be followed by an onslaught of disagreeable comments).

Now boys and girls, play nice here. If disagreeable means not agreeing with Ms. Bance, that is of course fine. But being disagreeable just for the sake of being disagreeable isn\’t. Not when we go and play on someone else\’s property it isn\’t.

Of course she\’s entirely correct in this:

But I would just point out that having the right to freedom of speech doesn’t mean having the right to be invited to speak at a private members’ club.

Indeed it doesn\’t, even I would insist that it doesn\’t.

I would insist however that freedom of speech absolutely includes the right of a private members\’ club to invite whoever they should wish to come and speak to them. Which would appear to be what Ms. Bance is off to demonstrate against this evening.

Ho hum.

16 comments on “Yes, She\’s Right…

  1. I haven’t read a single coherent argument why they shouldn’t be able speak. After all you don’t need to listen.

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  3. eh? the right to free speech ought not stop people objecting to what you say, and having the right to free invitation ought not stop people objection to who you invite

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  5. If I was having a debate on free speech, the first people I’d think to invite was the BNP. It isn’t much of a debate if it doesn’t consider the extremes that offend our sensibilities and test our committment to the high ideals of liberty against man’s low lives.

  6. “It isn’t much of a debate if it doesn’t consider the extremes that offend our sensibilities and test our committment to the high ideals of liberty against man’s low lives.”

    Very well put.

  7. To all those who are comfortable with the Union giving space to Irving and Griffin: would you be equally happy if the attendees included a pro-paedophilia activist?

    If not, why not? After all, it isn’t much of a debate if it doesn’t consider the extremes that offend our sensibilities etc etc…

    Tim adds: Yes.

    Longer answer: NAMBLA. Sure get their people debating in public.

    Even longer answer: If we don’t discuss ideas, in public, then we’ll never know which are the good ones, which are the bad ones now will we? That “X” is bad, should never be allowed to be put forward in a public forum, well, we’ve done that before, for protestantism, catholicism, atheism, catholicism, protestantism (depending upon who was King/Queen you could get burnt for any of them, in turn). This is the essential point of the Enlightenment. Speak as you wish and let people judge you by it…..that judgement not to include burning you nor banning you from saying it.

  8. The Newthink paradigm: The right to freedom of speech is guaranteed on Airstrip One, of course, but this need not entail any right of access to any venue where the right to speak to an audience can be exercised.

    According to a new report in The Times:

    “Oxford colleges e-mailed their students warning them to stay in their rooms, and many colleges were planning to lock their doors this evening, amid fears that there could be a counter-demonstration by far-right activists which could turn violent.”
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/education/article2948623.ece

    “would you be equally happy if the attendees included a pro-paedophilia activist?”

    Only if the activity proposed is lawful.

  9. “If I was having a debate on free speech, the first people I’d think to invite was the BNP. ”

    Even if this is right, surely David Irving wouldn’t feature. As I note below, his actions are all about preventing it.

  10. John B, I wouldn’t disagree in principle, but in practice, it wouldn’t make for an interesting debate, which is the ultimate aim here. The dilemma of free speech really rests on those, such as Nick Griffin, that express despicable views that are latent in many and/or held further popularity in the recent past. That is where the interest and danger of their expression lies. Your paedophiliac example does not meet this measure and would be dismissed as a lone nutjob.

  11. Regardless of David Irving’s eccentric beliefs about what happened or didn’t happen during WW2, we have so far declined in Britain to legislate to either prescribe or proscribe a historical narrative for the war even though governments in many other European nations have felt impelled to do so.

    I believe we should rejoice in our national failure to legislate on the narrative of the holocaust and instead leave the issues at stake to open debate and profoundly hope that a clear majority in Britain will continue to abhor legislated history.

  12. John B:
    “would you be equally happy if the attendees included a pro-paedophilia activist?”

    I would, and I can think of two benefits to letting him talk.
    1. The public at large would learn that such creatures as pro-pedophilia activists exist.
    2. At least one of them would be publicly identified and the public could watch him like the proverbial hawk, possibly preventing the damage he might cause.

    Better to have these misfits out in the open than hiding under rocks.

  13. Nevermind pro-paedophile speakers – I agree that they are unlikely to have anything interesting to say. How would all these protesters feel if the Union invited people (as I am sure it has done in the past) who tell us that the murderer Che Guevara was an idealistic sort of chap who gave his life for the poor; people who deny the crimes of Communism; or people who tell us that there was nothing really wrong with Saddam Hussein? Somehow I don’t see them demonstrating. And, by the way, the greatly feted Eric Hobsbawm’s views on what happened in the Soviet Union or China are fully as “eccentric” as David Irving’s views about certain aspects of WWII.

  14. Please don’t tell me that Antonia Bance, Labour Councillor and Oxfam’s UK Poverty Programme’s deputy director, is basically a control freak with authoritarian tendencies! The Oxford Union has a right to have anyone it wants to speak to them.

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