No one who can be silenced gets to be no-platformed

Here’s something that puzzles me about the “No platform = Silencing” thing.

In order for a person to be subject to a “no platform” policy, their views must already be well-known.

It is a basic tenet that “No-one has a right to have an audience”, however, I am bound to say that everyone has a right to an audible voice. The thing is, the history of mass media, from the printing press onwards, has been a history of the ever-widening accessibility of audibility in public debate.

The printing press made possible the widespread leafleting by the Levellers and was the foundation of radical thought ever since (it’s no accident that Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky and more were all authors for journals, usually self-published). These days, we have not only the internet, but widespread free blogging platforms that, if you can be arsed to go and learn SEO, will make your voice audible far and wide and easily, if you have something to say.

Nobody is obliged, if they are disinclined to, to click on your link. If they choose not read, you aren’t silenced. You’re just not interesting enough.

But, in order to become a subject of a “no platform” policy, then someone somewhere has read what you wrote, or heard what you said, and repeated it to enough people that they can debate on whether that is something they want to hear more of. (Sort of like the Official Secrets Act: enough people have to know what the secret is to decide that it is officially a secret!) It is most certainly not a case of certain views not being made accessible: if people want to know what you have to say, and want to hear it, then by virtue of the fact that you have a high enough profile to attract such negative reactions, then they will be able to find it. Unless you decide you don’t want people to find it.

To be silenced is to be cut off from the means to be audible, and the typical methods of silencing are that the consequences of speaking up are intolerable. Perhaps to a middle-class, educated, media pundit, being told, “We don’t want to read your writing or hear you speak” is deemed intolerable: after all, public speaking and public writing is how they make their living. But we live in a world with a plurality of views, and for every group who says “No”, there will be others who like what you have to say.

Meanwhile, whorephobes say they want to arrest anyone who pays for a sex worker’s services. Transphobes say they want to refuse protection to trans women, and have attempted to have trans women fired from jobs.

Someone’s being silenced here, but it’s not the bigots who are no-platformed. In order to be no-platformed, you have to be important enough. You get to be that important because you are not silent, and people are well aware of what you believe already.

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About ValeryNorth

I overthink everything.
This entry was posted in Language, Philosophy, Politics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to No one who can be silenced gets to be no-platformed

  1. Pingback: “A ghastly parody” – of an academic (my take on Greer’s transphobia) | Valery North – Writer

  2. Pingback: Freedom of speech and discrimination: #JustPray and other issues | Valery North – Writer

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