Why the NUS needs to stop 'no-platforming'
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What do you think when you hear the term ‘free speech’? Do you picture students engaging in open debate, passionately and vigorously discussing what they believe in? Or do you see protest? Young people arguing and fighting for their beliefs. For students at higher education institutes – once bastions for free speech – neither scenario now applies. Universities have become censored safe spaces propelled by liberal fascism, where individuals’ with different opinions are intimidated into not speaking, or banned from participating at all. Yet apparently, nearly two thirds (63%) of university students believe the National Union of Students (NUS) is right to have a ‘no-platforming’ policy, according to a ComRes survey of 1,001 students. As a result, students and their unions across the UK are no-platforming speakers and institutions whose speech they find offensive. While the NUS’ no-platform policy is designed to protect students from hate speech and offensiveness, there’s one fundamental thing to remember: offensiveness is subjective. No-platforming is essentially intellectual cowardice. It’s patronising to students to think we’re so impressionable that listening to those with extremist views will make us extremist. In fact, more often than not listening to those with extremist views has the opposite effect. For example when Nick Griffin appeared on Question Time in 2009, he lost significant support for the party. Generation ‘special snowflake’ needs to wake up and self-reflect. Students and universities need to defend the right to be offensive. Banning debate is a violation of basic human rights, and a democracy can’t function without it.
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