Some of the left-wing architects and cheerleaders of contemporary censorship, including Britain’s Socialist Workers Party, which has backed the No Platform policy for decades, are now being No Platformed themselves.
‘This is a disgrace!’, they cry, which would be funny if censorship were not so serious. These people helped to build the infrastructure of modern censorship, with its determination to crush ‘hate speech’ and ‘offensive’ views, and now they’re shocked to find themselves falling victim to it? Have they not read any history books at all?
On Friday, the SWP, one of the largest left-wing organisations in the UK, was taken off Facebook. The party’s own page was removed and so were the pages of dozens of SWP activists. The SWP described FB’s actions as a ‘silencing of political activists’. They’re right. This was a unilateral act of ideological censorship carried out by the capitalist elites of Silicon Valley against a perfectly legal party based in the UK. It demonstrated the terrifying power of the Big Tech oligarchy, which clearly has no respect whatsoever for borders, territory or democratically made national laws and feels that it can reach into any nation state it chooses and switch off the oxygen of publicity to any party, group or individual it disapproves of. The attack on the SWP was indeed a disgrace, and it’s good that the SWP’s FB pages have now been restored.
But there is something spectacularly hollow about the SWP’s complaints. The SWP has played a key role in promoting No Platform policies on campus, which essentially blacklist certain groups and individuals from speaking to students … Did these people seriously believe they could nurture a policy of No Platform and that it would only ever be applied to people they dislike?
To think in that way shows a grave ignorance of history. It is more than 200 years since the great radical Thomas Paine observed that, ‘He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will one day reach to himself’. SWP, you established a precedent, a precedent of platform removal, and now it has reached you. Why are you shocked? Tom Paine told you this would happen. So did many other warriors for liberty over the centuries. …
Once you accept the logic of censorship — the logic that says some ideas are too dangerous for public expression — you immediately open yourself up to censorship. It is astonishing that some people still don’t realise this.
Much of the left has actively cheered Silicon Valley’s growing willingness to banish ‘problematic’ voices. … Left-wingers celebrated the removal of everyone from alt-right loudmouths to principled feminists like Meghan Murphy, from nobodies spouting abuse from their bedrooms to the freely elected president of the United States, never twigging that they were laying the foundations for their own censorship. …
Many other lovers of cancel culture now find themselves cancelled. Some Antifa pages are being removed from social media. Will Wilkinson, a contributor to the New York Times, was sacked from the think-tank the Niskanen Center after joking on Twitter that ‘If Biden really wanted unity, he’d lynch Mike Pence’. Mr Wilkinson has previously made light of cancel culture; now he is swallowed up by it. Meanwhile, YouTube has taken down the channel of La Marea, a leading left-wing website in Spain, on the grounds that its critiques of anti-refugee campaign groups were ‘inciting hatred’.
Those of us who learned about the French Revolution (the pre-PC version) have a fair idea of what to expect next.