Why I signed the “Keep Trump Out” petition
Update: for a powerfully argued expression of the counter-view, see https://kenanmalik.wordpress.com/2015/12/21/trump-namazie-islam-free-speech-and-the-left/.
https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/114003 (you need to be a UK citizen or resident to sign). Well over half a million signatures to date.
After all, aren’t I supposed to be an advocate of free speech?
“The United Kingdom is trying hard to disguise their massive Muslim problem. Everybody is wise to what is happening, very sad! Be honest.”
“We have places in London and other places that are so radicalised [by Muslims] that the police are afraid for their own lives. We have to be very smart and very vigilant.” [The Metropolitan Police, and Boris Johnson MP as Mayor of London, have both denounced this inflammatory falsehood]
These remarks are not merely disconnected from reality, but cross the line into hate speech, illegal in the UK. I do not think it should be, short of provocation of violence, but we do not have to provide a platform for it.
The counter-argument, however, also deserves respect: It would not be the UK as an entity but whoever invited Trump (if only himself), who provided the platform. It would be censorship to prevent him from mounting it. Trump, of course, is himself ill-placed to use such an argument, since he would ban all Muslims from entering the US, but that is not really the point.
I leave readers to choose between these two mutually exclusive positions. Each has its own set of problems, and there is no way to split the difference.
One final argument. To quote the petition itself:
The UK has banned entry to many individuals for hate speech. The same principles should apply to everyone who wishes to enter the UK.
If the United Kingdom is to continue applying the ‘unacceptable behaviour’ criteria to those who wish to enter its borders, it must be fairly applied to the rich as well as poor, and the weak as well as powerful.
And that. for me, is the clincher. Even if you think that governments should not be barring visitors with unpalatable and inflammatory opinions, they do. As long as such powers exist and are used, they should be used in this case also.