No Platforming

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I have previously responded to negative reaction to Sarah Ditum's call for trans people to stop campaigning for a no-platforming of the feminist journalist Julie Bindel, who is currently the Journalist in Residence at Brunel University. My response focused on the below the line commentator NatachaNatacha, who either is the London University academic Natacha Kennedy or is pretending to be her. Kennedy was a primary organiser of the protest against Julie Bindel being nominated for a Stonewall Award. She also co-organised with Jane Fae the email campaign against the Transgender: Time to Change conference that Bindel was to speak at (thanks to their campaign, the conference was cancelled). Fae clearly believed that NatachaNatacha was Kennedy, as she responded to a below the line comment I made stating that she and Kennedy disagreed both here (i.e., in the comments to Ditum's piece) and in the campaign. Fae's response was ill-judged in both its content and delivery, accusing me of trying to read people's minds. Actually, some people leave such cookie trails that it is easy to work out that they have been raiding the biscuit tin, especially if (like me) you were in the kitchen at the time. Fae had been mentioned in the Ditum piece as a trans person who opposes no-platforming in general and no-platforming of Bindel in particular. Not satisfied with that, Fae wrote a blog post that claimed that her role in the Transgender: Time to Change campaign had nothing to do with trying to stop Bindel from speaking. She then publicised this blog post through the comments section of the Ditum article and I pointed out in reply that Fae and Kennedy had been involved in the cancellation of a meeting involving Bindel. Fae's article had failed to mention that the conference was cancelled. My first response had not been addressed to Fae, but to other readers of the commenters and I did so again, pointing out from my personal experience of the events that it was a no-platforming campaign against Bindel and a psychiatrist, Az Hakeem. In general, Fae does not take criticism well and if challenged will resort to rants that lose her the argument, this is what happened next. She lost it from the very opening sentence of her second response to me and in the process dug her own grave, writing:

This is just silly...not least that you seem to think you know what i think better than i do myself.

The problem for Fae is that turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, because I did know her mind better than she knew it herself. Unfortunately, her co-conspirator had published Fae's email to Elizabeth Fax, organizer of the conference, in which she copied in Kennedy. She clearly calls for a no platforming of Bindel and Hakeem, although her comments on them are mild compared to the incredible rant from Kennedy. Fae wrote in that email:

The analogy I drew before, of a neo-Nazi group organizing a conference on Judaism in the 21st century may be a bit extreme…but only a bit. That’s because of my second point, in respect of choice of speakers, with Bindel not especially representative of current feminist thinking, but on record as effectively calling for the eradication of transgender in its present form. As you can imagine, that is not something viewed lightly by the trans community and as I also said in my initial conversations, seemed to indicate either that the organizers were courting controversy or hadn’t researched the field too well. Hakeem is also a bit on the eradication side of the fence, too.

So a reference in an earlier email to Fax that it was as bad as a Neo-Nazi group organising a conference on Judaism was only a bit over the top because Bindel had been invited as a speaker. For the record (a phrase Fae regards as pompous and so I insist on repeating it) Bindel's father is Jewish. This is clearly an attempt to intimidate the Royal College of Psychiatrists into no-platforming Julie Bindel and Az Hakeem, while ascribing views to Bindel and Hakeem that they do not hold. It is clear that someone has not researched their field too well and it is not Fax. Yet, despite this clear no-platforming, Fae wants to argue that she has been opposed to no-platforming for 30 years:

"For the record" - what a pompous phrase - i've just taken a dekko at what i wrote to the RCPsych at the time as well as the e-mail that Natacha sent to them. I can't speak for Natacha (I'm a tad more cautious about psychic advocacy!), but nowhere in her e-mail did she advocate removing Julie B from the RCPsych platform. Nor were we asking them not to hold the conference. And i most certainly did not ask that JB not be invited.

Stating that the conference organisers were acting like Neo-Nazis running a conference on Judaism because they invited a speaker (who happens to be of Jewish descent) is tantamount to asking that that speaker not be invited. In a follow-up email to Fax, Fae goes into hyperbole, which is typical of her style:

What I think I am trying to say is: you are putting across a point of view that would probably be acceptable were it not for the long history of mis-treatment of the trans minority in the UK. But that history exists: a view of the Psychiatric position already exists. You are fire-fighting: but it feels like far too little too late. That means that if the perceived solution to criticism from the trans community is to continue organizing without input and without consultation, then that, itself, becomes a very loud message going out to all those who view this event with alarm. That is not meant to be arm-twisting. Merely to suggest, from my long years as someone who has worked in political lobbying and providing advice on PR to political groups, that something a bit more radical than fine words is what is needed now. At this junction, the RCPsych has a choice: to throw open its doors and engage in real and meaningful dialogue; or simply to seek to manage criticism. How the Psychiatric profession is viewed over the next few years is likely to be influenced greatly by how this conference is organized.

Such a diatribe after the previous email accused Fax of being practically Neo-Nazi for inviting Bindel and Hakeem does not square with a claim not to be asking for their removal from the platform. In the comments to Ditum's piece, Fae stated that the Royal College did not engage. In fact they did engage, but the emails ended up being referred to Fax's line manager, who dismissed Fae and Kennedy's attempts to keep the debate going when Fax had already set out the Royal College's position.

The College is involved in organising numerous conferences about a wide range of issues. Any opinions expressed by individual contributors at these meetings are the personal opinions of those contributors and cannot be taken to represent the views of the College. I feel that the previous correspondence from Liz Fox clarified the College’s position on this issue and that nothing further can be gained by continuing this debate as we have nothing further to add.

Indeed, I do have a clearer knowledge of Fae's 2011 thinking than she does herself. Her own emails display her support for no-platforming Bindel and Hakeem. Scrubbing the platforms in 2014 does not change the fact that Fae supported no-platforming in 2011.


© Mercia McMahon. All rights reserved

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