The real question – because it is going to be asked and debated in the run-up to the RCPsych conference is: what do we think about “no platform for transphobes”. My immediate answer (which ought to be plain from my last post) is that I don’t really care one way or another: my main interest is in the impact, one way or another, of what such a position might bring about in terms of its total effect.
The cold logic of direct action
First and most obvious is the downside. Demanding that someone not be allowed to express views, no matter how appalling, brings us instantly into conflict with the free speech lobby – and as someone who considers herself to be for free speech before most things, I would have to be convinced of a very strong case for removing someone’s speech before advocating it.
All the same, I’m a pragmatist. I grew up with the National League of Young Liberals, at their bolshiest, most high profile national headline grabbing best and, as those of a certain age may remember, we had, briefly, some real impacts on national politics. That was achieved, in turn, by a series of high profile, eye-catching and, on occasion, seriously disruptive pieces of direct action.
Digging up cricket pitches (and dousing the wicket with oil) in advance of an international test match went a long way to making it impossible for the South African regime to tour England in anything other than a sense of nervousness, and brought an awareness of apartheid to millions who had possibly never even heard the word before.
The focus of all successful actions was not the fun, the anger or the emotion. More than once, I was involved in debating actions that sounded, initially, sure fire dramatic successes, only to realise, after much debate, that the most likely effect on public opinion would be the exact opposite to what we wanted.
So here’s my opener for the RCPsych conference. I say leave Julie alone. Hakeem, though, is quite another kettle of fish.
Be nice to Julie
Ms Bindel thrives on controversy. She is the archetypal troll, and does very well out of trolling. One only has to look at the fuss that has followed the announcement that she is to speak to realise that not a lot is to be achieved by taking her on.
Humour? Nah. It gets turned with a knowing “look what they are doing now, those misogynist trannies!” No platform? Nah, again. It can’t be enforced, can only be successful in a few very select locations – and would almost certainly be followed by her getting a much bigger platform (from the Grauniad to all points Left) on which to complain of how she’s been no platformed.
So, in true “Britain’s Got Talent” style, that’s a thumbs down for doing much other than point out, with tedious repetition, that her “evidence” is little more than anecdote: her views inconsistent with basic principles of feminism and liberalism; and the effect of her diatribes possibly fatal for a few would-be transitioners.
Let Hakeem be Hakeem
Hakeem, though. That’s another matter. He, too, thrives on a certain amount of publicity: but for him, there needs to be a balance. Too much adverse publicity and the speaking engagements start to dry. He becomes persona non grata amongst fellow psychs. The effects start to hit his wallet.
Should we no platform even him? Probably not. But we should make life uncomfortable, exposing him far more directly, being there to highlight the unscientific nature of his views and the misery he brings to so many.
He needs the psychiatric community, because without them, he loses his standing. But if he is enough of an embarrassment, they certainly won’t need him: they’ll start to distance themselves, and that he can’t afford.
For us, too, he is a gift: because he typifies all that is bad about psychiatry (in a way I would never accuse Bindel in respect of journalism). With him in our sights, we have someone who is a genuine exemplar of awful practice.
So in the end, I guess I’m leaning towards letting them both speak to their hearts’ content. Except that we really ought to stop paying too much attention to Julie…whilst ensuring the public pay as much attention to Az as we can.