Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hug a Hoodie at the Oxford Union

Jonny Wright has a long and remarkably sensible posting on last night's events. I reproduce his conclusions below, but do read the whole thing:
Firstly, it's ridiculous to claim to be anti-fascist when you're blocking a public right of way, and stopping people from getting to a legal meeting, however much you disagree with that meeting.

Secondly, the argument we heard time and time again about the threat from BNP activists being so great that it trumped the right to free debate. I didn't see any BNP people at all (although I'm willing to admit I wasn't in a position to see everything that happened, and they may well have been there). What I did see was a large group of so-called anti-fascists prepared to use physical force to stop people getting to a debate, use large amounts of amplified noise to try and drown the debate out, shout abuse and intimidation at students going about their lawful business, and call for the death of a 20-year-old young man with pretty mainstream political views.

Thirdly, I felt sickened by Irving's constant references to the Holocaust, coupled with his constant efforts to underplay the scale and meaning of it, and his noxious suggestion that Britain should have done a deal with the Nazis in 1940, and pulled out of the war - it would have meant the subjugation of the entire continent and the eradication of European Jewry, but Irving maintains it would have been in the best interests of Britain. As an internationalist and as a believer in universal human rights, that sickens me.

Fourthly, I'm immensely glad that I was able to hear Irving speak. I don't think it endangered me or put me at risk of corruption. It broadened my horizons and let me find out something about a man who up till now had only ever been a sort of bogeyman - and some of the things that I found out were genuinely surprising. I don't see why I should have been barred from going to this talk because of somebody else's arbitrary judgement. I'm also quite glad that Irving's views were shown up and challenged very strongly by students in the audience.

Fifthly, I'm physically and mentally shattered, it's quarter to two in the morning, I'm not sure I can stomach any more of this whole saga which has dominated Oxford life for the past two months, so I'm going to bed!

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