Why anti-vacc campaigners, nut-bag christians, and pick-up artists should be able to hold their crazy conferences

It isn’t easy to talk at a conference in Australia these days if you’re a right wing conservative Christian, super sleazy dating coach, or anti-vaccination campaigner.

In fact it’s almost impossible.

If a conference is on the edgy/reactionary side and contrary to (left-wing) social media norms the conference venues are pressured via social media to cancel the booking. In all of the examples above venues have cancelled bookings because they don’t want any controversy attached to their venues. Presumably they just want to focus on arranging tables, water, fresh mints, and canapés.

It’s pretty gutless.

The fact I believe most of the folks above deserve a platform is different to agreeing with what they are saying. I don’t agree with any of the above folks. In fact I oppose their positions vehemently. But they are entitled to them no matter how abhorrent.

The general manager of one of the venues who cancelled the anti-vacc conference Sherri Tenpenny was scheduled to speak at said, “The club as a venue, we don’t have a position for or against this, we just decided the subject matter was too controversial for us to be involved in.”

Someone should tell him that in cancelling the event he just took a position. That’s how it works. You don’t get to take an action and not take a position.

And for those who want to shut down debate and close down any chance of discourse, well, you can’t.

As soon as you try and shut an idea down, even a bad one, it will proliferate somewhere else. It will have attained a legitimacy as a result of any attempts to censor and repress. The pressure gives it authority and strength and meaning.

Far better that we grapple with ideas we find offensive and call them out. Far better that we have the courage to take a position and not be afraid of discourse(s).

After all, if we truly believe in our ideals, we should be prepared to defend them and be proud doing so, not live in fear that they are so fragile anything other can tear them down.

Do not be afraid.

Postscript: Violence of any kind is not OK and I do not support Julien Blanc.

The picture was taken today at the State Library in Melbourne. It is a still from a painting of the Black Thursday bushfires by William Strutt – Black Thursday, February 6th.

 

What do you think?