NEWS
14/11/2018 20:12 GMT

Oxford Union Accused of 'Legitimising Racism And Fascism' As It Prepares To Host Steve Bannon

The debating society announced the alt-right speaker on Wednesday, a decision which sparked backlash.

Students at the University of Oxford are demanding that an upcoming talk by alt-right activist Steve Bannon to be cancelled, as they accused the organisers of “legitimising racism and fascism”.

Bannon was revealed on Wednesday as an upcoming speaker at the Oxford Union debating society.

The former Trump aide and founder of far-right news site Breitbart is scheduled to visit the campus on Friday to give a “members-only” talk to students, where he will answer questions from Union president Stephen Horvath.

But members of the university’s Stand Up To Racism society have signed an open letter to the media condemning the Oxford Union for its decision.

“The Oxford Union is once again giving a platform to a far right speaker, and by doing so legitimising racism,” the letter read.

“Bannon is attempting to build an Islamophobic international of far-right groups and is looking to fascist Tommy Robinson here in Britain as a key figure for his movement.

“Bannon was the white supremacists’ link to Donald Trump’s White House until August 2017.

“Touring far-right groups in Europe, Bannon told them, ‘Let them call you racists. Let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativists. Wear it as a badge of honour.’

“We call on the Oxford Union to stop giving credibility to racism and fascism and cancel the invitation to Steve Bannon.”

The letter also called for those “opposed the the growth of the far-right” to protest.

The announcement comes on the day that Bannon, who quit the White House last year, was met with 100 protesters outside the News Xchange international media conference in Edinburgh.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was billed to speak at the event, but pulled out over his extreme views.

Nick Brown, secretary of the Union dubbed “the last bastion of free speech”, has reportedly called an emergency meeting of the society’s governing body to vote on whether the event should be cancelled.

According to university news site Cherwell, the visit has been known to Horvath for weeks, but the governing committee were only told of it on Wednesday.

Horvath defended the move as an “opportunity for our members to hear from an individual who has been at the centre of a rise in right-wing populism, as well as to critically question and debate the ideas and rhetoric of Mr Bannon.”

One Twitter user said of the decision: “Is anyone studying history at @uniofoxford? Fascism is not an idea to be debated.”

Another user wrote: “I have no problem with that idiotic twit Bannon coming to Oxford for a chat but on the proviso that another speaker is there to balance the debate. If in fact it is a debate and not a monologue.”

HuffPost UK has approached the Oxford Union for comment.