14/03/2016 12:27 GMT | Updated 15/03/2017 05:12 GMT

In Defence of Peter Tatchell


Its been in the news recently that Peter Tatchell - the well-known campaigner on human rights and LGBT issues - has been 'no-platformed' by Fran Cowling, the NUS's LGBT representative.

In other words, she has refused to share a platform with him at an upcoming event because of Tatchell's apparently racist and "transphobic" views.

Yes, you heard it correctly, the legendary campaigner, who has faced almost every kind of vile abuse in his quest to achieve equal rights for marginalised groups, including the transgender community, has been accused by some vile know-it-all of being "transphobic".

What was Cowling's logic for her seemingly unfathomable decision? Had Tatchell made some ill-judged comments about transgender people? Nope. Had he committed some kind of other misdemeanour towards ethnic minorities or transgender people? Nope.

What he did do was add his signature to a letter that was publicly circulated back in February last year in defence of freedom of speech.

It highlighted a number of cases of prominent public figures and academics being 'no-platformed' on university campuses and by the NUS itself for holding views that - when you boil it down - they disagreed with.

What this all says to me is that a significant proportion of the current generation of university students would rather wallow in a miasma of intellectual mediocrity, where the same sanitised arguments are recycled in perpetuity, rather than be challenged and confronted with views that they may disagree with or find uncomfortable.

We seem to have forgotten what Liberalism really means. It is about tolerance of all viewpoints, even ones which make us distinctly uncomfortable.

This tolerance isn't just tolerance for the sake of it, but rather that through free expression and through the clash of opposing views, we can, as a society, get one step closer to the truth - if it exists at all.

What better way to expose falsehood and bigotry than to give it a public platform, where the force of popular disgust and ridicule will extinguish any insidious meaning. Just remember back to when Nick Griffin, the then BNP leader, was invited on BBC Question Time.

Some had called for him not to be given a platform, but alas, he made a fool of himself and has since sunk into total obscurity.

I urge everyone to stand up for free speech and free expression, because the path that some are going down, in silencing opposing views, is an extremely dangerous one.