Chris Meyns

So You’ve Been No-platformed

platform | ˈplatfɔːm | noun 2 [usually in singular] • an opportunity to voice one’s views or initiate action

How did it happen? Did they give you the noise treatment? Mocked your ideas, drowned out your voice with shouts, drums, placards, megaphones, so that anything you said remained inaudible? Organizers probably failed to arrange a proper mic too—bloody amateurs. Ouch. That ain’t fun.

Or did they rescind a prior invitation? Sucks big time. Especially since you already spent at least a few minutes planning your travel and booking train tickets. You even got a new shirt for the occasion! Not good. Now you’ll have to find some other event to show it off.

Or worse: Did they not even send you an invitation in the first place? Gross disappointment. You expected it, you hoped it would come. You also felt that at this one conference, months ago, some member of some Department hinted at something that might be interpreted as signalling that they could be interested in your work? But here we are. Your mailbox is empty and the phone’s not ringing.

Whichever way it happened, there’s only one conclusion that you can draw: You’ve been no-platformed. Some organization did not offer you an opportunity to voice your opinion. It feels big and scary. You’ve not been offered a platform, and you don’t like it.

Why did it happen? You’re not exactly sure, but you do have a suspicion. Lately some people have been sceptical of your new theory of the feeding behaviour of sea lions. Some complained that it’s ‘speculation’ that doesn’t meet their so-called ‘basic standards’. Others even called it ‘ideology’! Well, you disagree. You’ve done your conceptual analysis. You’ve reached your conclusions about how sea lions feed. You’ve even come up with an account of their foraging behaviour. You’ve always presented your views logically, you reckon, and are pretty sure your arguments are valid. You can’t see how anyone could possibly not rush forward to hear your thoughts.

Here’s the good news: As long as you haven’t received an official government (or employer, otherwise) restriction not to talk about certain things, you haven’t been limited in your freedom of speech. (Freedom of speech, surprisingly, doesn’t come with any corresponding obligation on others to host you, or listen to you.) (Also, you know that hate speech and incitement aren’t okay, but you can’t see how your theory of sea lions could possibly be construed as hateful.)

Sure, you may feel affronted that some institution apparently didn’t want to facilitate you broadcasting your views on the sea lion. But people at this specific institution weren’t exactly under an obligation to invite or host you, were they? Nor were they required to listen, simply because you showed up and opened your mouth. Just like no journal is obliged to print any of the dozens of papers that you keep sending them, but that for some reason keep coming back.

You’ve not been given a platform here, but you can still voice your opinions to any other person or group that will have you, if any. Friends, acquaintances, even random strangers on the internet! Or hey, you could also just ruminate about sea lions to yourself if you like. Some folks at some particular organisation simply aren’t as interested (anymore) in your opinions as you are. ✖