No Platforming vs Non Partisan Neutrality: Can’t have one without the other

‘Always keep your foes confused; if they don’t know who you are, or what you want, they can never know what you’re planning to do next.’ It’s been a long time since I quoted the estimable Petyr Baelish from Game of Thrones; and in very bad taste, I’m about to compare the gory politics of that TV show with the actions of the Conservative Party representatives we’ve been confronted with recently.

Thus Sky News, on the morning of the 26th of April, featuring Asa Bennett and Aaron Bastani. Here was was a clear example of why the world would be a better place if the platform afforded to some individuals was awarded to another who would do the job better. Or, specifically, how ‘political commentator’ Asa Bennett and his ilk portray a different yet salient aspect of that insufferable horror, according to the older generation of journalists: no platforming. That intolerable demon, spearheaded by much of today’s youth, out to cannibalise free speech as we know it! Is it really the horror they believe it is, or do they judge an entire generation of university students on their more vitriolic and vocal counterparts, that, in reality, make up the minority? I concede that no-platforming is an extreme policy; but so is privatising our NHS. No-platforming would be better off being administered to those more deserving of its liberty-robbing results; where it is desperately needed to fight the wave of sheeplike thought that pervades much of Britain’s older generation, who are influenced chiefly by broadcasting from TV channels, not YouTube channels. To those who are given an official platform, and who have not had the honesty nor innovation to create one of their own. Being labelled a ‘social justice warrior’ for daring to rob someone of that divine right, a platform, isn’t a very cutting insult; it’s more of a backhanded compliment. But for someone who masquerades as a non-discriminatory political commentator for money, while showing a clear bias when afforded with a public platform to speak from? If I composed an insult for someone like that, it wouldn’t be very PG.

Individuals such as Bennett will attempt to remain non-partisan in their written work, as their role is to criticise politicians, policies, political parties, and types of government, presumably with little personal bias. Therefore, they are often provided with the role of a supposedly ‘impartial’ representative to participate in political discussions on outlets such as Sky News. They’re safely immersed in their bubble of political commentary; steadfastly detached from the more partisan, less academically cushioned perspectives of us lesser mortals. And I’ll admit it: as a journalist, Bennett does not seem to taint his articles with much of a transparent partiality to one side or the other; politicians are criticised indiscriminately for their actions (Of course, I’m judging from the snippet I’ve been permitted to read, not being inclined to pay towards Telegraph Premium).

They are there to become a foil, an obstruction to any of that dangerous rhetoric those loquacious lefties decide to spout on live coverage. They are trusted, by the political parties that nominate them to speak for them, to conceal from the general public any facts that have the potential to disturb them. This is at least what I’ve observed, judging by Bennett’s complete omission of any concrete Conservative Party policies in his conversation with Aaron Bastani and the mediating Sky News presenter. Maybe he was just doing his job; shielding us from the complicated facts that our non publicly-educated brains can’t cope with. I don’t think so, however. He was steering the conversation repeatedly towards the alleged failings of Labour that the mainstream media pluck from obscurity day by day to shower us with. With his over-educated tones and condescending mien contrasted with Bastani’s more accessible discourse, the conclusion was a no-brainer for me. The Conservative Party do not nominate representatives that speak to the people of this country as they wish to be spoken to.

And that will be their downfall.

In the digital age, political discourse has been, to quote Wikipedia: “revolutionised to the extent that the public now has a virtually unlimited education quite literally at its fingertips.

The many means of exchanging ideas, including blogs and internet forums, has extended the political debate to anyone that cares to contribute. This ability and speed with which ideas can flow has literally changed the way that political parties stay connected to constituents.”

Indeed. I wonder why the more right wing end of the political spectrum has not yet been represented by an independent media organisation that produces accessible video and audio content, such as Bastani’s co-founded Novara Media. I’d suggest it might be because they don’t need it as much. Despite impartiality being one of the requirements to become a political commentator — at least in my opinion — Bennett’s headline of ‘If Jeremy Corbyn’s TV debate wish was granted, Theresa May would fillet him live on air’ seems to be showing a clear bias towards Theresa May. Now, don’t come at me; I understand that judging a politician’s technique and charisma is an entirely subjective thing. Nonetheless, his use of a headline such as that, coupled with the stance he took as a ‘commentator’ on Sky News, means the Tories need to spend more time selecting their representatives; particularly if they want to catch the vote of the young. Since the snap election was announced, over 100,000 people under 25 have registered to vote, and Labour’s video campaign seems set to target them directly, with cat videos being compared to the time in which it takes to register to vote.

By mocking students who argue for the no-platforming of those who they think provide only a one-sided, non-intersectional viewpoint, many of the older generation make themselves look ridiculous. If you genuinely think that absolutely no human being should be forced to surrender to the horrendous insult that is to be no-platformed, then you seem to support the notion that the general public should be subliminally influenced by partisan political commentators along with their morning Kenco and cornflakes.

Will we, as a society, support those who write and produce content for the people, or will those who write for the few always be dominating political journalism? As young people, we consume digital content daily, almost hourly; those who support a leftist perspective are gripping the attention of the young, with organisations like Novara Media at the helm. All the excess coverage that UKIP received in 2016, all of the inflammatory programmes that triggered a public hatred for migrants — they were brought into light by a media that is working against the people, and for their own agenda, backed by millions of dollars.

It’s time we admit that the mainstream media is indeed the demon those on the left portray it as. We have been liberated by the Internet’s existence. There are unlimited articles to read, resources to find, discussions to be had on various forums. Why read newspapers and watch BBC news religiously while naively believing that they are there to provide you with the resources to make up your mind? Yes, age may be a limiting factor; but I’d never insult the older generation by implying that they are too wrapped up in tradition to dig further into a new medium.

The Internet has raised a generation of free thinkers. Deal with it. We all have doubt, deep down; some, old and young, do not always have the energy to question everything, but with the existence of the Internet, there are ways to gain access to resources from various outlets to shape your viewpoint into one that is reliably informed. Anything is preferable to allowing your brain to be a helpless propaganda machine instead of armed with knowledge from all sources. No more are we forced to flounder among the agendas that those in power decide. We can, and we will, take back control, no platforming the non-partisan puppets one by one.