Op-ed: Who’s the one deplatforming here?

Last week, FvD front man Paul Cliteur wrote an open letter to the RUG after students and lecturers from the Faculty of Philosophy wondered if Cliteur should be allowed to speak during the Night of Philosophy. Student Justin Warners responds with an open letter of his own.
By Justin Warners

Dear professor Cliteur,

I’m a student of philosophy at the Groningen faculty the quality of which you have called into question. I had not previously concerned myself with your invitation to speak or the discussion about it, but I now feel a responsibility to respond to your open letter.

Your letter was based on two separate instances: in a blog post, professor Martin Lenz commented on your ideas concerning Islamism, arguing why he was against you being given a platform during the Night of Philosophy; and dean Lodi Nauta wrote an internal e-mail to his staff, acknowledging the objections against your appearance. What you’ve extrapolated here poses a great danger to our faculty.

In your letter, you are painting the current situation at our university with broad strokes. To try and maintain your readers’ attention, you’ve sprinkled your letter with ad hominem fallacies in the form of thinly veiled personal accusations and naked ego-stroking.

Was it really necessary to refer to your published works not once but twice, and demean professor Lenz, a renowned expert in medieval philosophy, by simply calling him an angel scholar?

To summarise your concerns: “The quality of the teaching staff […], your dean’s academic attitude and […] the diversity of opinions future philosophy students are being confronted with.”

You see professor Lenz’ post as an attempt to “remove you from the schedule”. Did you not read the part where he talks about how inexpedient ‘deplatforming’ is? Based on what we know about dean Nauta’s e-mail, he hasn’t advocated for taking away your platform, either.

In fact, no one involved in this discussion has called for your invitation to be rescinded. But rest assured, your rhetorical tricks succeeded: Your supporters had an opportunity to be outraged and rector magnificus Sterken felt called upon to reiterate your invitation, even though this was completely unnecessary.

I don’t care that you disagree with professor Lenz. But for me, that’s not enough to negate my excellent experiences being taught by him, especially in the absence of any proper counterarguments.

The fact that our dean wants to give people the opportunity to discuss ‘platforming’ seems to me a sign of an academic attitude that allows for free discourse. Would a discussion like truly lead to deplatforming? Perhaps, but it’s certainly not the case here.

You might argue that simply allowing the discourse is a risky move, but that would only cause me to ask who’s the one deplatforming around here. At any rate, your invitation stands and you’ll have ample opportunity to confront us with your views. Hopefully this has put an end to your worries.

Now it’s my turn: I am worried about your attitude. You refer to the paradox of the deplatformer, but let’s talk about the paradox of the populist. Populists are thriving throughout the Western Hemisphere: the US president is a populist, populists are riling up the British, and populists won the provincial elections by a landslide.

Traditionally, however, populists love to pretend they’re the underdog. They say what the people are thinking but the powers that be refuse to listen to. But as they’re becoming the top dog, how can populists maintain this position of the underdog? The only way they know how: by making up enemies.

Their latest straw man is academia, which increasingly focuses on nonsense and indoctrinates its students with political correctness and against freedom of speech, under the banner of ‘Cultural Marxism’.

Whenever the reality doesn’t fit with your image of the enemy, you trawl CVs for pieces about angels and fabricate calls for deplatforming. Perhaps academic diversity is actually thriving; perhaps our faculty doesn’t oppose you in unity.

What if we actually have room for both your views and those of professor Lenz? Would you be relieved to hear it, or disappointed?

Justin Warners is a philosophy student at the RUG

03 April 2019 | 3-4-2019, 15:05