“Simply expressing religious opinions about homosexual acts”

Yet another Open Letter to Peter Tatchell – perhaps the most confused to date.

I am hosting this open letter on Peter Tatchell, Censorship, and Criticism written by concerned activists, writers and scholars. The letter has been signed by over 100 people. To add your signature, please email freespeechletter@gmail.com. Here is a link to a press release put out today, February 22 to accompany it

As human rights activists, writers, and scholars, we strongly condemn the actions of Peter Tatchell in bullying, vilifying, and inciting a media furor against a student who criticized him in a private e-mail. These attacks exemplify a pattern; Tatchell has repeatedly shown intolerance of criticism and disrespect for others’ free expression. They also exemplify a broader problem. A moral panic over inflated claims of ‘no-platforming’ reflects a persistent, deep resistance to diversity in intellectual and public life.

What? Objecting to no-platforming and/or related forms of shunning reflects resistance to diversity in intellectual and public life? As opposed to shunning itself doing that?

It all depends on which shoe is on which foot, of course. The words all depend on who is talking and who is the talked-about. I don’t have a single, firm, no exceptions view on no platforming and other shunning, because I think it depends, and has to depend. I think it’s ludicrous to shun Peter Tatchell while I don’t think it’s ludicrous to shun, say, Roy Warden. I think some protests are more reasonable than others. But I think it’s flagrantly absurd to claim that objecting to shunning people over minute differences reflects resistance to diversity as opposed to advocacy of diversity. I don’t buy the claim that you get more diversity in intellectual and public life by shunning Peter Tatchell.

UK media have attacked Fran Cowling, National Union of Students (NUS) LGBT+ Officer (Women’s Place), for allegedly ‘no-platforming’ Tatchell from a conference on “Re-Radicalizing Queers” held at Canterbury Christchurch University. These reports are simply untrue.

The facts are these. Cowling was invited to attend the conference by the event organizer, another Canterbury Christchurch student. She declined. Her decision not to attend was informed by her belief that Peter Tatchell has engaged in problematic tactics and politics regarding Muslim, Black and trans communities, for which she provided evidence. Without permission, the other student forwarded this confidential email chain to Peter Tatchell.

Waaaaaaaaaait a second there. Slow down. Cowling was invited to attend? Well if she was invited to attend, why did she feel any need to “provide evidence” of anything? Why didn’t she just say no, or no, I can’t, but thank you? Why did she need to tell the organizer about her “belief that Peter Tatchell has engaged in problematic tactics and politics regarding Muslim, Black and trans communities”?

And note the awful, stupid, thought-free wording of that claim – note the pious way of lumping all those people together as “communities” and pretending Tatchell dissed all of them. Note the creep-word “problematic.”

In the following days, Peter emailed NUS demanding further evidence for this claim. NUS assured him he had not been ‘no platformed’ and that Fran’s decision was not an organisational one. Tatchell persisted, however, and on the afternoon of February 11 he demanded that Fran Cowling apologise to him and to the University for her private e-mail. Less than 24 hours later, NUS received a press request from the Observer: Peter had forwarded them the emails. They asked why he had been ‘no platformed’.

In the massive furor that followed Fran Cowling has been smeared, bullied, trolled, and harassed in the national press and on social media. Tatchell has personally vilified her and encouraged others to do so, writing in the right-wing Telegraph that she posed a threat to “enlightenment values.” Yet Tatchell was never censored. He spoke at the conference; he took his case to the Telegraph and Newsnight; he has not been “silenced.”

But he’s been accused of being “problematic,” and we know where that leads. It leads to being silenced. It leads to being discredited among the people Tatchell works with – his “community” if you like.

Peter Tatchell has little credibility as a free-speech defender.

  • Tatchell has a long record of urging that public platforms be denied members of ethnic and religious groups, especially He has called for banning so-called “Islamist” speakers from Universities. He has even demanded mosques apologise “for hosting homophobic hate preachers” and give “assurances that they will not host them again.” Tatchell claims the right to decide who qualifies as a “homophobic hate preacher”; what counts is not inciting violence or any tangible threats to LGBT Londoners, but rather simply expressing religious opinions about homosexual acts. The peculiar urgency with which Tatchell targets Muslims lends credibility to the charge of racial insensitivity.

Wow. So Alana Lentin is saying “religious opinions” about “homosexual acts” are not something that should be protested or apologized for, while Peter Tatchell is. And then calling him racist for good measure.

This is not my Left. I shun it.

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