Bioethics Blogs

Should Hitler have been able to speak at the Oxford Union?


The Oxford University Student Union (OUSU) recently voted to “condemn” the invitation of Marine LePen to speak at the Oxford Union (which is an entirely separate organization, for those outside of Oxford). In addition to condemning LePen and the Union for inviting her, the OUSU President was mandated to send an emergency letter (i.e. a letter that comes outside the normal weekly bulletins, and usually happens when a person is missing or there is an emergency). I was informed that as a student union, “we” had voted to condemn LePen and the Union for giving her a platform and were encouraged to protest. To what extent is this true? Had the Union, in inviting her, legitimised her politics?

As I understand it, this movement is based on the idea that freedom of speech does not include “the right of fascists to a platform for their views”. The argument seems to be that by inviting LePen and giving her a “platform”, the Oxford Union “legitimises” her views and thus implicitly supports fascism. As one of the proposers of the motion is reported in The Guardian,

XXX, a history and politics student, said she was disgusted that Le Pen could “now go back to France and say she has been invited to speak at Oxford University. That is the kind of legitimacy that is allowing her and her abhorrent party to become acceptable.”

The endorsed protest quickly turned sour, with people in balaclavas attacking non-protesting students, calls for the murder of LePen, breaking into the Union grounds, and barring people from entering the chamber to hear LePen.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.