Free Speech Forum - President's Message to Members
15 October 2007:
A Message to all Members of the Oxford Union regarding the Free Speech Forum entitled 'A Night of Discussion on the Limits of Free Speech', to be held November 2007
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I hope that you are well and had a good First Week. I'm just writing to respond to some of the coverage of the Union's Free Speech Forum in the Press this week. Many of you will have heard by now that David Irving and Nick Griffin are possible speakers for the forum. However the Press failed to point out a number of key facts. .
These people are not being given a platform to extol their views, but are coming to talk about the limits of free speech. What is more, they will be speaking in the context of a forum in which there will be other speakers to challenge and attack their views in a head to head manner and with the opportunity for students to challenge them from the floor. It is my belief that pushing the views of these people underground achieves nothing. The best way to deal with these views was summed up by Home Office Minister Tony McNulty on Thursday and that is 'to crush these people in debate'. Stopping them from speaking only allows them to become free speech martyrs, and from my own experience back in Halifax, which has suffered from race relation problems in the past, groups like the BNP do well if they look like they're being censored. Unlike OUSU, I think it's patronising to suggest that Oxford students aren't intelligent enough to debate with these people and I do have great faith in the ability of Oxford students to challenge them.
I should also point out that because this is a forum rather than a standard debate or speaker meeting no Union funds will be going toward entertaining the speakers and hence none of your membership fee will be spent 'wining and dining the speakers' as the Press suggests.
If any of you have any further concerns about this forum please do come and contact me at any time. Or come along to my open office session on Tuesdays at 2pm. I realise that this is a difficult and controversial area but the Union was particularly founded to discuss and promote free speech. I hope that as many of you as possible will come to the forum on the 26th of November and prove that Oxford students can take these people on in reasoned debate and win.
LUKE TRYL , Magdalen College