Don’t ban Roosh V – criticise and ridicule him

Charlie Peters

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Topics Free Speech

Scotland’s contemporary aversion to free speech and freedom of association is rearing its ugly head once again. Not content with outlawing football chants, or monitoring social media for offensive material, SNP MPs are now keen on banning a controversial speaker from Scotland.

Internet personality and pick-up artist Roosh V (real name Daryush Valizadeh) is facing calls to have his meetings banned in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Some are even calling for him to be charged under hate-speech laws if he enters Scotland at all, arguing that Valizadeh’s brand of ‘neomasculinity’ poses a threat to women.

David McDonald, the SNP councillor for Greater Pollok, has tweeted that Valizadeh ‘is not welcome in Glasgow. He is a danger and must be banned.’ McDonald has stated that he will be writing to the police. Valizadeh hit back saying McDonald should ‘hit the gym to get [his] testosterone up’, adding that he looked like a ‘tranny’. McDonald labelled Valizadeh’s statements hate speech, and said he had ‘no place on the streets of Glasgow’.

Furthermore, Tommy Sheppard, SNP MP for Edinburgh East, has tabled an early-day motion entitled ‘prevention of incitement to sexual crime and violence’. Sheppard claims that Roosh V’s views are not ‘tolerable’, and that ‘not enough is done to educate those men who may become predators’. How strange it is that Sheppard promotes education despite his unwillingness to let the Scottish people hear and criticise the views he so opposes. What sort of an education is it when you only hear one side of the argument?

The people of Scotland should be grateful for Valizadeh’s meetings. What better opportunity could there be to ridicule and criticise his opinions? Yet, by opposing Valizadeh’s right to free speech, Scotland’s politicians are doing the public a terrible disservice. Not only are they patronising us by saying we need to be ‘protected’ from Valizadeh’s views, but they are also throwing away our opportunity to argue against those views – to propose the alternative, moral argument.

There’s not a single one of Valizadeh’s views I agree with. His writing is rubbish, and his ideas repugnant. However, I know I possess the moral autonomy to hear them and respond critically. It seems our politicians do not think so highly of me.

Edinburgh has been the focus of a free-speech debate recently, with Edinburgh University Student’s Association (EUSA) coming under fire for its censorious policies. When a liberal society such as ours encounters horrible views, we should respond intellectually – with vigour and robustness, not bans and threats. Just as I demand my university reinstate free speech, so I and my fellow students can attack ludicrous arguments and engage in debate with contrary ideas, I expect Scottish politicians to promote the same spirit of tolerance.

Activist and author Vonny Moyes wrote on Facebook that we need to ban Valizadeh and shut down his meetings ‘to show that women are not submissive, frightened, or controlled by threats’. It seems to me that, by calling for a ban, we would be doing the complete opposite. We would be showing that we are frightened of Valizadeh’s views, and particularly frightened that women might encounter them.

When you censor extreme views, you force them underground where they escape criticism and become even more radical. If our politicians will not allow us to debate Valizadeh, then how do they ever expect his brand of nonsense to be repudiated?

Edinburgh is one of the homes of the Enlightenment. With yet another call for censorship, we are betraying our liberal and tolerant traditions.

Charlie Peters is a writer and student at the University of Edinburgh.

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Topics Free Speech