Tuesday, 19 January 2016

We shouldn't ban Trump - for our sake

Good pic, amirite?

To ban or not to ban the Donald. That is the question, apparently.

600,000 people have signed a petition calling for Donald Trump to be banned, and MPs debated the matter, and it was as tedious as you'd imagine. Kind of like a comedy roast, but with less comedy and more sanctimony.

The world generally agrees he is, as Tory MP Victoria Atkins put it, a "wazzock". Planets throughout this galaxy and the next generally agree that he is a wazzock. He's also a racist, and pretty weird. Corri Wilson, SNP MP, said banning him for wanting to ban others would be "an inappropriate response", and bad for the community around Turnberry. American journalist Glenn Greenwald, formerly of the Guardian, claimed that banning Trump "achieves nothing". The Herald today ran an editorial with the headline: "More to lose than gain by imposing a ban on Trump". It went on to state that banning him might have the undesirable effect of making a martyr out of him.

How about this? Banning Trump would be unequivocally wrong. Freedom of speech is either sacrosanct, or it isn't at all.

I could probably just leave it there, but I'd like to say a little more. It should be clear at this point that I disagree on principle with banning Trump, or anyone else for that matter, for things they have said. Until he advocates or is clearly trying to incite violence, he has as much right as anyone to travel, and to speak. Incitement to violence is a crime, albeit one that is governed by far more relaxed and - frankly - far more sensible and functional guidelines in the US than in the UK's much-amended, inefficient and illiberal Public Order Act 1986.

The debate in Westminster Hall, given it was prompted by 600,000 people who want the man banned, managed to give Donald Trump an inordinate amount of publicity, and was little more than an opportunity for politicians to grandstand and puff their chests, as if they don't do that enough already. Never mind saying banning Trump achieves nothing - this debate achieved nothing. In fact, it unachieved. It was a backwards step on the road to achievement. "Parliament at its best," blustered Labour MP Paul Flynn, It's a shame, as I'd previously rated Flynn as someone who could cut through nonsense. It was he, after all, who memorably said of Ed Miliband's 'One Nation' slogan: "What the fuck does that mean?"

If you're going to ban Trump, why stop there? Why not deport Katie Hopkins? Should we ban Hungarian President Viktor Orbán, who said migrants were a threat to "Christian Europe", or Czech President Miloš Zeman, who said Muslim integration was "practically impossible" and suggested Islamic refugees would refuse to respect Czech law and instead impose Sharia?

Zeman continued (and this is not satire):

"We will be deprived of the women's beauty since they will be shrouded in burkas from head to toe, including the face.
"Well, I can imagine women for whom it would mean an improvement, but there are few of them and I cannot see any such here."
The Czech Trump

Should Zeman be banned twice from the UK, both for xenophobia and for making derogatory comments towards women?

No. You should laugh at his buffoonery. Or condemn his bigotry. Or highlight his ignorance. Or anything, really - anything except banning him. Not because banning him might make him a martyr on the Czech right, or because it would damage Czech-British bilateral and trade relations, but because banning people, words and ideas is exactly what we should leave the bigoted, ignorant buffoons to do. Alone.

For those who still dearly want Trump to be banned - well, he's not going to be. But if it makes you feel better, I can think of 130 places in the UK off the top of my head he's probably already banned from. All the universities.

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