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Debate: Ban on extremist political parties

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===Harm: Should extremist groups be banned that "harm" other groups? How can this be defined?=== ===Harm: Should extremist groups be banned that "harm" other groups? How can this be defined?===

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Is it ever justified to ban extremist political parties?

Background and context

Extremist political parties can be taken either to mean those on the extreme left or, more normally, those on the extreme right. The normal definition of an extremist group is that they promote hate speech or act as the political wing of a terrorist group, and in this context the term could also be applied to fundamentalist religious groups of the type found most notably in the Islamic world. Care must be taken in giving a clear definition of extremist, and explaining the groups caught under its umbrella. In the past few years a variety of groups which have been labelled as extremist have received increased support in elections in a number of European countries.[1]

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Moral standards: Does a society have the right to set moral standards that exclude extremist groups?

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Yes

  • Societies have a right to set moral judgements and standards that exclude extremist groups. We can declare things abhorrent and not justified in decent society. Such a function is a role for government in making any laws. A removal of this moral dimension from law making would lead to extreme moral relativism and anarchy.[2]
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No

  • The very strength and weakness of a democracy is in allowing anyone to challenge it and mold it. If the system regulates itself by declaring who cannot challenge it then it is not pure and it is a betrayal of the very system.
  • It is difficult to categorize a party as 'extremist' or 'far-right'. There is a wide difference in policy between groups such the BNP and Front Nationale, and the List Pym Fortuyn. Alongside repellent views on race there may be policies on topics such as immigration, devolution and policing which challenge the status quo and are worthy of serious political debate.[3]
  • Democracy should never be about banning opinions. It is ironic that "the anti-Communist campaigners say they are acting to defend democracy while working to ban a party that is still doing well in elections"[4]. Democracy should utilize all opinions instead of banning some that are deemed "inappropriate" by someone.
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Harm: Should extremist groups be banned that "harm" other groups? How can this be defined?

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Yes

  • Extremist parties can be banned if they express hate speech that causes harm to other groups. Free speech does not exist in a vacuum: It can be restrained specifically in this case on grounds of harm. Extremism as hate speech that causes harm to minorities is a justifiable reason for the curbing of free speech.[5]
  • Society can develop a general consensus about what extremist views can be deemed "harmful". While there are some things society disagrees on, there are other things that we agree on and can establish as norms, standards, and morals. In setting these norms and laws, we establish that their violation can automatically be deemed "harmful" to society. Disagreement among accepted political parties exists in the area in which societies have not formed a consensus on the "harm" of differing policies. That's why such disagreement is tolerated; we're not sure of the true effects. Yet, if society is able to deem by general consensus that an extremist political party violates these norms, then that party should be deemed "harmful" to society, and excluded from politics.[6]
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No

  • As long as extremist parties do promote physical harm to others, they should be given freedom to engage in politics. Although politicians in extremist parties may promote intolerance and discriminatory policies, very rarely do they directly call for violent action, so what impact are we seeking to restrain? We already have laws that regulate the conduct of free speech - slander, libel etc. Yet the basic premise of free speech in a democracy must be protected at all cost, or else we risk turning into the kind of society that these extremist groups support. Again, this is unless a clear physical harm can be demonstrated.[7]
  • "Harm" to society is an overly subjective criteria for the banning of extremist groups from politics. What "harm" are we talking about? If it violent harm, that is one thing. But other forms of harm risk being arbitrary. Non-extremist political parties may claim, for example, that the policies of other political parties are doing society "harm".[8]
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Public vs. private: Is it unacceptable that extremist political parties bring their extremist views into the public sphere?

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Yes

  • Extremist groups often bring what might be protected in private into the public sphere, which should be restrained. The former is to be preserved, but the latter has an impact on other people, and it is this that we are seeking to restrain.[9]
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No

  • The difference between public and private speech is hard to distinguish, and so extremists should be given more flexibility. Such a difference is misleading and dangerous. If one is invited into someone’s home, does this make what would be public speech now private?[10]
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Rising extremism? Is extremism rising in politics, giving cause for more aggressive measures against it?

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Yes

  • Extremist groups are not naturally dying out of politics, so they should be pushed out. The recent rise in popularity of right wing extremist parties across Europe - from Le Pen in France to Pim Fortuyn in Holland, not including the success of the BNP in Burnley council - shows the success that appealing to voters on extremist grounds can have. It is not good enough to say that there is no threat, or that parties are not successful. We have a duty to act against a threat to our society in the form of extremism.[11]
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No

  • There is no rise in extremism. The BNP threat was localised in the extreme and all candidates in the general election of 2002 lost their deposits. The success of Le Pen was ironically in moderating his extremist message, couple with the fracturing of the Left in French politics, and the Front Nationale didn’t win any French Assembly seats. Likewise, Pim Fortuyn’s party was socially liberal, having the same line on immigration as the Britain’s Labour Party! Such a draconian law as proposed would be a disproportionate response to a limited threat.[12]
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Public credibility: is the mere act of allowing extremist groups into politics affording them credibility in the public eye, and perhaps to the detriment of society?

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Yes

  • Merely by being allowed to advocate their views, extremist parties are given a veneer of respectability. The fact that the vast majority of people disagree is irrelevant. They cannot be allowed on the same democratic ticket as respectable, pro system groups, because merely in their presence they tarnish the system.[13]
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No

  • Extremist views need to be defeated in open public debates. No one is disputing the fact that extremist views are repellent. Yet they are often shallow and not logically thought out. Meeting their views and combating them in open and honest debate is the most effective way of highlighting the flaws in the ideology, rather than have them transmitted in a one-sided manner that gives no chance to counter. It gives the impression that there is some validity to the message.[14]
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Effect of a ban: Would a ban snuff out extremist groups, or would it empower them?

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Yes

  • Banning extremist groups will effectively snuff them out. Those that talk of parties going underground with such banning legislation are wrong. Their censorship will mean that the vast majority of people in the country never have access to them, even if a small hardcore still do, who are probably converts anyway. The parties will never get anywhere without mass support and publicity.[15]
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No

  • Extremist parties may benefit from being banned, as they may be more effective in the "underground". Such parties benefit from going underground. They can play themselves as martyrs and against the establishment, being denied their chance to have a say. Witness Nick Griffin (BNP leader) and his notorious 'gagged' campaign, and Le Pen’s similar ploys in France. Such anti-state rebellious sentiment will be very attractive to a cross section of the dispossessed and dispirited in society - what New Labour have identified as the 'angry young men' - who provide a fertile ground for votes and support.[16]

See also

External links and resources:

Books:

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