So here’s what I’m proposing. We create a data base of anyone who’s participated in a deplatforming. Anyone who’s signed a deplatforming petition. Anyone who’s publicly lobbied for such a deplatforming. Any administrator who’s caved to any such deplatforming campaign. Anyone involved in disciplinary action – even action that’s designed only to produce a chill – that’s a blind for a violation of academic freedom. Let’s call it the Retaliatory Deplatforming Registry.
A notice that one’s been named should be sent to the miscreant, in case she’s been wrongly identified. And that one’s name has been entered into the data base should be publicly accessible.
What does it mean to be so named? Censure. Censure by whom? By anyone who’s decided to fight fire with fire. If you’re involved in any kind of vetting – hiring, publications, conferences, even just polite society – disqualify her. There’s no need to tell her why her application has been rejected. In very short order she and her fellow travellers will have figured it out. But she can never be sure. And even if she thinks she is – even if her being disqualified is actionable – she can never prove it.
No doubt she and her fellow travellers will attempt to retaliate in kind. They’ll make a list of those they suspect of consulting our list, but they’ll have no way of confirming who to put on it.
In time – and it won’t take much of it – the academic world will be divided into three distinct camps: the original deplatformers, the retaliatory deplatformers, and those who’ve wisely decided to stay above the fray. And my suspicion is that, in time – and it won’t take much of it – there’ll be such powerful natural selection to stay above the fray that the first camp will wither away, and so the second can along with it.
Are there enough of us who’ve been keeping our heads down but who’d welcome a way to push back, provided, that is, and as indicated above, it’s at no risk to ourselves? Enough of us to make this work? All indications are that there are. But if not, there’s been nothing irretrievably ventured.
If the strategic question is settled, what remains is the moral one. Here we face a choice point, for which I need some input from my fellow travellers. If it’s wrong to deplatform, is it wrong to deplatform the deplatformer? Can two wrongs make a right? I’m inclined to say they can. But as a Hobbesian, I suffer from borderline psychopathy. So I should – and so I do – defer to my moral betters, from whom I anxiously await their timely advice.