No Platforming – and Beyoncé

Beyonce tour

As everyone knows the topic of free speech, safe spaces and no platforming has been a hot topic for the whole of this term. From the banning of certain speakers, to debates at the York Union, everyone has had some sort of opinion to voice. Surprisingly I have  been very calm and withdrawn from the whole debate, until now. My stance has not wavered in the slightest; I believe in safe spaces and despite some convincing arguments for platforming, I am for no-platforming. Those who oppose me retaliate back with claims of censorship which I have found to be humorous at times until now.

Beyoncé in the last couple of weeks released a single and subsequently a video for the song ‘Formation’. The essence of the song is the unwavering and unapologetic appreciation and celebration of all things seen as stereotypically black, and / or African American. This includes facial features, hair type and food types. Of course such strong celebration of such features can be jarring for those who don’t see anything to celebrate but the song made its impact and the video further cemented it. From the poignant scene of the little black boy dancing in front of the police to signs saying’ Stop shooting us’ to the police car drowning in New Orleans, reminiscent of Hurricane Katrina, it was clear where Beyoncé stood in the very relevant and needed Black Lives Matter debate. Such obvious support has caused a lot of whining from right wing America with some going as far to say it was ‘anti-police’. But the censorship took off after the Superbowl performance.

In the Superbowl performance, Beyoncé was dressed in a costume similar to that of the 1960’s political activist group, The Black Panthers. In all honesty the history of the Black Panthers is not well known for those who aren’t black but for those same people the anything pro black must be ‘anti –white’. With such thinking another uproar was caused after the performance resulting in police departments childishly withdrawing from their public duty to guard Beyoncé’s concerts. This, though extreme and I still believe illegal, was expected of America; anything which promotes the advancement and sheds light on the mistreatment of anyone black, gets at the very least a defensive response. But what the UK has done did indeed shock me.

It was rumoured soon after the performance, that an email was sent around the main radio stations in the UK, warning them not to play the song ‘Formation’ or to mention the performance without reasons. Such instructions were not challenged and if you pay attention to Capital, Capital Xtra and BBC radio stations ‘Formation’ has not been played at all. I still am very curious at the real reason behind this decision but what has frustrated me is the blatant censorship that has taken place. Music is an art form which the very essence is to express your thoughts and feelings. In Formation it is very clear what Beyoncé’s feelings are and it is very clear that none of it is of a violent nature and the lyrics aren’t dubious unlike others that have been played on the radio. They may be some who find it offensive for whatever incoherent reason, but to ban the song completely is what I call extreme, surely if you don’t like the song- switch channels! In this I found that my argument began to sound very much like those who oppose no platforming and it got me thinking. 

In every argument, those who support the ideals do so with obvious reason and passion. Whether you like it or not isn’t of importance, the main issue is to have the opportunity to voice them and  if that is taken away, you take away a cornerstone of democracy. As extreme as that sounds it is true, and this being the case, I ask how fair this debate is. Now the shoe is on the other foot (mine) and my views (as well as Beyoncé’s) are being silenced. So to create a balance, maybe no platforming shouldn’t be a thing but safe spaces should still be created if demand is there.