We need to talk (to each other).

An analysis of the driving forces behind the cancellation of Nigel Farage's appearance in Lancaster. Is university no longer a safe space for controversial discourse?

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Photograph: Euro Realist Newsletter

In the world of social media, 24/7 news channels, and so many late night political satire TV shows, it seems like everyone has a set opinion on everything going on in the world. Everything from climate change to who should sit on the Iron Throne is being debated, somewhere on the internet, right this very second. And while those of us who haven’t quite figured out where we stand on certain issues might be feeling left out, what seems to be even harder to deal with is having what someone else considers to be the ‘wrong opinion’.

In America, for example, you could end a relationship not by cheating or lying (now those things are forgivable), but by saying that you voted for the ‘wrong’ candidate. No one really wants to know why you voted “leave” and not “remain”; they’ve already judged you as being ignorant, racist or a combination of both. And this sort of judgement- before-the-facts attitude seems to be the only thing cutting across all political and socioeconomic classes.

When the host of a liberal political show, like Trevor Noah, decides to have a conservative personality, like Tomi Lahren, as his guest, he is met with serious backlash from his own audience. An audience made up primarily of Liberal- minded individuals. They can’t imagine how anyone could vote “Trump” or “Leave”, but rather than getting answers straight from the horse’s mouth they would rather sit in their liberal echo chamber and brood over other people’s ‘wrong opinions’. So eventually the people with the ‘wrong opinions’ stop trying to speak to them and after you have two or three sides, who could probably stand to learn something from each other but aren’t on speaking terms.

Nigel Farage (former UKIP leader) was scheduled to perform at the Lancaster Grand Theatre on October 29th, and people just couldn’t handle it. A petition was started called “For Nigel Farage NOT to perform at Lancaster” which received 767 signatures, and I don’t understand why. Are you so afraid that he’ll share some of his ‘wrong opinions’, because the event was set to include anecdotes and a question and answer session? If anything you should be giddy at the opportunity to talk to him face to face, instead of in the comment section of his last YouTube video, and explain why you think he’s wrong. You might even change his mind on something, or the minds of those who subscribe to his flawed POV.

The petition started by Jason Robinson read, “I believe this man deserves no attention whatsoever in Lancaster, whether it is positive or negative as he is a controversial figure…” Controversial or not, our first instinct shouldn’t be to push away those we disagree with, polarising our country even more. People from both sides of the spectrum (politically or socially) need to communicate with each other, as (and this might come as a shock) neither of them is 100% right about everything. No one is.

The Cold War was arguably the biggest battle over ideology the world has ever seen: the West was pro-capitalism and the East was pro-communism. Countries actually engaged in military combat to decide who had the ‘wrong opinion’, and now look at us. The UK is a western nation, who balances being capitalist with being a welfare state.

So the next time you meet someone from a rival political party or someone who holds the ‘wrong opinion’ on something don’t immediately shut them out, talk to them, find out the real reason why they believe what they say they believe. Obviously not everyone has good intentions, and you will definitely come across some genuine morons. But why not start by giving them the benefit of the doubt? Maybe you won’t always change the other person’s mind, but you’ll almost always learn something.