Social Justice Usage
Source: Dembroff, Robin, Rebecca Kulka, and Susan Stryker. “Retraction Statement by Robin Dembroff, Rebecca Kukla and Susan Stryker.” IAI News, August 26, 2019.
We — Robin Dembroff, Rebecca Kukla, and Susan Stryker — were recently invited by the Institute for Art and Ideas to contribute short paragraphs on the IAI website on what philosophy could offer to contemporary understandings of transgender issues. We each accepted the invitation because we are philosophers and/or gender theorists who work on this topic and are committed to public scholarship. Upon publication, we learned that our responses were being presented as part of a “debate” on transgender identities, and we asked that our responses be taken down – a request that generated considerable backlash against us on Twitter and other social media. We appreciate that IAI has honored our request to remove our work, and offered us the opportunity to explain our reasons for retracting our original contributions. We considered our inclusion in the IAI “debate” to have been a non-consensual co-platforming, for which we sought redress through the retraction of our contributions. We also believe that the reframing of our contributions as part of a debate we did not know we were in, or choose to be part of, changed the force and meaning of our words.
New Discourses Commentary
Though not a term that appears commonly in Critical Social Justice (indeed, its use is rare), the idea of non-consensual co-platforming occurs when someone (usually Woke) is, without their consent, in some way given access to a platform (in a rather expansive sense) with someone whose views they find problematic. It is, in that sense, a form of putting a Woke person into the position of guilt by association without having obtained their consent first. Non-consensual co-platforming would be considered a problematic act and is discouraged under the Critical Social Justice ideology.
The first named incident of named non-consensual co-platforming occurred when three adherents to Critical Social Justice ideology were invited in 2019 to contribute a few paragraphs to what turned out to be a volume for the Institution for Art and Ideas that would, in the end, include a variety of views on transgender issues. The authors contributed without realizing that their arguments would be included alongside arguments taking different positions, which they indicated in their statement after the fact violated the range of acceptable discourse, writing specifically,
We consider the right to occupy spaces in which our basic safety is not at risk to be a right that should not be up for debate. We refuse on principle to engage in any discussion that treats such positions as up for abstract intellectual debate, in the same way that we would refuse to participate in a conversation that debated whether the Holocaust actually happened, or whether corrective rape should be used to cure lesbianism, or whether or not the white race is superior to all others. There are limits to civil and intellectual discourse beyond which speech acts are simply acts of violence.
These three “feminists, philosophical thinkers, and queer and trans scholars” alleged that the force of their arguments was diminished and their contents were to be treated in a different light because they appeared alongside other arguments that might invalidate them (on argumentative grounds, which, by extension of the Theory in play, would “erase” or “invalidate” them as people and would thus threaten their “safety”). As they did not know this was the intention with the paragraphs, they also technically did not consent to having their writing appear in such a context. This problematic they named “non-consensual co-platforming.” Ironically, this would mean the inclusion of differing opinions to theirs is deemed problematic for creating a space that is to be inclusive. That is, under this doctrine, exclusion is necessary to achieve “inclusion.”
Non-consensual co-platforming might also occur in other venues: at an event like a conference, either on a panel or at the conference itself if some generally undesirable person is invited without the knowledge and consent of the other attendees, or it could happen in some form of media. For example, someone with views the Woke deem unacceptable might be invited to participate on a panel with or attend a conference at which the Woke are also participants. In that case, the idea is that the association of the problematic person transfers via the co-platforming in the relevant event to the Woke person, making them at least partially complicit in maintaining those problematic views, which would force the Woke person to risk cancellation by her Woke peers. Another example would occur if a Woke person and someone with problematic views—or just problematic views from an otherwise unproblematic person—are published in the same issue of a magazine, page of a newspaper, etc., even potentially including in the same magazine, newspaper, or media outlet at all. Again, partial complicity in maintaining the relevant problematic views would be deemed to transfer by association and outside of the consent of the person complaining about it.
The rationale for non-consensual co-platform being a problematic in and of itself within the Theory of Critical Social Justice derives from its views of moral complicity (see also, white complicity and brown complicity). This expansive view of moral complicity refuses any sort of neutrality and forces people into one side of a strict oppressor versus oppressed dichotomy (see also, conflict theory, Marxian, and liberationism, and also, anti-racism and anti-fascism). Those who are not actively resisting oppression in all of its forms (see also, intersectionality) and at all times are considered complicit in that oppression, which is absolutely unacceptable under the Critical Social Justice ideological mindset. Lending one’s work or imprimatur to an event or publication that forwards problematic views is therefore an act of complicity in those problematics (see also, legitimate). As a Woke person would be acutely aware of this sort of complicity and would therefore likely only agree to co-platforming under special circumstances, e.g., as an act of strategic resistance, it would be considered something that requires consent before allowing (see also, affirmative consent). Thus, non-consensual co-platforming becomes an identifiable problematic that requires addressing.
Practically speaking, the purpose of a concept like non-consensual co-platforming is to leverage entities like conferences and media outlets out of platforming problematic people or views (see also, cancel culture). Obviously, the goal behind this concept is to force any outlet that has or wants to publish Woke views or figures toward absolute ideological conformity with Critical Social Justice ideology. This behavior would be consistent with the general thrust of Critical Social Justice activism (see also, praxis) and therefore isn’t just a concept explored in Theory.
Affirmative consent; Anti-fascism; Anti-racism; Brown complicity; Cancel; Complicity; Conflict theory; Critical; Erase; Exclusion; Ideology; Inclusion; Intersectionality; Legitimate; Liberationism; Marxian; Oppression; Praxis; Problematic; Queer; Resist; Safety; Social Justice; Space; Strategic resistance; Theory; Transgender; White complicity; Woke/Wokeness
Revision date: 4/2/21