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The Bristol Cable

Talking to fascists, reporting on fascism: join an online debate

Should we speak to fascists? An experiment in e-democracy at the Bristol Cable.


Dozens of Cable members were recently animated in a conversation that went on for days – but thankfully not in a meeting. Restless shifting in chairs, toilet and tea breaks and ‘extended contributions’ were avoided via the Cable’s use of discussion platform Loomio – a tool for online participation and decision-making on issues that can’t, or shouldn’t be, taken on the spot.

“I think it would be refreshing to know why people hate discriminately (could it really just be ignorance)”

“There is scant critical and insightful coverage of white nationalist extremism”

Such an occasion arose when the editorial team considered covering the militant far-right’s apparent resurgence in Bristol and the UK. With differences of opinion within the team and an awareness of the sensitivity of any piece, we decided to ask the Cable’s ‘e-democracy’ platform: Should we speak to fascists?

Everyone knows social media threads and online comment forums quickly become the domain of keyboard warriors and those looking to verify their ideas about the deficiency of humanity (often successfully). Not so the Cable members’ forum. What ensued was the rare balancing of a passionate and considered debate on the pros and cons of speaking to active fascists and racists in the city.

“They get enough media coverage as it is”

Many forceful arguments emerged, saying that reporting fascist voices legitimises their ideas, and that “journalists should be opposed to giving a platform to organisations which would shut us down”. But counterpoints were made, that “media outlets must be prepared to talk to everyone – but never uncritically”. Others remarked about balancing incessant coverage of Islamic extremism; and challenging superficial reporting of far-right activity via a human angle.

“Primary issue is one of repercussions and safety”

Crucially, our team were held to account. People asked us “to clarify the specific objective/outcomes” of any such piece, and whether it would “be different to any of the countless profile pieces done before, which claim to directly challenge fascists”.

“It would be critical reportage…beyond the sensationalism or superficiality of the mainstream press”

The common concern though was about individuals’ safety, and that of the Cable at large. Voting on whether this would prevent us covering fascism at all, people decided that no, fascism should be covered and that “we should be aware and cautious, but I don’t think fear should stop us”. Within days, as if to illustrate the threat, fascist flag-bearers attempted to disrupt a Stokes Croft anti-racism meeting – quickly seen off by anti-fascist activists.

stamp-made possible by co-opSeventy discussion exchanges later, the majority of people decided… well you’ll have to join the Cable and get on Loomio for that one!

As the Cable grows from its current 900 members to a target of 2,500 by spring 2017, we’re looking to increase the smart use of online tools. Members will have accessible and genuine input on key practical and political decisions around journalism, events and strategy. So get on board, join the co-op and redefine media!

“People who hold extreme right-wing views should not be written off as scum – many are working-class people responding to their own situations”


“You do not need to talk to fascists to report on fascism”


“We acknowledge they exist, but we shouldn’t give a platform to current members of these groups”


“Use the power of journalism to dispel the relevance of far right perspectives by confronting them head on”


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  • How do I join loomio? Am already s cable member…..can’t see how to sign in on the homepage – am I supposed to? Sorry if these are silly questions – am not too great with technology x


    • Hi Kim, Your best option would be to email membership[at]thebristolcable[dot]org and someone can send you an invite link/


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