Sunday, 25 October 2015

Easily wounded sensibilities: thought crime and the defence of free speech

It would seem that the more 'inclusive' and 'diverse' our society becomes, by some strange ironic twist, the less respect we have for true diversity of opinion. 
We seem to want to be protected above all costs from views which may, just possibly, offend us - a fashion unfortunately followed slavishly and sheepishly by certain sections of contemporary Anglicanism. However, unless this trend is opposed and rolled back, it will almost certainly prove the end of those values of rational debate, free speech and assembly we have held most dear for many generations. 
That academic institutions should be in the vanguard of this kind of utter irresponsibility, and tacitly encourage their students to wrap themselves in a cosy blanket of like-mindedness, has been one of the most worrying and indefensible developments of all. If you are too feeble minded to run the risk of being confronted by opinions which may offend you or upset your accepted view of the world, then don't go to university at all. Find something to do with your time which doesn't involve that most upsetting of all activities, being encouraged to think.

But is the tide at long last beginning to turn? Roger Scruton, given a platform on BBC Radio 4, argues that the law on freedom of speech ought to protect those who express heretical views and not be used to shut down debate by means of invented 'phobias.'
"... Free speech is not the cause of the tensions that are growing around us, but the only possible solution to them..." 
Listen to it all here 

And petition mania, the student union at Cardiff University and the Germaine Greer affair -  a report from Wales Online [here]: we know the world has gone completely mad when Germaine Greer (of all people) is accused of being a reactionary...
“We should be as free to doubt the womanhood of Caitlyn Jenner as we are to doubt the divinity of Jesus." Brendan O'Neill at The Spectator [here
"...She has also mocked the whole idea of transphobia. ‘I didn’t know there was such a thing [as transphobia]. Arachnaphobia, yes. Transphobia, no.’ I love that. Because here Greer is using ‘phobia’ in the proper way — not to pathologise moral viewpoints, as the PC do when they brand criticism of gay marriage as ‘homophobia’ or ridicule of Islam as ‘Islamophobia’, but rather to describe an irrational fear, in this case of spiders. The branding of all sorts of moral and religious views as ‘phobias’ is one of the ugliest, most Orwellian trends of our age, so good on Greer for ripping the Mick out of it (that’s hibernophobia, I know)...."
At least it seems [here] that the university authorities at Cardiff are not prepared to bow to censorship and have a higher view of freedom of expression and academic freedom generally than some of those they are trying, in vain, it seems, to teach ... let's hope this is not an isolated example.


  1. Well Michael, as this is your blog it, of course, goes without saying that it's your right to decide not to approve the comment I left on here last Saturday evening in response to your above post. However, I suppose there's definitely some irony in writing a post condemning 'no-platforming' of certain opinions, leaving a comments section for feedback and subsequently deciding to not publish any views you happen to disagree with...or perhaps find yourself bereft of any rational argument to challenge with. Then again, there are plenty of people in this world - Christian or otherwise - who like to sermonise yet fail to practice what they preach. For the record, I am transgender and whilst I agree with Cardiff University's decision not to ban Germaine Greer from speaking there I do feel that her opinions, together with that of Brendan O' Neill, are blatantly transphobic and deserve to be challenged. Something I also feel deserves to be exposed and challenged is hypocrisy and I reserve the right to make an example of this instance as an illustration of that in a post on my own blog. I will, of course, provide you with the courtesy of the relevant link to it once the forthcoming post is complete. Best Regards, Becky

    1. I'm sorry Becky, but there was no conspiracy and no decision not to publish. I simply haven't received your comment either in my inbox or in the spam folder. If you care to re-send it, I'm happy to publish. Like you, I don't have a problem with opposing arguments, only with attempts to suppress them. Actually, I rather resent your implications of bad faith and hypocrisy.Perhaps you would like to reconsider your reaction?

  2. Is there perhaps a word out there to describe the sound tumbleweed makes when it is blown eerily along a deserted street?
    Despite Becky's clearly apparent indignation at the non-appearance of her first comment (the one I still haven't received), she doesn't appear to have re-sent it. I can only suppose that, if this isn't because of understandable embarrassment at an obvious overreaction, she has gone away on an unexpected holiday, suffered a catastrophic computer failure or has become otherwise indisposed...
    It's never a good idea, of course, to impute ulterior motives to those with whom we disagree, but were I to follow Becky's far from wise example here, I would say that a more suspicious person than I might jump to the conclusion that - just possibly- there was no 'original' comment at all. What's the term for that kind of thing - 'a put-up job?'
    It would be a great pity if anyone were to feel they had to stoop to that kind of behaviour in order to demonise or otherwise discredit those they perceive as opponents.
    So let's hope my suspicions are unfounded and go for another a more innocent explanation for the deafening silence - it is.
    The real irony here, of course, is that, as I think these are extremely complex and sensitive issues, I didn't venture any personal opinion at all on Professor Greer's reported remarks, only on her right to be invited to speak at Cardiff University, actually on completely unrelated matters. Brendan O'Neills comments were quoted approving in the context of the craze for invented 'phobias' which seems to be sweeping through the western world, or at least parts of it.
    Well, it seems you're damned if you do, and damned if you don't ...


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