Anorak

Anorak | Government championing free speech at Universities is beyond irony

Government championing free speech at Universities is beyond irony

by | 3rd, May 2018

Sam Gyimah, the universities minister, presents himself as a champion of free speech. He says prudes, activists’ and censors attempting to silence voices not like their own are “chilling” in a democracy. Those “safe spaces” on British campuses are for fools. “No platforming” is for losers. (No platforming was adopted by the National Union of Students in 1974.) Banning things from campus, like the Sun newspaper, the Christian Union and Nietzsche, is for prigs.

 

free speech boston

 

Mr Gyimah says:

“A society in which people feel they have a legitimate right to stop someone expressing their views on campus simply because they are unfashionable or unpopular is rather chilling. There is a risk that overzealous interpretation of a dizzying variety of rules is acting as a brake on legal free speech on campus. That is why I am bringing together leaders from across the higher education sector to clarify the rules and regulations around speakers and events to prevent bureaucrats or wreckers on campus from exploiting gaps for their own ends.”

Writing in the Times, he adds:

The current landscape around free speech on campus is murky at best with a dizzying array of disjointed guidelines for universities, student unions and associations to follow. When there are so many different interpretations of the rules, there is the risk that legal free speech will be stifled, either by well-intentioned but jittery managers, or by ill-intentioned wreckers.

The office for students, which came into force on 1st April, will play a key role in this area and can use its powers to name, shame or even fine institutions for not upholding the principle of free speech. But for them to be effective, we need all our institutions to work together to make sure free speech is upheld.

But safe spaces and trammels on free speech do not grow in a vacuum. The Government has banned people from entering the UK and speaking at universities. In 2017, Julien Blanc, aka ‘the pick-up artist’ was banned from entering Britain on the reasoning that he promotes sexual assault. Just as we are to suppose that sane and intelligent students – adults – hearing a different view will turn into gibbering wrecks or else jihadis, one word from Blanc and a bloke will ignore the law, the love and respect for his mother, values strong and vibrant women in his life have instilled in him, and commit a heinous crime.

The troubling thing is that Government, politicians of all stripes and students are on the same page; they are all in favour of censorship. Both view their fellow humans as suggestible and vulnerable, mentally-negligible weaklings in need of protection from things (see the bans on advertising gambling, ciggies and sugar) and individuals holding dangerous ideas. A strident view can be cast out as ‘hate speech’. To the censors it’s morally brave to protect lesser minds from other ideas, which are, of course, wrong. Intolerance must be tolerated, say these saviours, lest correct and virtuous ideas be undermined.

The result of all this banning and censorship on society – both official and creeping self-censorship – is malign. It’s either free speech or it isn’t. No buts.

 



Posted: 3rd, May 2018 | In: Key Posts, News Comment | TrackBack | Permalink