In view of the latest fuss about “controversial” speakers at VPL, I thought it worthwhile to republish this piece I wrote about five years ago:
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Regular readers will be well aware of my absolute antipathy to censorship. And I mean absolute. I can conceive of nothing that anyone could think or say that should be disallowed simply because someone else thinks it somehow “wrong” or “dangerous.” Even Nazis, pedophiles, and Rupert Murdoch should have the right to peddle their ghastly trash.
Given my position on this, it is more than disappointing to read that so many students at Oxford and Cambridge have decided that censorship is no big thing and should even be encouraged to protect, they say, the weak or different (their definition) from being distressed. A debate between abortion legalists and pro-life activists was cancelled:
“Christ Church’s student committee, aka the Junior Common Room, voted to ‘inform College Censors about the mental and physical security issues surrounding the debate’. And it seems the College Censors agreed, stating that they were keen to ensure ‘students’ emotional wellbeing’ by ‘avoiding unnecessary distress, particularly for any residents who may have had an abortion’ …
“Here’s the president of the Cambridge Union Debating Society, Tim Squirrell, explaining in the Tab why free speech isn’t very important: ‘I’m proud that we’ve started to consider the social impact of debates on those that they concern, rather than believing them to be academic exercises which happen in an intellectual vacuum… It’s about time we recognised that and started thinking responsibly and considerately about freedom of speech.’ Here’s McIntyre making a similar free speech-qualifying point: ‘The idea that in a free society absolutely everything should be open to debate has a detrimental effect on marginalised groups.’
What he is saying, of course, is that these “marginalised” groups are too stupid to understand the point of debate and therefore we should keep them in the dark because “we know best” and have to protect them. This is just another version of the Trotskyite vanguard mentality — “we know best what the working class needs and so we will rule and control them.” Very dangerous bullshit, especially when it comes from what are considered to be the cream of the next generation.
My grandfather lived at a time when socialists had to set up their own newspapers because they were banned from writing about their “pernicious and devilish” ideas. And even then their presses were attacked and destroyed. In my own lifetime, LGBTQ folk were not allowed to spread their “perversions” and “filth” through mass media or through the mails. It took us a long time and much pain and effort to overcome those two censorships.
Now these effete so-called intellectuals want to throw us back into the dark ages of barbarism and elite control. Well “fuck them!” I say.