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free-speech-voltaire

This week’s Catholic Herald has an interesting piece by Jordan Peterson on his attempts to battle with his own university’s (to him and many) peculiar definition of ‘free speech’. Jordan’s description cannot be bettered, so I shall quote it:

Political correctness has become a force of sufficient strength to pose a threat to the structure of our society. It is primarily a product of university-educated leftist radicals, who demand the adjustment of our institutions, speech and thoughts to their radical-egalitarian and censorious agenda. Anyone who speaks out against their principles and aims becomes a target of mob action, accused of racism and worse.

In the most recent edition of the house journal of my own profession, The Times Higher there are interesting pieces about how universities might cope with a populist political climate which is antithetical to what one author called ‘campus values’; only 11% of UK academics admitted to voting Conservative at the last election. The casual assumption of the piece was that ‘campus values’ were superior to those of the populists, and that universities, especially those in regions where the surrounding natives voted for Brexit, had a duty of education. Here we have had our own experience of this censoriousness, as the blog went private for a while because complaints had been made at my university about it. I blog pseudonomously (not, as one drive by shooter from the Academy accused me of, anonymously) precisely because my views are mine, not those of any institution for which I work. Were I to use my title and affiliation, then I could understand someone saying I was abusing my position; but as I don’t, I find it laughable when they do so all the same.

Even writing this, I am conscious that somewhere there is a troll-like creature sitting in her pants noting every word, as she tries to find yet another way of complaining that in deliberately logging in to this blog she has had her finer feelings offended; she could, of course, not read the blog, but it is its very existence which bugs her and other inhabitants of the same censorship mill.

But ideas which you don’t like, and which you are able to suppress do not vanish. They gather strength and end up breaking out in Brexit or in Trump. Our civilisation has been based on the notion that if an idea is bad, the best thing to do with it is give it oxygen and it can be shot down in open intellectual combat. But perhaps those on the Right (because that has its own version of PC, it is simply that because it is not dominant here, we hear less of it) and those on the Left have no confidence in their ideas or their ability to convince others of them, so they prefer to proceed by way of censorship.

For my own part, as I say, I am conscious that even writing this pseudonymously, it might be wiser not to write it at all, and I have seriously considered taking the blog private again – but that would be to give the trolls their victory. But should we disappear in the near future, you’ll know why.

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