Photo: Anders Henrikson/Flickr

Universities must encourage free speech, not silence

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t is cruelly ironic that Maryam Namazie’s talk about the restriction of free expression in Muslim countries was framed within the context of her own censorship in this country; in particular, our own university. It is no surprise, then, that she began her talk by stating: “The days when unconditional free expression were championed by universities as a cornerstone of all rights is long gone.”

Such a statement in a vacuum might be deemed hyperbolic, had it not been expressed only days after a petition was created to ban writer Germaine Greer from speaking at Cardiff University due to her ‘trans-exclusionary’ views. As in the case of Namazie’s initial ban due to her supposedly ‘inflammatory’ and ‘hate-inciting’ opinions about Islamism, the question of the limitations of free speech has become, in itself, an inflammatory issue.

The underlying narrative is one of – as Namazie called it – the “culture of offense”, whereby censorship and silence in the name of protecting the offended has now become the moral maxim for what counts as ‘good’ and ‘progressive’. While she went on to discuss this in relation to blasphemy and Islamophobia, it nonetheless registers as an equally poignant note regarding freedom of expression on campus.

The more such an expression is curtailed under the banner of “you must be nice, please!” the more we end up with completely anti-liberal Orwellian ‘doublethink’ culture.

Universities are historically known to be bastions of free speech, and shared spaces for exchanging different ideals. But what little remains has been sequestered under a regime of cultural hypersensitivity. Damning ‘inflammatory’ speech in case it offends any particular race, gender, sexuality or religion is an appropriation of what liberal thought actually is. In fact, the more such an expression is curtailed under the banner of “you must be nice, please!” the more we end up with completely anti-liberal Orwellian ‘doublethink’ culture.

“I personally believe we should allow anyone to speak, [even one] who is even inciting hatred,” Namazie stated. She then made the vital distinction missed by those who denounce the likes of herself and Greer, saying that a person should be barred not from inciting hatred, but inciting violence.

“If someone denies the Holocaust, then let them,” Namazie rightfully asserted. Rather than accept the code of censorship, she argued all a person or group needs to do is simply challenge and address the issue with a “better” or more factually corroborated opinion. In order to reclaim their mantle as hosts of dynamic exchanges of free thought, universities must encourage speech, not silence, as the mode of liberal progression.

Comments (4)

  • Oh the irony! The trust is, you must never, ever speak your mind at your university, or else you’ll get in a lot of trouble with the social justice warriors on campus.

    As a woman, I find those Consent lectures patronising and they exist only to give angry feminists and excuse to bully men further. Get off their backs! Enough!

    Finally, are you familiar with defamation law?

    • Alistair Drennan

      Sorry I only just noticed this comment. No, I’m not familiar with defamation law. Why do you mention it?

  • TedKennedySearchandRescue

    As a former student, I am offended by the present student body — particularly the Boar’s editorial board — and their descent into the abysmal cesspools of liberal political correctness. To me it masks a whole range of personal shortcomings: the desperate desire of the Left to control others, being the most prominent and common.

    Call me “white privilege”. I will voluntarily serve as the scapegoat that liberal students blame for their poor life choices.

    And those professors who are attacked and surrender to their political correctness? While i cannot rule out that they are cowards, I believe the more likely reason for their capitulation is that they agree with the students, viewing them as the New Guard offascist liberalism and themselves as the Old Guard of liberal fascism who — in their minds — are valiantly”falling on their sword” at the altar at which both worship.

    Highly recommend seeing a speech on YouTube that a small Jewish 27-year old gave at Mizzou within a week of the fiasco there. Unarmed and resolute, he gave the morally-compromised politically correct class of Mizzou a dose of reality. It has gone viral, needless to say. If you are afraid to see it, then may I suggest you are a precious snowflake who should never be in the rigorous environs of a high school, let alone an institution of even higher learning.

    • Alistair Drennan

      Only expected myself to watch the first few minutes but actually ended up watching the entire speech! It was very interesting and thought-provoking, thank you for sharing it!

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