Free Speech: don’t pass new laws, make and win the arguments instead

Fighting for free speech is always frustrating. It often involves defending the free speech rights of those you despise. You are then accused of agreeing with the speech that has been silenced.  It is the “you only want free speech so that you and your ilk can spout bigotry and racist bile” type argument, says Claire Fox in Reaction Life.

In the university sector, this brand of delegitimising campaign against free speech is particularly resonant. Those who justify no-platforming, and the like, of speakers seem to be winning, and it is assumed that bans are necessary to protect vulnerable students and to fight the good cause.

University managers and administrators both seem in thrall to their militant safe-space warriors and especially risk averse about reputational damage in an era of student-satisfaction league tables. But more profoundly, the institutional capture of whole swathes of academia by the politics of identity means that students are often merely ventriloquizing the issues their own lecturers have championed in seminars. And for those who comfort themselves that this is confined to the humanities, just check out the campaigns for decolonising science that are spreading like wild-fire in higher education internationally.

What is to be done? No amount of chiding seems to make any difference in practice. In just the last week we witnessed  Professor Selina Todd being deplatformed at the 50th Anniversary of the first Women’s liberation movement. She was due to speak on behalf of the Oxford University History Faculty but was labelled “transphobic” by other speakers. Todd has previously received death threats and now has body-guards to accompany her to lectures.

Former Conservative Home Secretary Amber Rudd was asked to speak on the topic of women’s equality by the UN Women Oxford UK Society. She was disinvited an hour before the event because of the alleged “hurt caused to… women and non-binary people in Oxford.”

Read the full article here.