News from Grassroots conservatives

Cowardly university academics undermine free speech

30 Mar 2017

Speakers are no platformed at university. Sir Tim Hunt, the President of the Royal Society was forced to resign for noting that women fell in love in laboratories; street preachers are sentenced for quoting the bible; climate change or evolution cannot be challenged without severe consequences for their critics.

At a special lecture on March 21 at Wycliffe Hall Oxford, Professor Sir Roger Scruton offered a profound analysis of the upsurge of such cases after multiple ‘phobias’ were discovered following September 11, 200

He suggested that protected beliefs relate to the identity of people and communities where what matters is not whether something is true or false but whether it is life-enhancing. Such beliefs are not arrived at by reasoning or observation – but by inheritance, conversion or revelation. To lose such a belief is a radical existential change.

They are badges of membership. An insult to the group is an insult to me. Since protected beliefs shape the identity of those who espouse them, to criticise or mock them is dangerous. This is why people call on a crowd of supporters for a mass twitter attack.

It is not the falsehood of the opponent that is offensive but the truth. When someone touches on a truth you want to silence, then you are hurt. This characterises totalitarian regimes. If you build your life on a falsehood, you must fight to the death against the truth. If a mass of people is silencing someone then, you can assume that what they are saying is true.

All human communities need identity forming postures. Religious beliefs satisfy this requirement.  Remove religion and a host of other beliefs flow in to take their place as protected beliefs. Remove religion and you remove the positive ‘going forward’ nature of human life because religion confronts life’s absurdity. Take it away and negative identities form – we are united in our contradiction of this or that.  This is the source of the generation of anger and disgust on Twitter. Aspects of surrounding society are targeted for oppressiveness.  Drawing on equality or justice the group begins to know who it is. This process can be seen in communism, fascism and identity politics in university.

Sir Tim Hunt at conference in Korea said that women in the lab tend to fall in love.

The Royal Society went public with a reprimand. He had criticised a protected belief.

Should he get away with it? Should this belief be so protected that he had to be hounded out of the scientific community?

The Community needs a scapegoat.

Persecution of a scapegoat is a way communities can re-unite. Those who transgress the protected doctrine can present themselves as scapegoats. In the academic world, if you express a view opposing gay-marriage you may well be fired. Sir Tim Hunt found himself among experts at taking offence – that is what gender studies are all about.  They enable the intimidator to pose as the victim.  Sir Tim should have sued the Royal Society.

A visiting speaker may trigger some memory in an audience who must be warned.  A safe room must be provided for those who might be offended.  The new identities are so fragile they have to be provided with safe space. They hate the speaker as the source of their own confused state of mind. The character of aggression has changed. People form identity through a narrative of victimhood and shift responsibility to the target. The scapegoat is always shown as the source of the aggression that destroys him.

Christian legacy

A temporary achievement of our culture has been to ask questions about anything. It puts us in a position of enquiry of the world independent of the world.  It helps us to live in a public realm where we do not know who people are whom we trust. We do not think of them as the enemy within.  We share with them attributes to defuse any quarrel that might arise.

This is the Christian legacy. In the eighteenth century people had a shared religion and culture, and were very outspoken. This was against a  background that could not be shifted. Loss of that background makes us more uncertain. The argument that freedom of speech is a cultural phenomenon since 1688 yet should be a universal right is not cultural oppression because while freedom of speech is a tradition and inheritance – an identity forming idea, to commend it to all offers to liberate the rest of us.

Universities have abandoned free speech with such alacrity because of the cost of keeping it, because of cowardice. Closing down free speech on campuses aims to censor what students say. All attempts to censor are protecting identity. Phobia words are attempts to stop discussion. Transphobia is a way of dramatizing something so that the relations between men and women cannot be discussed any more, There is no reason a radical islamist cannot speak as long as the meeting is open and others can attend and disagree. The law of incitement can be applied.

There is no point to a university if subjects for discussion can be removed without explanation. University staff have underestimated how important free speech is. An academic lecturer focuses his or her professional work on a narrow topic and regards the ability to continue to do that is more important than the general maintenance of academic freedom.  Without courage you cannot establish a faith anywhere. The example of your courage persuades people that this faith is more than a few minor dogmas. They have to see you prepared to make that sacrifice.

By Chris Sugden, Church of England Newspaper March 31 2017

posted by Grassroots Conservatives in News