PERHAPS one of the most chilling aspects of the Nazi book burnings is the fact that the organisers and the most enthusiastic participants, laughing as they tossed works of literature and science on the flames, were university students. The burnings were organised by the German Student Union who, in an act of cultural genocide, destroyed books by Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, H G Wells, Heinrich Mann and countless others.
In Edinburgh, once home of the Scottish Enlightenment, students have twice caused the screening of the film Adult Human Female, a documentary exploring the conflict between women’s and trans rights, to be cancelled. Student protesters, encouraged by some amongst the staff, called it ‘transphobic’, claiming that showing it would make some students and staff ‘unsafe’.
The 92-minute film looks at the clash between women’s rights and trans ideology. It contains criticism of the trans movement, which it accuses of capturing major institutions such as universities and political parties while manufacturing confusion around sex and gender. The actions of some Edinburgh students prove the film’s thesis.
Unable to bear the thought that someone might hold a view which differed from theirs, these pampered youngsters sought to silence by threat of violence any who do not conform to their beliefs. University security staff refused to intervene. Instead of upholding the rights of those who planned to attend screenings of the film, they chose to allow protesters to block them, threaten violence and scream abuse.
The protest’s organisers, including the university’s Staff Pride Network, had vowed to ‘stand up against transphobia in our society and academic institutions’. The University and College Union Edinburgh posted from the event that the protest was ‘big and we’ve only just started’. It added: ‘No to hate on campus.’ Gender-critical events are being systematically suppressed throughout the Edinburgh campus.
Sir Peter Mathieson, the university’s notoriously woke principal and vice-chancellor, normally falls in with the most ludicrous student demands, such as renaming the David Hume Tower because of spurious slavery connections. However, perhaps Mathieson has at last discovered a backbone. The situation has become so bad that he has condemned the actions of protesters which went far beyond the exercise of their right to free speech.
Mathieson claims the university will take all steps available to investigate those responsible for preventing the screening of the film and will explore ‘routes of action’ which may be followed to prevent a repeat of the censorship. Due to Mathieson’s record of acquiescence we await with little confidence the results of his investigation and attempts to prevent a repeat of the censorship. The film’s directors have said it is ‘really important the screening goes ahead’. The university, however, is yet to confirm whether it will facilitate a further attempt to show the film.
We may scoff at supposedly intelligent people being made afraid by a film and see it as a gross overreaction. But these successful attempts at censorship and unscientific cultural vandalism are much more sinister. We should be awake to the threat to society by those who would enforce conformity. Such a perspective under-girded the totalitarian power of Soviet communism and Nazi Germany: allowing only one viewpoint creates an easily led people. The attempt by a small group of students to decide what may and may not be discussed at a centre of higher education undermines the very purpose of education and turns it into propaganda.
This is not the only trans controversy in Edinburgh recently. Joanna Cherry KC, one of Scotland’s leading lawyers and SNP MP for Edinburgh South West, was booked in, at their invitation, to give an interview at The Stand comedy club in Edinburgh during the Edinburgh Festival. A lesbian feminist, Cherry is of the opinion that someone’s sex is immutable and that ‘women don’t have penises’ which is an ‘undeniable biological fact’. The show ‘In conversation with . . .’ at the New Town Theatre was cancelled after the venue’s staff, including management and box office personnel, said they would not be ‘comfortable’ working at the show.
Cherry’s right to hold and express gender-critical views is protected in law. Roddy Dunlop KC, dean of the Faculty of Advocates, the professional body to which all Scotland’s advocates belong, tweeted concerning the cancellation: ‘It’s plainly unlawful. Is the venue aware that they would be vulnerable to a discrimination claim?’ The Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow recently had to pay evangelist Franklin Graham nearly £100,000 after cancelling an event he had organised for the SEC’s 14,300-seater Hydro arena.
The Stand was founded by Cherry’s fellow Nationalist MP Tommy Sheppard. The comedy club is owned by Salt ’n’ Sauce Promotions Ltd, of which Sheppard owns more than 50 per cent of the shares. During the Covid pandemic only three companies out of 203 applicants received a £250,000 Covid support grant from the Scottish Government, The Stand being one of them. If there is legal action, will SNP ministers try to claw back that sum so it may not be used in defending the claim? As we say in Scotland, ‘Ah hae ma doots’.
J K Rowling’s pro-woman stance has put her at loggerheads with the majority of media luvvies, including many who have profited enormously from her talent and work and yet now purport to despise her because she believes the scientific truth that men are men and women are women and we cannot swap at a whim. As a result she receives constant abuse, including rape and death threats. Undaunted, commenting on the Joanna Cherry cancellation, Rowling denounced the actions of the pro-trans Edinburgh mob as ‘modern McCarthyism’.
Much as I admire her principled stand against the trans zealots who trample on women’s rights I must disagree with her. These students were not acting in the same way as the Senator from Wisconsin. They were acting like the Nazi students in 34 cities in Germany in 1933. If zealots are allowed to censor and shut down debate on this or any other issue, no subject may be considered safe from the ultra-critical reactions of those it may offend. If that is allowed to happen, society is lost.