There is an article out there, so frightening, so worrying it must be read. It spells disaster for the future of this country. Tim Squirrell, President of the Cambridge Union, (Dickens could not have chosen a better name) believes that students of Cambridge University have a right to be intellectually “safe.” The President of the Cambridge Union, one of the most famous, august debating societies in the world believes debating an idea – the pure communication of an idea via the spoken word – should be banned if it makes students feel ‘unsafe’. I need to sit down.
By unsafe the Squirrell does not mean speech that threatens or incites violence – we already have criminal sanctions against this form of speech. Let’s be clear, Squirrell believes speech that make students feel intellectually unsafe should be banned from university. It beggars belief.
Spiked and Brendan O’Neill have campaigned for a while now against the frightening censorship that is sweeping across British universities. This matters, because these students, with their infantile trigger warnings, compulsory ‘consent classes’ that presume some men are ‘pre-rapists’ and prohibition of intellectually challenging speech, will one day run the country. What they ban at Cambridge they can ban for the rest of us, in Parliament. Do not think it could not happen.
Last week a debate was proposed between Brendon O’Neill and Tim Stanley entitled “This House believes that abortion culture harms us all”. After some Cambridge students made the appropriate amount of fuss (it remains unknown whether smelling salts were required) it was cancelled.
At first, the excuse given was that there were security issues involved – but we all know this was a load of old rubbish. The Squirrell reveals the true reason for the ‘platform withdrawal’ – students did not like the subject matter so it was just banned.
In this piece, the Squirrell makes a pathetic attempt to justify this restriction on free speech. The crux of it is that as colleges might be also be homes to students, these students must feel safe. He even relied on the case of Mike Tyson who was not given a platform as some students might have felt ‘unsafe’. But Tyson was a convicted rapist. Brendon O’Neill and Tim Stanley are not.
The Squirrell would have us believe that the very presence of Brendon O’Neill and Tim Stanley, those well known threatening and intimating commentators, might cause students to feel ‘unsafe’. This and the scary subject matter that was coming to get vulnerable students old enough to fight and die in a war, might make the poor dears uncomfortable, so best not to talk about it.
As banned speaker Brendon O’Neill points out, the views that are banned are not threatening or violent – they are any views that do not conform to the liberal orthodoxy. He states: The ‘no platform’ policy of various student unions is forever being expanded to keep off campus pretty much anyone whose views don’t chime perfectly with the prevailing groupthink. Where once it was only far-right rabble-rousers who were no-platformed, now everyone from Zionists to feminists who hold the wrong opinions on transgender issues to ‘rape deniers’ (anyone who questions the idea that modern Britain is in the grip of a ‘rape culture’) has found themselves shunned from the uni-sphere. My Oxford experience suggests pro-life societies could be next.”
It is these views that are being ruthlessly suppressed at universities including Cambridge, because they are unfashionable, not because students feel a real threat to their safety.
Once upon a time students fought tooth and nail to go to university to acquire knowledge and be intellectually challenged. Now they go to have their worldview reinforced and to feel intellectually safe. The fact that many of these students will be in positions of power and influence in the coming decades should strike terror into the hearts of all freedom-loving people.