‘Will we allow a great university to be brought to its knees by a noisy, dissident minority? Will we meet their neurotic vulgarities with vacillation and weakness, or will we tell those entrusted with administering the university we expect them to enforce a code based on decency, common sense and dedication to the high and noble purpose of the university?’

That was Ronald Reagan, as governor of California in the 1960s. He wasn’t arguing for free speech on campus; in fact, he was railing against the agitators at Berkeley. But while Reagan’s sermons might seem a strange choice for making the libertarian case against censorship today, the underlying problem is the same.

Unrepresentative and often subversively-minded activists have been given too much power, and as well as spoiling the intellectual and cultural experience for their peers, they are having a much broader detrimental effect. Consider the indoctrinated views of the younger generation towards freedom of speech (Right-wing bigotry), wearing a poppy (militarist if not racist) and sexual identity (criticism of transgenderism is hate crime). This can no longer be dismissed as a passing phase in the formative years of young adulthood: censorship is a cancer metastasising throughout society and its institutions.

In the past few days, three incidents demonstrate the severity of puritanism on campus. The front page of the Times (17 October) reported that an event at King’s College London was attended by five ‘safe space marshals’, aptly dressed all in black. Speaking to the Conservative Association was Jacob Rees-Mogg, and the student union was clearly concerned that this Right-wing imperialist and anti-abortionist would say something offensive (meaning conservative). Rees-Mogg highlighted the somewhat sinister presence of these officers in the hall, encouraging the audience to enjoy the liberty afforded by our society. But students feared that anything they said could get them into trouble. The university assured the Times that it defends freedom of speech, but how does this square with the student union policing? Hearing that the marshals were paid £12 per hour, history student Greg Hall asked why ‘we are subsidising intolerance’.

Then to Sussex University, where Ukip MEP Bill Etheridge was invited by politics students to address a recently formed free speech society on the subject of liberty. He was deemed ‘high risk’ despite being a regular speaker at universities. The student union insisted that Etheridge submit his speech for screening to ensure compliance with ‘safe spaces’ policy. He had entered Richard Littlejohn’s ‘you couldn’t make it up’ territory. The event was cancelled, but the defiant Etheridge pledges to proceed anyway, ‘even if I have to stand outside with a loudspeaker’.

That’s exactly what Peter Hitchens did, also at an event organised by politics students (memo to student unions: the very essence of politics is debate). The student union at Liverpool University demanded that Hitchens not only provide a copy of his speech in advance, but also answer a series of questions about his well-known views on marriage and drug abuse. They were no match for the titan of punditry. Hitchens refused to kowtow to the petty commissars, instead speaking for an hour and a half from a soapbox in Hope Street, gaining much respect from the crowd of 70 students.

Some students are rebelling against the censors and trying hard to reinvigorate debate. Their universities aren’t doing much to support them, instead making them feel marginalised and vulnerable by issuing propaganda for the identity politics that stifles diversity of opinion. The academic environment, I fear, is regressing to the medieval strictures of scholasticism and persecution of heretics. What a poor role model our campuses have become for the many Chinese students here, who must wonder what is so free about the West. The communist leaders in Beijing have nothing to fear from the multitude of returning graduates, for whom censorship has been internationally normalised.

Universities minister Jo Johnson has been making the right noises about tackling this problem in universities. But he needs to follow words with action. To protect our time-honoured principle of free speech, its cultural Marxist suppressors must be legally curtailed. Don’t tolerate intolerance.


  1. Very sad! Respect for your elders and honouring your father and mother was the Judeo-Christian protection against would-be tyrants in their attempts to manipulate the arrogance of youth for their nefarious ends.

    • Which is why fathers and mothers, if they are still on the scene, are being undermined by the state – all the time. I read somewhere the other day (C4M, I think, or Christian Concern maybe?) that government sex education is going to include making ‘children resilient to the views of their parents’.

      • Are you suggesting that children do not belong to the state? How long will it be before the authorities start monitoring your Internet use, if they are not doing it already, for evidence of thought crime?

  2. “But he needs to follow words with action”

    Ha Ha Ha !

    He’s a Towie, and Towies don’t do ‘action’. Far easier to spout hot air and remain an intact spineless jellyfish than actually do something the Fascist Left might get upset and shout about.

  3. Don’t ‘outlaw’ them. We have enough knee-jerk and counter-productive legislation as it is.
    Just relentlessly take the piss out of them and expose them for the humourless intolerants that they are.

  4. Well one easy step would be to end any Gov. funding to the NUS. As far as I can see it is Student Unions from whence most of this comes. With the University Authorities ( as if they act with any authority) caving in at first “tweet”.

  5. The students I meet seem to know a lot but not about much that isn’t university based. I don’t find it difficult to lose them quite quickly in reasoned argument backed by verifiable facts; they seem to argue from the heart rather than the head.

  6. I ponder if a few million, or maybe a few hundred thousand of us like-minded people could not band together and buy a island, or huge swathe of land, somewhere, form our own community based on the values oft discussed herein and declare U.D.I..

    I, for one, am heartily sick of being part of this constange change in our nation but little by way of improvement. To then find everything I have believed or lived by this past 59 years is deemed ‘wrong’ by a very vociferous minority backed by self-serving politicians and aided and abetted by a complete abandonment of the defence of such things by the very politicians – in the main, the Tories – who should be screaming their defence from the roovetops is beyond acceptance by me. All I have done is lived a decent, honest life, been neighbourly, paid my taxes, don’t have a criminal record, and much else, yet ‘by association’ I am deemed ‘guilty’.

    I recently discovered Kar Popper’s ‘Paradox of Tolerance’ and agree with every aspect of it: (I paraphrase) “If a society is tolerant without limit, their ability to be tolerant will eventually be seized
    or destroyed by the intolerant” Popper came to the seemingly paradoxical
    conclusion that in order to maintain a tolerant society, the society
    must be intolerant of intolerance.

    • Popper is obviously correct.
      The only way that most current political parties, including the highly politicised BBC
      is through massive cognitive dissonance.
      Labour is the classic example
      1. Pro the poorer classes
      2 Pro mass low skilled immigration
      3 Sympathetic to young would be home owners
      4 Pro mass immigration.
      5 Anti racist
      6 Anti Jewish
      7 Pro homosexuality
      8 Pro muslim
      ad nauseum

  7. The problem is very easily solved. No public money should go to any university where the students’ union, or the university administrators, have a “no platform” policy or any “safe spaces.” The university administrators would then discover that they had backbones after all.

  8. The Berkeley students had legitimate grievances -curfews on women students,for instance. This lot-I think Roy’s right. Students who break up meetings or shout down speakers should be expelled, staff who do it should be dismissed.

    • And they had a lot less sexual harassment, not to mention rape because of it. It’s a binary choice, women want to roam and be treated like men, they’d best be able to defend themselves like men. or there can be rules like you mentioned, which I know from personal experience were hardly impermeable.

  9. “Their universities aren’t doing much to support them”
    And herein lies the problem. The entire educational establishment has been lost and the powers that be and we ourselves, have sat back and allowed it to happen.
    Short of some authoritarian style house cleaning, we a generations away from returning to any form of freedom of thought in universities and that is assuming there is any will to even start down that road.
    Unfortunately, it looks like a good old dose of far left government is needed to bring these idiots back to reality.

  10. Read Peter Hitchens’ incredible account of campus censorship in the the
    latest Spectaor.
    He was expected to submit his talk for student censorship & for the police to informed.
    Final, blissful, irony. The Mandela room was to be used.
    As I often remark we live in an age where satire is impossible.

  11. “Chinese students here, who must wonder what is so free about the West. The communist leaders in Beijing …” Free? Like, free speech? Our society? Yer avin’ a larf!! Surely you heard the one about the Chinese scientist, visiting an American university (1990s, true, apparently) who said to his hosts: “In China, we may not criticise the government, here in the US, you may not criticise Darwin (‘Darwin’ meaning in effect the ruling paradigm of ideas, pc/identitarian/Left Wing/”Liberal”/materialist values and world-view)”.

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