Niall McCrae: Rise up, students, and fight for free speech

‘Free speech not hate speech’. Another snappy slogan from the vociferous, placard-bearing Left. But as noted by many critics of the postmodern inquisition, the supposed guardians of tolerance do not clearly define the thing they confront (or should I say hate). Campus censors are good at finding words or opinions that offend, but less proficient in presenting a logical principle to justify sacrificing basic freedoms. What exactly is hate crime?

Readers of two recent publications on hate crime will be none the wiser. Exhibit A is in the latest Time magazine, where Katy Steinmetz describes the fear and trauma of students at the receiving end of insensitive or offensive remarks. It is a sign of the times that Steinmetz uses the word ‘yet’ in this sentence: ‘Universities have been at the vanguard of civil rights, yet few values are more important than the free exchange of ideas.’

A Cornell student is quoted: ‘Free speech is speech that is not aimed to hurt’. But who judges this? Jordan Peterson, the vastly popular Canadian scholar who refused to accept gender-fluid pronouns imposed by his university, certainly does not set out to insult people. But he has been accused of hate speech. As has psychologist James Caspian, a gay advocate of transsexual rights who was blocked by Bath Spa University’s ethics committee from studying people with regrets about changing sex. As Caspian found, a woman becoming a man is honoured, but for that same person to wish to revert is anathema. Scientific enquiry or reasoned argument may be intended to enhance understanding, but are not permissible if they encroach on taboo territory.

Exhibit B is ROAR, the King’s College London Student Union bulletin. There are two articles on the topic: one a fairly nuanced commentary by Philippa Knipe, which poses an unanswered question: ‘How can hate crime be pinned down?’ The second is a tirade against a widely-reported comment by Oxford University vice-chancellor Louise Richardson, who said that her job is not to make students feel comfortable. Ouch! The writer’s lesson in identity politics ends by urging institutional protection: ‘In a space as formative as university, we have to ensure that those with positions of power work to carve out safe spaces, not as a luxury, but a requirement.’

Disturbingly, the demand is not merely for rooms set aside as a sanctuary for particular groups of students. No – the entire university environment should provide immunity from criticism or ‘micro-aggressions’. The article, with its cumbersome title ‘Universities must define comfort versus outright defence’, betrays the current undermining of the true purpose of academe. Apparently few students are aware of John Henry Newman’s classic treatise on liberal education, The Idea of the University. Today, students seek freedom from speech; they would prefer to avoid hearing different opinions from their own. Certain beliefs or rights are simply not negotiable, regardless of majority views. Indeed, as polling indicates, the fundamental value of democracy is no longer appreciated by the younger generation.

Lacking logical coherence, student commissars display double standards. Sweeping statements about homosexuality are unacceptable (while heterosexual males are carriers of ‘toxic masculinity’); a Muslim must never be questioned on her faith (while Christians are fair game). The argument is that marginalised groups should be protected, while the traditionally powerful deserve their come-uppance. Young people are thus encouraged to identify with a group bestowed with special status.

In the past, Left-wing politics shouted for minority rights, but the supposedly disadvantaged identity groups now account for the majority of the student populace. Count up the female, BME and LGBT individuals and compare with a decreasing number of white, heterosexual males. It seems that having fewer men has had an inverse effect on allegations of sexual misconduct, while charges of racism have risen as the white British proportion has fallen. Perhaps the feminisation of universities has given young women more voice, but in keeping the white male as the target of opprobrium, student politics has made every day the Fifth of November – burning a straw man.



So let us understand hate speech for what it is: an aggressive pursuit of power. Steinmetz states that students in American universities are becoming more liberal, when they are actually oppressing people, as illustrated by violent demonstrations against libertarian speakers. The censors argue that free speech harms people, but their own behaviour crudely dehumanises opponents. A critic is not simply wrong, but morally debased. Banish them! Reason has no currency; victim groups claim inviolable rights to emotional sanctity.

Jean-Paul Sartre, while he might have approved of the ascendant cultural Marxism on campus, would have seen that students have taken a wrong turning. Hate crime is an example of ‘bad faith’, whereby people deny their agency and blame their responses on others. Hysterical reactions on social media: Trump/Milo/a Daily Mail headline made them do it. We deny our freedom, Sartre said, to avoid the burden of responsibility. But free will depends on consciousness of choice, not sheltering in the collectivism of identity politics.

I know that some students read my Conservative Woman articles, possibly for the same reason I read Polly Toynbee in the Guardian. My appeal to you is to liberate yourselves from group-think. However much you disagree with what they say, admire those few peers with the courage to differ from prevailing opinion. The concept of free speech is tarnished in the minds of your student union representatives, but you can help to rescue it. That entails a difficult realisation that ‘free speech but’ is not free speech at all. As the ratchet of censorship tightens, I hope some of you will become the vanguard in the battle for liberty.

Niall McCrae

  • Steve_Crowther

    The fount of this (in the UK) is the Equality Act 2010, which requires public authorities to act positively on behalf of ‘protected minorities’. This means that if you are not in a protected minority – which has been expanded in some applications to include people of ‘alternative sub-culture identity’ (good news for Ukippers) – you are going to be actively discriminated against by all public authorities. Victimisation becomes the norm. BTW, the sudden obsession with encouraging people (even very young ones) to become transgender is because transgender is a protected characteristic under the 2010 Act. Therefore if police officers and head teachers don’t trawl their constituencies for transgender people, they may be breaking the law.

    • Damaris Tighe

      Exactly. When I see posters who ask for speech against Christians or white men to be treated as hate crimes, I remind them that under this Act they have no protected characteristics. Therefore the authorities are far less interested.

      • Tricia

        Exactly! What happened to us all being treated equally under British law? The ridiculous Equality Act – it actually makes people unequal – some are made more important than others. We should campaign for the repeal of this Act.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Hate is an emotion that cannot be “pinned down” and which may or may not lead to some physical manifestation of that hate in the form of words or deeds. The underlying emotion cannot be suppressed by law and any law seeking to codify what speech conveys which hatred is bound to be bad law as there is simply too many circumstantial factors and subjectivity around that. Those can be cleared up in courts but they will end up having to deal with time and money wasting trivial accusations and prosecutions, as we have seen.

    The whole farrago of “hate speech” is a left wing construct contrived to coerce conformity to their imposed or aspired to norms of thought and behaviour. It is a seeking of absolute power over everyone and is complete bunkum. It is also beset with the hypocrisy that the left regularly deploy their own hate speech and manifest behaviour against any dissent to their orthodoxy.

    That politicians of all parties have bought into that and tried to codify it in law demonstrates how stupid most of them are. It should have been ridiculed and stamped down at first sight but of course there was a powerful, malevolent and revolutionary left wing government at the time, busy corrupting all the unelected offices of state with fellow travellers.

    • Reborn

      To my great amusement a woman caller on LBC radio half an hour ago described men whistling at women as a “hate crime”.
      The fact is that hate crimes are either ordinary crimes or thought crimes, there is no such thing as a hate crime per se.
      If I attack someone physically it is a crime, & it is the harm done that counts not the motive.
      Thanks to the left, we are now in truly Orwellian territory, and the roots of it are in
      our leftist controlled university campuses.
      The no platforming, safe space, protesting students may think they’re right on
      virtuous lefties.
      They are, in fact, very close to the right on , virtuous, socialists of the Hitler Youth

      • Damaris Tighe

        … or the Red Guards of the Chinese cultural revolution.

        • mark taha

          Er-what exactly is a love crime? I’ve been meet,beaten up, ripped off and I don’t think love motivated the bastards!

        • Reborn

          Exactly.
          It’s characteristic of our media, notably the BBC that Corbyn has never been dealt with for waving Mao’s Little Red Book about in our
          Parliament, or was it the deeply sinister McDonnall ?
          The National Socialist Hitler managed to murder over 6 million innocent
          civilians & is considered the epitome of evil.
          Mao managed to murder at least 30 million, but is still considered respectable in leftist circles.
          Just about sums up the leftists’ hypocrisy &/or ignorance.

      • Harley Quin

        Everything is a ‘hate crime’ just as everything is ‘racist’.

    • HFC

      Yes, the left deploy hate speech and it seems with total hypocritical immunity. For a good example of people using terms of hatred just listen to the BBC News Quiz. For example, a recent episode had two men, one with an English accent the other American, using terms such as ‘moron’ to describe the national leaders of N Korea and USA. Can they not be prosecuted or at least taken away for a bit of healthy re-education?

    • Little Black Censored

      The Guardian is the source of a continuous torrent of hatred, and yet is most enthusiastic in the punishing of those who commit hate crimes.

      • Niall McCrae

        Indeed. Have you see this Zoe Williams tirade in the Guardian this week? It’s a classic of putting everything you don’t like into one great detestable ogre…https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/16/brexit-trump-sexual-assault-chauvinist-strongmen-immigrant-women

        • KilowattTyler

          It’s a typical Arts/Humanities graduate’s method of argument – pile a load of things you don’t like in a big heap and hope the size of the heap will impress the people you like and intimidate those you don’t.

          The construction of an argument by using established facts linked by logical reasoning is for those with mathematical or scientific training. This has no place in the world in which ‘leaders’ and ‘opinion formers’ operate.

          • JabbaPapa

            Actually, any Humanities Department (and Chair) worth its salt would strongly denounce the very same things.

            Your suggestion that “arguments using established facts linked by logical reasoning” might belong to certain disciplines only is methodologically untenable.

    • Two-steps-forward

      For a moment I thought you were describing the Beebs complaints process, silly me

  • mark taha

    They’ve been suppressing free speech at Universities for decades. The government should step in and order the expulsion of students and dismissal of staff who shout down speakers or break up meetings-even if there are hundreds of them. If they want a safe space,they can go to their rooms-a University is not a kindergarten.

    • KilowattTyler

      If (a big if) there was ever a government outside the PC-technocrat bubble a law could be passed defining the characteristics of a university. A central feature of this definition would be that students, academics and those invited to speak at the university could express any opinion without suffering from disciplinary action, provided that there was no incitement on the part of the speaker to violence against named individuals or members of political parties or religious organisations or nationals of other countries, or attacks on property.
      Any university (as currently understood) failing to meet this definition would lose all future direct or indirect state funding and be ineligible for charitable status.

  • Little Black Censored

    “A Muslim must never be questioned on her faith…”
    “His” is an inclusive term, or if you don’t agree, then “his or her”. “Her” is never inclusive; perhaps you are trying to make it so? It also draws attention to itself and so distracts the reader from the argument, or even annoys him. (“They”, used for the singular, sounds uneducated to some people.)

    • Steve

      To whom does “”They”, used for the singular,” sound other than uneducated?

      I suppose to the uneducated.

      Though I would simply call it “wrong”. And “jarring”.

      In the context of this website a female default is perhaps reasonable?

      Though in the particular example the reason might be that a Muslim woman may well have been denied a proper education making it unfair to ask her to conduct a learned argument?

  • So many forget, the right to free speech is by definition the right to offend. Thus we had the spectacle last week (at William and Mary, Thomas Jefferson is amongst the alumni) of the leftist ACLU shouted down by the idiots from BLM.

    Until we get over thinking that the radical left believes in anything but power (their own) we will lose this war, for war it is, just not defined yet.

  • Pretty Polly

    Most students are lefties and lefty arguments don’t work, so obviously most students demand censorship instead.

  • Dave S

    This madness will eventually pass but it will ruin lives and countries before it does. I look at the faces of the young and they seem vapid ,lacking any possibility of character forming in their faces and their lives.
    Compare them with the men and women I grew up with and worked with in a variety of jobs many years ago. No safe spaces for me then and quite right for I was young and had it all to learn.
    Just as handwriting changes down the generations so do our faces and looking at the young now you can sense the inherent weakness there. No wonder other more vibrant cultures think they only have to push and the West will crumble.
    Yes there are exceptions but they are exactly that.

    • My experience of them (US Ones, I mean) is that they’re not bad kids, they’ve just never progressed mentally past about 10-12 year olds. If you take them that way (and yes, their faces reflect that) you’ll find that eventually they’ll figure out at least part of it. Frustrating though, for those of us that came up in a world that expected us to be adults at 18 or so.

  • Belsay Bugle

    If I say that Islam is a dangerous heresy and should be fought against, for the sake of Muslims who are in peril of eternal damnation, I would be saying it out of love for them, not hatred.
    Because if I hated them I would encourage them in their delusion to the destruction of their immortal souls.
    Surely, if that’s a crime it must be a love crime. If the state says its a hate crime it must be arrogating to itself the power to see into my soul and judge me for what it claims to see, but isn’t there.

  • Revd Robert West

    By ‘Hate Speech’ they mean heresy, but there dare not use that word, for it would give their game away: they are really into censorship, and telling others what to think. However, if you are confident of your ability to hold your own in argument, and yet are willing to be shown that you are wrong, when you are wrong, then you will welcome freedom of speech: after all, when you lose an argument, all that means is that you have learned something. And, if you think about it, that is all that it is about. If we do not like what someone believes, it is up to us by freedom of speech to show him where he errs and why. This is not done by closing down debate.

  • 39 Pontiac Dream

    Gramsci and Marcuse will be applauding from beyond the grave in full knowledge that their collective philosophies have worked their way through our education system and into the wider social realm. Every day, we are being treated (by the BBC, Guardian and other left wing outlets) to new ways of having our speech restricted, God forbid that it may offend someone. It’s insidious and, thus far, shows no sign of abating.
    When I was at university, just over 12 years ago, open debate was welcomed. We could thrash out opposing arguments and, yes, it got heated at times but it never fell so far as to get into petty name calling or a closing down of opinion for fear of being offended. I gather that has now disappeared at our institutions. That said, free speech groups are sprouting up all over UK universities and I’m glad that many are now taking the fight to these close minded lefties.
    We must continue to speak freely and openly and take the baton back from those who want to shut us down. We must not be afraid to discuss everything reasonably and freely.

  • UKCitizen

    And this too shall pass!