ONE day Stagecoach were sponsoring the Turner Prize, the next day they weren’t. Why did the prestigious arts award eschew the generous offer of money from the transport company? Because the chairman of Stagecoach’s parent company, Sir Brian Souter, is a conservative who has recently been active in opposing LGBT teaching in schools. In 2000, he opposed the repeal of Section 28 (a 1988 law which banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools).
Our cultural elites are becoming less and less tolerant of socially conservative views, especially on sexuality, except when complaints are made by Muslims. Then another order of values comes into play. Otherwise anyone suspected of ‘homophobic’ views – by which they mean any kind of disapproval of same-sex relationships – is hunted down and purged from public life.
Homophobia was one of the main charges against Roger Scruton. In celebrating his part in getting him sacked, the New Statesman’s George Eaton tweeted that Scruton was a ‘racist and homophobe’ – though Scruton in fact is clear that he does not regard homosexuality as a ‘perversion’. Former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron was hounded for possibly holding conservative views on gay sex. Rugby Union England player Billy Vunipola was punished in April for tweeting support for Australian rugby player Israel Folau, himself sacked for tweeting Christian views on sexuality.
The message is unmistakable: don’t hold conservative views on sexuality, even less voice them, and expect to hold on to a job in the public eye. You are not welcome here.
The same goes for other conservative views, as Dr Noah Carl discovered last week when the University of Cambridge terminated his fellowship for daring to question progressive orthodoxy on the role of genetics in human diversity. A lesson which Jordan Peterson, like many others we don’t hear about, had already learned.
This is a new orthodoxy, a new Test Act, typically expressed in statements of ‘equality, diversity and inclusion’ to which all public figures and academics must express allegiance. Dissent will not be tolerated.
What happened to tolerance? The answer is that tolerance for many post-1960s progressives was really only ever a demand for conservatives to loosen their moral standards and be more permissive in things which supposedly didn’t affect them personally. It was a Left-liberal idea with built-in Left-liberal bias: tolerance for things which liberals wanted permitting, intolerance for the ‘hate’ of conservatives who still held on to reservations or objections to them.
Tolerance for the Left is typically a one-way street. That’s why the mobs mobilise to skewer Scruton for uttering the word ‘tribes’ when describing how a country might feel about mass immigration. Yet no such outrage is found for, say, Peter Tatchell, who is well-known for pushing the sexual liberty boundaries. He is wheeled out by the BBC to express how ‘disappointed’ he is at Stagecoach’s involvement in the Turner Prize – that’s our society’s idea of progress.
Meanwhile, Facebook has continued its war on its conservative users, banning a number of well-known personalities. In justifying its latest purge it explained: ‘We’ve always banned individuals or organisations that promote or engage in violence and hate.’
Not just violence, note, but hate. Where, though, does reasonable disagreement (albeit strongly expressed) end and ‘hate’ begin? Wherever the Social Justice Warriors at Facebook decide it does, of course. Got a problem with that? Then expect a call from PC Plod – PC in more ways than one.
The progressives are tightening their grip on power and chasing conservatives from the public square. They regard conservatives as a big part of what’s wrong with our society. In the House of Lords recently, Labour peer Lord Liddle perversely commended the government for standing up to the ‘forces of social conservatism’, which he says are ‘still far too strong in our society’.
This progressive delusion is the single biggest threat to our society. But with the current government so often at the head of the censorious mob, pitchforks in hand, there seems frighteningly little chance of restoring our basic freedoms of speech and association.