Advertisements

Suicide in The Fast Lane: European Civilization in Accelerated Decline, Politically Correct Universities ‘Are Killing Free Speech’

British universities have become too politically correct and are stifling free speech by banning anything that causes the least offence to anyone, academics argue.

Javier Espinoza writes: A whole generation of students is being denied the “intellectual challenge of debating conflicting views” because self-censorship is turning campuses into over-sanitised “safe spaces”, they say.

“A generation of students is being denied the opportunity to test their opinions against the views of those they don’t agree with.”

“The College does not share Cecil Rhodes’s values or condone his racist views or actions.”

Oriel College says the statue of Rhodes, on a building he paid for, jars with the values of a modern university. It is facing a battle with Historic England, which has listed the statue as an object of historical interest.

Writing in The Telegraph, the academics, led by Frank Furedi, professor of sociology at the University of Canterbury, and Joanna Williams, education editor, Spiked, say it is part of a “long and growing” list of people and objects banned from British campuses, including pop songs, sombreros and atheists.

education_2990311b

“Students who are offended by opposing views are perhaps not yet ready to be at university.”

They say the “deeply worrying development” is curtailing freedom of speech “like never before” because few things are safe from student censors.

Because universities increasingly see fee-paying students as customers, they do not dare to stand up to the “small but vocal minority” of student activists who want to ban everything from the Sun newspaper to the historian David Starkey.

“In September, the University of East Anglia banned students from wearing free sombreros they were given by a local Tex-Mex restaurant because the student union decided non-Mexicans wearing the wide-brimmed hats could be interpreted as racist.”

The letter says: “Few academics challenge censorship that emerges from students. It is important that more do, because a culture that restricts the free exchange of ideas encourages self-censorship and leaves people afraid to express their views in case they may be misinterpreted. This risks destroying the very fabric of democracy.

A student wears a sticker calling for the removal of a statue of Cecil John Rhodes from the campus of the University of Cape Town

“An open and democratic society requires people to have the courage to argue against ideas they disagree with or even find offensive. At the moment there is a real risk that students are not given opportunities to engage in such debate.

[Read the full story here, at the Telegraph]

“A generation of students is being denied the opportunity to test their opinions against the views of those they don’t agree with.”

Calling on vice-chancellors to take a “much stronger stance” against all forms of censorship, they conclude that “students who are offended by opposing views are perhaps not yet ready to be at university”.

Freedom of speech carries a burden of responsibility which shouldn’t be overlooked.

A crane prepares to lift the university of Cape Town’s statue of Cecil John Rhodes from the position he has occupied for over 100 yearsNtokozo Qwabe, who set up the Rhodes Must Fall in Oxford campaign, is one of more than 8,000 foreign students who have been able to study at Oxford because of a Rhodes Scholarship, paid for by the Rhodes Trust, which was set up by Cecil Rhodes in his will.

Professors have complained recently that they are being bullied online by students who are easily offended by opposing views.

In recent months, students at British universities have banned, cancelled or challenged a host of speakers and objects because some found them offensive. Maryam Namazie, a prominent human rights campaigner who is one of the signatories to the letter, was initially banned from speaking at Warwick University because she is an atheist who, it was feared, could incite hatred on campus. She spoke at Warwick in the end. Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Today’s Apps Are Turning Us Into Sociopaths

broapp

Illustration: McMillan Digital Art/Getty

For Evan Selinger writes:  While I am far from a Luddite who fetishizes a life without tech, we need to consider the consequences of this latest batch of apps and tools that remind us to contact significant others, boost our willpower, provide us with moral guidance, and encourage us to be civil. Taken together, we’re observing the emergence of tech that doesn’t just augment our intellect and lives — but is now beginning to automate and outsource our humanity.

But let’s take a concrete example. Instead of doing the professorial pontification thing we tech philosophers are sometimes wont to do, I talked to the makers of BroApp, a “clever relationship wingman” (their words) that sends “automated daily text messages” to your significant other. It offers the promise of “maximizing” romantic connection through “seamless relationship outsourcing.”

Now, it’s perfectly possible that this app is a parody (the promo video includes bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto and feminist voice Germaine Greer among the demo contacts), and its creators “James” and “Tom” didn’t share their last names with me. But my 29-year-old interlocutors — one who apparently has a degree in Engineering and Mathematics, the other in Design and Applied Finance — had clearly thought deeply about why relationship management tools are socially desirable and will be increasingly integrated into our everyday lives. Read the rest of this entry »


[BOOKS] The Failures of the New Feminism

2014+18woman's mag

From across the pond, by way of Arts & Letters Daily, this item: Even Germaine Greer, that curmudgeonly old feminist (her words!), has found cause to rejoice: Glossy women’s magazines are on the wane..

For The New StatesmanGermaine Greer writes: The most curmudgeonly old feminist has got to be glad that in February 2012 two young women set up a blog raging about the insidious nastiness of the women’s press and got seven million hits in its first year of operation.

“Feminism in Britain has had two strands: as a media phenomenon and as an academic discipline. The vast realm of reality that lies between remains unaffected by either.”

The hope springs up that there might be sufficient angry women out there and they might be sufficiently angry to bring about actual change. But then we’ve thought that before and before any difference could be made to anything, we were told that it was over and that feminism was a dirty word again. Feminism in Britain has had two strands: as a media phenomenon and as an academic discipline. The vast realm of reality that lies between remains 41D9Lko6VIL._SL110_unaffected by either.

[Holly Baxter and Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett’s book The Vagenda is available from Amazon.com]

Holly Baxter and Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, who set up the Vagenda blog, have now uttered a book of the same name. The title was meant to be an ironic version of the portmanteau words adopted by the lower end of the women’s press – a compound of “vagina” and “agenda” – but, like much of the wordplay on the blog and in the book, it doesn’t really work, being neither amusing nor informative. 51zLKh6TlpL._AC_SR98,95_“Vagina” is a vile name for any female orifice, because it means “scabbard”.

[Germaine Greer’s most recent book is White Beech: The Rainforest Years]

No feminist could in conscience adopt it despite the never-ending afterlife of the ghastly Vagina Monologues. A similar insensitivity besets The Vagenda, the book. The jacket design is as offensive as anything ever seen in print. It is based on the logo for the blog but with a hideous refinement; the image of a nude female from waist to nearly knee, now photographic, has a chunk ripped out of it, extending from hipbone to hipbone to below the mons pubis, forming a gaping black triangle, in which appear the words “The Vagenda” in Barbie pink. The page book-everyday-sexismdesign is almost as brutal as the cover.

[Check out Laura Bates’ book: Everyday Sexism at Amazon.com]

The writing style of the book takes its cue from the hyperbole of the magazines that are under attack and struggles to outdo it. Baxter and Cosslett (who also write the V Spot blog on the New Statesman website) tell us that, in their personal experience, “Losing your hymen is about as pleasurable as having someone rap your knuckles with a frozen veggie sausage.” Do they seriously wish us to believe that their hymen somehow got lost and that they were aware of its getting lost at the time? That is no more likely than that someone, anyone, would have rapped them on the knuckles with a sausage of any kind, much less vegetarian, much less frozen. To refer to a first episode of penetrative sex as hymen loss reveals a level of ignorance that is positively medieval. Read the rest of this entry »


The Slow Death of Free Speech

AA671283: Literature, Music, Theatre

“Once you get a taste for shutting people up, it’s hard to stop. Why bother winning the debate when it’s easier to close it down?”

The delightfully dyspeptic  writes: These days, pretty much every story is really the same story:

  • In Galway, at the National University of Ireland, a speaker who attempts to argue against the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) programme against Israel is shouted down with cries of ‘Fucking Zionist, fucking pricks… Get the fuck off our campus.’
  • In California, Mozilla’s chief executive is forced to resign because he once made a political donation in support of the pre-revisionist definition of marriage.
  • At Westminster, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee declares that the BBC should seek ‘special clearance’ before it interviews climate sceptics, such as fringe wacko extremists like former Chancellor Nigel Lawson.
  • In Massachusetts, Brandeis University withdraws its offer of an honorary degree to a black feminist atheist human rights campaigner from Somalia.
  • In London, a multitude of liberal journalists and artists responsible for everything from Monty Python to Downton Abbey sign an open letter in favour of the first state restraints on the British press in three and a quarter centuries.
  • And in Canberra the government is planning to repeal Section 18C — whoa, don’t worry, not all of it, just three or four adjectives; or maybe only two, or whatever it’s down to by now, after what Gay Alcorn in the Age described as the ongoing debate about ‘where to strike the balance between free speech in a democracy and protection against racial abuse in a multicultural society’.

I heard a lot of that kind of talk during my battles with the Canadian ‘human rights’ commissions a few years ago: of course, we all believe in free speech, but it’s a question of how you ‘strike the balance’, where you ‘draw the line’… which all sounds terribly reasonable and Canadian, and apparently Australian, too. But in reality the point of free speech is for the stuff that’s over the line, and strikingly unbalanced. If free speech is only for polite persons of mild temperament within government-policed parameters, it isn’t free at all. So screw that.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Oldest War

Remember when the battle of the sexes was a laughing matter?

Andrew Ferguson

I’m showing my age again, but I can remember, just barely, when we had the war between men and women. Not a war, but the war: eternal and (of course) metaphorical, a fight without massed ranks of infantry or elaborate flanking maneuvers or formal parleys among belligerents. The opening salvo dated to the Garden of Eden, and a truce wasn’t expected until Gabriel or whoever sounded the trumpet’s final wail.

The phrase war between men and women was meant in a lighthearted way, mostly. It described an ineradicable truth of human life, plain to everyone but best spoken of indirectly. It is this: The two halves of our otherwise terrific species aren’t really suited to each other, even though the replenishing of our kind depends on their close, to say no more, association. The unavoidable pickle​—​the tension between the incompatibility of man and woman and the urgent need for man and woman to get along and then some​—​has traditionally been understood as comic. To view it otherwise is too grim a prospect. And besides, we have reasoned, it’s just the way things are, so what the hell.

Great artists from Aristophanes to Shakespeare, from Molière to Ira Gershwin, understood the war this way. The humorist James Thurber summed it up in a series of drawings explicitly titled “The War Between Men and Women.” Each piece illustrated a signal event in the ongoing struggle: “The Fight in the Grocery Store,” the “Capture of Three Physics Professors,” the “Surrender of Three Blondes,” and so on.

“It’s all in good fun,” Thurber seemed to be saying, “I hope.”

Thurber’s series was first published in 1934, in the backwash of what progressive historians call First Wave Feminism​—​the feminism of Susan B. Anthony and suffragettes and temperance advocates and other assorted crabby grannies in bonnets and high collars. Roughly two generations later Second Wave Feminism rolled in to make sure everyone knew that relations between the sexes were no laughing matter. (The summary joke from this unhappy period: Q. How many feminists does it take to change a light bulb? A. That’s not funny!) Second Wave Feminism was the feminism of grim Gloria Steinem and scary Germaine Greer and no bras.

Read the rest of this entry »