"It benefits the American right to characterise campus culture wars as debates over “free speech”, when often they are not"

Excerpts below from an essay by nicely presented and experienced Leftist journalist SOPHIE MCBAIN, writing in the hoary Leftist organ "The New Statesman". I repeat her sub-headline above.

She grudgingly admits below that a lot of student activism has inhibited the expression of conservative ideas on campus -- but her sympathy with the student censors is clear.

And her blinkered apology for them is that it is not really an issue of free speech.  Of course it is not.  It is a debate about political ideas, conservative ideas in particular.  The mention of free speech arises only when the expression of conservative ideas is censored in some way.  It is Leftists who force the debate into a debate over free speech.  That is not the doing of conservatives.  Conservatives invoke their right of free speech as a defensive strategy to protect themselves from the censors.  The issues are POLITICAL.  Issues of free speech are secondary to that.

She also says: "If students disagree with right-wing speakers, why should they not exercise their right to protest?"  In saying that she mischaracterizes the issue.  A right to peaceful public protest is well accepted.  But it is when protest degenerates into coercion that objections rightfully arise

She also says: "When speakers are de-platformed at universities they are not forced into political obscurity."   But, again, that is not the issue.  The issue is the Leftist monoculture on campus that leaves students with distorted impressions of conservative ideas.  The issue is educational.  Conservatives simply want to have at least some say in what ideas are presented on campus.

Ms McBain is a fluent writer and is particularly fluent in evasion. She has to be. The inherent authoritarianism of Leftism cannot be admitted

In recent months, two of America’s most prestigious literary institutions have found themselves embroiled in heated debates over the boundaries of acceptable speech. In early September, the New Yorker announced that its editor David Remnick would interview Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, the far-right agitator Steve Bannon, on stage at the magazine’s annual festival. After facing harsh criticism from readers and several staff writers, Remnick quickly rescinded the invitation. A fortnight later, the editor of the New York Review of Books Ian Buruma was fired amid uproar over his publication of an essay by Jian Ghomeshi about how the former radio host’s career was destroyed by accusations of sexual harassment. Ghomeshi’s essay was an unedifying and unreflective exercise in self-pity in which he downplayed the nature of the accusations against him and mischaracterised his legal case.

It’s understandable that readers were perplexed by the editorial decisions made at both magazines. It was, after all, odd that of all the influential thinkers to headline its festival, the New Yorker chose Bannon, and that of all the under-represented voices that could write with intelligence and nuance about the #MeToo movement, the NYRB commissioned Ghomeshi. Yet both incidents also raised broader questions over how publications should respond to social media outrage over their coverage, and how America’s liberal establishment should handle politically unpalatable views. What is the best way to probe and challenge right-wing thinking, without over-amplifying marginal figures or normalising far-right rhetoric? How does the mainstream media determine what viewpoints are too extreme or offensive to be published? ...

There is evidence to suggest that younger people may be less tolerant than older generations of speech they consider offensive or otherwise harmful. In recent years, the number of speakers disinvited following campus protests has increased and critics say a culture of “safetyism” has emerged in academia, in which students angrily shut down the discussion of unsettling ideas.

If students disagree with right-wing speakers, why should they not exercise their right to protest? When speakers are de-platformed at universities they are not forced into political obscurity. Far from it. Figures such as Yiannopoulos like to portray themselves as free-speech warriors leading “dangerous” campaigns against a powerful liberal establishment, but they are hardly disempowered outsiders. America’s right-wing media and the white nationalist movement now have the ear of the White House, after all. One imagines it might entertain Bannon to watch the “globalist media” agonise over the best way to cover his nationalist populist perspective, when you can hardly imagine Breitbart or even Fox News worrying about whether they are giving liberal voices a fair hearing. Students are exposed to right-wing ideology, even if they do not welcome its proponents on campus.

Undoubtedly some of the case studies explored by Lukianoff and Haidt suggest that concepts such as microaggressions and trigger warnings are sometimes taken to ludicrous and damaging lengths by students. Some of the speakers who have recently been disinvited are hardly right-wing extremists: they include the IMF’s Christine Lagarde and a regional head of the American Civil Liberties Union. Despite this, I found myself admiring the confidence and fluency with which students are testing out arguments about power and privilege that I was merely dimly aware of as a student, only a decade ago.


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