I saw this interesting article on the Spectator about a disturbing trend among university students in the UK.
I was attacked by a swarm of Stepford students this week. On Tuesday, I was supposed to take part in a debate about abortion at Christ Church, Oxford. I was invited by the Oxford Students for Life to put the pro-choice argument against the journalist Timothy Stanley, who is pro-life. But apparently it is forbidden for men to talk about abortion. A mob of furious feministic Oxford students, all robotically uttering the same stuff about feeling offended, set up a Facebook page littered with expletives and demands for the debate to be called off. They said it was outrageous that two human beings ‘who do not have uteruses’ should get to hold forth on abortion — identity politics at its most basely biological — and claimed the debate would threaten the ‘mental safety’ of Oxford students. Three hundred promised to turn up to the debate with ‘instruments’ — heaven knows what — that would allow them to disrupt proceedings.
Incredibly, Christ Church capitulated, the college’s censors living up to the modern meaning of their name by announcing that they would refuse to host the debate on the basis that it now raised ‘security and welfare issues’. So at one of the highest seats of learning on Earth, the democratic principle of free and open debate, of allowing differing opinions to slog it out in full view of discerning citizens, has been violated, and students have been rebranded as fragile creatures, overgrown children who need to be guarded against any idea that might prick their souls or challenge their prejudices. One of the censorious students actually boasted about her role in shutting down the debate, wearing her intolerance like a badge of honour in an Independent article in which she argued that, ‘The idea that in a free society absolutely everything should be open to debate has a detrimental effect on marginalised groups.’
Read the rest of Free speech is so last century. Today’s students want the ‘right to be comfortable’
This is an insane development, how can a civil society function when it is based on a principle like “Your rights end where my feelings begin”? Does it really make sense to say that debate should be censored just because some people might find it uncomfortable? These students seem to think so and I can’t imagine a worse turn for a free society.
How exactly do people expect this to end? Treating students as children and protecting them from BadThink. If you protect them from all unapproved ideas all you will do is destroy their ability to reason critically about issues. I think Thomas Sowell put it perfectly when he said
The problem isn’t that Johnny can’t read. The problem isn’t even that Johnny can’t think. The problem is that Johnny doesn’t know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling.
This is the result. Students unwilling to listen to a debate and the debate being cancelled, and everybody prevented from listening, because the idea of open and free debate, whichever side of an issue you on, is so threatening and has the potential to make these fainting wallflowers so uncomfortable that it needs to be stopped. They don’t even have the decency just to do something else for the evening. The debate must be stopped because, I can only assume, they are terrified that someone might encounter an unapproved idea and think for themselves about it.
All we are doing by tolerating this madness is creating a generation who will be extremely vulnerable to the first demagogue that comes along. With no functioning critical thinking abilities, they will be led by their emotions into madness, blood and fire.
[…] Read more at Your rights end where their feelings begin at Oxford!. […]
So it never occurred to you that those students might be acting on their own well-thought-out philosophical principles? I find your attitude towards them dehumanizing, and the original article rife with emotional biases and unexamined assumptions.
“So it never occurred to you that those students might be acting on their own well-thought-out philosophical principles?”
Yes of course it did. That is the most depressing part of it. I want it to be ill thought out feelings, only inability to think because it is such a depressingly evil and totalitarian line of thinking.
That way lies blood, fire and madness.
“I find your attitude towards them dehumanizing”
I find their abdication of reason for feelings a willful abandonment of their birth right as Homo sapiens sapiens.
I think we will just have to agree to disagree Wayne, but you will note, I haven’t censored your comment but allowed it because I value open debate and reason.
“Yes of course it did. That is the most depressing part of it. I want it to be ill thought out feelings, only inability to think because it is such a depressingly evil and totalitarian line of thinking.”
So what do you think the student’s philosophical principles might be, from their own point of view, and how do you think they might have come to the conclusion to ask for the debate to be cancelled?
Their principles appear to be based in a broad idea that the only virtue is “tolerance” and that “reason” and “debate” are incompatible with this idea. That feelings must be protected at all costs and that they have a “right” to be comfortable and that that “right” trumps a right to free expression and the liberty of open debate. I derive all of that from their words as reported and from others I have encountered extolling exactly those positions including the insane “Your rights end where my feelings begin”.
There comment about “nobody without a uterus should be allowed to speak on this topic” speaks of a commitment to a lunatic obsession with identity politics as if the possession of a uterus somehow changes the validity of an argument. It doesn’t, an arguments validity depends on the structure of the argument and the validity of its premises. Are you familiar with the idea of Bulverism?
How did they come to these conclusions? These aren’t conclusions, I doubt they are capable of a reasoned argument. These are simply brute facts. Again, based on repeated encounters with people who sound like this and talk like this. Always speaking as if “I feel it … end of discussion”. As I said, they abdicate their birthright as Homo Sapiens Sapiens when they do this becoming nothing more than trousered apes, to use C.S Lewis’ term.
I gather you agree with them though. Why don’t you explain the argument.
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