jo johnson freedom of speech universities
Education

Jo Johnson’s muddled and aimless thinking about freedom of speech in universities

Universities Minister Jo Johnson delivered a much-trailed (..and here, here, here…) speech about the imperative of academic freedom of speech, which he says must be guaranteed on pain of universities being “fined, suspended or deregistered, if they do not protect free speech within the law”.

So if, say, the University of Oxford clamps down on freedom of speech “within the law”, it may be ‘deregistered‘ (ie, cease to be able to award degrees).

Right… like that’s going to happen.

His speech has been universally lauded as a welcome intervention against the increasing ubiquity of ‘safe-spaces‘ and the deployment of ‘marshals‘ whose task it is to ensure that no visiting speakers (like Jacob Rees-Mogg) dare to voice ‘offensive’ views. And so, at long last, we have in Jo Johnson a politician who prefers red intellectual meat to milk; one who doesn’t mind melting snowflakes with the heat of robust argument; one intent on restoring academic freedom of speech and reclaiming debate from the illiberal liberals who decide to find offence under every cornflake – that is if they haven’t imposed the mandatory consumption of quinoa flakes for a safer gut feeling.

But there’s a problem with Jo Johnson’s speech – actually, there’s quite a few, but you’d struggle to find any reasoned exposition of them anywhere: it’s almost as if a speech by a Tory minister lauding freedom of speech in universities were sufficient to restore freedom of speech in universities.

Or perhaps it’s simply that universities have never actually surrendered academic freedom of speech (“within the law”), and so Jo Johnson is preaching to a congregation which is already singing from his charismatic chorus sheet.

Firstly, he refers a number of times to the policy of ‘no-platforming’ as a device for censoring unpalatable opinion:

Campaigns and protests against events featuring prominent gay rights and feminist campaigners such as Peter Tatchell and Julie Bindel, and more recently the proposal by some students at Oxford’s Balliol College to deny the Christian Union a space at Fresher’s Fair are examples of the threat to legal free speech from those who would rather shut down debate altogether than to confront dissenting ideas or uncomfortable arguments.

Peter Tatchell was accused of being racist; and Julie Bindel of being transphobic [and whorephobic]), and Balliol College Oxford was the scene of a little anti-Christian sentiment when a small faction of the JCR committee declared: “Historically, Christianity’s influence on many marginalised communities has been damaging in its methods of conversion and rules of practice, and is still used in many places as an excuse for homophobia and certain forms of neo-colonialism.” JCR Vice President Freddy Potts explained further on behalf of the JCR Welfare Subcommittee: “Our sole concern is that the presence of the CU alone may alienate incoming students. This sort of alienation or micro-aggression is regularly dismissed as not important enough to report, especially when there is little to no indication that other students or committee members may empathise, and inevitably leads to further harm of the already most vulnerable and marginalised groups.”

Jo Johnson could have added Germaine Greer, who was no-platformed for apparently being transphobic, and there are multiple other examples of students protesting the presence of speakers who might upset them.

The thing is, these aren’t university policies, but those of student unions or independent student societies: if, for example, the National Union of Students determines to have an official no-platforming policy (presently limited to Al-Muhajiroun; British National Party (BNP); English Defence League (EDL); Hizb-ut-Tahir; Muslim Public Affairs Committee; and National Action), then that surely is entirely a matter for them. If another student union wishes to add Ukip or pro-Israel (/Zionist) speakers, they are free to do so “within the law”. Jo Johnson appears not to be able to tell the difference between official university censoriousness and partisan student zealotry. They are patently not the same thing.

So what is the Universities Minister actually saying? Is it that universities must ensure that student unions and student societies invite speakers whose views may be unpalatable to some, and that student attendance is mandatory? Or is it that autonomous student societies must ensure ‘balance’ quotas, so that (for example) every pro-choice feminist speaker must be off-set with a pro-life misogynist, and every pro-Palestine freedom-fighter with a pro-Israel Zionist? Who then judges the optimal incarnate polarity? Who discerns whether the medium impedes the message and so an unacceptable bias is perpetuated?

Surely students ought to remain free to ‘no-platform’ whomever they wish? Isn’t that their freedom of expression? These student-society talks do not form part of their degree courses: they are self-inflicted, extra-curricular enhancement. If young minds cannot (or do not wish to) cope with reasoned argument or contrary opinion, who is Jo Johnson to impose it? Isn’t it students who pay their subscriptions? Isn’t it their own money which incorporates them? Isn’t it their own time which they devote? Why should the Universities Minister presume to interfere with the stated objectives, purposes and activities of a private membership organisation?

And by ‘no-platforming’, let us be clear that an invitation extended by the student body and a speech opposed by some does not constitute ‘no-platforming’. Indeed, the Guardian notes that some of those more high-profile examples of ‘no-platforming’ were not ‘no-platformed’ at all: Peter Tatchell addressed his audience, and so did Germaine Greer, and so did Jacob Rees-Mogg. So it isn’t so much a restriction of the freedom of speech as the freedom to speak met with robust contrary free speech.

Interestingly, examples of real ‘no-platforming’ which Jo Johnson omitted to mention include Peter Hitchens, who refused to sign a ‘free-speech contract’ (ie vetting the speech and noting those attending) at Liverpool University, so he gave his speech on a soap-box outside the university walls; and Tim Stanley, whose talk on abortion at Oxford University had to be cancelled over ‘health and safety’ concerns. When a guest speaker is confronted with a coercive contract or threatened by an unruly mob, such that to take the platform becomes collusion with illiberalism or an endangerment to life and limb, then freedom of speech is indeed curtailed – but by an anarchic student body; not official university policy.

And it’s interesting to note at this point that Jo Johnson chose to ignore the prominent ‘right-wing’ victims of genuine cases of no-platforming (whose subjects were drugs [against] and abortion [against]) in favour of left-liberal LGBT heroes of gender and sexual orthodoxy, who were not always actually ‘no-platformed’ (and some ‘no-platformed’ themselves [ie didn’t show up] in protest over how their friends had been treated). Why didn’t the Universities Minister mention Peter Hitchens, Tim Stanley or even Jacob Rees-Mogg? In the latter case, the media-hyped threat of ‘no-platforming’ was no worse than that endured by Peter Tatchell, so why laud the LGBT human rights campaigner and not the pro-life pro-marriage Roman Catholic?

And then we come to Jo Johnson’s free-speech “within the law” qualification. He says:

There is no place in our society – including within higher education – for hatred or any form of discrimination or racism such as anti-Semitism.

A racist and anti-semitic environment is by definition an illiberal one that is totally antithetical to the idea of a university in a free society.

No British university is going to tolerate racism, and (pace SOAS), none is going to countenance anti-Semitism. But Jo Johnson also says there is no place “for hatred or any form of discrimination”, and here we begin to understand why it is not universities which are the problem, but the government’s ‘hate speech’ legislation, for when ‘hatred’ is in the eye of the beholder, and includes (according to the CPS) “ill-will, ill-feeling, spite, contempt, prejudice, unfriendliness, antagonism, resentment and dislike”, there’s a manifest freedom tension.

Are Brexiteers not rendered ‘haters’ by this definition? Are not all those who oppose universal inclusion into everything for absolutely everyone everywhere? What if a future government determines that criticism of the European Union constitutes ‘hate speech’?

And that is why ‘Prevent‘ is so subversive and potentially injurious to academic freedom. In order to prevent Islamists from infecting young minds with the virtues of head-hacking jihadism, the British Government (mindful of and sensitive to [vote-losing] allegations of Islamopobia) forced universities (indeed, all places of education) to root out all forms of ‘extremism’ – that is, any opinion which does not conform to their notion of ‘British values‘ (ie equality, tolerance and respect). From there, it doesn’t take much to grasp why pro-abortion feminists might find Tim Stanley ‘extreme’, or gay-marriage advocates might find Jacob Rees-Mogg ‘extreme’. For the self-styled ‘safe-space’ marshals, Wahhabism and Evangelicalism hail from the same arid theological desert; Salafism and Roman Catholicism are both equally offensive because both discriminate against women and gays.

But Jo Johnson doesn’t mention ‘Prevent’, for some reason. For him, there is simply “no place in society… for any form of discrimination”, and so, presumably, no place to preach the inequitable, intolerant and disrespectful gospel that salvation is to be found in Christ alone. And so Jesus would be banned from speaking at a university – by both anti-Christian students and the ‘Prevent’ duty imposed by government – because he offends sinners and goats and people who make a public display of piety. If educational establishments have a statutory obligation to protect their students from all forms of harassment in order to ensure that “the rights and dignity of all members of the University community are respected”, then Jo Johnson has just reinforced the very ‘no-platforming’ policy he professes to oppose.

Finally, we come to the genuinely important instances of universities inculcating partisan orthodoxy or limiting freedom of academic inquiry. This is where Jo Johnson ought to be focusing his ire and directing his threats of ‘deregistration’, for when a university permits the establishment of self-perpetuating power bases or censors valid research in case it offends against the government’s received gender-sexuality orthodoxy, then we take a step toward the postmodern age of anti-enlightenment, where the only academic inquiry permitted is that which exhorts the zeitgeist and bolsters received opinion – such as that propounded by Universities Minister Jo Johnson.

UPDATE, 29 Dec 2017

The Minister graciously responded:

To which the reply:

To which nothing more was heard.

  • magnolia

    If Stanley, Hichens, and Rees-Mogg were ginger they might be in with a shot, as gingerphobia seems to be in the foothills of approved victimhood. As it is , nah….

    • Royinsouthwest

      Red hair is not one of the “protected characteristics” listed in Harriet Harman’s bogus “equalities” act.

  • Manfarang

    Plenty of free speech at universities. Students could write whatever they wanted on the bog wall. I heard of one university where they installed blackboard and chalk for the purpose. All kinds of witty remarks made I doubt whether things have changed that much over the last forty years.

    • IanCad

      Yes! Indeed Manny, Pisshouse poets can be inspired. Best one I’ve seen was in Pismo Beach California; Texaco as I recall – “Mexicans are living proof the Indians laid the buffalo” – paraphrased very slightly.
      To the thread; Why on earth do we need a “Universities Minister”? Is there nothing the non-productive can leave alone?

  • we begin to understand why it is not universities which are the problem, but the government’s ‘hate speech’ legislation

    From the middle of the last century it has been cross-party policy to transform the racial and religious character of Britain by means of Third World immigration, and hate speech legislation is one method of preventing the indigenous population from opposing the policy. Fundamentally, it is the policy of race and faith replacement which is the problem.

    There is no place in our society – including within higher education – for hatred or any form of discrimination or racism such as anti-Semitism—Johnson

    Unsurprisingly, the vice-president of the Board of Deputies welcomes the special consideration given to the Jewish community. The State ensures free speech for Jews who argue for the diversity which will make the indigenous British a powerless minority, but the policies which would prevent the indigenous British becoming a powerless minority are deemed to be racist and anti-Semitic, and their discussion constitutes hate speech.

    • Manfarang

      Replacement? The Irish have been doing it for years. It is estimated that as many as six million people living in the UK have an Irish-born grandparent (around 10% of the UK population). The 2001 UK Census states that 869,093 people born in Ireland are living in Great Britain.

      • Royinsouthwest

        Did we cause a new potato famine? Will Tony Blair have to issue another apology for causing so many Irish people to emigrate?

        • Manfarang

          Nearly 300,000 British people currently live in the Republic. Of course millions of Britons emigrated and that number will increase in the next few years. Many of the young now have few prospects.

  • CliveM

    Thank you for giving context to this debate. I notice also how he doesn’t appear to address issues such as removing pictures of old, white, male colonialists, because of their (for the time) entirely contemporary opinions.

    There are many ways of closing down free speech and the expression of contrary opinions.

    • Manfarang

      There weren’t many universities in Britain in the days of old, white, male colonialists. People could emigrate so there wasn’t the need to open lots of universities to soak up youth unemployment.

      • Anton

        And there weren’t as many subjects to study either. Today you can get a degree in creative urination from the University of Poly-Up-Grade which qualifies you to think that you are entitled to a large salary in the State sector for the rest of your life.

        • Manfarang

          Wasn’t that the BSc. in Brewing?

          • Anton

            That’s a useful subject. My paternal great-great grandfather was a brewery worker in his town.

      • CliveM

        Which seems to miss my point?

        • Manfarang

          They never put up pictures of Rhodes in the plate glass universities

          • CliveM

            I’m sure you’re right.

    • Apropos of nothing really, I read that some Hindus of India want to tear down the Taj Mahal because it was built by a colonial ruler using myriad Hindu slaves.
      Since they constitute the majority, I wouldn’t bet against it happening. Some 19th Century Viceroy should have packed it up and sent it back to England for safety like the Elgin Marbles.

      • CliveM

        They’d want it back if that had happened!

  • magnolia

    It’s the transition from having as justly illegal violence or unjust recruitment or incitement of any kind to violence to this ridiculous hate speech business, which is policed (seriously) by hypocrites indulging in hateful speech against those accused of hateful speech.

    If unkind words against anyone (as perceived by that person) were illegal 98%-ish of the population would be in prison which just underlines the silliness and shows how all are thus not equal under the law. A clear pecking order of who may insult who appears to have happened, with gays, transgenders, and Muslims at the top, and the deaf, fundamentalist Christians, the Welsh, and the overweight somewhere near the bottom. It is well-known by the citizenry- and all stand-up comics- and appears insane. This is not to excuse any kind of rudeness, but we have to act only against serious miscreants, and at the moment we have the wrong priorities. It is very crass indeed.

  • gadjodilo

    Students should be given just beer and bands (and plenty of homework). Student activism was always a nonsense in my experience.

    • Sybaseguru

      Jack Straw was Student leader in my day – led us to go to war with Iraq – a prime example of your statement.

  • Anton
  • Chefofsinners

    As is usual in the Johnson family, Jo is propounding nothing much beyond his own popularity. The family brain cell was in Australia at the time, enhancing its dignity by chewing kangaroo testicles on TV.
    Our society has replaced cerebrity with celebrity. The sound-bite poster-boy quick-quip politicians are the darlings of generation Twitter, but as they crucify our liberties they know not what they do, because they’re just too thick and lazy to think on it for a moment.

  • Inspector General

    No Platforming is the last right. When you have all the rights you’ll ever need, you seal them up with an impenetrable layer of no platforming. Never again will your rights be taken away from you. How can they be, when it is illegal to challenge them.

    No Platforming is not a right that can be granted to you. Not in a free society. What you do is to acquire it. And how on earth then can it be imposed?

    Thuggery, of course. And plenty of turning of blind eyes…and we’ll cut to the chase here…by timid university authorities.

  • dannybhoy

    There is a very good book entitled “The Intolerance of Tolerance” by DA Carson which examines how the pursuit of Truth has been abandoned in favour of Politically Approved Unanimity..
    Mind you George Orwell had it nailed in “1984”…

    • John

      Agree, it is a superb book.

  • Inspector General

    “…‘no-platforming’ as a device for censoring unpalatable opinion:”

    Been going on for years. For example, who knew were are, according to knowledgeable medical opinion, in an anal cancer epidemic? Have been for years (circa 2010, when HPV ‘exploded’ in the promiscuous homosexual community as a result of increased survival if contracting HIV and prophylactics were much abandoned.

    Nobody who could talk about it will, as they will be professionally destroyed. Ironic really, for their careers are essentially keeping disease down in that aforementioned troubled community. Helping those who would turn on them. And turn on them they most certainly will, for the cause, of course…

    So you see. No Platforming can be voluntary, in a way.

    • Chefofsinners

      Anal cancer: we demand the truth, the hole truth and nothing butt the truth.

      • Inspector General

        Investigations by the Inspector revealed the Daily Mail ‘got wind’ of what was happening and raised the subject a few years ago. But with no one of medical authority prepared to come forward and supply expertise assessment and provide their name, that was it. The Mail was
        ‘stuffed’.

        • Arden Forester

          This was only a couple of months ago in the Mail. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-4921664/Fight-control-anal-cancer-epidemic-America.html

          Whatever else the government and the higher echelons of the medical profession may think, I cannot believe that God created anuses for anything other than defecation. And used only in a Godly manner, an anus will last a lifetime without significant problems.

          • Inspector General

            We know that God did not intend for the anus to be anything other than its rather obvious reason due to the lining of the rectum being remarkably fragile. One waits in patience as some brave soul points this out to the degenerates that infect synod…

    • John

      According to Cancer Research UK, in 2014 diagnoses of anal cancer were 870 in females and 430 in males.

      • Inspector General

        Wiki on the subject has it that between 84% and 90% of victims will also be HPV+

  • Sybaseguru

    Thanks for his Lordships clarity. “Hate speech ” legislation was designed by the snowflakes and is incompatible with free speech. Sure, we need to stop people stirring up physical violence and direct threats of it, but that should be the limit of it. Enoch Powell’s “Rivers of Blood” speech was shocking, but led to serious discussion on the subject with all being able to engage and as a result we have (or had until recent mass immigration) a much more integrated culture than say the US did.

    • Royinsouthwest

      Powell was not advocating “rivers of blood.” He was warning that we would see “rivers of blood” if we continued with existing immigration policies.

      If he were alive today Powell would probably claim that his prediction had proved true but even though, as far as I know, he never foresaw Islamic tweeeorism.

      • Anton

        He did say on 4th November 1971 in a speech to the Southall Chamber of Commerce that

        It is by ‘black Power’ that the headlines are caught, and under the shape of the negro that the consequences for Britain of immigration and what is miscalled ‘race’ are popularly depicted. Yet it is more truly when he looks into the eyes of Asia that the Englishman comes face to face with those who will dispute with him the possession of his native land.

        • Manfarang

          How else can the standard of living be maintained post Brexit without the help of the Chinese (huge potential market for British goods and services)?

          • Damaris Tighe

            None of your comments seem to have anything to do with the posts you’re replying to.

          • Manfarang

            The world has changed since the days of Enoch Powell and clearly some need to be reminded of that fact. What hasn’t changed is the question of free speech in universities in the last 40 years. I remember exactly the same things being said when I was a student all those years ago.(which I have made comments about here) Britain is stuck in a time warp.

      • Inspector General

        Powell was angered by letters from his constituents. White widows being harangued by recently arrived sub continent types who wanted them to sell up to them and move away in short order. So that the next plane load could move in. He risked, and lost, his political career as a Conservative over it. But we look back with the gift of hindsight and see him as the finest Conservative of the lot. Mrs May is barely fit to wait on him…

      • Ray Spring

        One friend fled from Bristol to the North of Scotland. Wet but safe. I came to NZ years ago. But I recommend only fleeing to the South Island. (This is strictly between you and me. Only one million here, keep it that way. Do not tell anyone else. The last bastion of being able to say what you really think).

        • Ray Sunshine

          Not in the area subject to earthquakes, I hope?

          • Ray Spring

            We have lots of them. Do not underestimate their power. Nor of Typhoons. We had a few of them in HK. My view?, I would rather risk Quakes and Typhoons than UK at present.

          • Ray Spring

            This is an Earthquake link,
            http://www.christchurchquakemap.co.nz/

            With other connections available on the site.

        • Carlotta

          “The last bastion of being able to say what you really think”

          As long as it’s not agin the Treaty of Waiting

          • Carlotta

            sorry – Waitangi

          • Ray Spring

            Actually Maori people are more affected by the present madness than most people. Govt try to ‘buy them off’, but they are still being thrown out of work by Govt allowing in more people than we can house, provide work for or assimilate. Not too many Ghettos here in Christchurch atm. But it is worrying.

      • Manfarang

        He became aware of IRA terrorism.

    • Ray Spring

      I was there. Birmingham. Enoch is right, said I. I left England a few months after his speech. Thank God!
      You only get one warning, a few if you are very lucky. Better take the warning. Better leave with your family.

      • Maalaistollo

        But go where?

        • Manfarang

          Thailand. The weather is beautiful at the moment. No free speech though.

    • Manfarang

      I think you will find insulting behavior likely to cause a breach of the peace has been around for a long time.

      • Sybaseguru

        “Insulting” was removed by the Crime and Courts Act 2013 (Section 57) for distress and mental elements – but the police can use the argument that they expected a breach of the peace as a result a very subjective decision.

        • Manfarang

          Thank you for reminding me. Mrs. May at the Home Office It slipped my memory
          Now people have the freedom to express themselves in the foulest language possible.

  • Brian

    To me it’s a no-brainer.
    1. If universities are, to some extent, recipients of public money, they must not be allowed to prevent the expression of lawful opinion, however unpopular that opinion is.
    2. If students are requited to be members of the National Union of Students (I do not know if they are) in order to use general facilities of the university, then the NUS should have no power to prohibit the free association of students on university premises. (Actually, organisations like the NUS should be outlawed or be entirely voluntary.)
    3. If universities respond that they cannot guarantee the security of meetings on their premises, it is a simple matter to mandate the fining, suspension or expulsion of any student who threatens or disrupts lawful meetings (banging on doors, caterwauling etc).
    The fascist left in America has attempted to thwart the expression of unpopular views in Berkeley and elsewhere and it is only the US Constitution free speech rule and court sanctions against universities that keeps them in line.
    Of course, the wider point that Cranmer makes is correct: ‘hate speech’ legislation promoted first under Blair, then through Theresa May and the even more useless Amber Rudd created the climate in which censorship ‘pro bono publico’ is now unthinkingly accepted by British youth. Cameron was the true heir to Blair.

  • IrishNeanderthal

    We must thank his grace for this penetrating analysis.

    With regard to comments below, I had not realized that Jo Johnson is the brother of Boris, whose placement as Foreign Secretary brings to mind the following analogy.

    I am sure there are many intelligent and capable persons in the Cabinet, however, to me so many of them seem to be in the wrong job. I remember children’s toys where one had to push the square peg into the square hole, the round one into the circular hole, and so on for the triangle, the star, and all the other shapes.

    Did our Prime Minister as a child have one of these toys. If so, did she have a penchant for trying to drive the pegs into all but the correct hole?

  • Chefofsinners

    Mr Johnson might aim his criticism a little nearer home: perhaps at those who would prevent Donald Trump from visiting the UK or addressing parliament, even those who would presume to tell him what he should put on his Twitter feed.

  • len

    The truth will always offend someone .

    “The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.”

    ― George Orwell

    • Chefofsinners

      Or, as Augustine of Hippo put it:
      “Why, then, does truth generate hatred, and why does thy servant who preaches the truth come to be an enemy to them who also love the happy life, which is nothing else than joy in the truth–unless it be that truth is loved in such a way that those who love something else besides her wish that to be the truth which they do love. Since they are unwilling to be deceived, they are unwilling to be convinced that they have been deceived. Therefore, they hate the truth for the sake of whatever it is that they love in place of the truth. They love truth when she shines on them; and hate her when she rebukes them. And since they are not willing to be deceived, but do wish to deceive, they love truth when she reveals herself and hate her when she reveals them.”

  • Ray Spring

    An amusing situation. First, there is the Racist BNP. Terrible people, Nick Griffen being the worst. He even dared, ten? years ago, to talk about Moslem Men raping under-age little girls. Hate Speech of the worst sort. Naturally the Police prosecuted him. A hung Jury the first time. A second trial, with a judge declaring, in England, ‘the truth is no defense’. The second trial found the Racist Nick Griffen ‘Not Guilty’. The abuse continued, of course, with the abusers thinking they had the approval of Government for what they were doing.
    I then come to my amusing experience. One of the most important books on the Holocaust is ‘Am I a Murderer?’ Written in Warsaw during the Nazi occupation. The book is now in Israel. The writer was a Jewish Policeman, responsible for herding Jews onto the trains to death camps. I commented on the Guardian news site about this, which means that many of the people murdering Jews were themselves Jews. Naturally my comment was deleted by the Guardian. We must not have the truth confusing propaganda!

    • dannybhoy

      I think this was one of the most awful aspects of the Holocaust. It showed how some people were so desperate to live / terrified to die that they submitted to becoming a part of the extermination process, even though that meant killing their own people; men and women and children..
      It was the morality behind this fact which really brought me to salvation.
      That the Holy Spirit showed me that if I were ever in a situation where to stand by my principles would result in my being put to death; and to deny them would allow me to live, I would indeed deny them.
      I have always felt a great sense of compassion for these poor wretches; many of whom were despised and lived the most miserable existence for the rest of their days carrying that burden of guilt and betrayal.

      • Ray Spring

        The book is a must read. How people slip down the slope, a small slip first and then wholesale slaughter.
        One of my friends is German. His father was in the Nazi Army marching into Germany. Being part of the slaughter of ordinary Russians. The German Army collapsed at the Crimea and he ended up in the Gulag. Sold back to Germany in 1953? He became an alcoholic.
        We do not know what sin is, we do not know what we can do. Which is why the suppression of truth is so serious. We are not ‘moral’ people, we are sinners.

        • Manfarang

          Millions of Soviet POW s perished . They never returned home. Most German POWs didn’t either.

      • Manfarang

        Yes some did commit suicide.

    • Manfarang

      Don’t forget more than a few of those herded unto the gas chambers were Christian converts.
      On another note I knew one of the world’s most notorious pedophiles(currently doing a 25 year tariff in a New Jersey penitentiary) He was a former member of a church choir.

  • Inspector General

    On a personal note, your Inspector can inform all who are remotely bothered that he has been subjected to a No Platforming policy for some years now. On Line thugs of a certain sexual persuasion, you see. But there be glee this day and others to come. The old war battered original super heated steam (combination boiler) laptop is still throwing it out. Much to the chagrin of Christianity’s enemies.
    Having commented on Enoch Powell tonight, it must be mentioned that these on line thugs are greatly opposed to what was the British Empire. Apparently, no people have the right to invade a simple country and impose its values upon them. Except in the case of mass alien immigration into the UK. These gay thugs are of the opinion that you can’t have enough of that! Even if the self same are booted out of a taxi at 3am because of their homosexual lust in the back seats.

    It’s a crazy world, and no mistake, what!

    • Politically__Incorrect

      You have my sympathy Inspector. I was “no-platformed” in the 70s. Just couldn’t walk in the damn things. It’s interesting that said community want mass immigration to grow and grow. Have they not seen the movie “Illegal Alien vs Sexual Predator”?

      • Manfarang

        These days the universities are dependent on overseas students.

        • Ray Spring

          Education for sale to the highest bidder. A good example here in NZ is medicine. Competition for places. You do not get in.
          Jump the ditch to Oz, pay the International Fees, and you are probably in to their medical school. Probably applies the other way too.

  • Politically__Incorrect

    When my daughter attended the local uni, her class were told in no uncertain terms that voting UKIP was completely unacceptable. That is the kind of thing Jo Johnson needs to be dealing with; institutional bias and pressuring. The NUS on the other hand, has always been a hotbed of Marxism, even in the 70s. Most students grow out of it when real life eventually slaps them in the face. When they are the ones paying tax and NI, or it’s their house that is unsellable because of the refugee centre in the village. Real life takes the charm out of lefty-liberal idealism. I know because I’ve been there.

  • Chefofsinners

    The phrase “postmodern age of anti-enlightenment” is a good descriptor of our days.
    Other civilisations have fallen to corruption, dissipation, natural disaster and a host of other causes. But ours is the only one which, having achieved mass education, has embraced post-truth as a basis for life.
    In doing so they reject Him whose name is “Faithful and True”. They are fools, building on the sand, and great will be the fall of their house.

  • Chefofsinners

    Students warned: free speech will now cost you £9500 a year @6.1% interest. Terms and conditions apply.

    • Father David

      Ah, nostalgia for the good old days when Grants were available for Higher Education.

      • Manfarang

        I remember a student that was an NF member speaking at a student union meeting. He was defending apartheid. He usually didn’t go into the student union building.

        • Ray Spring

          I cannot remember anyone defending Mugabe. Or that fellow in South Africa who looted the bank. I suspect people would be better of now in apartheid South Africa, or Rhodesia under Ian Smith.

          • Manfarang

            Beyond some Afrikaners I doubt there are many who would want to return to apartheid. Some interesting impeachment indictments coming up.

          • Ray Spring

            But Apartheid was defended. Who would defend their present set up?

          • Manfarang

            A lot of people who live in SA it seems.

  • Pubcrawler

    Apologies for being completely off topic but I’ve just come across this and it’s too bizarre to keep to myself.

    From the Cambridge Chronicle and University Journal, 6 May 1854

    They punish people queerly in China. For robbing a peek at, a gentleman was lately put into a mortar, and fired against a stone wall.

    Puts the three months with hard labour that an old woman got for nicking a glass from a pub into perspective…

    As you were.

    • What’s a peek at?

      • Pubcrawler

        Stupid autocorrect for peddler.

        • So he robbed a peddler? A robbery with violence?

          • Pubcrawler

            Post-pub typing for pedlar.

            The details of the case are not given. Violins not thought to be involved.

          • A travelling salesman – but not violins?

          • dannybhoy

            That’ll teach you not to go off topic when the little Orangeman is around…..

          • grutchyngfysch

            Happy Jack being described as a little Orangeman is like a late Christmas present 🙂

          • Lucy, Jack’s granddaughter puts you all to shame – especially you Jacobs. She calls him Sunshine Face.

    • Manfarang

      Today a bullet in the back of the head.

    • Damaris Tighe

      Still better than the ‘death by a thousand cuts’.

  • michaelkx

    well when I went to university, I went to WORK I had no time for sitting in the student’s bar worrying about some misconceived minority. Although there were those doing the ‘ social ‘ and political courses that were generally all worked up about some perceived crime against the thoughts of chairman Stalin.

    • David

      Same here. Science Faculty undergraduates were kept busy with many lectures and laboratory practical sessions. Only the Arts and certain Social Science undergraduates had the “spare” time to waste on the thoughts of Chairman Mao or some such other murderous tyrant.

      • CliveM

        As someone who did an ‘arts’ degree, I vaguely remember a fair bit of drinking, but absolutely no Mao.

        I suspect it’s still the same.

        One of the reasons these people get into positions within the NUS, is because the majority don’t give a you know what, for it.

        • Chefofsinners

          This is true. During an election for president of our student union I made and stuck up lots of posters, urging people to vote for an unsuspecting friend. He had no interest in politics and the posters were mostly taking the mick out of the genuine contenders. There was a wave of support for him and he would have won easily if only he had actually been a candidate.

          • CliveM

            The NUS President of my day held the job for at least 3 years. It saved him having to finish his degree. He was useless, but probably did less damage as NUS President then he would have done working.

    • CliveM

      “well when I went to university, I went to WORK I had no time for sitting in the student’s bar“

      Oh sorry to hear that, because I certainly did.

  • Albert

    There is no place in our society – including within higher education – for hatred or any form of discrimination

    I would no-platform the naked use of the word “discrimination”. It’s just used to shut down debate. Everyone discriminates. It used to be that a discriminating person was a thoughtful person. When an employer decides to employ one person rather than another, he discriminates.

    May I suggest that the language of the Catholic Church might be helpful here? They Church condemns unjust discrimination. Who can complain about the introduction of the word “unjust” there? Only those who wish to use the rhetoric of discrimination unjustly to shut down opinions they disagree with, but cannot answer.

    • Damaris Tighe

      Exactly. ‘Discrimination’ is another word for discernment, a Catholic virtue. And I remember the time when a ‘discriminating’ person was someone who could tell the difference between fine wine and plonk. I’m glad you remind us that the Church qualifies discrimination with just or unjust. For me that makes the distinction between what can be changed, and thus validly criticised (eg opinions, ideology, religion), and what can’t be changed (eg race).

  • Albert

    I don’t wholly agree with this post. Consider this line from the Telegraph:

    The university’s students’ union employs the £12-an-hour officials to patrol meetings where there is a potential for audience members to be offended.

    While on duty at an event, the marshals are expected to hand out leaflets detailing the students’ union’s Safe Space policy, and put up posters reminding students that “This is a Safe Space”.

    They must be ready to take “immediate action” if anyone expresses opinions that breech the Safe Space policy. This could include derogatory comments about someone’s age, disability, marital or maternity or paternity status, race, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, trans status, socio-economic status, or ideology or culture.

    Now I absolutely defend the right of a students’ union to waste their money in this way on their own property. But if they, in anyway, use university facilities to do so then there is a problem. Especially, when universities receive funding from the tax-payer.

  • Royinsouthwest

    There is a magazine called Spiked that rates universities according to how they permit or restrict free speech. It uses a traffic light system of rating; red, amber and green. Red being for universities that have banned and actively censored ideas on campus.

    http://www.spiked-online.com/free-speech-university-rankings/

    In November Parliament’s Human Rights Committee, which includes members from both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, had a meeting on free speech in British universities and four witnesses to give evidence.

    Dr Joanna Williams, Senior Lecturer, Unit for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching, University of Kent.
    Professor Dennis Hayes, Professor of Education, University of Derby.
    Tom Slater, Deputy Editor, Spiked.
    Professor Colin Riordan, President and Vice-Chancellor, Cardiff University

    Dr Joanna Williams agreed that universities do threaten freedom of speech as did Professor Dennis Hayes, but Professor Colin Riordan, while paying lip service to freedom of speech, defended universities and stressed that they have to abide with the law, especially the law on “equality” but he was criticised by the speaker from Spiked.

    One of the universities given a red light rating by Spiked was Cardiff.

    Cardiff University and Cardiff University Students’ Union collectively create a hostile environment for free speech. The university, which has moved to a Red ranking, restricts offensive speech and operates an outright ban on homophobic speech and transphobic literature. The students’ union, which has maintained its Red ranking, bans sexist speech, tabloid newspapers and, in 2015, banned the comedian Dapper Laughs. The institution’s overall ranking remains Red.

    Not long after Professor Riordan’s appearance before the Committee he sent an email to all staff at Cardiff University in which he “came out” as bisexual.

    Cardiff Uni boss: ‘Why I told colleagues I’m bisexual’
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-41946549

    Neither the BBC nor, as far as I know, any of the newspapers that mentioned Professor Riordan’s email message connected it with his defence of universities in his appearance before the Parliamentary Committee.

    • CliveM

      Looked up my old university. What a laugh, now rated red. In my day the SU hired strippers for the Christmas Snow Ball and that wasn’t the worst of it.

      I won’t tell gentle readers what the basis for prizes on a Friday night at the Union was.

      Ahem, maybe not everything has got worse!!

      • Royinsouthwest

        I think that some critics of the sexual revolution of the 1960s argued that the pendulum would eventually swing back. It looks as if they were partly correct. It is swinging back and society is becoming more puritanical in some ways but it is the puritanism of the Russian Revolution or of Chairman Mao’s Red Guards, not the puritanism of dissenters from the Church of England.

        • CliveM

          They aren’t puritans, they’re prigs. All self righteous pomposity and hypocrisy.

          • Manfarang

            Nothing pompous about temperance.

          • CliveM

            This isn’t really about temperance. It’s about attitude of mind.

  • Demon Teddy Bear

    Students can only shut down debate with the connivance of the university. Pity this obvious point has escaped Cranmer.

    • James Bolivar DiGriz

      The post is by Adrian Hilton, not by HG.

  • pobjoy

    ‘“Historically, Christianity’s influence on many marginalised communities has been damaging in its methods of conversion and rules of practice, and is still used in many places as an excuse for homophobia and certain forms of neo-colonialism.”’

    There is irony here. Universities not only paved the way for Christianity after the Dark Ages, Christianity in turn allowed them to multiply and prosper. That is because Christianity’s ‘method of conversion’ is always rational, never coercive, permitting the dialogue upon which any true place of learning depends. Its ‘rules of practice’ are inherently individual, and self-determined, It may be that some desire to limit choice at universities because they find choices made by Christians shame their own personal choices.

  • David

    Free speech is certainly being restricted, suppressed even, at many universities. I took my first degree at Bristol. Because of my gratitude to them, for admitting a lad from a very modest background into a good university, I used to make a monthly contribution to assist students from financially poor backgrounds. I’d also written a five figure gift to them into my will. But when I discovered how the university was, effectively, colluding with the Students Union in suppressing free speech I stopped the monthly payments and amended my will. Many more like me have done the same thing I’ve been told. It’s very sad.

    • Manfarang

      There no such thing as unrestricted free speech; the laws of defamation, breach of the peace, and the Official Secrets Act- D notices. It seems some have the belief that they have a right to use the most foul language. Typical of a society that no longer has standards and very loose morals..

      • Chefofsinners

        A society which is replacing the concept of self-restraint with legislation. Replacing the right to speak plainly with the right not to be offended. Replacing the idea that universities are places to question, probe and challenge with the demand for ‘safe space’.
        The processes which have driven the development of our society and shaped our youth are being sterilised. We are becoming a totalitarian state. History is full of the dangers of telling people what they can and cannot say and think.

        • Manfarang

          Do you live in a dictatorship or do I?

          • Chefofsinners

            What has that got to do with it? This is about the direction in which British society is travelling.

          • Manfarang

            Experience of what a totalitarian society is really like, although I must add it is a benign dictatorship.

          • Chefofsinners

            But does that make our society any more or less totalitarian, or alter its trajectory?

          • Manfarang

            It makes someone aware of how far Britain is from becoming a totalitarian country.
            I was interested to see last week how Taiwan has changed now that its great Methodist leader is becoming a fading memory.
            A view from Taiwan-
            https://chinapost.nownews.com/20171225-181654

      • David

        That statement is factually and logically correct but misses the point I am clearly making.

        • Manfarang

          To clearly make the universities the bastions of conservatism.

  • Maalaistollo

    Collusion between university authorities and students’ unions is nothing new. When I was at University in the early 1970s the students’ union was dominated by international socialists. I did not use their facilities and therefore indicated that I did not want to pay the subscription that was demanded. The vice-chancellor’s office eventually informed me that if I did not pay I would have to leave the University. I paid, but I have always ignored the appeals for funds the University still sends.

    • betteroffoutofit

      Ah. A closed shop. British Airways turned into one of those as well.
      So much for ‘freedom of thought’ and ‘human rights’!

    • Manfarang

      Ah yes the IS boot boys. Most of them were three year ‘Marxists’. At the end of their courses it was on with the suits and off to a well paid jobs true to their middle class origins. I remember a young Christopher Hitchens addressing a meeting. It was obvious he didn’t really like working class people.

      • Maalaistollo

        Some years after graduation I saw in the University’s alumni magazine that some of these same international socialists had secured nice jobs for themselves in the upper reaches of the civil service, including the MoD. This seems to explain why much of the activity of the civil service appears bent on undermining and destroying the country; I doubt if these particular leopards have changed their spots to any great degree.

        • Manfarang

          I suspect its more a case of disaffected middle class youth becoming staunch conservatives. A bit like Melanie Phillips.

  • dannybhoy

    When even the ‘academics with an agenda’ are attacking free expression of opinion, what else can we expect from the students?
    https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/oxford-academics-attack-professor-nigel-biggar-over-defence-of-colonialism-

  • Dreadnaught

    In the current atmosphere of intimidation for speaking freely, Johnson’s position no matter how lacking in precision is to be welcomed.

  • Father David

    He’d make a much better and well respected Foreign Secretary than his bumbling brother.

    • Chefofsinners

      As would almost anyone.

  • Don Benson

    Jo Johnson is floundering in the kind of muddle which is entirely predictable in a political world where truth has become what you define it to be.

    “Hate” speech, homosexual “marriage”, “transgender rights”, any word related to these issues which end in “phobia”, all indicate the breakdown of rational thought. Thus every absurd and dangerous new law by which these notions are foisted on dissenting people creates another set of illogicalities and further unsolvable legal contradictions. So it’s unsurprising (plainly obvious) that they can only be defended by closing down free speech, something upon which ‘equality and diversity’ zealots rely as they pursue ever more eccentric and ridiculous dogma.

    How this spasm of cultural Marxism will end is anybody’s guess, it has certainly sucked in most of the ‘great and the good’ and confused a generation of younger people. The majority of politicians are captivated by it and no longer exercise the independence of mind or possess the intellectual ability to argue against it and reverse it.

    Only a fundamental renewing of minds would seem to have any chance of restoring sanity, and I believe that is a spiritual project rather than a political battle. Sadly, it is something in which the Church of England under its current leadership will play no part.

  • Dodgy Geezer

    …Jo Johnson’s muddled and aimless thinking about freedom of speech in universities…

    It is of considerable importance to know why Jo Johnson delivered a muddled speech. This is NOT because Jo Johnson’s thinking is not clear. Politicians can hardly be said to have ANY thoughts in their heads, still less coherent ones. Especially a politician whose wife is a Guardian journalist…

    The person who has muddled thinking in this case is the person who drafted the speech. Who is a civil servant in the hybrid BEIS, a department responsible both for improving British Industry and collapsing it as part of our contribution to the World Suicide Pact that is Climate Change policy. Muddled thinking is obviously prised under these circumstances.