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Is freedom of speech at British unis under threat?

(37 Posts)
EDisFunny Mon 25-Apr-16 12:14:10

Was anyone watching Victoria Derbyshire this morning?

I was struck by the irony of the NUS arguing on the one hand for no platforming of opinions they don't agree with, because someone might be offended (Julie Bindel, for instance), and then, on the other hand, stating that the new, controversial, incoming president of the NUS (Malia Bouattia) should be given the chance to explain her views even if they are controversial.

I took away from it that they agree with no platforming opinions with which they disagree. It seemed very childish and they didn't come off very well.

VestalVirgin Mon 25-Apr-16 13:10:03

What are this president's new and controversial opinions?

I bet they aren't really that new and controversial.

These days, "freedom of speech" is most often cited by asshats who want to spew sexist and/or racist bullshit with impunity.

While the actual freedom of speech of people who actually want to say something controversial, such as Julie Bindel, is under threat. Or perhaps already dead.

almondpudding Mon 25-Apr-16 13:18:05

They are pretty controversial.

It's around the conflation of Jewish people and Zionism, and stereotyping Zionists in identical ways to how Jews have been stereotyped in the past.

A number of university student unions are talking about disaffiliating from the NUS.

LaminateAnecdotes Mon 25-Apr-16 13:38:00

A number of university student unions are talking about disaffiliating from the NUS

hmm

EDisFunny Mon 25-Apr-16 13:40:22

She hasn't assumed the role yet but, as Almond points out, she has spoken out in a way that is offensive to many Jews.

It is the cognitive dissonance of supporting Bouattia whilst no platforming Julie that does my head in.

I was a bit distracted earlier so I think I will watch again on iplayer. It was an interesting show.

Dervel Mon 25-Apr-16 13:48:27

I think the idea of no platforming at Universities is oxymoronic. They are academic institutions of higher learning.

VestalVirgin Mon 25-Apr-16 14:02:19

She hasn't assumed the role yet but, as Almond points out, she has spoken out in a way that is offensive to many Jews.

Well, that's nothing new, isn't it? Apparently antisemitism is not as dead as I thought it was.

There's a pattern, isn't there? Continuing old, honoured traditions of oppression is just fine.
Speaking out against oppression ... that is what you get no-platformed for.

If she had spoken out against antisemitism, I would have been more surprised.

VestalVirgin Mon 25-Apr-16 14:09:02

To elaborate: People always act as if the freedom to say sexist, racist, etc. things is under attack.

And indeed, the general public might think that being a sexist, racist asshole is considered wrong. And indeed, those "non-politically correct" opinions are met with plenty of (purely verbal) criticism.

But somehow, if you look at who really gets serious, real consequences for speaking their opinion ... it is never the rich white dudes who side with other rich white dudes.

Mide7 Mon 25-Apr-16 15:15:11

I've said this before here but I still think everyone is all for freedom of speech until someone says something they find offensive.

Grimarse Mon 25-Apr-16 16:36:06

The risk that you might hear or read some dickhead spouting offensive nonsense is the price of living in a free society. I cannot see how banning anyone works in the long run. I'd rather the idiots and hate-mongers were given a platform. At least we can spot them then.

Ricardian Mon 25-Apr-16 16:57:36

"What are this president's new and controversial opinions?"

Birmingham is full of Jews who control the media. Apparently.

Bumbledumb Mon 25-Apr-16 17:12:23

When was the last time any of you were invited to speak at a University? Are they denying you the right to speak also?

Not inviting someone to speak is not the same as denying them the right to speak. No one has a right to be invited to speak. If I refuse to invite Julie Bindel to dinner, I am not denying her the right to eat.

LassWiTheDelicateAir Mon 25-Apr-16 17:51:19

She said Birmingham University, is a “Zionist outpost in higher education,” and has “the largest Jsoc [Jewish student society] in the country”

VestalVirgin Mon 25-Apr-16 17:59:30

I'd rather the idiots and hate-mongers were given a platform. At least we can spot them then.

That tends to be my opinion as well. I like to know who they are.

@Ricardian: The way you phrase it, it sounds very old. Like, 1935, perhaps.

Dervel Mon 25-Apr-16 18:00:39

That is a great point Lass, but a lot of these no platforming scenarios transpire when a speaker is already booked and this or that special interest group decides they don't want the rest of the student body to have the opportunity to listen to their ideas.

If someone has batshit crazy racist or misogynist ideas I'd rather those were tackled in the open and free exchange of ideas, and exposed as such.

Ricardian Mon 25-Apr-16 18:04:02

When was the last time any of you were invited to speak at a University? Are they denying you the right to speak also?

It isn't as simple as that. The no-platforming at several universities has taken the form of parts of the NUS attempting to stop people that they disapprove of from speaking to audiences elsewhere on campus that have invited them.

As a concrete example, Germaine Greer was invited to speak at Cardiff, and the union put up a petition to have the invitation withdrawn and threatened demonstrations if the lecture went ahead. That's a little stronger than the union not inviting her to speak on their premises, as is entirely their right.

almondpudding Mon 25-Apr-16 18:05:31

The title of the thread is freedom of speech at British universities, Bumbledumb.

Ricardian Mon 25-Apr-16 18:06:12

The way you phrase it, it sounds very old. Like, 1935, perhaps.

Actually, it's straight out of 1903: that Jews Control The Media is a trope direct from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

almondpudding Mon 25-Apr-16 18:19:52

The actual phrase about the media was "mainstream Zionist-led media outlets."

DioneTheDiabolist Mon 25-Apr-16 18:55:00

Stuff like this has always happened in UK universities.

LassWiTheDelicateAir Mon 25-Apr-16 19:22:13

That is a great point Lass

It wasn't my point unless you meant to call Vestal or *Grimarse "lass" !

Dervel Mon 25-Apr-16 19:29:57

Quite right I meant Bumble and had a brainfart!

PalmerViolet Tue 26-Apr-16 08:34:50

I read somewhere that the NUS will no longer commemorate Holocaust Day, because it's "Zionist" and some other reason that eludes me right now.

Just when you think you've got a handle on people, they come along and do something really awful. Zionism is to Judaism what ISIL is to Islam. Conflating those things and stating that conflation as truth just makes you look like a fucking idiot.

Ricardian Tue 26-Apr-16 10:40:37

I read somewhere that the NUS will no longer commemorate Holocaust Day

They finally agreed to, but not until some charmer had said that as it was a "white on white" crime it wasn't important.

stairway Tue 26-Apr-16 10:50:21

She is a bit if an odd one (malia). She seems to have a massive chip in her shoulder for some reason. She also describes anyone no European white as being black. She describes herself as black even though she is actually of north African heritage.

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