Why Free Speech isn’t absolute and it’s okay to be vulnerable

I don’t really mind if you read this, it’s mainly for my own peace of mind following an interesting week. I don’t think I’ve ever had quite so many people send me hate over the internet – I’ve been called everything from a ‘bell’ and a ‘dickhead’ to ‘moronic’ and a ‘patronising snob’, I’ve had an article in a student newspaper call for my expulsion, and the better half of a hundred copies of The Spectator sent to my work address, sporting a cover story on the ‘new enemies of free speech’. If I’m honest, I’ve mostly found it all quite amusing – I think there was only one point at which the whole thing got a little too much and started to upset me, but I started learning a while ago that you just can’t take anonymous comments too seriously.

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Just some of my delighted readers

What happened?

So I thought I’d recap what happened, and then chat a bit about where I think we went wrong. This week there was going to be a debate in Christ Church, Oxford. For those unfamiliar with the idiosyncrasies of Oxbridge, they are collegiate universities – that is, when you go to study there, you are put into a college, which is where you eat, sleep, socialise, have pastoral and academic support etc. The debate was to be run by an organisation called Oxford Students for Life (OSFL), and the motion was ‘This House believes Britain’s abortion culture hurts us all’. There were two speakers, Tim Stanley and Brendan O’Neill, both quite prominent journalists.

When the JCR (Junior Combination Room – essentially the elected representatives of the student body of a college) got wind of the event, they lobbied the college to reconsider holding it, on the basis of the threat to the emotional and mental wellbeing and safety of the students of the college. A couple of other groups in Oxford, including an ad hoc event set up entitled ‘What the fuck is ‘Abortion Culture’?’, said they would turn up and protest. The college decided that there was not enough time to adequately address the safety concerns, and therefore decided the event would not go ahead in their premises. OSFL attempted and failed to find another venue at short notice, and so the debate did not happen.

Ironically enough, this was, on the college’s end, nothing to do with protecting student welfare. The reason they didn’t allow the debate to go ahead was, I was informed last night by a Christ Church student, because the college requires rooms to be booked three days in advance, and OSFL left it until two days before their debate to do it, meaning that what was seen as an excuse – ‘not enough time to address safety concerns’ – was actually college bureaucracy in action. In her article for the Independent, Niamh McIntyre gives a better explanation of this.

Abortion-debate

Regardless of exactly why the college shut it down, the result was that both Tim Stanley and Brendan O’Neill were very unhappy. Tim published an article in the Telegraph saying that ‘Free speech is under assault on campus’, and Brendan O’Neill wrote a leader article for The Spectator called ‘The Stepford Students’, which referred to his opposers as ‘the new enemies of free speech’. A number of people, myself included, noted the irony in their claim that their free speech was being suppressed coming from articles in the national press. Neither Tim nor Brendan appeared to appreciate the joke.

My role in this little fracas came in two parts: first a twitter spat, then an article. Beware when clicking the first link – reading the entirety of a twitter argument can be both incredibly time-consuming and harmful to your sanity. Essentially I tweeted some criticism of Tim Stanley’s article, and then various people got upset at this because I’m currently the President of the Cambridge Union, a debating society which has the slogan ‘promoting free speech and the art of debating’.

As a person in this position, the argument went, I ought to believe in absolute freedom of speech, and not try to shut down any kind of debate. To me this seemed interesting and possibly counterintuitive – I think that a person in my position has to think critically about what exactly free speech consists in within any given circumstance, and what it really means to give somebody a platform, either as an individual or in a debate. Over the course of the two-or-so years I’ve spent working at the Union, I’ve thought an awful lot about our role in facilitating debate, in running events which are controversial enough that people want to come but without being irresponsible in their subject matter, their framing or the speakers invited. As a society with limited resources – time, money, and most importantly student attendance – we have to consider carefully what debates we’re going to hold each term, who we’re going to invite to them, and how we want to run them.

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Someone I’d just met made me an origami squirrel out of the front page of the Spectator, because some people are just great

My article essentially ran along these lines. I said that there are some limits to freedom of speech, without prescribing what they are in any given instance, but listing five factors which need to be taken into account and weighed up when setting up any kind of debate: what might be said, who is speaking, where it takes place, what the subject is and how it’s framed.

This, to me, didn’t seem particularly controversial. I also suggested why it might have been that people had objections to the proposed OSFL debate, based on the criteria listed above: there were only two speakers, neither of whom had ever been in possession of a uterus; the debate was taking place in a college which is also home to people who may have had abortions and aren’t particularly comfortable with the idea of this debate going on in their home; and the framing of the motion wasn’t particularly good, assuming the existence of an ‘abortion culture’. Some people also had a problem with the debate being hosted by a pro-life society.

Again, none of this seemed particularly contentious, but the response was remarkable. If you go into the comments on the Tab article, they are overwhelmingly negative. A lot of people suggested that I didn’t want debates to go ahead if they could offend anyone, or that I was shutting down freedom of speech, or telling people what they can or can’t listen to. I don’t think I was doing any of this. Ultimately I agree with the decision not to host that particular debate in that particular context, but I don’t think any of the criteria I laid out were unfair. Every debate we hold isn’t just an expression of ideas – what is ‘just a debate’ to some people is something which has a very real impact on the lives of others. We don’t just say things in a vacuum, there are very real social contexts and impacts which we ought to take into account when we set up debates.

spectator3

Where we went wrong

I think we made a tactical error in this whole situation. When Brendan O’Neill and Tim Stanley published their articles, they framed what had happened as a prioritisation of ‘feelings’ over free speech, what they consider to be a fundamental right. We let them frame it this way, and the entire discussion took place on their terms, where we were the brutal oppressors of the new liberal orthodoxy, the foaming-at-the-mouth PC brigade who want to shut down debate and never let anyone be offended by anything.

It’s not about free speech. That was where we went wrong. This whole thing is not in the slightest bit about free speech – that is, the right to say things without fear of the state shutting you down. Freedom of speech is just a legal right, and when you invoke it – to paraphrase xkcd – you’re saying that the most compelling thing that can be said for your position or debate is it’s not literally illegal to say or hold it. There are two things that we are actually talking about here – or rather, which we should be talking about.

The first is what it means to privilege a particular person’s speech. When we give someone a platform, particularly at a prestigious institution like Oxford or Cambridge, we lend a degree of legitimacy to their point of view. Whilst this may not matter if, for example, you’re a high-ranking politician who is legitimised by elections they have won, it does matter for other people. There are an awful lot of people who would love to take part in the debates we hold, but we choose not to invite them to speak for numerous reasons: they’re not an expert with the requisite experience, they don’t have anything particularly interesting to say, or sometimes they just have horrifically offensive opinions which we don’t want to give the privilege of a platform to.

A number of people over the past week have recommended I ‘read J.S. Mill’s On Liberty’, in order to rectify my views. What they’re thinking of when they say this is an idealised Millian arena, in which all opinions can be presented and challenged, and the bad ones will be refuted and the good ones accepted. The problem is that this arena doesn’t exist. Sometimes the people with the ‘good’ opinions aren’t very good at expressing them. Sometimes people use tricks of rhetoric to get an audience to support their otherwise heinous views.

Moreover, debates can have greater capacity to do harm than good. First, there’s the problem of political asymmetry: if, for example, we hold a debate about the repatriation of immigrants, then there is a greater capacity for harm to occur to sometimes vulnerable immigrants if the debate goes against them than there is for any benefit to accrue if the debate goes the other way. It’s far more likely, for example, that the Daily Mail will publish an article entitled ‘Cambridge students think we should send them back’ with the former result than that they will publish anything at all with the latter. Debates like this can play into already existing biases about particular groups of people, often vulnerable people, which the audience hold, in order to make it even harder for them to achieve equal status.

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Fake info slide put up before the final of the Cambridge Intervarsity Debating Competition – they asked me if I was ok with it first, because caring about feelings is a Good Thing

The Liberal Orthodoxy

The second thing this argument should actually be about is the ‘orthodoxy’, and power, and privilege, and oppression. When Brendan O’Neill and Tim Stanley get to claim, from the pages of national media outlets, that they are being oppressed and their free speech squashed by the new liberal orthodoxy of students, we know something is wrong. They are the orthodoxy. What students do best is to challenge the firmly held beliefs of the generation above them, and that is exactly what we are doing. We are challenging the notion that debates happening in formal contexts have no ramifications past the end of the evening. We are challenging the claims of privileged men to have the right to speak wherever they want, whenever they want, on whatever topic they want.

Finally, we are challenging the idea that all weakness is bad. Brendan O’Neill in particular despises weakness. He is absolutely right that quite a lot of students now want the right to feel comfortable, but he is totally wrong when he says this like it’s a bad thing. Absolutely we should feel comfortable in the places we live and study, in the places we have made our homes. There are some students who are more vulnerable than others, for a whole host of reasons: they may have had emotionally traumatic experiences, they may be suffering from mental illness, they may be from backgrounds which don’t have the privilege of sending people to top universities regularly, they may just be fragile – but that’s okay. We, as students, are beginning to realise that there is more to life than just discussion. We’re beginning to realise that we don’t need to be ashamed of our weaknesses and vulnerabilities. We’re beginning to realise that sometimes we have to prioritise the emotional, mental and physical wellbeing of our friends and colleagues over the ability of privileged people to come in to our homes and say whatever they like.

If that makes me an enemy of free speech, so be it.

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31 thoughts on “Why Free Speech isn’t absolute and it’s okay to be vulnerable

  1. “we have to prioritise the emotional, mental and physical wellbeing of our friends and colleagues over the ability of privileged people to come in to our homes and say whatever they like.”

    This does exactly make you an enemy of free speech. It’s almost a text-book definition. Who gets to determine who is ‘privileged’ and has a right to speak? Who gets to determine the scope of “mental wellbeing”? These vague definitions can be use to squelch almost any discussion. They have been in the past – repeatedly, brutally – and it looks like they’re coming back in fashion.

  2. So at the end of a week where he’s received fairly widespread opprobrium for his illiberal views, we learn that Squirrell hasn’t learnt anything. You’d think being criticised from all quarters would give him cause to reflect on whether what he was saying was sound. It appears not. This blogpost shows he’s not even started to understand his opponents’ position, which is really a pre-requisite for having anything interesting to say about them.

    There is a principle in philosophy, which Squirrell is apparently studying, of being as charitable as possible to a position you are criticising. If you can think of a quick and easy way to fix your opponents position for him you should and you should try to construe their argument as strongly as you can. He has clearly failed to do that.

    While some people arguing with Squirrell may be absolutists about freedom of speech, by no means are all of them. Very few would agree with the freedom to shout fire in a crowded theatre. What they usually are are pluralists about values. Their central argument is that they see something very valuable in freedom of speech and something very damaging in its restriction. When this is at stake, ranged against what they see as the nebulous and unquantified ‘harm’ that being exposed to the free speech of others may cause, they err on the side of freedom of speech. I don’t think a single one of the sensible people who have criticised him have actually appealed to the legality of free speech as he claims here, which would quite frankly be a bizarre and crap argument.

    Further, in his Tab article and this blog post, he fails to have realised that many of his arguments presuppose the subject being debated is settled. It is fairly clear that Squirrell is unequivocally pro-choice. From that perspective, this debate naturally becomes a ‘nice to have’ – at most an entertaining sideshow that we might deign to allow the pro-lifers, just so
    long as it doesn’t change anyone’s mind. When you start from the position of assuming the debate is basically pointless, it’s very easy to chuck it a away, as something silly that was being tolerated for the abstract right of some nutty people. Particularly when there is so potential for real psychological harm if it’s allowed.

    Further, what tends to enough the free speech advocates is that those arguing to stop the debate appear to come exclusively from the pro-choice camp and there is a strong suspicion that the reasons given for stopping it are being given in bad faith. As we’ve seen time and again, it is all too easy to throw up putative harms that *might* result from some free speech. This effectively
    gives any minority interest that can get sufficiently organised a veto over anything they don’t like. As someone who finds contractualism appealing, this type of veto is supposed to
    be a good thing – but what every half-decent contractualist theory has a condition of reasonableness on this veto, that nowhere seems at play in the anti-free speech tactics used here.

    I seriously cannot understand political movements that expend considerable effort in trying to ensure the thing they are concerned about does not get discussed. This perversity would be amusing if it wasn’t so detrimental to our political discourse. I’m ardently pro-choice and I’d welcome the opportunity to defend that view as much as necessary. Only then can I make sure my view is justified and I have the strongest arguments for it. Energetically campaigning for an omertà on something gives the impression that the arguments are too fragile for close scrutiny. That’s probably why most every large organised religion has always fought to proscribe discussion of the fundamental tenets of their faith. Only by robustly and continuously arguing for our principles can we stop ourselves falling in to error.

    As a scholar and a philosopher, you’d hope these views might be second nature to Squirrell, but perhaps he’s still learning the game. What is clearly lacking is a natural aptitude to question his own position or be charitable to his opponents. Perhaps the certainty bordering on complacency is a hang over from his studies in the Natural Sciences. But there is a smug self-satisfaction in the fey put-downs he has used to deflect some of the criticism on Twitter, which hints at the typical student politics hack who’s assured of his own righteousness and who really cares anyway, because it’s all a game to them.

  3. Oh dear. Poor Tim still doesn’t understand how and why he is wrong. Also, notice the veneer of snark that marks his response. That is very typical from the enemies of free speech. Further, whenever anybody uses the “freeze peach” defence, you can guarantee they are a hypocrite somewhere down the line. Anybody know of a list of debates Tim has supported and allowed to go ahead? Look out especially for debates where Islamic scholars are invited. You tend to find bigoted preachers are allowed to have their “free speech”, despite the safety concerns of non-believers, gays, ex-Muslims and liberal Muslims, while far less controversial ideas fall foul to people like Tim.

    I will bet money I can find hypocrisy if someone provides a list of debates that have gone ahead, and the topics and ideas discussed within. It is ALWAYS the case.

    PS – Most of the criticism of Tim has come from the credible left and the liberal left. I think that says something about Tim’s political position on free speech.

  4. Hi Tim. There’s too much here for me to go through every little problem I have with this so I’ll focus on two two biggest one’s I have.

    You assume there’s no value in holding this abortion debate. As someone else has pointed out, that ignores the fact that debate continues and lots of people aren’t so relaxed in their moral certainty as you are. It ignores the fact that pro-lifers deserve an opportunity to explain to a sometimes wildly hostile student community that their views are motivated by compassion to unborn children, not by (say) mistrust of women. If they don’t get a platform they can’t do that. I know you think it’s worse to hold these debates in college, and while I disagree with that I don’t really think you’d want to suggest your entire argument stands or falls on this point. You also assume there’s a substantial risk posed to student well being from the debate. This suggests that simply being aware of the existence of the debate suffices to cause harm. That sets the bar for harm alarmingly low.

    Your argument for the right to comfort consists simply in the claim that it would be good if people were comfortable. You’re right, they would. It would also be nice if everybody had a job they enjoyed. The fact that something is good to have doesn’t create a right to that thing. When someone has a moral right then that fact all by itself entails duties for everyone else. That’s why you only have a right to the most important things, like your life. If you really did have a right to comfort then that would mean I have a moral duty either to provide you with comfort or at least not to knowingly do anything to cause you discomfort. Does that sound right to you? Is your comfort that important?

  5. The most objectionable point here relates to the idea of comfort: “he says this like it’s a bad thing. Absolutely we should feel comfortable in the places we live and study”

    The ability of subcultures (or individuals) to filter out uncomfortable or offensive views is itself socially divisive – where differences go unchallenged, the opportunity emerges for extreme divergence of distinct social groupings that don’t understand one another and don’t empathize with one another.

    Not only must we defend freedom of speach. We must also defend intrusive platforms for speech and social mixing. We need to combat segregation; we need to encourage controversy; we need to support long term social cohesion & resilience.

  6. Ignore the haters. Honestly, it’s far clearer who has more informed opinions concerning inequality, injustice and debate; certainly not people who assume that freedom of speech is a carte blanche for anyone to say whatever they like.
    Tim is correct. If any of the people telling him to resign actually applied a little critical thinking to their ideas, and read a few more books on oppression, critical theory and injustice, they would realise it. Most of the arguments that are allegedly “pro-free speech” (still don’t think they fully understand what that term even means) are facile and easily deconstructed. Worst of all, they’re mostly just ignorant, uninformed and retaliatory.

    • Oh I see, so his points only stand up to scrutiny if viewed through the prism of abstruse ‘theory’ that nobody has the time (or inclination) to care to understand. How very convenient.

      • Yes, that’s what he said. Of course, nobody has the time or inclination to think critically, or, God forbid, read. What a brilliant remark this is.

      • Yeah.. Okay. If you really consider the works of well-renowned theorists such as Marx, Engels, bell hooks, Weber, Du Bois and Booker T. Washington to be “abstruse theory” that “nobody has the time or inclination to understand”, you’re free to your ignorance. Quite frankly, it’s insulting that you don’t think matters of injustice are worth reading or thinking critically about and I hope you never attain any position of power in which you can implement and abuse the ignorance you seem so fond of.

    • And are Marx, Engels, bell hooks, Weber, Du Bois and Booker T. Washington the be-all and end-all and the opinions of other influential thinkers and philosophers through the ages are just “facile” and “easily deconstructed”? Wow, must be nice to be so certain. Apparently “applying a little critical thinking” means becoming a slave to a certain authoritarian niche school of thought in your book. Nice.

      • I was actually only citing examples, but have you even read their works? And which are the “other influential thinkers and philosophers” you’re referring to? The names above are some of the most influential in speaking about sociological issues and critical theory.
        Also, which “authoritarian niche” are you talking about? Seriously? The theorists I cited have actually all spoken about very different things, their ideas have been widely spread and accepted for years, and they’re actually the opposite of authoritarian, ironically enough. Have you ever taken a class on critical theory? Sociology? Political ideology? Oppression? I honestly doubt it, from your style of speaking.

        To expand on my point about facile and easily deconstructed arguments: yes, usually people who want the right to say whatever they want without facing consequences for it are generally terrible. Freedom of speech is a right; a platform for your opinions is not. The men in the abortion debate could still debate their (ludicrous and fairly misogynistic) topic in person, or on the internet, or anywhere else. They were not jailed, censored, nor arrested. Their rights to free speech were not violated in any way. In fact, they published their account of a “violation of free speech” in a national newspaper. This is literally the exact opposite of a violation of free speech; their thoughts were disseminated to (potentially) the entire country.

        I’m not going to bother arguing anymore, because if you haven’t grasped the point by this stage you’re a lost case.

      • Quick addendum: all that freedom of speech means is that the government can’t tell you to shut up. Other people, and private institutions, definitely can, and that is *their* freedom of speech.

    • That’s interesting! If your vast knowledge of “critical theory” (lol) makes these arguments so easy to “deconstruct,” and the people making them are so ill-informed, then why does your response include absolutely no refutation or argument against any of the points being made? It should be child’s play for you to out-argue your opposition, considering your VAST knowledge and critical thinking capability. Right? What a self-righteous clown you are.

      • They *are* easy to deconstruct, and most people *are* ill-informed about critical theory. My response was intended to make people read more widely and think for themselves. The real question is, why do you need someone to spoon-feed you arguments? There have been plenty of refutations and discussions. Read the books. Inform yourself. Study the theory. And stop expecting people to sacrifice their free time to educate you. That’s not my responsibility, it’s yours.

      • The reason most people are “ill-informed” about critical theory is that it’s worthless horseshit written and studied by talentless academics who could not make their way in the real world in any capacity. The telling thing about it being an insular ciriclejerk with no redeeming value is that no one is able to make a coherent argument in its favor, as we see here, with your smug and condescending exhortations of “read the books” and “inform yourself,” implying that you’re going to “educate” someone. A person like you isn’t capable of educating a 10-year-old child. All you can do is delude yourself and others with a bunch of overwrought academic babble that no serious psychologist, philosopher, or person capable of genuine critical thinking would touch with a ten foot pole. Thanks, though, for providing such a vivid example of why your cult will always fail in any serious arena of argument.

  7. Hey Tim,

    I have been following this… scandal? big mess of confusion? “debate” ? since the beginning.
    I agree with you on a lot of things, but maybe you have focused on the wrong thing. If you have the time, energy, whatever have a read of my stab at this.

    First off, the issue of the debate having been shut down: Christ Church, in my humble opinion had every right to cancel the event. As a college, they decide what events take place where within the premises. On the part of the college, this is not stifling of any fundamental right, just management of their property. I am guessing, that after the student body and the WomCamp asked the college to cancel the event, they rightly felt “Gosh, more people are going to be protesting against this then even turn up to listen”. Protestors are a security hazard. A hazard we as a society often bear as we often value free speech beyond the legal definition. about this hazard, for a college (in this acting as a student residence) is acceptable to say “Please, hold this debate somewhere else.”

    What to me seems like an odd reaction is this: the college did not say “Don’t have this debate”, it could have been postponed, held at a public place or so on. Free speech hasn’t been stifled, maybe “Free speech wherever” has.

    Then I get onto the issue of why WomCamp and the JCR felt the need to use what I would call a rather aggressive method of reacting to this debate: trying to shut it down. Brendan O’Neill et al. are calling this “not engaging” with the debate and just mindlessly trying to shut down things. I have been on and off about this. It is rather an aggressive reaction which should be a last resort. Finally, I’ve reached the conclusion why it is actually just fine: WomCamp and the JCR weren’t invited to this debate. Weren’t represented. The engagement that Brendan and so on are missing is this, key message “We don’t think there is such a thing as an ‘abortion culture’.” That’s engaging with the debate. Does it need supporting arguments? Sure. Invite someone of this opinion to the debate and you’ll see. In fact this is a decent way to show a strong statement of “In this format, this debate is unfair and would not represent what Christ Church/Oxford/Oxbridge thinks, please rephrase, re-invite and we can have an adult discussion”. Abortion, even this “abortion culture” should be up for debate. However, not inviting key stakeholders who do actually have opinions, framing it this way does not lead to a debate people wanted to happen.

    All in all, no free speech has been stifled. The supposed right to any framing, any one, talking about any topic anywhere has been. To have an adult discussion instead of pointing fingers: do the event again, invite people who are dying to have a say (e.g.: WomCamp) and frame the topic so it does not presuppose things that there are clear arguments on.

  8. I’ve read Brendan’s article & this response with interest.

    I run the debating society at the Lansdowne Club & I run the REAL Debate club (which does debates at festivals and pop up venues across London)… I think I consider any topic to be fare game & would invite anyone to speak. I suppose my only proviso would be that the speakers on each side were equally weighted.. to ensure a fair debate… i wouldn’t promote a boxing match between Mike Tyson & Frankie Dettori for similar reasons!

    We always take a vote before & afterwards (and sometimes during), so we can not only see if the motion is carried, but also which argument was won on the night. I love it when people make up their minds, or even change them during the course of an hour & a half… It’s why I’m passionate about holding debates… the outcome of a debate, however, is not always a perfect barometer for measuring exactly what the opinion is in the room at that point. As occasionally a vote goes to someone who has argued their points better. I don’t see anything wrong with that… People should be encouraged to come to a debate, not only to help share or shape their views, but to also enjoy the entertainment of intelligent people engaged in a battle of ideas & wits.

    To thwart any debate, or to meddle in the opportunity to invite people to attend them in any way, I believe to be indefensible. It’s also rather patronising to the would be attendees don’t you think?! To stop a debate for fear of hurting their feelings?! I’m not entirely unsympathetic to people’s feelings of course… but to remove the chance of having a debate for fear of offending or hurting a few people, seems slightly silly… and makes one wonder what debates you could possibly have that wouldn’t risk potentially hurting someones feelings?!

    I recently held a debate at the Lansdowne Club, during the recent Israeli attacks on Palestine entitled “Israel’s actions are justified”.. of course this stirred passion in the audience.. but it’s passion & opinion I want to see. I did however make an early request for all contributors to try and be sensitive to the potential impact of their remarks, in a room that included many Jews & Palestinians… Maybe an early intervention like this might have helped settle a few nerves prior to the abortion debate that was thwarted?!

    I’m pleased to say that we had great debate on the subject and that we all benefited from hearing the input of people representing all sides of the argument. So, if you want to share or listen to views from across the spectrum in a lively and uncensored debate, then (Sorry if this hurts your feelings TIm!) I hope I shall meet you at the Lansdowne Club or at a REAL debate club event very soon! And shameless plug coming right up: http://www.meetup.com/The-Real-Debate-Club/

    Regards,

    Marcus Warry
    x

  9. Thanks for being part of the discussion, Tim. You don’t deserve how rude people have been to you for trying to make a point, and the fact they say other people are trying to shut them down, then turn real points you are trying to make, that could be argued either way, and are jerks about it… gah. This is a discussion it’s worth having – O’Niall’s article was good, if also a bit unnecessarily arsey towards his opponents, but even debates about debates need two sides.

    If we get into debates about debates about debates we might break the internet though.

  10. Pingback: Free speech is a right, but a platform is not | Left Foot Forward

  11. Pingback: Tim Squirrell and the disease of pre-enlightenment philistinism « Politics ad Infinitum

  12. You fucking bell end. All you needed to say “Free Speech” is a right. But private property gives the property owners rights to refuse platforms… All this “Our students are vulnerable and may get hurt feels..wah wah wah,”, just isn’t preparing them for life in the bigger, wider, nastier world out there. Stop smothering people you prick.

  13. People say stuff and talk about stuff that offends me all the time. Do I go and threaten to shut them down or say no, no ,no . The bigger threat to free speech is that these whinny little upper middle class white cunts in Oxford and Cambridge will someday inherit the political system and threaten our free speech. Don’t worry about people saying stuff that offends you, Your Daddy can buy you a nice horsey. Cunt.

  14. Fuck me, and here you go talking about privilege. You shit stain cum bucket fuck cunt. It’s no wonder the world is going to hell in a hand basket when people like you are destined to take the political reins with all the other group think zombies your places of education are churning out via the bucket load. “Awww their so fragile”, give them a chance to develop a thick fucking skin then!, Cuz they are gonna need it. “debates have wider implications and impacts”. Fuck me! You’re right!, but you know, so do books, so do internet forums… fucking hell better run and burn some books, shut down the internet, don’t let people get ideas!, fucking hell, transorbital lobotomy’s all round, quick, quick, hurry!, There’s people out there that aren’t as qualified to discuss ideas as you! They might pass on bad information!… stop the mess now!

  15. This is a real student union perennial, especially when a grand university is involved. I remember almost identical arguments in my time as a student in the 1960s, although we never quite got down to the right not to be upset.

  16. Pingback: Why Brendan O’Neill, Niamh McIntyre and Tim Squirrell are wrong | Old Rockin' Chair

  17. Pingback: Modern challenges with regard to free speech

  18. I used to be pro-life. I was a young teen, a Catholic, a believer, I thought abortion meant killing babies. You know what changed my mind? A debate.

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