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Free speech is so last century. Today’s undergraduates demand the ‘right to be comfortable’

30 December 2015

7:59 PM

30 December 2015

7:59 PM

At No 5 in the Spectator’s most-read articles for 2015 is Brendan O’Neill’s cover piece describing ‘Stepford Students’: those who want to shut down debate when it involves people they disagree with and arguments they don’t like. Brendan spotted this phenomenon in 2014 but his article returned to our best-read list this year as more and more people cottoned on to the trend for ‘safe spaces’ and no-platforming in our universities. And it spawned a website edited by defiant Stepford Students.

Have you met the Stepford students? They’re everywhere. On campuses across the land. Sitting stony-eyed in lecture halls or surreptitiously policing beer-fuelled banter in the uni bar. They look like students, dress like students, smell like students. But their student brains have been replaced by brains bereft of critical faculties and programmed to conform. To the untrained eye, they seem like your average book-devouring, ideas-discussing, H&M-adorned youth, but anyone who’s spent more than five minutes in their company will know that these students are far more interested in shutting debate down than opening it up.

I was attacked by a swarm of Stepford students this week. On Tuesday, I was supposed to take part in a debate about abortion at Christ Church, Oxford. I was invited by the Oxford Students for Life to put the pro-choice argument against the journalist Timothy Stanley, who is pro-life. But apparently it is forbidden for men to talk about abortion. A mob of furious feministic Oxford students, all robotically uttering the same stuff about feeling offended, set up a Facebook page littered with expletives and demands for the debate to be called off. They said it was outrageous that two human beings ‘who do not have uteruses’ should get to hold forth on abortion — identity politics at its most basely biological — and claimed the debate would threaten the ‘mental safety’ of Oxford students. Three hundred promised to turn up to the debate with ‘instruments’ — heaven knows what — that would allow them to disrupt proceedings.

Incredibly, Christ Church capitulated, the college’s censors living up to the modern meaning of their name by announcing that they would refuse to host the debate on the basis that it now raised ‘security and welfare issues’. So at one of the highest seats of learning on Earth, the democratic principle of free and open debate, of allowing differing opinions to slog it out in full view of discerning citizens, has been violated, and students have been rebranded as fragile creatures, overgrown children who need to be guarded against any idea that might prick their souls or challenge their prejudices. One of the censorious students actually boasted about her role in shutting down the debate, wearing her intolerance like a badge of honour in an Independent article in which she argued that, ‘The idea that in a free society absolutely everything should be open to debate has a detrimental effect on marginalised groups.’

This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered the Stepford students. Last month, at Britain’s other famously prestigious university, Cambridge, I was circled by Stepfords after taking part in a debate on faith schools. It wasn’t my defence of parents’ rights to send their children to religious schools they wanted to harangue me for — much as they loathed that liberal position — it was my suggestion, made in this magazine and elsewhere, that ‘lad culture’ doesn’t turn men into rapists. Their mechanical minds seemed incapable of computing that someone would say such a thing.

Their eyes glazed with moral certainty, they explained to me at length that culture warps minds and shapes behaviour and that is why it is right for students to strive to keep such wicked, misogynistic stuff as the Sun newspaper and sexist pop music off campus. ‘We have the right to feel comfortable,’ they all said, like a mantra. One — a bloke — said that the compulsory sexual consent classes recently introduced for freshers at Cambridge, to teach what is and what isn’t rape, were a great idea because they might weed out ‘pre-rapists’: men who haven’t raped anyone but might. The others nodded. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Pre-rapists! Had any of them read Philip K. Dick’s dystopian novella about a wicked world that hunts down and punishes pre-criminals, I asked? None had.

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When I told them that at the fag-end of the last millennium I had spent my student days arguing against the very ideas they were now spouting — against the claim that gangsta rap turned black men into murderers or that Tarantino flicks made teens go wild and criminal — not so much as a flicker of reflection crossed their faces. ‘Back then, the people who were making those censorious, misanthropic arguments about culture determining behaviour weren’t youngsters like you,’ I said. ‘They were older, more conservative people, with blue rinses.’ A moment’s silence. Then one of the Stepfords piped up. ‘Maybe those people were right,’ he said. My mind filled with a vision of Mary Whitehouse cackling to herself in some corner of the cosmos.

If your go-to image of a student is someone who’s free-spirited and open-minded, who loves having a pop at orthodoxies, then you urgently need to update your mind’s picture bank. Students are now pretty much the opposite of that. It’s hard to think of any other section of society that has undergone as epic a transformation as students have. From freewheelin’ to ban-happy, from askers of awkward questions to suppressors of offensive speech, in the space of a generation. My showdown with the debate-banning Stepfords at Oxford and the pre-crime promoters at Cambridge echoed other recent run-ins I’ve had with the intolerant students of the 21st century. I’ve been jeered at by students at the University of Cork for criticising gay marriage; cornered and branded a ‘denier’ by students at University College London for suggesting industrial development in Africa should take precedence over combating climate change; lambasted by students at Cambridge (again) for saying it’s bad to boycott Israeli goods. In each case, it wasn’t the fact the students disagreed with me that I found alarming — disagreement is great! — it was that they were so plainly shocked that I could have uttered such things, that I had failed to conform to what they assume to be right, that I had sought to contaminate their campuses and their fragile grey matter with offensive ideas.

Where once students might have allowed their eyes and ears to be bombarded by everything from risqué political propaganda to raunchy rock, now they insulate themselves from anything that might dent their self-esteem and, crime of crimes, make them feel ‘uncomfortable’. Student groups insist that online articles should have ‘trigger warnings’ in case their subject matter might cause offence.

The ‘no platform’ policy of various student unions is forever being expanded to keep off campus pretty much anyone whose views don’t chime perfectly with the prevailing groupthink. Where once it was only far-right rabble-rousers who were no-platformed, now everyone from Zionists to feminists who hold the wrong opinions on transgender issues to ‘rape deniers’ (anyone who questions the idea that modern Britain is in the grip of a ‘rape culture’) has found themselves shunned from the uni-sphere. My Oxford experience suggests pro-life societies could be next. In September the students’ union at Dundee banned the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children from the freshers’ fair on the basis that its campaign material is ‘highly offensive’.

Barely a week goes by without reports of something ‘offensive’ being banned by students. Robin Thicke’s rude pop ditty ‘Blurred Lines’ has been banned in more than 20 universities. Student officials at Balliol College, Oxford, justified their ban as a means of ‘prioritising the wellbeing of our students’. Apparently a three-minute pop song can harm students’ health. More than 30 student unions have banned the Sun, on the basis that Page Three could turn all those pre-rapists into actual rapists. Radical feminist students once burned their bras — now they insist that models put bras on. The union at UCL banned the Nietzsche Society on the grounds that its existence threatened ‘the safety of the UCL student body’.

Stepford concerns are over-amplified on social media. No sooner is a contentious subject raised than a university ‘campaign’ group appears on Facebook, or a hashtag on Twitter, demanding that the debate is shut down. Technology means that it has never been easier to whip up a false sense of mass outrage — and target that synthetic anger at those in charge. The authorities on the receiving end feel so besieged that they succumb to the demands and threats.

Heaven help any student who doesn’t bow before the Stepford mentality. The students’ union at Edinburgh recently passed a motion to ‘End lad banter’ on campus. Laddish students are being forced to recant their bantering ways. Last month, the rugby club at the London School of Economics was disbanded for a year after its members handed out leaflets advising rugby lads to avoid ‘mingers’ (ugly girls) and ‘homosexual debauchery’. Under pressure from LSE bigwigs, the club publicly recanted its ‘inexcusably offensive’ behaviour and declared that its members have ‘a lot to learn about the pernicious effects of banter’. They’re being made to take part in equality and diversity training. At British unis in 2014, you don’t just get education — you also get re-education, Soviet style.

The censoriousness has reached its nadir in the rise of the ‘safe space’ policy. Loads of student unions have colonised vast swaths of their campuses and declared them ‘safe spaces’ — that is, places where no student should ever be made to feel threatened, unwelcome or belittled, whether by banter, bad thinking or ‘Blurred Lines’. Safety from physical assault is one thing — but safety from words, ideas, Zionists, lads, pop music, Nietzsche? We seem to have nurtured a new generation that believes its self-esteem is more important than everyone else’s liberty.

This is what those censorious Cambridgers meant when they kept saying they have the ‘right to be comfortable’. They weren’t talking about the freedom to lay down on a chaise longue — they meant the right never to be challenged by disturbing ideas or mind-battered by offensiveness. At precisely the time they should be leaping brain-first into the rough and tumble of grown-up, testy discussion, students are cushioning themselves from anything that has the whiff of controversy. We’re witnessing the victory of political correctness by stealth. As the annoying ‘PC gone mad!’ brigade banged on and on about extreme instances of PC — schools banning ‘Baa Baa, Black Sheep’, etc. — nobody seems to have noticed that the key tenets of PC, from the desire to destroy offensive lingo to the urge to re-educate apparently corrupted minds, have been swallowed whole by a new generation. This is a disaster, for it means our universities are becoming breeding grounds of dogmatism. As John Stuart Mill said, if we don’t allow our opinion to be ‘fully, frequently, and fearlessly discussed’, then that opinion will be ‘held as a dead dogma, not a living truth’.

One day, these Stepford students, with their lust to ban, their war on offensive lingo, and their terrifying talk of pre-crime, will be running the country. And then it won’t only be those of us who occasionally have cause to visit a campus who have to suffer their dead dogmas.

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Show comments
  • Quest for Liberty

    Following a remodelling of the website, the comments on all articles were unfortunately wiped.

    The comments previously here remain stored on the Disqus website: https://disqus.com/home/discus

  • Fiona1933

    How is it surprising, when they have been protected against any kind of pain all their lives? When I was a child, we played by ourselves in playgrounds with steep slides, fast roundabouts (remember the witch’s hat?) and flat swings, which could be made to go very high indeed, all surrounded by gravel, which ripped off your skin when you fell.
    And a good thing too. It taught us to stand pain, not to cry, to be brave. It was challenging to go on the big slide, but how exhilarating once you did…and learned how to fly right off the end. By having no parents around, we learned to be alert to dangers.

    I have also recently read something…just an aside in a Victorian book, where the author noticed that whenever his son experienced pain, his intelligence would take a leap. So stop children from encountering any pain…no corporal punishment, either: perhaps their brains have literally not developed…so many seem amazingly dumb….

  • Jim Austin

    Today’s college students seem to be morons. They’ve been brainwashed, though in most cases, they only require a light rinse.

  • Richard

    This is why the only realm of human pursuit that can every progress, these days, lies within the sciences. The rest is simply verbal sabre-rattling and power-plays, nothing more. Physics and medicine is not interested in opinion or Leftie ideology. I am simply wondering at which point science itself will be “abolished” because it is inherently “unfair” and “elitist”. I mean, protons are not given equal right as neutrons, and those poor electrons just have to keep going round and round. Isn’t turning on a light cruelty to electrons?

    The modern “mind” is such a lot of nonsense.

  • AlbertaProud

    These are our next generation of workers. For Gen X folks like myself, getting ready to move into leadership roles, there’s simply no question – conform to this nonsense or risk your job. Every manager knows that it’s not the boss that gets you fired – it’s the staff. Time for some sensitivity training. Self-indoctrinate or find yourself up on charges or worse. Policymakers have no spine, students have no shame. It is inexorable. The next ten years should be the best part of my career, instead it looks like I’ll be wiping the bums of petulant snowflakes.

  • cartimandua

    Debate is supposed to be about information not demagoguery. Free speech only replaces violence when it is ephemeral.

    • sidor

      There is nothing to debate about information which acquaints people with facts, like weather report. What is worth debating is mistakes that people make in their conclusions. Like the popular idea of the anthropologically induced global climate warming which is a pure speculation and isn’t quite consistent with the basic science. If that demagoguery goes to far, some degree of violence could be useful.

  • cartimandua

    But when you have a “debate” Brendan you have to have an open question not a closed one.
    That “abortion debate” which was closed down made a priori assumptions.
    You also have to have a balanced panel of informed speakers not as in the case of the abortion debate a panel full of famous misogynists.
    Students may understand what constitutes a proper debate or they may more than old hacks understand the ubiquity of the Internet and its persistence.

  • sidor

    What is discussed here is a straightforward an inevitable consequence of democracy. Since most of the people are born stupid and therefore unable to argue using reason, it is irrational to expect that they would like that peculiarity of their organisms to be revealed in a discussion. This unfortunate aspect of democracy was pointed out by de Tocqueville in his classical book “Democracy in America”: “I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America.”

    Voltaire said that the best form of of government is an enlightened despot. I am afraid there are no suitable candidates around.

  • WarriorPrincess111111

    Brendon O’Neill is already a couple of generations too late! They ARE running the country!

    If Brendon want a really lively debate – go the the North of England Universities, they will give you a run for your money without any political correctness! If you choose to go to those establishments where students have been ‘made comfortable’ all their lives, what do you expect?

  • eldl1989

    The article conflates two very real issues, belying what the real issue of conflict is today.

    One is shutting down debate in the name of harm prevention. Fair enough. Intolerance from the left is a pressing concern in our traditionally very tolerant country.

    The other is political correctness and the reasons for it. O’Neill discusses a “false sense of … outrage”. This article, and some of the comments below, are just as falsely outraged because they can’t say things they want to. Have they ever stopped to think why they can’t say those things? Ever empathised with the individuals who take issue or offence with what is being said? Or why they might be taking offence? This is intolerance from the right, to desire to be allowed to say whatever one wants to without concern.

    • Gerry Gagnon

      It’s not “to desire to be allowed to say whatever one wants to without concern”; rather, it’s “to desire to be allowed to say whatever one wants to without repression”. University disciplines have always been controversial and cannot function as valid fields of study without wide-open freedom of speech. That’s the real ‘safe space’ that is necessary for a university to function as an intellectual environment…

  • Steve

    Student politics seems to have taken a nose-dive for the ground the last few years, which is tragic seeing as it already skimmed the tree-tops.

    Universities become cynical corporate enterprises, students become closed-minded children. Welcome to the world of tomorrow.

  • Maureen Fisher

    I recently watched the grotesque spectacle of Maryam Namazi the Iranian human rights activist being shouted down by Islamist male thugs bellowing “safe space” at her. Vile.

    • Richard

      She will be used to it. It is par for the course.

  • Maureen Fisher

    The real world is mad, bad and dangerous so unless they grow themselves a backbone it’s quite likely they’ll be living at home with Mummy until their late forties.

  • Bodkinn

    What these students and their cloaked
    motivators do not seem to understand is that in order to enjoy free speech you
    have to be prepared to suffer it otherwise it does not exist except as a myth. Then again it seems they are opposed to free
    speech per se. This attitude has been
    coming on for some time and has been revealed regularly when the leftie
    audiences on TV programs like ‘Question Time’ shout down opinions they do not
    share rather than allow them to be heard; with a compliant chairman allowing
    it. The real offenders in this excellent
    article are the university authorities who give way to wrongful pressure rather
    than standing up for what is right.

  • tom kincade

    Most of these people are called Nigel’s and almost all are mummy’s boys

  • Curtis

    Regarding the Stepford students; Their children will be slaves and they, the parents of slaves, will cheer the slave masters.

    • sidor

      Do you expect that their masters won’t be as stupid as the slaves?

      • Curtis

        I figure that, the Masters will be stupid, but better informed than their Slaves. Consequence, the Master will be more reliant on their devices for advise. The Masters will be slaves to their iPhones/computers/Google. Thanks!

  • ahmed

    I always thought that comfort was a middle aged pursuit.

    • sidor

      Never saw lazy children?

      • ahmed

        Oh yes….true.

  • Spivy

    Intolerance, arrogance and narrow-mindedness are emotional states of mind. These so-called clever youngsters are cognitively intelligent but emotionally stupid. That is a very dangerous combination: Dr Mengele, the monster of Auschwitz, was one of vast number of clever psychopaths that worked their way into high places. These students are, potentially, a dangerous bunch. They need to be met with our own brand of intolerance towards blind selfishness.

  • Beauceron

    This is in full swing in America– and as with so many things, I believe the academy is merely the incubator for a philosophy that will sweep through our society.

    I completely reject the conservative view of these students, however. In the US, conservatives have deemed the students and their faculty enablers and advisors as “snowflakes.” That is, people that are so fragile they melt when confronted by whatever they don’t like or disagree with.

    This is a complete misreading of the students. They are not overly-sensitive– in fact, I do not think they are wounded by the statements or actions they claim harms them at all. It is merely a tactic. A cold, calculated tactic that gets them what they want (power) without having to debate or discuss or formulate any rationale at all to suporrt their demands. Just do it, or you’re a racist, colonialist, sexist, xenephobic monster.

    This isn’t the effort of an easily bruised generation, so hyper-sensitive they can barely function– it is a type of totalitarianism, a fascistic strategy that allows them to roll over opponents without even allowing them to object.

    It’s brilliant in its way, but it’s also immoral, anti-intellectual, totalitarian thuggery.

    • Phil R

      “it is a type of totalitarianism, a fascistic strategy that allows them
      to roll over opponents without even allowing them to object.”

      It is not just students. The rest of us get laws telling us what to think. I think it is a (an inevitable?) failing of democracy. Minority interest groups have found that 51% can legitimately stamp on 49%. Nothing else matters. All that is needed is the advertising, money and effort and pressure to secure the 51%.

    • Penny

      Interestingly, it seems often to be the case that the *snowflakes* are not personally wounded, but believe themselves to be acting on behalf of unknown others who may – just may – possibly be wounded. I doubt that, within their own environment, there are any actual cases worth speaking of. They’re outraged and sensitve by proxy.

      I differ only slightly from your view in that I think these melting ones believe that their outrage is the done thing. It’s *nice*, and it’s *caring* – and today, an exaggerated form of being seen to be publically and loudly *nice* and *caring* has come to be the most redeeming value of them all. It’s all a bit “look at me! look at me! *nice* person upholding *nice* things!” To my mind this behaviour has, at times, a hint of self-presevation about it. I’m reminded of the book, The Gulag Archipelego: people would report even their nearest and dearest to the authorities – even it was a lie – simply to look party-loyal. above suspicion and thus avoid punishment. There’s both power and self-preservation in such behaviour. Only in the student scenario, young people shout their support for as many *underdogs* as they can find in order to distance themselves from being either the acutal wicked, frowned-upon *oppressor* (whoever that is!) or in agreement with *oppression*

      You don’t just see this in students but in the way saying something that is not entirely on-message can affect politicians, celebrities and even the hapless Tweeter. I’m convinced that most people aren’t remotely outraged by the off-message stuff. On the contrary, it seems to most to more authentic. Yet this strange fear operates in a circular fashion – being now both top down and bottom up.

    • Gerry Gagnon

      Beauceron: Excellent analysis…

  • Robert Beckingham

    Are we not seeing the results of 13 years of Labour Party education policy?

    “Education, education, education” or political re-education.

  • Derek Grierson

    Suspicious, that this tendency to stifle debate should coincide with the disenfranchisement of students from poorer families. This is what you get when education is reserved for the effete middle class.

  • WTF

    This was a disease that was started off when the PC brigade took over the educational establishment such that no child could be traumatized by failing at school. In fact, this disease seems to be worse at the elite universities like Oxford or Yale but its a cancer that’s present at most learning establishments.

    I suggest we ignore it for the most part as those students demanding ‘safe’ spaces and the like will self destruct once they leave university and can’t get a real job afterwards. The human gene pool tends to flush out its own rejects and most of these vocal whiners will be languishing unable to find employment whilst lesser mortals will be given a chance to prove themselves without the benefit expensive education that’s wasted. The only thing I’d add is that any benefits paid to these kids when they can’t find a job should be limited to 2 years and paid back with when they do find a job. Nothing teaches you better than hard knocks in the university of life !

  • Babytin D.F.P.L

    Being comfortable doesn’t help develop you. Because you are comfortable you stay where you are. Nothing is challenging and everything becomes bland and boring. You seek out something different and exciting but the comfort you tried to leave behind shadows your every decision. This is why everything you try to come in contact with you try to corrupt and bring down to your level of comfort.

  • Buford T. Justice

    Most of these students are having their way paid by sensible, incredulous parents — who in addition to this nonsense daily read news articles on the vastly diminishing returns of a college degree in today’s info economy.

    I predict that with the possible exception of the elites, the whole edifice will come tumbling down of its own larded weight in the next decade.

  • J Fel

    It’s symptomatic of the input-repeat-output education system that regulates the English education and examination system. As a recent Oxford graduate I was astounded to find from the moment of my arrival at the institution (from a state Comp may I add- no silver spoon) the high flyers and achievers were rarely the original thinkers.

    Every academic dogma or stereotype was elevated to pedestal status by tutors and those from us that were elevated with scholarships and exhibitions were invariably those automatons most gifted at reciting the same tired academics in their essay in structure like a creed.

    It was revision, absorption and regurgitation. There was no inculcation of the lessons learned or spirited intellectual dispute across the common room. What one learned had no impact on how they lived which were determined by the same things as the masses of society: TOWIE, nightclubs and recreational drugs.

    For the sake of attainment I also capitulated to this world of limited narrow thinking. A tutor remarked to me at the end of my time how I had entered the University with a swave intellectual arrogance that he admired, a free thinking original soul. Unfortunately by the time I departed that spirit had all but been crushed under the throws of intellectual (even if not social) conformity.

    The culture described in the article is alive, well, and a reflection of the oppression of original thought and those who dare to dream. The Oxford of glory, originality, bravery and daring are dead. Welcome to the technocratic abattoir with dreams have been sacrificed on the alter of “safe spaces” and an unwillingness to leave the mire filled Platonic cave.

    • Clive

      You didn’t quite manage the conformity because it’s ‘throes’ not ‘throws’. I would not normally mention someone else’s spelling when I understand their meaning (I did) but non-conformity to / ignorance of grammar and spelling rules appears to be an educational issue.

      …And why did you not think you had to be disciplined enough to learn a lot of stuff before you could produce your own ? Thus you have the themes of previous thought to develop on or avoid as you desire

      Suppression (except by individual selection) of original thought and ideas seen as outrageous is disgraceful. Learning of existing ideas is mostly necessary.

      • J Fel

        I would never dismiss the validity of learning before producing original compositions. That wouldn’t only be absurd, but would guarantee an unworkable situation where we, as a species, wouldn’t progress. Nevertheless the prizing of academic dogmas as virtual canon and “truths” is a big problem in the humanities. PHD students and post-docs are scared to challenge established academics and their hypotheses that are held up as virtual facts for fear of never getting published or getting a teaching position. That is the intellectual culture we live in and is reflected in the way we teach and examine our students.

        My criticism of the students was the failure to let any of that learning impact individual experience. The “Stepford Students” described in the article were in the ascent during my days at University. My argument is that it they are, at least in part, the result of a culture which prizes a disjointed approach to intellectual thought and life. On the one hand you have academic success. These students are able to reproduce a vast amount of primary and secondary evidence and then employ analytic techniques that are in effect formulaic processes. This will which award top marks in examination. When it comes to social or moral life however this learning has absolutely no impact. In fact societal, moral or ethical dilemmas are virtually taboo in order to avoid, as the author quite correctly points out, offending the “safe space”. So diversity of opinion and original thinking is heavily frowned upon. I suppose an ideal example is the Evangelical Christians who would study Theology. They would find themselves criticisng the bible in the grand tradition of German Wissenschaft but maintain a fundamentalist approach to the their belief and practice. When questioned the only answer was that one was work and the other was life. That disjointed existed was reflected outside of religious circles and the pattern was this: In the context of essay writing you write how the tutors want you to but when it comes to life outside of “work”, never challenge, never offend, never think. Stay safe and divorced from any idea which may threaten or challenge your social reality.

        There is study, but there is no growth, and therefore, certainly no originality.

        PS: Worth noting that those who scored the top marks in my time there were rarely the ones who pursued a career in academia. You will find most in the city, lawyers, bankers, accountants, and patent attorneys. I don’t think that’s symptomatic of the best and brightest just wanting to make the most money. It’s symptomatic of a meritocratic system that prizes memorisation over careful analysis and original interpretative methodologies.

      • TheJustCity

        I considered but thought better of making mention of the couple of misspelt words since, I am certain, these were honest slips – which we all make. Regardless, this was an on-point confirmation of the deleterious trends in higher education.

  • Exsugarbae

    I’m a proper proud left but I agree with this article and I love free speech, the right to be offensive is an important one, every artistic and social movement from punks to impressionist painters offended people, gay pride offended people, feminism offended people and this was the start of change. Comfort is an illusion, change is inevitable, hide from it and get stuck.

  • Davide Pintus

    ‘The idea that in a free society absolutely everything should be open to debate has a detrimental effect on marginalised groups.’

    Intersting. I suppose she sees herself as chief censor, in charge of deciding what items of discussion are kosher.

    Fascists my friend, clothed in a rainbow flag rather than in a black one but fascists no less.
    The bitter laughter here can come by knowing that on the other side of the barricade is people who hold beliefs that are the polar opposite to theirs but just as passionate about silencing their opposition.

  • Emilio Lizardo

    Why are you surprised? Fifty years of gender Marxism (Feminism) has cumulated in this generation. Marxism must fill all spaces and exclude any and all untruth. The stealth Marxism of Feminism has captured the West. The irony of the East overthrowing its Marxism and embracing its natural conservatism is overwhelming.

  • Bonkim

    Don’t let these idiot PC students come on your way. Call a spade a spade.

  • Jeremy Poynton

    “‘The idea that in a free society absolutely everything should be open to debate has a detrimental effect on marginalised groups.’”.

    Female undergrads at Oxford? Marginalised? Pull the other one..

    • Bonkim

      Margianalised groups should adapt and change in the circumstances they are thrown into or return to their trbal lands where they feel comfortable – The won’t be too worried about what you think when they are in their familiar surroundings. In other words if you can’t stand the heat get out.

  • Daidragon

    Our campuses have always had this element. The difference these days is the universities give in to their demands, thus empowering the swivel eyed.

    • Bonkim

      Universities have ceased to be a place of learning and questioning. These are now commercial firms being nice to their customers particularly foreign ones that pay the full rate.

      • Daidragon

        Agree. I’d have hated going to uni in this sort of commercialised/PC climate.

  • rtj1211

    Common sense says that there is a balance. If you actually take pleasure in being obnoxious to others, it does suggest that you have mental health issues that need addressing. However, preventing someone from expressing their own views simply because you fundamentally disagree with them is the road to a totalitarian state, although where exactly the boundaries of unacceptable hate speech lie is always a movable feast. Most (hopefully all) would wish to silence those extolling the nazis for gassing Jews, not to mention young men glorifying certain licensed drugs which can be used for ‘date rape’.

    My personal view is that until young people have reached a stage in life where they understand that, whatever their own views are, others have a right to hold different ones, they simply shouldn’t be attending university. They are still pre-adolescent tribalists who haven’t even entered adolescence.

    The real question is whether they are egged on by faculty at universities who still haven’t entered emotional and spiritual adolescence even as their bodies are reaching the menopause, male or female.

    One does wonder about the actual value of university at all in the digital age. In the old days, it was supposed to be ‘getting far enough away from the parents to sow wild oats without embarrassing the family back home’. Nowadays with all the surveillance there is no privacy, even if you went to Oz, Thailand or Goa to find it.

    Still valuable for those from rural communities, but for those brought up in big cities? Less clear…..

    • Bonkim

      Universities were supposed to offer an environment of no holds barred questioning and debate – not rote-learning factories.

  • douglas redmayne

    Oxford students for life sound like a set of turds. Had they been at my university their heads would have been flushed down bogs.

  • Patrick Roy

    Blair’s Children.

  • sfin

    I sometimes, vehemently, disagree with Mr O’Neill…

    …But this article was a corker! Excellent journalism.

    He’s well worth a read over at Spiked – if you like your opinions both confirmed and challenged on occasion.

  • johnhenry

    Would Bruce Jenner be allowed to argue the pro-choice side of the debate before the Oxford Students For Life? I mean, he’s a woman – uterus or no uterus – right?

    • Sue Smith

      In a letter in today’s “Australian” newspaper somebody has suggested that if the Rhodes statue is torn down at Oxford it should be replaced by one of Robert Mugabe. That would be more in keeping with student philosophies. It demonstrates the power of the black race, rising above the limitations imposed by a fellow like Rhodes, and demonstrates really all that they are capable of.

  • Tony Dark

    None of us would have to endure this safe space claptrap if the ‘right’ had done its job over the last 25 years. Instead of opposing the appalling nexus of ideas behind such developments the Conservative Party, and other organisations, have allowed the left to dominate the world of the social sciences, which is where these ideas originate. And now we pay the price.

    • Chris Bartelt

      Agreed

    • Gilbert White

      The ultimate unsafe space, being mowed down like cattle at a Grateful Dead concert?

  • Thanks Tank

    Trot politics with Tory conformity.

    Toxic mix.

  • Sue Smith

    I stopped reading after “Today’s graduates demand”.

    • Patrick Roy

      Today’s graduates are going to have a tough time out in the wild world….

      • grimm

        No! They are going out into the world beyond Uni to take up key positions in management, media and politics. They will bring their petty moral righteousness with them. The rest of us are the ones who will be having a tough time.

        Just look at the influential people in politics and the media today and consider what they were like in their college years.

        • Patrick Roy

          Ugh, I suppose you’re right….

          • Sue Smith

            No, I don’t think these kinds of graduates will make the grade in “management”. More likely the law so that they can enshrine victimology as part of their job description. That and making sure criminals do not have to serve time in jail in any meaningful and serious way. Meanwhile, we ordinary people are increasingly afraid to walk the streets most nights in big cities.

            Those graduates who work in management or the corporate world will be drawn from the very highest fliers in Economics, Law, Business, Commerce, Engineering etc. And they’ll be actively selected on the basis of where they completed their school education and whether or not they have manners, can dress appropriately and speak to people with a bit of aplomb and sophistication.

            My son is in a very very senior position as an Adviser in our present federal government. I cannot say any more about his job, but that he dresses impeccably, is all over his brief in an articulate and intelligent way, has no ‘issues’ and is trusted by his boss because of his skills of discretion and reliability. Those are the qualities which get the good jobs. And he has the respect of his colleagues.

            • grimm

              You clearly have great faith in meritocracy. I am more concerned about people gaining positions of influence when their chief merit is that they fit in and please their colleagues.

              In the workplace people like to surround themselves with those of similar temperament. I cannot be the only one who has seen barely competent people promoted for popularity and conformity rather than ability (and to the detriment of the organisation they work for).

              • Sue Smith

                No system is perfect, that’s for sure. But being ‘agin’ everything and wedded to political correctness does not qualify a person to take on high level management roles. My own late father was a case in point; he was an intelligent engineer and worked for a huge steel conglomerate in Australia. He never rose beyond 12th from the top (18,000 employees) because he didn’t go to the right school or belong to the Melbourne Club. On the surface this was the situation, but in point of fact he didn’t have the diplomatic skills and style requisite for that kind of extremely high-level management job. Tact was not is forte.

                I stand by what I said.

              • Tony Dark

                Absolutely. In the real world meritocracy is a rare thing indeed. No point of course in being bitter about it, but it is good to point it out.

            • Tony Dark

              Naive. It is often the ones who trumpet these obnoxious ideas who are most good at the rote learning skills that get you high grades and get you into big name companies. Trust me I have seen this time after time. And if you imagine that the fat cat corporate world is somehow immune from this stuff you really do have no idea of how modern businesses work. Often in their own way they are every bit as supportive of the identity politics claptrap as everyone else, including our glorious Conservative Party. The Safe Spacers will feel pretty much at home in a typical modern corporation.

              • Sue Smith

                I’m anything but naive, I assure you. If corporations follow pc ideologies it can only mean two things; they are afraid of legal suits and they want to remain popular and ‘relevant’. I don’t agree with your comment on the types good at rote learning. Most clever people are good at problem solving, which is much more than rote learning. Creativity is the essential ingredient in moving a company forward and making it successful/profitable and progressive. Focus on growth has nothing to do with political correctness.

                Sure, there are time-servers in corporations – and all those you mention. But ultimately talent runs a company and I know of no fully dynamic and profitable corporation which has “Safe Spacers” at the helm. They just don’t make the grade. These types end up working for the public service.

                Your comments smack of contempt for corporations and business generally. They’re not perfect that’s for sure, but they won’t hire people – a whole generation in fact – who totally lack resilience. And that’s what we’re dealing with here. You’ve alluded to this already with your “safe spacers” moniker.

                It’s a good discussion to have.

  • jim

    Generations of twinks ‘n’ gimps coming down the pipe.Hard to feel positive about any of this. Best policy might be to give them their head. They are book burners at heart. Let this madness run to it’s natural end point. Don’t attempt to ameliorate …..or take the edge off their more insane proposals. Allow the full expression of their lunacy..Maybe that will shock the sheeple into seeing these fascists for what they are….I suspect they will all turn on each other sooner or later. Trannies v feminists; arab v african ; muslim v gay ; muslim v jew ; muslim v everybody………this alliance of whining minorities is only held together by a hatred of the white western christian patriarchy. It shouldn’t be too difficult to get them ripping each others throats out.

    • Chris Bartelt

      It already is… witness the Germaine Greer farce and then there’s this absolute gem….

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FL5jSQY9d5o

      • Dukeofplazatoro

        Worth watching for his summary at the end:

        “These are socially retarded people……triggering each other”

    • NZ_Seaweed

      “twinks and gimps” ? facist trannies ? “ripping each other’s throats out” ? “whining minorities” ?
      I can only assume that you are a besieged “white western christian patriarch” ? I can’t imagine why those students, or anybody, would find such opinions and attitudes, as tolerant, inclusive, and constructive as they are, worthy of fear, contempt, or hatred. You might like to consider whether it is the student body or the burgeoning numbers of administrators and other vested interests who own these agenda… Ask yourself who benefits by them ? Also, education being the lifetime of debt that it represents these days perhaps students just want to get through it as cheaply, quickly, and profitably as they can and a secure, comfortable learning environment is valued… Sure, they don’t enjoy the same freedoms to influence external politics as the days of yore so they focus their collective actions on campus… They certainly don’t represent the same challenge to national governments as they did, dissent has become a luxury that few can afford. Those that can afford it are those whose entrenched sense of entitlement makes them hardly likely to be concerned with the welfare of others at all…
      Just saying…

      • Steve

        Just projecting. Infighting is a time-old tradition of the right. It just happens that the left is the mirror of that far-end-of-the-spectrum type of fascism.
        Feel worse for the centrists or soft-right/left caught in between these muppets.

  • King Kibbutz

    The only thing we can do is keep on saying what needs to be said. These people have been brainwashed.

    • WFC

      Worse.

      They are paying large sums of money to have whatever common sense and rationality they had, removed from them.

      Even the NKVD didn’t charge for their re-“education” camps.

      • Sue Smith

        What is needed now, more than ever, is brave teachers who’ll swim against the tide of pc. I fancied myself one such teacher and it gave me enormous pleasure to teach my students to resist propaganda and think for themselves. This had to be done behind the closed classroom door, but nevertheless I completed my “registrations” of lessons as though I had taught exactly what the state prescribed.

        Win/win.

        • WFC

          Good for you.

          It’s a pity that there aren’t more like you.

          • Daidragon

            Depends what she was telling them.

      • fundamentallyflawed

        Worse.

        They are paying large sums of money to have whatever common sense and rationality they had, removed from them. Failure to comply means being frozen out of jobs and opportunities for years to come

    • Sue Smith

      Unquestionably. But this world of arid political correctness has been taken over by earnest 20 and 30-somethings who think they know all life’s answers – because they’ve been told they have, courtesy of state-funded education.

      I know something about this since I taught for a decade in state schools and briefly in Catholic schools. The latter did not have systemic propaganda relating to rights, political correctness, ‘marriage equality’, the environment etc. That Catholic system was just too busy educating students for their future careers.

      • King Kibbutz

        Agree with most of what you say, only, I don’t think that there is anything intrinsically wrong in having a state-funded education system – indeed, I can’t see an alternative for the mainstream.
        Prior to the initial smiling putsch, which can be pretty much pinned to 1968, it functioned very well. Since then it has become ever-more controlled by the one political viewpoint. This didn’t have to be so.

      • Chris Bartelt

        Hear hear

      • dwarfpoo

        Could not agree more. I sent my son to a secular state school instead of a Catholic one. In History for one whole year he has covered, The Atlantic Slave trade, Black soldiers in the civil war, Black civil rights with an essay on Malcom X at Christmas, one year of mind numbing, racist tripe. RE last year he had to pretend to be a Muslim on Hajj and write to his non Muslim friends on the experience. [ this may have involved “refused entry” to Saudi due to being unaccompanied female] PSHE [ PISH in our home] the Russians in Afghanistan, no mention of Carter and funding of Taliban. History is no longer a viable GCSE option, RE will be dropped as Christianity is the only Religion open for critical analysis. We have a debrief after these lessons. Geography is still safe though alternatives have been provided to my son regarding “global warming”. I went to a Catholic girls school and you are spot on.

        • Sue Smith

          I left in desperation, aged 56. Two bouts of whooping cough in just 10 years was the nail in the coffin.

          We had huge folders full of “aboriginal education” directives which we had to absorb and include in our lessons. Coming back from the in-service on this I said to my friend, “where will I put this; my rubbish bin is too small to take it”. I never read a word, thinking it absolutely superfluous to my teaching.

          One of the proscriptions was that we couldn’t make eye contact with aboriginal children. I had one very very smart aboriginal boy (aged 13) in Year 8. He was often disruptive but, never mind, he was bright and I worked hard with him. One day he said, “you’re not supposed to make eye contact with me”. I replied, “whose classroom is this – yours or mine?” He said, “yours, miss” and I replied “then we’ll do it my way, or it’s the hi-way. Stick with me kid and you’ll do alright”. I was the only teacher who could control this boy and teach him. Both parents in jail I felt I was going to further disadvantage him by trapping him in a poltiically correct, ideologically steroid mindset which would result in ‘sittin’ money’. My aim was to making him global and in this and work-ready if that was what he wanted to do.

          The handicapping ideologies just had to go!!!

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