Why people like Rod Liddle should talk at Durham

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As December approaches and the temperature drops, you can witness the steady emergence of snowflakes drifting aimlessly through the streets of Durham until their righteous fury is ready to be unleashed. An entire generation reduced to tears and stuttering at the prospect of hearing anyone who faintly disagrees with their utopian view of a politically correct society. An unfortunate demonstration of this occurred last year (at South College) when Rod Liddle was invited to speak, thereby causing an uproar and leaving a visibly shaken student body who had their ‘safe space’ invaded. This, of course, demonstrated the drastic overreaction our delightfully left-wing student body is so efficient at producing. 

The issue with the uproar and protest was not that the students disagreed with Mr Liddle but rather their desire to not hear him speak at all. This new mindset whereby those that are seen as disagreeable are no longer allowed to express their opinions in educational establishments is a mind-boggling one. Surely a university’s job is to open the minds of its students, providing them with both sides to a debate and then leaving them to make up their own minds. And if not the university’s job, then one could at least assume that the students themselves would seek to open their minds to other opinions and ideas they perhaps do not share. This is the natural course of debate and freedom of ideas that universities and the students within them should cherish. 

This, however, seems to be less true in the 21st century; social issues such as the trans-issue seem to no longer be a debatable topic, while colonial history can now only be viewed through a lens of apology and reparations. Both of these highly sensitive topics were brought up by Mr Liddle last December, prompting outcries and a university investigation. How has our cohort been so indoctrinated that we cannot even listen to opposing views on matters? And why did the small matter of a controversial opinion result in a university investigation? Clearly, this overreaction is aimed at discouraging the invitation of right-wing speakers in the future and amounts to a coordinated suppression of right-wing voices at universities, and therefore infringes on the ideals of both freedom of speech and freedom of expression. 

And, at the end of the day, the decision to invite Liddle, despite being controversial, is aimed at prompting and creating debate, and his invitation is founded on the ideals of both freedom of speech and expression. Values that should be cherished above all else, above the petty squabbling of politicians and nonsensical political correctness, above one’s own opinion and above the desire for a safe space. Freedom of speech is an idea everyone, bar tyrants and dictators, should want to get behind. It allows society to remain free and is one of the primary ideals differentiating the western world from nations such as China, Russia and North Korea. For, as one of the founding fathers of America once said, “If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter” — George Washington. 

the decision to invite Liddle, despite being controversial, is aimed at prompting and creating debate

Therefore, the solution I would suggest to all those who would desire to see Mr Liddle banned from the Durham campus and censored would be to quote Oscar Wilde, “I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to make an ass of yourself.” And if you cannot even agree with that ideal or do not think Mr Liddle would make an ass of himself, then maybe it is time to listen and, perhaps, change your opinions on some matters. 

Image: CIH Housing via Flickr

3 thoughts on “Why people like Rod Liddle should talk at Durham

  • It’s funny, you could almost predict cobblers like this would be written by a man called Xander. I bet his friends all enunciate that “a” really, really long too.

    As it happens, I don’t hugely disagree with the egregious Liddle speaking at the Union Society in a debate. After all, that’s what the place is for, and you know what you’re going to get if you give an invite to a known peddler of two-bit demagoguery to speak in what is frankly the Durham Palace of Twattery. Those of us who’d never have gone within a mile of the DUS could then handily stay away from the place that gave us such intellectual giants as Desmond Swayne.

    The situation at South was rather different. I think I might object to someone springing an objectionable dinner entertainment on me at a formal in my own home, and making me pay for the privilege. That’s not on. I certainly wouldn’t have sat there and put up with it. So, Xander, you can have your “Freedom of Speech”, but it does not oblige others to listen.

    As usual, it’s always the same complacent, coddled scions of privilege who rage hardest against all this imagined “wokery”, and the”snowflakes” who espouse it. It always seems it’s the same people who bang on about “free speech”, then clutch their pearls when they find other people complain when they don’t have the opportunity to have their voice heard or understood. I mean, Xander here is only expressing how little his opinion is taken seriously in a published news outlet. Opinion pieces like this are the dullest fare of all, but maybe, if he’s lucky, and keeps practising, Xander might find himself a gig at the Telegraph. It’s exactly the sort of harrumphing slop they seem to go for nowadays.

    Reply
  • Academic freedom requires you to be able to support your arguments with evidence and be subjected to peer review. It is not a platform for unchallenged hate.

    Freedom of speech includes the right to protest against abhorrent views and in order to do that, an equal platform and opportunity to protest must be made otherwise it is not a debate, it’s a tirade.

    Calling people names, such as ‘snowflakes’ for disagreement is not academic argument.

    What exactly is the ‘Trans-issue’? Sounds very similar to the ‘Jewish-question’. But Rod Liddle in his talk raised biology and science; are we to then assume that Mr Liddle is a qualified biologist and scientist specialising in transgender biology, able to support his argument with evidence? Would we expect to hear about the latest research that has been coming out of China, Australia, Brazil, USA, and the Netherlands since 2017 about diversity in genetic sequencing, prenatal hormonal imbalance, and neurological development in transgender people? Are we to have a discussion about which dimorphic sex differences should be counted or disregarded when talking about sex and the social consequences of ignoring those differences?

    There is a place in our universities for supported argument and peer review. For an equal platform to disagree and raise concerns about an argument. It is not a place to let unsupported argument go unchallenged. It is not a platform for hate and bigotry.

    The idea that Rod Liddle, a professional journalist and editor for the Spectator, is silenced is ridiculous. How about inviting someone who is silenced in the British media and has direct lived experience of being transgender to hear their voices, and consider it primary evidence rather than uninformed and unsupported rantings over dinner.

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  • It’s funny how the “I may not agree with you but I’ll defend to the death blah blah blah” cliche is only ever rolled out to defend speakers who, one suspects, the user of that quote does in fact thoroughly agree with, in the absence of any better argument for why they are worth listening to.

    When the government is currently banning academics who has been critical of its policies from addressing the civil service even on unrelated topics, any avenue of protest more noticeable than a sternly-worded letter to the Times is rapidly being outlawed, and closer to home the university sector has become infamous for its widespread use of NDAs to cover up sexual harassment and protect the perpetrators … without a single word of dissent from any of the usual suspects on “free speech”, it becomes pretty obvious that there’s no deep matter of principle involved here beyond “tedious contrarian bores aren’t going to get much of an audience if they can’t force attendance”

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