TIMES are changing. Two of my great heroes have recently been banned from speaking on university campuses. Twenty years ago they were firebrand radicals, alarming the establishment with their fervour and campaigning. No one silenced them then. Now they have been silenced. Not by the establishment, but by the new cultural bullies.
They are Germaine Greer and Peter Tatchell. I deeply admire them both. I agree with some of what they say and disagree with other elements.
Why has their freedom of speech been curtailed by the laboratories of censorship that universities have now become? Because they are thought to be not sufficiently sensitive to transsexuals.
It’s not just Greer and Tatchell, of course. There is now a long list of people who have been fired or forced out of their jobs like Brendan Eich, the CEO of Mozilla, the internet company – because he once had the temerity to give a small sum of money to a campaign for traditional marriage – and so many others.
So what is happening in our society that free speech is being closed down. We need to know who the enemy of free speech is.
This isn’t immediately obvious. Because the enemies of free speech don’t come clean. They tell you that they are very much in favour of free speech; indeed, they celebrate it as being the lifeblood of our society, but… And it’s in that ‘but’ that the threat lies lurking. ‘But, there are exceptions,’ they say.
And here is where the divide is. I agree with Mick Hulme, who said in his piece that there can be no ‘buts’ , no exceptions. It’s not that free speech is comfortable. It’s deeply problematic.
I hate the fact that Charlie Hebdo published ghastly cartoons of the Virgin Mary on their cover. But no Christian threatened to murder them to silence them. Because Christians are dedicated to an idea of ‘God’ that is rooted in the quest for truth. If you believe that ultimate reality grows out of Truth (it grows out of Love as well, of course) you can never afford to stifle speech. Instead you have to weigh and sift it and let it tell you what its true character is. It’s a great regret that there have been times when Christians, having gained power, lost their confidence in the truth and shut others up. But it usually happened when the Church got muddled up with the state.
So who are the enemies today of free speech, and what are they trying to do?
They are the new puritans, pushing for what they call ‘equality’. And they are very appealing at first sight. After all, who can be against something as virtuous as equality? But they don’t use language honestly. They call for inclusion – but they want some ideas and people excluded. They call for ‘diversity’, but they don’t want diversity when it disagrees with them. And just as George Orwell foretold, some people in their campaign end up by being very much more ‘equal’ than others.
So what is this movement? It’s called Cultural Marxism. It’s Part 2 of Karl Marx’s totalitarian project. Part 1 was based on economics. It was about the struggle between the haves and the have-nots. Marx wanted to dis-accommodate the haves – take their resources and give them to the have-nots. It was very appealing. He seemed to be a kind of political Robin Hood. But his plan was flawed. He was a dreadful economist and when the Soviet Union put it into practice it collapsed after 70 years.
Part 2 is as attractive as it is lethal. It is no longer about the haves and the have-nots; it’s about the oppressors and the oppressed. It’s about making them ‘equal’. It’s all about the redistribution of power. So to do that you have to take power away from those who have it. Generally this is mainly white men. Whenever you hear someone railing against white men, you know the cultural Marxist has broken cover. But the oppressor can change in the blink of an eye – because power relations are all relative.
And that’s why both Greer and Tatchell have been dumped as radicals and become oppressors – relative to transsexuals, that is.
And that is the origin of the idea of the hate crime. The cultural Marxists claim the right of the state to look inside your head, deem you to be bigoted and hate-filled, and set out to punish and silence you. They use tools ranging from the Twitter mob to the law. But just like Marxism Part 1, Part 2 won’t let up until the critics have been silenced and the state guards thoughts, as well as speech, of the citizens.
How can this be resisted? With great difficulty. Words have changed their meaning. People have already been silenced. The young are being nurtured in the practice of censorship and control. The snowflake generation have mixed bad therapy with muddled philosophy and have swallowed it whole.
The struggle is between those who believe in free speech and those who add a ‘but’.
This was published in the Jersey Evening Press as part of it Festival of Words in cooperation with Mick Hulme during a debate on freedom of speech.