Meet Brendan O’Neill: The most hated man on UK campuses
There’s a whole website devoted to detesting him
Belligerent O’Monoxide, Birth-control O’Nemesis, Blasphemy O’Navel, just some of the thousands of combinations which are spat out by the Brendan O’Neill name generator. It’s one of the more amusing online attacks against the controversial journalist.
Spiked Online Editor Brendan O’Neill has attracted fierce opposition from those across the uni political spectrum. From lambasting student unions for banning Blurred Lines to writing an opinion piece for The Spectator which formed its own movement against him, he attracts a level of vitriol which few others in the university bubble can boast.
He’s unashamedly critical of any form of censorship on campus and his involvement in an abortion debate at Oxford last year caused the entire event to be cancelled over security concerns. We sat down with the firebrand free-speech campaigner to find out what it’s like being hated by huge swathes of UK campuses.
How did you get into the Free Speech debate?
While not doing uni properly, nearly 20 years ago, I argued against no-platforming, where controversial speakers are banned from talks because of their perceived extreme views. We used to fight against it all the time, me and a bunch of liberal minded others said anyone should be able to speak on campus, even fascists. But it’s got so much worse – no-platforming has developed from just the far-right to anyone who student unions don’t like. This could be Zionists, feminists who think the wrong things about prostitution or anyone else who doesn’t share their exact worldview.
Why do think free speech is such a hot button issue right now?
Young people today are pathetic, I really hate to say that because there are normal young people out there. But the young people who rise up through the ranks of student union bureaucracy are pathetic. By that I mean they are imbued with victim culture, they’ve been taught by school and society their self-esteem is the most important thing in the world and anyone who harms or criticises their identity or does anything which makes them feel bad is a bad person.
It’s not their fault, they’ve grown up in a culture and in a system which constantly sends them the message they must always feel good about themselves and if they don’t that’s a problem.
We’ve created these monsters, these arrogant little pricks, who genuinely think they have the right to go through life without ever hearing a sore word about their beliefs or ideas, it’s just extraordinary. They’re rising up into places like the media, and it’s just getting worse, they have so little faith in human beings, such a disdainful view of ordinary people.
What do you think about the war on lad culture?
It drives me mad. I think boys are getting such a bad rap at the moment, particularly young men who go to university. I’ve always resisted the idea that all feminists hate men or that there’s a war on men because men’s rights activists are the saddest people in the whole world. They blame women for the fact that they can’t get laid and they exist solely on the internet.
But more and more, it’s looking like there is a war on men, I just find it astonishing so much of ordinary male behaviour like banter, jokes, offending each other because you’re great mates, which young men have been doing for years and years, is actually being outlawed.
It’s an extremely intolerant censorious approach to a huge swathe of the population. Men between the ages of 18-21 aren’t allowed to express their emotions or feelings. This has always been the case, but it used to come from Tories, from old battleaxes who were suspicious of young people. But now it’s coming from feminists, those who think they’re edgy and liberal.
What do you think about the government getting involved with this crackdown?
I think it’s a complete mistake and it’s playing right into the hands of this unfounded moral crisis of young men. If you look at the stats the NUS are using to justify this, then it’s incredibly misleading. Everything from unwanted advances in a club to full-blown sexual assault is lumped together under the same umbrella and being described as sexual assault.
When they claim all these women on campus have experience sexual assault, I think it’s wrong. What it means is all these women have experienced things like being drunkenly chatted up in a club, had their bums pinched, maybe been cat called. Women used to deal with it by telling people to fuck off. The idea that men are evil for doing it and women are wrecks who can’t cope with these things is patronising to both men and women.
What do you think about the rise of consent classes?
I’m against compulsory consent classes for students. I mean the very name of it is a fantastic Orwellian contradiction. People who go to university are 18 years old, they may already be having sex or in long-term relationships. I think it’s patronising and paternalistic. It’s not the job of universities to tell adults who can join the army and smoke and drink how to organise their social lives. It’s not their job to tell them how to be safe or how much to drink, they should do nothing but education.
The idea of sex without consent is really annoying. We all know what rape is, a terrible awful crime which should be punished as harshly as possible. But sex without consent is a much broader term which in some cases can even just mean sex while drunk.
When I was at uni, it would be amazing if anyone had sex sober, so this criminalisation of a sexual experience adults have been having and enjoying for generations is really quite terrifying. It makes men think sex is a dangerous world and it gives women the impression if they wake up with a hangover next to a naked man, something terrible has happened. They probably just had sex.
99.9 per cent of times it’s not a crime, so we just need to chill out.
Do you ever feel like you’re banging your head against a brick wall, fighting people whose minds you’ll never change?
All the time, it’s extraordinarily frustrating, sometimes I think I should just give up. The thing that makes me laugh about these Stepford Students is they see themselves as throwing hand grenades at the establishment, which is such bullshit. The whole Establishment has the same views, that porn turns people into rapists, and lads mags are problematic and need to be in black bags. Student feminists are just a rougher expression of this.
Would you say campus feminists, who claim to hate the Tory government with every fibre of their being, are actually quite similar to Conservatives?
Absolutely. These radical feminists are deeply conservative and it always makes me laugh. They have so much in common with the Tory government and no amount of purple hair dye or talk about tranny issues can disguise that. I used to be having these arguments with blue-rinse Mary Whitehouse types, now it’s with feminists dressed like American Apparel mannequins who think they’re really cool.
Do you think the current rise of feminism is a fad or an indication of a long-term change in young people’s attitudes?
I’m afraid because I think it’s more than a fad. That doesn’t mean it can’t be turned around or challenged, because it can be. But it’s a long-term thing which has been building for some time, it’s a whole mess of trends which have smashed together to create a generation who think they are the most interesting things in the world. The best way to challenge this is to take the fight to them. When they ban something, do it anyway. Play Blurred Lines, make questionable jokes, do whatever the fuck you want.
We need a movement whose motto is just “leave us the fuck alone.”