The Jacob Rees-Mogg ‘scuffle’ highlights a worrying trend in student politics- here’s why it should concern us all
‘The world is not a safe space’
The violence at last week's Jacob Rees-Mogg talk at UWE should worry us all. It was a shocking attack on free speech in our Universities, with ANTIFA bursting into a lecture theatre and trying to silence a Member of Parliament due to their claim that he was a ‘fascist’.
The irony of this protest was lost on these hooligans of course, that whilst claiming to be fighting ‘fascism’, they were themselves fully clad in full-black hoodies/balaclavas, intimidating a speaker and suppressing free speech.
This is an incredibly worrying development in student politics. It resembles similar events we have seen in America, where ANTIFA and other hard left agitators have rioted and attempted to shut down the speeches of people they disagree with. This is a trend that should deeply trouble everyone, left and right.
Free speech is the cornerstone of democracy. Just because you disagree
with someone shouldn’t mean they shouldn’t be able to speak. Being able to speak your own mind is a vital part of living in a free society. People have fought and died for us to have this fundamental human right.
These people do not operate in a vacuum though, in recent years student politics has become increasingly reactionary and authoritarian. Gone is the time when University was a venue for the battleground of ideas and debate.
Now we have Students' Unions and bodies who subscribe to policies of ‘safe spaces’ and ‘no-platforming’. They look to ban speakers who they disagree with, claiming their language could be offensive and upset someone. The idea that speech should be censored just because it could be offensive is, frankly, pathetic.
Nearly all speech can be interpreted as offensive to someone. Far too many students have become ridiculously sensitive and unable to listen to alternative points of view. Many of the world’s great pioneers have been
seen as offensive in their own time. Charles Darwin for example, was attacked viciously for his suggestion that evolution led to the creation of man, not the story of Genesis. If we can’t challenge societal norms, then as a society we cannot improve.
The idea that University should be safe space is preposterous in the first place. University is meant to be a place where your opinions and attitudes are challenged, there should be harsh scrutiny and your eyes should be opened to alternative points of view.
However, the current trend suggest we are instead going down a road of rigid Orwellian thought policing and those who disagree with the prevailing orthodoxy are becoming increasingly ostracised from student society.
Student bodies looking to ‘protect’ and molly-coddle students is not a healthy way to educate tomorrow’s leaders. The world is not a safe space, it is harsh and often cruel, no-one cares if their point of view is different to yours and that disagreeing could somehow offend you.
No one has the right to be free from hearing intellectual views that differ from their own. The healthiness of debate must be encouraged and most of all students should grow up and accept in democracy there will always be differing viewpoints and everyone should be allowed to their own opinion.