Monday 20 January 2020

Deafening silence

You’ve probably seen this already, but the new episode of Peter Whittle’s “So What You’re Saying Is” series. features a young student named James Oliver who has co-founded a ‘free speech society’. Fancy that, a free speech society at a university!    

Hmm, maybe I’m behind the times, but like Peter Whittle, I used to think universities were “the very places that should be open to new thoughts and new ideas.”

Unequivocal freedom of speech is all well and good, but there is the thing about shouting ‘fire!’ in a crowded theatre. In other words, it’s fine to start from the principle that ‘anything goes’, but there is the question of incitement, which invites the obvious question…. can the audience always be relied on to engage its brain? To which the answer must be negative..

Here’s the thing, as the saying goes. All these fashionable speakers, writers and bloggers who are up in arms about politically incorrect or otherwise outspoken people like Peter Hitchens, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Germaine Greer, Julie Bindel etc., getting themselves rudely de-platformed by people and places that should be open to new ideas (e.g. the mainstream media and various (nearly all) universities) are a bit on the quiet side when a certain recipient of a ‘free speech award’ happens to be the artist formerly known as Stephen Yaxley-Lennon.  

(I haven’t forgotten the one exception - his speech at the Oxford Union. At the time the content was restricted for legal reasons - but outside the circle of the ‘already converted’ the occasion went virtually unreported)

Ezra Levant has covered this one. So have various semi-obscure sites like ‘Ruptly’.

 The full YT video is flawed by the buffering, noise interference and weird jumps and missing bits.  This is the best one I can find.

One site I used to follow a lot, The New English Review, has done some interesting digging around the reporting / non-reporting issue.

And for your entertainment, here’s Owen Jones - whom I fear has gone completely bananas.

The UK media proper isn’t interested. I have no idea if the free speech advocates we know and love - the most prominent ones - will acknowledge, celebrate or ignore it. Think of it as a form of ‘snog, marry avoid’.


  1. Free speech is a philosophical and constitutional principle. It excludes speech acts designed to cause serious, direct and unjusitifed harm (libel, slander, shouting fire when there is not fire, incitement to violence etc). That has always been understood.

    It does not imply approval of all forms of speech nor a responsibility to allow all forms of speech.

    But, until very recently - since universities have been captured by a very BBC alliance of Marxists, Islamists, r*ce-baiters, ultra-feminists, PC ideologues and globalists - it was always assumed that academia understood and essentially supported the free speech principle. Sadly no more.

    1. Quite so, and the BBC evidently stretches the exclusions you define (incitement to violence etc.,) to justify ‘silencing’ Tommy Robinson.


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